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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange arrested in London

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
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Julian Assange

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who released reams of secret documents that embarrassed the United States government, was taken into police custody on Thursday after being evicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has lived for almost seven years.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Mr. Assange had been arrested by officers at the embassy on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.

The United States Justice Department has filed criminal charges against Mr. Assange, 47, related to the publication of classified documents, a fact that prosecutors accidentally made public in November. He also faces a charge in a British court of jumping bail.

Mr. Assange is also suspected of aiding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by releasing material stolen from the computers of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. In July, the Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking those computers, and the indictment contends that at least one of them was in contact with WikiLeaks.

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Mr. Assange took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about sexual assault allegations. He has insisted that the accusations against him are false and has said that the Swedish authorities intend to extradite him to the United States.

Sweden has rescinded its arrest warrant for Mr. Assange, but prosecutors have stressed that the case was not closed and could resume.

Ecuador gave Mr. Assange asylum in 2012, but he has been an irritant in its relations with Britain, the United States and other countries. President Lenín Moreno, who took office in 2017, had looked for a face-saving way to get him out of the arrangement.

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager who has since been convicted of financial crimes, reportedly offered in 2017 to help Ecuador hand Mr. Assange over to American authorities, but the deal was never struck.

In December, 2017, Ecuador gave Mr. Assange citizenship and was preparing to appoint him to a diplomatic post in Russia, but the British government made clear that if he left the embassy, he would not have diplomatic immunity.

The Ecuadorean government said in March last year that it had cut off Mr. Assange’s internet access, saying that he had violated an agreement to stop commenting on, or trying to influence, the politics of other countries. The government also imposed other restrictions on him, limiting his visitors and requiring him to clean his bathroom and look after his cat.

He sued the Ecuadorean government in October, claiming that it was violating his rights.

Mr. Assange, who was born in Australia, created WikiLeaks as a vehicle for people to publish secret materials anonymously. It gained enormous attention in 2010, releasing troves of classified United States documents and videos about the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and confidential cables sent among diplomats.

The files documented the killing of civilians and journalists and the abuse of detainees by forces of the United States and other countries, as well as by private contractors, and it aired officials’ unvarnished, often unflattering views of allies and of American actions. It also revealed the identities of people working with coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which United States officials said put their lives at risk.

An Army private, Bradley Manning — now known as Chelsea Manning — was convicted of leaking that collection of files and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Barack Obama commuted the sentence after Ms. Manning had served almost seven years.

During the 2016 campaign, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails stolen from the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, leading to a series of revelations that embarrassed the party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. United States investigators have said that the systems were hacked by Russian agents.

Mr. Assange made no secret of his intent to damage Mrs. Clinton, but he has insisted that he did not get the emails from Russia.

Source:The New York Times

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