Julian Assange has been forcibly removed from Ecuador’s embassy

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Julian Assange. Photo by Cancillería del Ecuador (CC) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgcomsoc/14953880621/

Julian Assange, 2014. Photo by Cancillería del Ecuador (CC)

At 9:15 this morning, London’s Metropolitan Police entered the Ecuador embassy where they arrested, handcuffed and forcibly removed WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at the invitation of Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno. Police transported Assange to a London court where District judge Michael Snow called Assange a “narcissist” and ridiculed concerns about getting a fair trial before declaring him guilty of violating bail, and ordering him held for sentencing.

Assange took refuge at the embassy seven years ago. Rafael Correa, the previous president of Ecuador, granted him asylum and citizenship based on fears that US authorities planned to extradite him for publishing disclosures of US government wrongdoing by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Representatives of the UK and US governments gaslighted such fears but today’s events proved the fears well-founded.

London police confirmed Assange was arrested “on behalf of the United States,” which requested Assange’s extradition, as well as for breaching British bail conditions. (CBC)

Chelsea Manning is currently imprisoned in the US for refusing to participate as a witness at a grand jury proceeding alleged to be investigating Julian Assange.

Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum in 2012, described his successor as a “great traitor” who had just committed a “crime that humanity will never forget.” (EuroNews)

In an interview with RT, Correa said revoking Assange’s asylum violated Ecuador’s constitution and discussed Moreno’s possible motives.

“Paul Manafort, the head of the Trump presidential campaign, visited Ecuador on May 30, 2017, weeks after Moreno took the office of the president. And even then Moreno offered to hand out Assange in exchange for financial enrichment from the US,” Correa said.

“In 2018, [US Vice President] Mike Pence visited Ecuador, and he and Moreno agreed on three things. Isolate Venezuela, which Moreno did with great enthusiasm. Drop a case against Chevron, which he gladly did as well. And hand over Assange,” the ex-president said. “WikiLeaks publishing documents about [Moreno’s] blatant corruption was the latest straw.”

For now, we can only wonder what US president Donald Trump gets out of the deal as he absurdly claims to “know nothing” about WikiLeaks after openly praising it and challenging it to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. Controversy has swirled around WikiLeaks since it published emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism (UK) released the following statement.

The CIJ notes with grave concern Julian Assange’s arrest at the Embassy of Ecuador in London today. The organisation that he leads, Wikileaks, was pioneering in its publication of classified media – which is why, in its early years, the CIJ loaned it some of our interns. Wikileaks material from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere has become a unique, invaluable resource for investigative journalists and scholars around the world. Its innovations – from cross-border, collaborative reporting to systems for secure, anonymous leaks – have been borrowed by almost every major news outlet in the world.

Whatever your view of its philosophy of radical transparency, Wikileaks is a publisher. Any charges now brought in connection with that material, or any attempt to extradite Mr Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917, is an attack on all of us.

Mr Assange deserves the solidarity of the community of investigative journalists. The world is now watching.