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

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Jemma Buck­ley, Chris­tian Gysin and So­phie Bor­land

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

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