He has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years, but on Thursday the country withdrew it’s offer of asylum
- Ecuador removed its offer of asylum after nearly seven years
- Assange has now been arrested and taken into police custody
- WikiLeaks conducted the biggest leak of US military documents in 2010
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been the centre of an international legal, military and political dispute that spreads from Iraq to the White House to London.
As the founder of Wikileaks, it was Mr Assange’s platform that was contacted by a soldier to leak a huge cache of US military intelligence to in April 2010.
The information was leaked by Chelsea Manning, who at the time was a soldier in the US Army in Iraq called Bradley. It was, at that point, the biggest ever leak of US military documents.
In the aftermath of the Iraq leaks, the US military arrested and convicted Manning and said Mr Assange was wanted on computer charges.
US charges against Assange
Mr Assange, 47, has been charged by the US government with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, according to an indictment released in the US.
Julian Assange arrested: Wikileaks founder’s asylum revoked after 7 years in Ecuadorian embassy
He has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years, but on Thursday the country withdrew it’s offer of asylum, claiming it was “unsustainable and no longer viable”.
Mr Assange was forcibly removed from the embassy on Thursday and arrested by the Metropolitan police. He was taken into police custody and Scotland Yard confirmed the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested on behalf of US authorities under an extradition warrant.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused in the United States of America computer-related offences.”
WikiLeaks tweeted the U.S. extradition request concerned Mr Assange’s “conspiracy with Chelsea Manning” and the Iraq leaks.
Sexual assault allegations
Sweden still wants to question Mr Assange as part of a sexual assault investigation.
Four months after the Iraq leaks in 2010, Mr Assange was accused of sexually assaulting two women while on a trip to Sweden to give a talk.
Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Mr Assange for two separate allegations of sexual assault, one of rape and one of molestation.
The WikiLeaks founder denied the allegations, and claimed they were part of a plot to get him into a country that had an extradition agreement with the US.
In 2012, the UK Supreme Court ruled Mr Assange could be extradited to Sweden. Less than a month later, Mr Assange entered the Ecuador embassy in London to claim asylum, believing that if he was taken to Sweden to face the allegations he could then be extradited to the US to face charges over the WikiLeaks Iraq leaks.
Following his arrest on Thursday, Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, said in a statement the arrest was “news to us” and they were following developments.
Sweden says it can still resume an investigation and that the statute of limitations does not run out on the case until August 2020.
What was in the Iraq Leaks?
The scale of the WikiLeaks leak was huge – 750,000 classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents were released in 2010.
It was one of the first mass releases of secret documents, and on a different scale to anything WikLeaks had done before.
Among the major leaks since the site’s foundation were battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic communications and a military video showing a US helicopter attack that killed at least 11 men.
Ms Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military jail. Her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama and she served seven years.
Last year, she was jailed again for refusing to testify at a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
Mr Assange stood down as editor of Wikileaks in September last year.