Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial publisher WikiLeaks, was arrested in the Ecuadorian embassy in London Thursday morning after the South American country revoked the political asylum that had protected him for nearly seven years.
A bearded Assange was seen briefly before being placed in a van by Metropolitan Police, who said he was arrested “on behalf of the United States” under an extradition warrant. Video of his arrest was captured by a media outlet called Ruptly, which told CNN it had been recording events outside the embassy 24 hours a day since at least April 5.
The Department of Justice confirmed Assange had been indicted on charges he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to access Department of Defense computer systems in March 2010. The indictment was signed in March 2018 and unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Virginia.
A judge in London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court found Assange guilty of breaking his bail conditions when he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. Judge Michael Snow called Assange a “narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest” and remanded him into police custody until a May 2 extradition hearing.
Assange faces up to 12 months in prison for the conviction.
Assange, 47, is an Australian-born computer programmer and activist who at the age of 20 hacked into the master terminal of Nortel, a multinational telecommunications company.
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, and based the platform’s computer servers in Sweden, which has broad protections for whistleblowers. Over the years Assange has used the platform to share a slew of documents, including internal documents from the Church of Scientology and emails from the Yahoo! account of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
WikiLeaks is a controversial web outlet that has positioned itself as a whistleblowing platform, often publishing classified documents and controversial material.
WikiLeaks has published millions of documents over the past 13 years, but rose to prominence when it began disseminating documents provided by Manning, which included a classified video of a 2007 attack in Iraq of American soldiers in a helicopter killing a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists.
During the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. According to indictments stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the documents were obtained by Russian intelligence agency hackers operating under the pseudonym “Guccifer 2.0.”
Assange is accused of conspiring with Manning to publish secret military and diplomatic documents on Wikileaks in 2010.
Prosecutors allege Assange agreed to help Manning break a password to enter the Defense Department’s computer network, though the Washington Post notes the “indictment includes no evidence that the password-cracking effort actually succeeded.”
Manning was imprisoned for seven years for violating the Espionage Act (her sentence was commuted in 2017 by former President Barack Obama), but has been in jail since March 8 for her refusal to testify against Assange before a grand jury in Virginia.
Christophe Deloire, the executive director of Reporters Without Borders:
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University:
The United Kingdom’s The UK’s National Union of Journalists:
Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief David Lauter:
MSNBC host Ari Melber:
Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum in 2012 when Sweden sought his extradition to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault. Sweden dropped the investigation in May 2017.