Assange’s seven-year asylum ends

WikiLeaks founder faces extradition to U.S.

Julian Assange’s seven-year asylum ended on April 11 after London Metropolitan Police officers escorted the WikiLeaks founder from the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Assange moved into the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was facing sexual assault charges. His stay came to an end when several embassy officials complained about him skateboarding at night and his poor personal hygiene. There were also reports that Assange smeared his fecal matter on embassy walls at least once.

“We’ve ended the asylum of this spoiled brat,” Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced in a speech. “From now on, we’ll be more careful in giving asylum to people who are really worth it and not miserable hackers whose only goal is to destabilize governments.”

Moreno claimed Assange was “discourteous and aggressive.” According to the president’s speech, Assange issued “hostile and threatening declarations against Ecuador.”

Assange was confined to a small office the embassy had converted into a bedroom during the extent of his seven-year stay. Critics often equated the bedroom to a prison cell, according to NBC News.

“It’s not so much Julian Assange’s being held hostage in the Ecuadorian Embassy,” UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement released by the Foreign Office. “It’s actually Julian Assange holding the Ecuadorian Embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them.”  

AP News reported that while the relationship between Assange and the Ecuadorian government had been souring for many months, the release of information and photographs regarding Moreno and his family was “the final straw.”

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who originally granted Assange asylum in 2012, criticized Moreno, calling him “the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history” in a tweet on April 11.

“Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget,” Correa wrote.

According to a police statement, London officers were “invited into the embassy by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.” Sweden, who had dropped the sexual assault charges when they were unable to formally notify Assange while he was in the embassy, is now discussing whether or not to reopen the investigation, according to BBC.

Despite Sweden dropping the assault charges, London authorities arrested Assange in relation to an extradition request from the United States, which was filed in December 2017.

“The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. “During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified record to Assange.”

Manning, who leaked archived military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was arrested on March 8 when she refused to testify in front of a grand jury against Assange and his anti-secrecy organization.

“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,” Manning tweeted in response to the subpoena for her testimony.

Assange is scheduled to appear in a U.S. court on May 2 for a formal trial and has been charged with computer hacking conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

British District Judge Michael Snow found Assange guilty of failing to surrender on April 11, calling Assange’s behavior that “of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.”

Assange now faces up to 12 months of jail time in the UK if the country decides not to extradite him to the U.S.

Ecuadorian Telecommunications Vice Minister Patricio Real announced hacking attempts on the government have doubled since Assange’s asylum was granted. Some government websites, including the central bank and foreign ministry, have had some 40 million hacking attempts per day, according to Reuters.

“During the afternoon of April 11 we jumped from 51st place to 31st place worldwide in terms of the volume of cyberattacks,” Real told reporters before assuring them the attempts did not result in the loss of any government data.