WikiLeaks' Assange arrested on 'US extradition request'
LONDON (AP) — In a statement Thursday, London 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."
Assange hasn't left the embassy since August 2012 for fear that if he steps off Ecuador's diplomatic soil he will be arrested and extradited to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
Ecuador's president says his government withdrew asylum status for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange almost seven years after he sought refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London, citing "repeated violations of international conventions and daily-life protocols."
Julian Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson says the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested on an extradition request from the United States as well as on charges of breaching his bail conditions.
In a tweet, Robinson said Assange "has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request."
The U.S. Justice Department inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange in a court filing last year. It's not clear what he's 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 Thursday, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said: "We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities."
The Swedish woman who alleged that she was raped by Julian Assange during a visit to Stockholm in 2010 has welcomed his arrest in London.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the unnamed woman, says news of Assange's arrest earlier Thursday came as "a shock to my client" and that it was something "we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012."
Massi Fritz said in a text message sent to The Associated Press that "we are going to do everything" to have the Swedish case reopened "so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape."
Massi Fritz said "no rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served."
In 2017, Sweden's top prosecutor dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange, saying there was no way to have Assange detained or charged within a foreseeable future because of his protected status inside the embassy.
WikiLeaks has accused "powerful actors," including the CIA, of a "sophisticated" effort to dehumanize Julian Assange.
The comments by the organization Assange founded came soon after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up for seven years.
In a tweet, the organization posted a photo of Assange with the words: "This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize and imprison him. #ProtectJulian."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says Russia wants Julian Assange's rights to be observed following his arrest.
Shortly after Assange's arrest in London, Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he could not comment on the overall case.
But, he said, "We of course hope that all of his rights will be observed."