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LATIN AMERICA | 11-04-2019 08:02

WikiLeaks' Assange arrested at Ecuador's Embassy in London

Police arrest WikiLeaks founder, seven years after he entered Ecuadorean Embassy, after Preisdent Lenín Moreno withdraws asylum in a so-called 'sovereign decision.'

Police in London arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy this morning for failing to surrender to the court in 2012, shortly after the South American nation revoked his asylum.

Ecuador's president Lenín Moreno said a tweet that 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."

His predecessor, Rafael Correa, branded Moreno a "traitor" in the wake of the news.

The frail-looking and bearded Assange, who was bundled into a police van, first took refuge in the Embassy in London in 2012 and has been holed up inside ever since.

"Today I announce that that the discourteous and aggressive behaviour of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organisation, 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," Moreno said in a video statement released on Twitter.

Police said Assange has 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."

Video posted online by Ruptly, the agency wing of Russia Today, showed about five to six men in suits forcibly escorting Assange out of the Embassy building, surrounding him as he staggered down the steps and boarded a police van.

Police said officers were invited into the Embassy by the ambassador following the Ecuador government's withdrawal of Assange's asylum.

Assange had not come out of the Embassy for seven years because he feared arrest and extradition to the United States for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Moreno for breaking the impasse, saying on Twitter that Assange "is no hero and no one is above the law."

His arrest came a day after WikiLeaks accused the Ecuador's government of an "extensive spying operation" against Assange.

WikiLeaks claims meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed.

WikiLeaks said in a tweeted statement that Ecuador illegally terminated Assange's political asylum "in violation of international law."

Russia immediately slammed Britain's arrest of the WikiLeaks founder as a move against democratic freedoms and called on London to respect his rights.

"The hand of 'democracy' is strangling freedom," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook after British police arrested Assange at Ecuador's Embassy in London.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed hope that the WikiLeaks founder's rights would be respected.

Asked if Russia was ready to give Assange asylum, Peskov sidestepped the question but told journalists: "We certainly hope that all his rights will be respected."

- TIMES/AP/AFP

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