THAT’LL WIPE THE SMILE OFF HIS FACE
After seven years in embassy, Julian Assange is dragged out to face justice Judge brands him a narcissist and jails him ... now he faces rape probe And he could spend decades in US prison for leaking secrets
JULIAN Assange is facing decades in an American prison after being dragged out of hiding yesterday.
In an extraordinary confrontation, eight policemen had to haul the WikiLeaks founder out of the embassy he has been holed up in for seven years.
Dishevelled and bearded, he ranted about Donald Trump and screamed ‘the UK has no civility’ before being handcuffed and bundled into a police van. The Ecuadorian government had ended his asylum status, saying it was tired of his ‘discourteous’ behaviour and poor personal hygiene.
Guarding the embassy during his stay there has cost taxpayers at least £13million.
As well as the prospect of a year in a British jail for breaching bail, Assange faces extradition to the United States and a renewed
rape investigation in Sweden. Following his arrest US prosecutors filed a computer hacking charge, carrying a five-year sentence.
But they are reportedly set to file further charges in the coming days that could see the 47-year-old jailed for decades. As the country submitted an extradition request, a US senator yesterday boasted ‘he’s our property’.
Assange was hauled in front of a judge at Westminster magistrates’ court for breaching bail. The judge described him as a ‘narcissist’ unable to get past his own ‘selfish interests’ and sent the case to crown court. He faces up to a year in jail for the offence.
Meanwhile Swedish prosecutors said they would consider restarting the rape investigation which caused Assange to first seek refuge in the embassy. The alleged victim’s lawyer declared she would ‘do all we can’ to get the case reopened. A second woman, who accused Assange of sexual assault, said she was willing to appear as a witness.
With Assange’s lawyers expected to fight his extradition case tooth and nail:
Ecuador’s interior minister accused him of smearing faeces on the walls during his stay;
The country’s president Lenin Moreno released a video statement condemning Assange’s behaviour;
Labour’s Diane Abbott claimed Assange was being pursued for ‘exposing wrongdoing’ by the US;
Jeremy Corbyn signalled he would oppose Assange’s extradition because he had exposed ‘evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan’;
Actress Pamela Anderson condemned the arrest and urged supporters to donate to WikiLeaks.
The embassy saga began in July 2012 when – having lost a battle against extradition to Sweden over two allegations of sexual assault – Assange entered the Ecuadorian property in Knightsbridge. He was given political asylum and later made a citizen of Ecuador.
Events took a dramatic turn at soon after 9am yesterday when police suddenly turned up at the doors. They were met at the embassy, a few streets from Harrods, by the ambassador whose government had decided to revoke their guest’s asylum.
Officers tried to introduce themselves to the Wikileaks founder, but he barged past them and tried to return to his private room, which can be locked by a secret code. He resisted being put into handcuffs and exclaimed: ‘This is unlawful, I’m not leaving.’
Back-up officers were called in and ultimately, a team of eight officers bundled him out of the building by his arms and legs at around 10.15am. As the scene unfolded, President Moreno released his statement saying Assange’s stay at the embassy was ‘unsustainable and no longer viable’ after the government had been ‘threatened’ by WikiLeaks.
Mr Moreno added: ‘The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange. He installed electronic and distortion equipment not allowed.
‘He blocked the security cameras of the Ecuadorian mission in London. He has confronted and mistreated guards. He had accessed the security files of our embassy without permission.’
Interior minister Maria Paula Romo accused Assange of smearing faeces on the walls during his stay. She added: ‘Behaviour of this kind that is far removed from the minimum respect a guest should have in a country which has generously welcomed him.’
Soon after his arrest, police announced Assange had been held for breaching bail and over an extradition request from the US.
Sporting a long grey beard and a ponytail, the WikiLeaks founder smiled and waved to supporters in the public gallery from the dock in court yesterday. But the smirk vanished when district judge Michael Snow described his defence to breaching bail as ‘laughable’.
Assange was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court. Remanding him in custody, the judge told him he will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on June 14 for the bail conditions breach, adding: ‘This is a case which merits the maximum sentence, which is 12 months in the crown court.’
In a final barbed remark, the judge suggested Assange should ‘get over to the US’ and ‘get on with your life’.
Meanwhile, the United States Department of Justice yesterday unsealed charges against Assange that had been secret.
He has been charged with ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’ – hacking – after allegedly agreeing to break a password for a US government computer.
He is accused of working with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, who downloaded classified records to give to WikiLeaks.
Between January and May 2010, Manning downloaded four databases containing 90,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 reports relating to the Iraq war, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 US Department of State cables. Many of them were classified but still released by WikiLeaks.
Manning was convicted by courtmartial in July 2013 of violating the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 35 years - but that was later commuted by President Barack Obama and she was let out in 2017. She was jailed again in March this year for refusing to give evidence about WikiLeaks.
Yesterday, legal experts said that Assange was likely to face more severe charges in the coming days and weeks.
Democratic senator Joe Manchin, of Virginia, said Assange’s arrest was ‘great for the American people’. He added: ‘We’re going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.’
If he is extradited and convicted of the more serious charges, Assange could even end up in the notorious ADX Supermax Federal Prison in Colorado.
His extradition is likely to be appealed through the chain of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and potentially even the European Court of Human Rights.
His legal team said he was facing ‘what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information.’
Comment – Page 18
Behaviour far removed from the respect any guest should have
Wink: Julian Assange is driven to court in a police van yesterday
Ranting: Julian Assange is dragged out of the Ecuador embassy yesterday