Julian Assange Arrested: Ecuador Strips WikiLeaks Founder of Asylum Status for 'Discourteous and Aggressive Behavior'

Julian Assange arrested
Julian Assange has been arrested at the Embassy Of Ecuador in London. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

British police arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken refuge for almost seven years, after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status.

The Metropolitan Police announced in a news release that they had taken Assange, 47, into custody on Thursday after the Ecuadorian ambassador to the U.K. invited officers onto the Hans Crescent property in Knightsbridge.

Assange sought asylum in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced allegations of sexual assault.

He claimed the Swedish case, dropped in 2017, was a ploy to extradite him to the U.S., where he is wanted for leaking classified information through the WikiLeaks platform.

Assange fears extradition to the U.S. because the U.S. has the death penalty. Jennifer Robinson, Assange's lawyer, tweeted that Assange's arrest was related to an extradition request by the U.S., which London's Metropolitan Police has confirmed.

Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Assange on June 29, 2012, because he had failed to surrender to the court so he could be extradited to Sweden, breaching his bail conditions.

"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 Metropolitan Police said in its statement.

"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."

BREAK: Full @Ruptly video of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s arrest by British police this morning pic.twitter.com/tdBw1Kbpxn

— Barnaby Nerberka (@barnabynerberka) April 11, 2019

In a video statement posted to Twitter, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno explained the decision to withdraw asylum for Assange after nearly seven years, emphasizing his country's sovereign right to do so.

"Today, I announced 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.

"For six years and 10 months, the Ecuadorian people have protected the human rights of Mr. Assange and have provided for his everyday needs at the facilities of our Embassy in London.

"When I became President of Ecuador, I inherited this situation and decided to adopt a protocol to set the daily life rules at the Embassy, which is the [least] anyone may expect from a guest hosted at his own house. Ecuador has fulfilled its obligations in the framework of international law."

In a statement posted to Twitter, WikiLeaks claimed that Ecuador had illegally terminated the political asylum of Assange, violating international law.

"Julian Assange did not 'walk out of the embassy.' The Ecuadorian ambassador invited British police into the embassy and he was immediately arrested," WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter.

Sajid Javid, the U.K. home secretary, tweeted that Assange was "rightly facing justice" after the arrest, thanking the Metropolitan Police and Ecuador for their roles. "No one is above the law," Javid wrote.

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

Before the arrest, there were reports that Ecuador was preparing to force Assange out. WikiLeaks claimed that any such decision would be a response to the INA Papers leak in which implicated President Moreno in alleged criminal activity, including corruption and money laundering.

Wikileaks denies any role in the leak but accuses the Ecuadorian government of using it as a pretext for the expulsion of Assange from its London Embassy.