London, England, UK – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday morning and put into the custody of Scotland Yard.
British officials said the arrest was made “on behalf of U.S. authorities” and for skipping out on his bail in the United Kingdom, NBC News reported.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who inherited the permanent embassy guest when he was elected, said that his country has reached the end of its patience with Assange.
“Ecuador is a generous country and a nation with open arms,” Moreno said in a video posted to Twitter. “Ours is a government respectful of the principles of international law, and the institution of the right of asylum. Granting or withdrawing asylum is a sovereign right of the Ecuadorian state, according to international law.”
“Today, I announce 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,” the President of Ecuador continued.
“Ecuador sovereignly has decided to terminate the diplomatic asylum granted to Mr. Assange in 2012. 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,” he said.
Moreno explained the decision was made by Ecuador because of “the discourteous and aggressive behavior” of Assange. He said the asylum seeker refused to follow the embassy rules and violated the policy of “not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.”
He said that in January WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents in a manner that confirmed suspicions Assange was still connected to the organization.
“Finally, two days ago, WikiLeaks, Mr. Assange’s allied organization, threatened the government of Ecuador. My government has nothing to fear and does not act under threats,” Moreno said.
The WikiLeaks founder sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London almost seven years ago when he facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, NBC News reported.
The sexual assault allegations were eventually dropped but Assange was still wanted for jumping bail in that case.
British police took Assange from the embassy to Westminster Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded not guilty to failure to surrender on June 29, 2012, The Guardian reported.
District Judge Michael Snow found Assange guilty and said the defendant’s assertion that he had not been given a fair trial earlier was “laughable.”
The judge sent Assange to the Crown Court for sentencing on skipping bail, The Guardian reported.
Scotland Yard confirmed that Assange was also arrested on an extradition warrant from the United States.
A source told NBC News that the United States planned to seek extradition of Assange in connection with a sealed criminal case filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.
That’s the same case that put convicted felon Chelsea Manning back behind bars in March, after she refused to testify before a grand jury about her interactions with WikiLeaks and Assange despite the fact she had been granted immunity.
The Guardian reported that the United States has charged Assange in connection with computer hacking done by Chelsea Manning – he is believed to have helped the former spy hack into the documents that were later published by WikiLeaks.
Bradley Manning, who became Chelsea the day after sentencing, was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst who leaked massive amounts of American military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks.
The huge leak of government secrets led to political turmoil across the world and prompted many people to call for Manning’s execution for treason.
Manning was convicted of violations of the espionage acts in 2013, and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
But President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence shortly before he left office in January of 2017, and she was released four months later.
Assange has been living in relatively luxury at the Ecuadorian embassy, and might have continued to do so if he had simply followed that country’s rules and behaved like a good guest.
But Moreno said Assange installed electronic and distortion equipment that wasn’t allowed and blocked security cameras in the embassy. He also confronted and mistreated guards, accessed security files of the embassy without permission, and then challenged the legality of Ecuador’s protocol on three occasions.
The President of Ecuador said he requested the United Kingdom not turn Assange over to anybody who would torture him or make him face the death penalty, and British authorities agreed.
“What happened today is the result of years of careful diplomacy by the foreign office… also a very courageous decision by President Moreno… I mean it’s not so much Julian Assange being held hostage in the Ecuadorian embassy – it’s actually Julian Assange holding the Ecuadorian embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC.
You can see video of his removal below: