Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court following further arrest 'on behalf of US'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has arrived at Westminster Magistrates' Court and is expected to appear before magistrates at 2pm following his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London earlier today.

Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken into custody following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.

Three vans of police officers have arrived at Westminster Magistrates' Court ahead of Julian Assange's court appearance.

Five pro-Assange lawyers have arrived at Westminster Magistrates’ Court carrying signs reading “Hands Off Assange” and “Free Press, Free Assange”.

When arrested, Assange was shouting and gesticulating as he was carried out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in handcuffs by seven men and put into a waiting Met Police van, video footage showed.

Assange was holding a copy of Gore Vidal's History Of The National Security State book as he was dragged out of the embassy.

In a statement Jaime Marchan, the Ecuadorean ambassador, said: “I received, as ambassador of Ecuador in London this morning the instruction of my government to proceed to the termination of the asylum granted by Ecuador during almost seven years to Mr Assange.

“This news was announced at the same time by President Moreno in Ecuador, reminding that the power of granting asylum and terminating it is a power of the sovereign state of Ecuador.

So in doing that, we have complied with the asylum procedures under international law. The reason why Ecuador has terminated the asylum is because of repeated breakage on the part of Mr Assange of his obligations under the asylum treaty norms.

“During the time Mr Assange has remained in the embassy, for almost seven years, we have respected every single right he has. And let me just say that the long years that he has been in the embassy under the protection of the government of Ecuador is a very clear indication that Ecuador is committed to guarantee the right of asylum to a person to whom Ecuador has granted asylum.

“At the same time, when the decision is to revoke the asylum, then Mr Assange has to leave the embassy, which he did this morning, and he’s under now the British jurisdiction.”

Assange's supporters said some of those holding him were among plain-clothes officers seen in an unmarked car outside the embassy over the weekend.

The 47-year-old was escorted from the building by police at about 10.25am and footage showed him surrounded by officers as he was led into a waiting van.

His lawyer Jennifer Robinson said the WikiLeaks founder "has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request".

A Scotland Yard spokesman said Assange has "been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station".

"This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act," a spokesman said.

"He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as possible."

Ms Robinson said: "The US warrant was issued in December 2017 and is for conspiracy with Chelsea Manning @xychelsea in early 2010."

The Swedish woman who alleged that she was raped by Julian Assange during a visit to Stockholm in 2010 welcomed his arrest.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, who represents the unnamed woman, said news of Assange's arrest was "a shock to my client" and something "we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012".

Ms Massi Fritz said in a text message sent to the Associated Press that "we are going to do everything" to have the Swedish case reopened "so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape".

She added that "no rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served".

Australia's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said he "will continue to receive the usual consular support from the Australian Government".


She said that the country's consular officers will seek to visit the Australian national at his place of detention.

She added: "I am confident, as the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly confirmed in July 2018, that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom."

A witness said: "He was screaming. He was struggling, I think he felt a bit weak. He was surrounded by police."

Officers remained stationed outside the building after the arrest, including one van with several officers sat inside.

Demonstrators carrying banners which said "Free Julian" also arrived after Scotland Yard said it had arrested Assange.

Kyle Farren, 22, an activist carrying a board with the message "Free Julian Assange", arrived at the embassy shortly after news broke of the WikiLeaks founder's arrest.

Kyle Farren with a 'Free Julian Assange' banner outside the Ecuadorian embassy today.

Another Assange supporter who witnessed the arrest said: "There were at least six men dragging Julian out and more uniformed police standing by.

"Julian was talking but he was bundled into a van. He looked dazed. He hasn't seen daylight for over six years so to bring him out into bright sunshine was really cruel.

"We feared this would happen over the weekend, probably in the middle of the night, so this is truly shocking."

Supporters said they will hold a demonstration outside the police station where the WikiLeaks founder is being held.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: "Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the UK's secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of-like it or not-award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom."

He said Ecuador's decision to revoke Mr Assange's asylum was "inhumane", adding: "I'm very, very concerned because this is a dangerous precedent."

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who regularly joins vigils at the embassy, said: "The decision of the Ecuadorian government to hand over Assange to the UK police is a clear violation of his Ecuadorian citizenship and asylum rights. Ecuador has failed in its duty to protect its citizen.

"Assange's arrest will put him at risk of extradition to the US, where he will very likely face charges that could see him jailed for 30 or more years. A secret grand jury has been convened to prepare an indictment against Assange and key Trump officials have said that prosecuting Assange is a priority.

"Assange did not leak anything. He published the leaks of Chelsea Manning. Why is he being signalled out?

"Assange published evidence of American war crimes. He's a hero, not a criminal."

"The British Government should refuse to do the bidding of the Trump administration. It should give public assurances that Assange will not be handed over the US authorities. His extradition to the US is not in the public interest."

Sources told the Press Association that police were invited into the embassy and made the arrest shortly after 10am.

"It was a planned operation," said the source.

On Tuesday, Ecuador reminded Assange that he cannot stay indefinitely in the nation’s London embassy.

The country’s foreign minister Jose Valencia told Teleamazonas that a permanent stay would not be good for Mr Assange’s “state of mind, his health”.

He said that if Mr Assange were to appear before the British justice system he would be guaranteed a fair trial and right to a defence.

London’s Metropolitan Police force said last week that officers would be obliged to execute an active warrant for Mr Assange’s arrest if he were to leave.

In a statement today, Scotland Yard said: "Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan

"Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.

"He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as is possible.

"The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum."

Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "Nearly 7yrs after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law."

His arrest comes a day after Wikileaks accused the Ecuadorean Government of an "extensive spying operation" against Assange.

WikiLeaks claims meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed.

A police van outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London today.

The UK's Europe and the Americas minister Sir Alan Duncan said: "It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next.

"We are very grateful to the government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken.

"Today's events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries. I look forward to a strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Ecuador in the years ahead."

Jeremy Hunt tweeted: "Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years.

"Thank you Ecuador and President Lenin Moreno for your cooperation with the Foreign Office to ensure Assange faces justice."

Julian Assange.

Mr Assange had feared the possibility of extradition to the US for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

Mr Assange has lived in Ecuador’s embassy for over six years and relations with his host country have grown increasingly tense.


More on this topic

Assange ordered to face full extradition hearing next year

US submits extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Assange

Julian Assange’s father and artist Ai Weiwei visit him in prison

Sweden will not seek Assange’s detention, court rules

More in this Section

Campaigners vow further action as oil rig heads to North Sea

England's Duke of Kent ‘involved in car accident’

Hong Kong leader suspends unpopular extradition bill indefinitely

Cheating probe launched after UK maths exam images appear online


Lifestyle

John McCarthy gives standout performance but Evening Train takes safe route

The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette

Cork city in the rare oul’ times

What next for Madonna?

More From The Irish Examiner