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British court finds Julian Assange guilty of skipping bail as US says he faces five years on hacking charges

Assange was arrested this morning at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Updated Apr 11th 2019, 3:20 PM

Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. Source: Victoria Jones/PA Images

WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN Assange has appeared in court in London after being arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy on foot of extradition warrant.

Assange was taken into custody this morning seven years after seeking asylum at the embassy. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that the arrest came after that asylum was withdrawn.  

The force said this morning that it “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”.

In a further statement, issued at around 12.30pm, the Met Police said: 

“Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station. This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. 

Following Assange’s arrest, the US Department of Justice released details of the indictment against him, charging him with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer”.

Assange had been living in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest over a Swedish probe into rape allegations.

Sweden dropped its investigation over the 2010 allegations in 2017 but British police said they were still seeking to arrest him for failing to surrender to a court after violating bail terms in relation to this matter.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court today found Assange guilty of breaching those bail conditions and. He will be remanded him into custody pending sentencing and could face up to 12 months in prison.

He will face another court hearing on 2 May on the US request for his extradition.

Assange appeared in court only hours after being taken from the Ecuadorian embassy to a waiting police van. 

Assange, who wore a dark jacket and trousers, made a thumbs up gesture to the press gallery as he entered the court and could be seen carrying a Gore Vidal book. 

Tweet by @Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 Source: Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻/Twitter

Assange has previously claimed that he feared he’d be extradited from Sweden to the United States over his role in leaking thousands of classified documents, the biggest leak in US military history. 

In its indictment, the US DoJ provided details of the charges Assange faces in the United States and said he faces up to five years in prison.

“The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on US Department of Defense computers,” US DoJ said in statement.

Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.

The indictment also contains details of what the DoJ says are “real-time discussions” between Manning and Assange regarding the transmission of the documents:

During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” To which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”

Manning’s passing of hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks exposed US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets regarding scores of countries around the world.

Manning was herself sentenced to 35 years in prison but her sentenced was commuted by President Barack Obama and she was released in 2017. 

Manning was again jailed last month for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation targeting Wikileaks.

Julian Assange extradition Media wait outside Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. Source: Victoria Jones/PA Images

In a statement today following Assange’s arrest, Swedish prosecutors said they were not made aware of it in advance and reiterated that investigations into allegations against him were discontinued in 2017

“This is news to us too, so we have not been able to take a position on the information that is now available. We also do not know why he is under arrest. We are following the developments,” Swedish chief prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said today.

The prosecution service added that a preliminary investigation can be resumed as long as the suspected crime is not subject to statute of limitation.

“In this case, the suspected crime of rape would be subject to statute of limitation in mid-August 2020,” prosecutors said. 

Video of the arrest of Assange was captured by the Russia Today site Ruptly:

Ecuador’s president has said Assange will not be extradited to any country where he could face “torture or the death penalty”. 

“I asked Great Britain the guarantee that Mr Assange will not be extradited to any country in which he could suffer torture or face the death penalty,” President Lenin Moreno said in a video message posted on social media.

“The British government has confirmed this in writing,” that they will meet this requirement, Moreno said. 

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has welcomed the decision to bring Assange into custody.

“Julian Assange is no hero. He has hidden from the truth for years and years,” Hunt said, describing the Ecuador president’s move as a “courageous decision”. 

A number of commentators, including the Washington Post’s national security reporter Devlin Barrett, have made the point that the Ecuadorean leader’s carefully worded statement doesn’t rule out the possibility of extradition to to the US. 

Barrett tweeted: “UK won’t send Assange anywhere HE COULD FACE the death penalty, which is a longstanding UK extradition policy, and the UK sends plenty of folks to the US on that condition.”

The arrest has been criticised however by former US government contractor Edward Snowden who described it as a ”dark moment for press freedom”.

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019, Daragh Brophy and Rónán Duffy

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