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The Latest on Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange’s Arrest, US Extradition

The Latest on Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange’s Arrest, US Extradition

The Latest on Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange’s Arrest, US Extradition
April 11
12:58 2019

Latest | London Judge Michael Snow has found Assange guilty of breaching his bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after Assange appeared in a courtroom packed with supporters. Assange faces a sentence of up to one year for the conviction and has serious charges pending in the United States.

Assange’s defense hinges on the fact that he cannot expect a fair trial in British courts as the U.K.’s intends to “secure his delivery” to the United States.

The U.S. Justice Department charged WikiLeaks founder Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break into classified government computers on Thursday after Assange was taken into custody in London in connection with a U.S. extradition request, as well as for breaching U.K. bail conditions in 2012. His lawyer has previously said that Assange planned to fight any U.S. charges against him.

Watch | Julian Assange’s legal team make a statement following his arrest

The indictment accuses Assange of assisting Manning, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, in cracking a password that helped Manning infiltrate Pentagon computers.

According to Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, the U.S. Department of Justice indictment of Assange relates to Wikileaks’ publishing of U.S. war logs and diplomatic cables and is unrelated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Greenwald called the indictment a “huge attack on press freedom.”

Shadowproof Journalist Kevin Gosztola noted on Twitter that the language of the indictment contains the same words typically seen in Espionage Act charge. He said, “Prosecutors are clearly accusing Assange of aiding and abetting espionage, but they’re trying to do it within charge for computer crime.”

The full indictment can be read below:

Assange Indictment (1) by on Scribd

Initially, Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said, “we have not been able to decide on the available information” whether a stalled investigation into alleged sexual offenses against Julian Assange could be reopened if he returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in August 2020, but hours later following Assange’s appearance in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Swedish prosecutors reopened their preliminary investigation into allegations of rape against Assange after a lawyer for one of the alleged victims requested that Swedish prosecutors revisit the case. The prosecutors’ office has affirmed that the case against Assange will be reopened but did not give a deadline for the probe.

A senior member of Germany’s opposition Left party says Europe must not allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States for trial. Sevim Dagdelen said in a statement that the withdrawal of Assange’s political asylum by Ecuador and his subsequent arrest by British police was a “scandal, a violation of international law, and at the same time a severe blow to independent journalism.” She says it is the German government’s “duty” now to prevent Britain, which earlier Thursday was granted an extension to its departure from the European Union, from extraditing Assange to the U.S., “where he faces life imprisonment or even the death penalty for exposing U.S. war crimes.”

Bolivian president, Evo Morales, also condemned the detention of Assange, tweeting:

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday the way Assange was treated gave “the full impression of an open and rude disregard for the human dignity of the arrested.” She said: Russia hopes “all the rights of Julian Assange will be respected.”

The UK Home Shadow Secretary Diane Abbot on Assange took to Twitter to defend Assage’s leak of U.S. war files and diplomatic cables, saying,”states don’t have the right to kill willy-nilly. Whistle blowers do us all a service.” In a separate tweet, Abbot said, “only need look at Chelsea Manning to see what awaits Assange. She’s indefinitely detained for refusing to expose whistle-blowers. And US officials have already deemed Assange guilty.”

The UK’s Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon hinted that Assange’s release of information related to U.S. killing of civilians in Iraq was the motivation behind his arrest.

The ACLU has slammed the U.S. prosecution of Assange. Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, issued the following comment in response:

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.”

Journalists right’s advocates have also come out in defense of Assange, warning of the dangerous precedent the moves against him sets. The center for investigative journalism released a statement saying in part, “Any attempt to extradite to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917, is an attack on all of us.”

Britain’s National Union of Journalists also released a statement, calling the actions of authorities “shocking” and saying the UK “should not be working on behalf of the Trump administration.”

Earlier | London Metropolitan Police arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday after Ecuador revoked the political asylum that had given him sanctuary for almost seven years following a deluge of pressure by the United States and Britain.

London police said they were invited into the embassy by Ecuador’s ambassador. Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 after he was released on bail while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations that he has always denied and that have since been dropped.

Assange has been under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny for years for Wikileaks’ role in publishing thousands of embarrassing government secrets and was an important figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as investigators examined how WikiLeaks obtained emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic groups.

Video posted online by Ruptly showed several men in suits carrying Assange out of the embassy building and loading him into a police van while uniformed British police officers formed a passageway.

Assange sported a full beard and slicked-back grey hair and allegedly carried a copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State in his hands. The Wikileaks founder can also be heard shouting something as he is being dragged into the police van, but there is some debate about what he said. Wikileaks claims he was shouting “the UK must resist this attempt by the Trump administration.”

He was taken to a London police station and will be brought to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, according to his mother, Christine Assange.

Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, said his government made a “sovereign decision” to revoke Assange’s political asylum due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life.”  The moves came not long after the government of Ecuador accused Wikileaks of publishing embarrassing and potentially incriminating information on Moreno in a trove of documents referred to as the INA Papers.

“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,” Moreno said in a video released on Twitter.  In the video, Moreno declared his Assange’s asylum “unsustainable and no longer viable” accused him of repeatedly violated “clear cut provisions of the conventions of on diplomatic asylum.”

Moreno lashed out against Assange again on Thursday evening, calling him a “miserable hacker” and “spoiled brat” who was disrespectful to officials charged with taking care of him at the country’s embassy in London. He then went on to repeat unproven allegations that Assange was smearing of his own fecal matter on the walls of the embassy building and said that was a sign of how the WikiLeaks founder viewed Ecuador as an insignificant, third-rate country.

“When you’re given shelter, cared for and provided food you don’t denounce the owner of the house,” said Moreno at an event outside Quito. He added that Ecuador will “be more careful in giving asylum to people who are really worth it and not miserable hackers whose only goal is to destabilize governments.”

Ecuador says that as part of its decision to expel Julian Assange from its embassy in London, it has withdrawn the Ecuadorian citizenship he was granted last year in a failed attempt to end the activist’s tumultuous stay at its diplomatic mission.

Ecuador also accused supporters of WikiLeaks and two Russian hackers of attempting to destabilize their country.

Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in Quito a close collaborator of WikiLeaks had traveled with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino this year to several countries, including Peru, Spain and Venezuela, in an attempt to undermine the government. She did not identify the individual but said their name, as well as two Russian hackers working in Ecuador, would be turned over to judicial authorities.

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa accused the nation’s current leader of retaliating against Julian Assange for WikiLeaks’ publication of documents that could implicate President Lenin Moreno in corruption. Correa — who led the South American nation when Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy — said Thursday that the decision to revoke asylum is “cowardly.”

In a stream of remarks on Twitter, Correa criticized Moreno for allowing British authorities to arrest Assange, and linked that to WikiLeaks’ disclosure about an offshore bank account allegedly linked to Moreno’s family and friends. Correa said the decision “will never been forgotten by all of humanity.”

Wikileaks accused Ecuador of illegally terminating Assange’s asylum, adding that the Ecuadorian ambassador invited police inside the embassy to take Assange into custody and that Ecuadorian embassy officials denied the United Nations access to Assange in the weeks prior to his arrest.

UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Agnes Callamard, said that in “expelling Assange from the Embassy” and allowing his arrest, it had taken Mr. Assange “one step closer to extradition”. She added that the UK had now arbitrarily-detained the controversial anti-secrecy journalist and campaigner, “possibly endangering his life”.

His lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said in tweet that he had been arrested for breaching his bail conditions and in relation to a U.S. extradition request. The U.S. warrant was apparently delivered in December 2017, meaning U.S prosecutors likely played a key role in Assange’s arrest.

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have inadvertently disclosed the existence of a sealed criminal complaint against Assange, though no details have been publicly announced.

WikiLeaks quickly drew attention to U.S. interest in Assange.

“Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to de-humanize, de-legitimize and imprison him,” said in a tweet over a photo of Assange’s smiling face.

Assange had not come out of the embassy for almost seven years because he feared arrest and extradition to the United States for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks. Although Sweden has dropped the sexual assault case that first led to Assange’s arrest in Britain, U.K. authorities said he would be rearrested if he ever left the embassy because he skipped bail in the original case.

Last week, a UN envoy on torture warned against the termination of Assange’s asylum, telling Ecuador that Assange could have torture at hands of U.S. officials if he were extradited to the United States.

Assange’s arrest came a day after WikiLeaks accused Ecuador’s government of an “extensive spying operation” against Assange. WikiLeaks claims that meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed. The organization said in a tweeted statement that Ecuador illegally terminated Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law.”

Following his arrest on Thursday, an independent U.N. human rights expert said that Assange’s arrest would not deter efforts to determine if the privacy rights of the WikiLeaks founder were violated, ostensibly by the Ecuadorian government who is accused of recording Assange and handing those recording to U.S. intelligence agencies.

UN Special Rapporteur Joe Cannataci had planned to travel to London on April 25 to meet with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Assange sought asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. Cannataci says he still plans to keep the meeting despite Assange’s arrest at the embassy on Thursday.

Cannataci said in a statement: “I will visit him and speak to him in a police station or elsewhere in the U.K. where Cannataci in a statement. He says the U.N. human rights office plans to ask the British government to give him access to Assange on April 25. And if Assange is extradited to the United States by then, Cannataci said “then I will direct my request for access to the government of the United States.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Moreno for breaking the impasse, saying on Twitter that Assange “is no hero and no one is above the law.”

Wikileaks is asking supporters to donate to help Assange pay his legal fees as he readies for long and complicated trial and put blame on the CIA for orchestration his arrest.

Edward Snowden, the former security contractor who leaked classified information about U.S. surveillance programs, says the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a blow to media freedom.

“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,” Snowden said in a tweet.

He also beseeched journalists covering the story not to overlook United Nations rulings on Assange, which include calls for his release.

“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.”

Snowden was charged by the United States in 2013 of violating the country’s espionage act. He was granted asylum by Russia that year and the asylum has been extended until at least 2020.

Top photo | Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken into custody Thursday April 11, 2019. (Victoria Jones | PA via AP

MintPress News and agencies.

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