WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London and now faces charges in the U.S.
Mr Assange, sporting a long white beard and wagging a finger, shouted “UK must resist” as he was carried out in handcuffs by seven men and hauled into a police van.
He has been in the building for nearly seven years after seeking refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden and was detained on Thursday after the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum.
WikiLeaks said on Twitter that the Ecuadorian ambassador “invited British police into the embassy” and Mr Assange was immediately arrested.
Scotland Yard said he was being held on behalf of the US authorities, as well as for breaching his original bail conditions.
Later on Thursday, US Department of Justice announced Mr Assange was arrested in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.
Mr Assange is appearing before a judge this afternoon.
Speaking to the House of Commons after Mr Assange’s detention, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said the arrest of Mr Assange shows that “no one is above the law.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: “Julian Assange is no hero. He’s hidden from the truth for years and years, and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system.”
In a tweet, he thanked the government of Ecuador for its cooperation on the arrest.
“Everybody wants to bring this to an end,” Europe minister Sir Alan Duncan told Sky News. “Anyone who’s been holed up in a room for seven years is really going to suffer, mentally and physically, so just on a human level it was important that this was brought to an end.”
Sir Alan said they are grateful to Ecuador’s government under President Lenín Moreno for the action they have taken and that today’s events follow “extensive dialogue between our two countries.”
Mr Moreno said in a video statement released on Twitter: “Today I announce that that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.”
Moreno said he asked UK officials to guarantee that Mr Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.
“The British government has confirmed it in writing,” Moreno added.
WikiLeaks said Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Mr Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”. His relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about Mr Moreno’s personal life.
His attorney, Barry J. Pollack, said it was “bitterly disappointing” that a country would allow someone to whom it has extended asylum to be arrested in its embassy.
“First and foremost, we hope that the UK will now give Mr Assange access to proper health care, which he has been denied for seven years,” Pollack said. “Once his health care needs have been addressed, the UK courts will need to resolve 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.”
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who lives in exile in Russia, said in a tweet that images of Mr Assange’s arrest are going to end up in the history books.
“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom,” Mr Snowden wrote.
Actress Pamela Anderson, who called on world leaders to intervene to free Mr Assange while he was still at the embassy, tweeted that she was “in shock” and accused Ecuadorian, UK and US officials of complicity in his arrest.
Mr Assange was holding a copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State when he was brought out of the building.
The WikiLeaks founder, 47, has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012 after he sought refuge there following a British judge ruling he should be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.
Sweden dropped the case in 2017 but Mr Assange remained in the London embassy as he feared being extradited to the US to face charges over the WikiLeaks website’s release of sensitive US government files.
A Swedish lawyer representing the alleged victim in a rape investigation involving Mr Assange said following the arrest that she would push to have prosecutors reopen the probe.
His arrest comes a day after Wikileaks accused the Ecuadorian government of an “extensive spying operation” against Mr Assange.
WikiLeaks claims meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed.