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WikiLeaks Chief Julian Assange Arrested at London’s Ecuadorean Embassy

Julian Assange (YouTube screenshot)
Julian Assange (YouTube screenshot)

Assange’s lawyer called his arrest a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face U.S. charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday morning at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The 47-year-old whistleblower has been living in the embassy for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over an alleged rape charge, which was eventually dropped. He was arrested after the Ecuadorian government withdrew asylum protection for Assange.

Why Did Ecuador Stop Protecting Assange?

Ecuador reportedly had grown tired of Assange’s behavior inside of the embassy and with his continued involvement in WikiLeaks and their disruption of international affairs.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said Ecuador had “reached its limit on the behavior of Mr. Assange.” The Guardian reported Ecuador accused Assange of blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards.

“In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” Moreno tweeted.

“The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents.

“This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr. Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states,” said Moreno.

Ecuador’s Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said that a close collaborator of WikiLeaks and Ecuador’s former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino have worked to destabilize the Ecuadorian government.

“The interferences in matters of other states also includes the interference of Mr. Assange and his allied organization in internal political matters in Ecuador,” Romo said.

WikiLeaks slammed Moreno for revoking asylum, calling it an illegal act and accused Ecuador of spying on Assange’s activity just a few days before the arrest.

What’s Next For Assange?

Assange was found guilty of violating his 2010 bail terms relating to the Swedish sexual assault charges. As a result, he faces up to 12 months in jail but will remain in U.K. custody until his sentencing at a later date.

U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid thanked the Ecuadorian government and the Metropolitan Police Service for their cooperation, adding that nobody is above the law.

“Nearly seven years after entering the Ecuadorian embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the U.K. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation with the Metropolitan police for its professionalism. No one is above the law,” Javid said.

Assange may face extradition to the U.S. as he is one of Washington’s most wanted men after WikiLeaks leaked thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables about the Afghanistan War in 2010.

Just hours after Assange’s arrest the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Assange in a federal court on computer hacking charges. If convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion Assange faces up to five years in prison.

According to the BBC, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face U.S. charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States.”

Reactions

Assange’s arrest has sparked reaction around the world and prompted social media users to rally around Assange with the hashtags #ProtectJulian and #freeAssange on Instagram and Twitter. Assange’s supporters say his arrest is an attack on truth-tellers and press freedom.

The ACLU released a statement on Assange’s arrest condemning the arrest as unconstitutional and unprecedented.

“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.

WikiLeaks: A Brief Overview

WikiLeaks was established in 2006 as a website that amasses classified information and publishes it with the goal of increasing government transparency.

WikiLeaks’ says its purpose is “to bring important news and information to the public… so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”

By 2015, the organization had leaked more than ten million documents, including ones categorized as highly confidential.

Opinions of WikiLeaks vary widely. Some, like the U.S. government, believe WikiLeaks harms state security, but others hail Assange for revealing vital information kept secret from the public.

WikiLeaks’ Biggest Reveals 

Collateral Murder (2010)

WikiLeaks is perhaps best known for its release of “Collateral Murder,” a classified video of a July 2007 airstrike in Baghdad which showed two Reuters employees being fired and killed after helicopter pilots mistakenly thought the men were carrying weapons.

The video continues on and shows U.S. forces firing on a family van that stopped to pick up the bodies. Chelsea Manning was later determined to be responsible for the leak and was convicted under the U.S. Espionage Act and spent seven years in jail. She was re-arrested after her release and jailed in March 2019 for her refusal to testify against Julian Assange.

CIA large scale hacking operation (2017)

An 8,378-page document titled “Year Zero” revealed the CIA’s massive hacking operations and its ability to penetrate smartphones and smart TVs to obtain intelligence information.

The documents show that the CIA had more than 5,000 users and produced more than a thousand trojans, viruses and “weaponized” malware, as WikiLeaks said in a statement on its website.

The CIA could tap into iPhones, Google Android phones, Microsoft Windows operating systems and Samsung smart televisions. WikiLeaks said the CIA could place smart TVs into a “fake-off” mode and allow the agency to record conversations while the TV was seemingly off. 

Syria Files (2012)

In July of 2012, WikiLeaks released a database of Syria files which contained more than 2.4 million emails from over 680 Syrian political and business figures between 2006 and 2012.

Assange said while the leak could humiliate Syria and its opponents it would also help people to understand the inner-workings of the Syrian war.

The documents included emails exchanged between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife and an email exchange between a U.K. public relations firm and Syrian authorities, among others.

Guantanamo Bay (2011)

A WikiLeaks release exposed brutal torture and abuse of prisoners conducted by U.S. military personnel in violation of the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military prison which has over the years held hundreds of prisoners.

Barack Obama said he would close the prison as promised in his campaign and Washington tried to unload the prisoners by transferring inmates to other countries. However, the prison was never closed and Trump campaigned saying they would “load it up.”

Hilary Clinton’s Campaign Team Emails (2016)

Wikileaks released thousands of emails from Hilary Clinton’s campaign head John Podesta. The emails leaked an array of valuable information, from details on a paid seminar Hilary gave in front of Wall Street bankers to Hilary’s campaign team strategy to deal with the former Secretary of State’s email scandal.

Hilary’s opponents in the 2016 presidential race exploited the leak to attack Clinton, saying that Hilary was taken hostage by Wall Street interests.

One email also revealed that Hilary’s husband and former President, Bill Clinton, received $ 1,000,000 from Qatar as a birthday gift.

Another email exchange between Hilary and Podesta, who also once served as an Obama advisor, showed that wealthy Middle East countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia had provided financial and logistical support to ISIS.

Many accused the leak of Hillary’s emails as an attempt by Assange to help Donald Trump to win the 2016 election. However, Assange denied this and said that Americans need to know the truth about Hilary and it had nothing to do with Trump’s victory.

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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