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British police have arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at Ecuador’s embassy in London after his asylum was withdrawn.
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Police in London arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Thursday at the embassy of Ecuador. 

The Metropolitan Police said Assange was taken into custody on a 2012 warrant for failing to surrender to court. After his arrest, his attorney, Jennifer Robinson, said he had also been arrested on an extradition request from the United States.

“Assange has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request,” she tweeted.

Police announced early Thursday that Assange had 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.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the Supreme Court in London in February 2012. Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Thursday. (Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga, EPA-EFE)

Police said the Ecuadorian ambassador invited officers to the embassy to execute a warrant on behalf of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court after the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno said his government withdrew Assange’s status for repeated violations of international conventions. Moreno described it as a “sovereign decision” due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily life.”

The United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, applauded the arrest, saying it followed “extensive dialogue” between the two countries.

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“It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the U.K.,” he said in a statement. “It is for the courts to decide what happens next.”

Assange, 47, took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape allegations.

Assange, an Australian national, chose to remain in the embassy out of fear that the United States would immediately seek his arrest and extradition over the leaking of classified documents to WikiLeaks by then-U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning.

Wikileaks said in a Thursday tweet that “Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him.”

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Assange, who was granted Ecuadorian citizenship last year in an apparent effort to designate him a diplomat and allow him to go to Russia, sued Ecuador for violating his rights as an Ecuadorian.

He pressed his case in local and international tribunals on human-rights ground, but both ruled against him.

In 2011, the leftist Ecuadorian government that initially offered asylum to Assange had been embroiled in a diplomatic row with the U.S. involving a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable. U.S. ambassador to Ecuador Heather Hodges was expelled after WikiLeaks leaked the document that alleged widespread corruption within the Ecuadorian police force, the BBC reported.

Assange first got a taste of tapping into unauthorized material when he became a hacker in 1987. Four years later he was convicted of hacking into the master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation, The New Yorker reported.

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In 2006, Assange established WikiLeaks as a site for publishing classified information and within a decade had posted more than 10 million documents often embarrassing to governments.

While gaining the backing of some world figures, including leaders of Brazil and Ecuador, he gained international notoriety after publishing information in 2010, which was leaked by a self-described whistleblower inside the U.S. Army, Bradley Manning, a transgender woman who later became known as Chelsea Manning. Manning spent nearly 7 years in prison for leaking classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents.

Contributing: The Associated Press

 

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