Julian Assange has been arrested by UK police after nearly seven years in Ecuadorian embassy
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and has been arrested on the request of the United States, British police say.
The Australian man, who has been residing in the Andean nation’s embassy for nearly seven years, was arrested under Section 73 of the Extradition Act, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said.
“He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible,” they said.
“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.”
Earlier, police explained that Assange was arrested for “failing to surrender to the court” in 2012.
Footage posted on social media earlier today shows more than six officers removing Assange from the embassy and placing him in a police vehicle.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said the nation withdrew Assange’s asylum status “after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols”.
Mr Moreno said he had requested that the United Kingdom guarantee the WikiLeaks founder “would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty or torture”.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister José Valencia also confirmed the country had stripped Assange of his Ecuadorian citizenship.
When asked about Assange’s arrest, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters that President Moreno’s decision was “courageous”.
“Its not so much Julian Assange being held hostage in the Ecuadorian embassy, its actually Julian Assange holding the Ecuadorian embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them,” he said.
“What is not acceptable is for someone to escape facing justice and he has tried to do that for a very long time and that is why he is no hero.”
The US Justice Department inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange ina court filing last year, although it is not clear what he has been accused of.
Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who leaked a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks, was jailed last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury.
In a statement on Thursday, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said: “We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities.”
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that Assange “will continue to receive the usual consular support from the Australian Government”.
It followed similar comments by Mr Moreno that he had “repeatedly violated” the terms of his asylum.
Mr Moreno said Assange did not have the right to “hack private accounts or phones” and could not intervene in the politics of other countries, especially those that have friendly relations with Ecuador.