On April 11, BuzzFeed News reported Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities. Notably, English police officers dragged Assange out of the London Ecuadorian embassy he has lived in since 2012.
U.K. law enforcement has confirmed the notorious hacker was arrested on behalf of the United States for participating in the leaking of classified information. Moreover, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court found him guilty of violating his 2010 bail conditions and he faces 12 months in jail.
If the British courts grant the U.S.’s extradition request, the journalist will stand trial for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion on a classified U.S. government computer.
Previously, Assange lived in the Ecuadorian embassy because the South American country granted him asylum, but his protected status was revoked on Thursday.
Why Ecuador Gave Up Assange
In 2012, Assange asked Ecuador for asylum to escape extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. At the time, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was investigating the journalist for violating the Espionage Act. The Australian computer programmer argued Sweden would deport him to the U.S. where he might face the death penalty.
Ecuador granted his request and he has lived in their embassy ever since. Notably, Swedish authorities dropped their investigation in 2017.
Ecuador decidió soberanamente retirar el asilo diplomático a Julian Assange por violar reiteradamente convenciones internacionales y protocolo de convivencia. #EcuadorSoberano pic.twitter.com/V02pvvtPY0
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) April 11, 2019
On April 11, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno tweeted a video explaining his reasons for withdrawing Assange’s asylum status. Moreno accused the Wikileaks editor of violating “international conventions and daily-life protocols.” Specifically, he accused Assange of mistreating embassy personnel, installing electronic distortion equipment, and accessing Ecuadorian security files without permission.
President Mareno also said the U.K. guaranteed Assange would not be extradited anywhere he would be sentenced to death.
The Manning Connection
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia filed charges against Assange for aiding former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Specifically, prosecutors are accusing him of conspiring with Manning to hack into a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) computer.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command arrested Manning for leaking classified documents to secret information publisher Wikileaks in 2010. Subsequently, a military court convicted Manning of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced her to 35 years in prison. President Obama commuted the former soldier’s sentence in 2017. However, she was jailed in March for refusing to testify about her illegal activities.
American authorities are alleging Assange encouraged Manning to commit her crimes and helped her evade detection by the DOD.
What Happens Next
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated if found guilty of the conspiracy charges against him, the Wikileaks founder would face five years in prison. British authorities scheduled Assange’s extradition hearing for May 2.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, said her client will fight the U.S.’s extradition request. Furthermore, she argued that extraditing journalists who release accurate content about America sets a “dangerous precedent.”
Following his arrest, the Swedish Prosecution Authority stated it would be reopening Assange’s sexual assault case. The agency offered no timetable for the investigation. However, it did note the statute of limitations on the charges against the hacker do not expire until August 2020
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the attorney representing the woman who accused Assange of rape, told BuzzFeed her client hopes Sweden will prosecute.