WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested And Found Guilty In London
The WikiLeaks founder was indicted in the U.S. in March 2018, according to newly unsealed filings.
ulian Assange, the controversial founder of Wikileaks, was arrested and found guilty Thursday in London on charges of breaching bail conditions in a Swedish rape case that is no longer under investigation.
He was further arrested in relation to an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States, Metropolitan Police said.
Assange pleaded not guilty to the bail charge but would not produce evidence for why he failed to surrender to custody, although his lawyer argued that he had a “reasonable excuse.” Magistrates’ Court District Judge Michael Snow nevertheless found him guilty of the bail charge, saying his behavior was that “of a narcissist.”
The 47-year-old computer programmer was arrested after his diplomatic immunity had been terminated at the embassy, where he had been holed up in residence for nearly seven years amid growing upset from Ecuadorian and British leaders. The development exposes him to extradition to the U.S.
He is expected to remain in custody until his May 2 extradition hearing.
According to newly unsealed filings from the U.S. Department of Justice, Assange was indicted in March 2018 on a federal charge of conspiracy “to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment claims he took part in a conspiracy with former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
If convicted, Assange faces up to five years in prison.
See the indictment (story continues below):
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno explained in a video why Ecuador decided to terminate Assange’s diplomatic asylum. “Today, I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially, the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” he said.
Moreno traveled to London in July of last year to finalize an agreement to lift Assange’s asylum protection with the U.K. government, according to a report by the Intercept, citing a source within Ecuador’s foreign ministry.
In the past week, credible rumors began to circulate that Assange would be expelled, his asylum denied, and that he would face extradition to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military documents.
Last Friday, British police were seen stationed outside the embassy, though police said there had been no change in procedure.
Assange first took refuge at the embassy in June 2012 after jumping bail while wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape.
Though that criminal investigation was dropped last year, Assange, who is Australian, remained behind the embassy’s walls out of concern that he could face extradition to the U.S. for leaking classified military and diplomatic documents through Wikileaks, with the help of Manning.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April 2017 that the arrest of Assange would become a priority for the Justice Department.
In February, Assange asked a Westminster Magistrates’ Court to withdraw an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from the bail-skipping incident ― for which he could face a year in jail if convicted.
But on Feb. 6, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot upheld the arrest warrant, saying legal precedents “underline the importance of a defendant attending court” when on bail.
Last year, the British government rejected a request from Ecuador to grant diplomatic status to Assange. Ecuador’s foreign minister has said Assange’s long-term stay in her country’s London embassy is “untenable.”
“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the Foreign Office said in a statement at the time.
This article has been updated with Ecuador’s statement and details on Assange’s further arrest.
Sara Boboltz, Liza Hearon and Paige Lavender contributed to this article.