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Wednesday , September 28 2022

Assange arrested in London, US seeks extradition

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Police carry WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after he was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken into custody on April 11. (Inset): Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Thursday. (AP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British police and carried out of the Ecuadorean embassy on Thursday after his South American hosts abruptly revoked his seven-year asylum, paving the way for his extradition to the United States.

The United States alleged Assange engaged in a 2010 conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in military prison for leaking classified data, and charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion with a maximum penalty of five years. An agitated, frail-looking Assange with white hair and a white beard was carried head first out of the embassy shortly after 0900 GMT by at least seven men to a waiting police van. “The whole House will welcome the news this morning that the Metropolitan Police have arrested Julian Assange, arrested for breach of bail after nearly seven years in the Ecuadorean embassy,” Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament to cheers and cries of “Hear, hear!” from lawmakers.

Police said they arrested Assange, 47, after being invited into the embassy following the Ecuadorean government’s withdrawal of asylum. The arrests, after nearly seven years holed up in a few cramped rooms at the embassy, mark one of the most peculiar turns in a tumultuous life that has transformed the Australian programmer into a rebel wanted by the United States.

Assange’s supporters said Ecuador had betrayed him at the behest of Washington, that the termination of his asylum was illegal and that they feared he would ultimately end up on trial in the United States. To some, Assange is a hero for exposing what supporters cast as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. But to others, he is a dangerous rebel who has undermined US security.

Assange gave a thumbs up in handcuffs as he was taken from a police station, and he later appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. WikiLeaks angered Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare often highly critical US appraisals of world leaders, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family. (RTRS)