Julian Assange, the controversial founder of Wikileaks, was arrested Thursday in London on charges of breaching bail conditions in a Swedish rape case that’s no longer under investigation after he was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The 47-year-old computer programmer was arrested at Ecuador’s London embassy, where he had been holed up in residence for more than six years amid growing upset from Ecuadorian and British leaders. The development also potentially exposes him to extradition to the U.S.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno traveled to London in July of last year to finalize an agreement to lift Assange’s asylum protection with the U.K. government, according to a report by the Intercept, citing a source within Ecuador’s foreign ministry.
In the past week, credible rumors began to circulate that Assange would be expelled, his asylum denied, and that he would face extradition to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military documents.
“This information came from a credible source high in the Ecuadorian Government,” Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said of his expulsion.
Last Friday, British police were seen stationed outside the embassy, though police said there had been no change in procedure.
Assange first took refuge at the embassy in June 2012 after jumping bail while wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape.
Though that criminal investigation was dropped last year, Assange, who is Australian, remained behind the embassy’s walls out of concern that he could face extradition to the U.S. for leaking classified military and diplomatic documents through Wikileaks, with the help of former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April, 2017 that the arrest of Assange would become a priority for the Justice Department.
In February, Assange asked a Westminster Magistrates’ Court to withdraw an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from the bail-skipping incident ― for which he could face a year in jail if convicted.
But on Feb. 6, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot upheld the arrest warrant, saying legal precedents “underline the importance of a defendant attending court” when on bail.
Last year, the British government rejected a request from Ecuador to grant diplomatic status to Assange. Ecuador’s foreign minister has said Assange’s long-term stay in her country’s London embassy is “untenable.”
“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the Foreign Office said in a statement at the time.