Julian Assange appeared to be sending a message when he decided to carry a book by Gore Vidal criticizing the American security state, as he was arrested in London yesterday.
The WikiLeaks founder was pictured carrying a copy of ‘The History of the National Security State’, which is a scathing critique of the American military-industrial-security complex.
Assange, who fears being extradited to the U.S. to face hacking charges, was given diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 when he exhausted all of his legal options to evade extradition to Sweden over sex crime accusations.
Julian Assange appeared to be sending a message by carrying a book by Gore Vidal on the American security state when he was arrested in London yesterday. The WikiLeaks founder was pictured carrying a copy of ‘The History of the National Security State’, which is a scathing critique of the American military-industrial-security complex (the book is circled above)
However, after seven years of refuge, the hacker was unceremoniously booted out yesterday, when Ecuador’s leader’s grew tired of his alleged petulant antics, allowing British police officers entry into the embassy to take Assange into custody.
As the visibly frail and aging hacker was marched to a waiting police car, Assange was holding the Vidal book, published four years before the noted intellectual’s death in 2012.
Later, as he sat in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange silently read through the book, before he was found guilty of skipping bail and remanded in custody.
As the visibly frail and aging hacker was marched to a waiting police car, Assange was holding the Vidal book (pictured), published four years before the noted intellectual’s death in 2012
Assange pleaded innocent to one charge that he failed to surrender to a Sweden extradition order. His lawyer stated Thursday he vows to fight extradition to the U.S.
The former hacker now faces a maximum sentence of one year in a British jail, likely to be Wandsworth prison in south London. This would see him serve six months before a fight over his extradition to the US begins. Experts say that process could take up to two years.
Meanwhile Swedish prosecutors said they would consider restarting the rape investigation which caused Assange to first seek refuge in the embassy. The alleged victim’s lawyer declared she would ‘do all we can’ to get the case reopened. A second woman, who accused Assange of sexual assault, said she was willing to appear as a witness.
Assange’s arrest came just 24 hours after Wikileaks had accused Ecuador of an ‘extensive spying operation’, adding that it assumed intelligence had been handed over to the Trump administration.
Mr Trump, who had declared ‘I love WikiLeaks’ during his 2016 campaign when the website released damaging emails concerning Hillary Clinton, said following Assange’s arrest that ‘I know nothing really about him’.
During his seven-year stay, British taxpayers footed a £13million bill for round-the-clock surveillance and a visible policing effort.
Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday
But events took a dramatic turn soon after 9am yesterday when police suddenly turned up at the doors. They were met at the embassy, a few streets from Harrods, by the ambassador whose government had decided to revoke their guest’s asylum.
Officers tried to introduce themselves to the Wikileaks founder, but he barged past them and tried to return to his private room, which can be locked by a secret code. He resisted being put into handcuffs and exclaimed: ‘This is unlawful, I’m not leaving.’
Back-up officers were called in and ultimately, a team of eight officers bundled him out of the building by his arms and legs at around 10.15am. As the scene unfolded, President Moreno released his statement saying Assange’s stay at the embassy was ‘unsustainable and no long viable’ after the government had been ‘threatened’ by WikiLeaks.
Mr Moreno added: ‘The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange. He installed electronic and distortion equipment not allowed.
‘He blocked the security cameras of the Ecuadorian mission in London. He has confronted and mistreated guards. He had accessed the security files of our embassy without permission.’
A handcuffed Assange is pictured in a van with police officers as he makes his way to Westminster Magistrates Court in London ahead of his hearing yesterday
President Moreno, who entered the office in 2017, was personally targeted by Wikileaks in February, when a set of documents were leaked that allegedly linked the president and family members to financial corruption and money laundering.
Wikileaks has previously called Moreno’s pursuit of Assange a ‘diversion tactic’ aimed at pointing attention away from the scandal and scoring political points with the US, with whom he is believed to want to improve relations.
The revival of US-Ecuadoran diplomacy, led by Moreno, saw the International Monetary Fund in Washington approve a $4.2billion payment to the Ecuadorian government in March, a month to the day that Assange was arrested and charged.
Interior minister Maria Paula Romo accused Assange of smearing faeces on the walls during his stay. She added: ‘Behaviour of this kind that is far removed from the minimum respect a guest should have in a country which has generously welcomed him.’
A Downing Street spokesman insisted the UK had not lobbied the Ecuadorians to revoke Assange’s asylum status.
The court heard how Assange resisted arrest and tried to barge past officers in an attempt to return to his private room within the embassy when they introduced themselves at about 10am, telling them: ‘This is unlawful’
The US Department of Justice, releasing this indictment form, said Julian Assange had been arrested over an alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning ‘to break a password to a classified US government computer’
Soon after his arrest, police announced Assange had been held for breaching bail and over an extradition request from the US.
Assange’s supporters fear that his extradition will be followed by more serious US charges such as treason – a crime that carries the death penalty in wartime. However, the UK has pledged it will not extradite Assange to any country where he could be executed.
A source close to Wikileaks suggested his health is ‘compromised’ after spending nearly a decade in the Ecuadorian embassy. The former hacker is said to be suffering from a number of ailments including dental problems and osteoporosis, the latter because of a lack of vitamin D.
Sporting a long grey beard and a ponytail, the WikiLeaks founder smiled and waved to supporters in the public gallery from the dock in court yesterday. But the smirk vanished when district judge Michael Snow described his defence to breaching bail as ‘laughable’.
Assange was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court. Remanding him in custody, the judge told him he will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on June 14 for the bail conditions breach, adding: ‘This is a case which merits the maximum sentence, which is 12 months in the crown court.’
In a final barbed remark, the judge suggested Assange should ‘get over to the US’ and ‘get on with your life’.