Six years, nine months and 24 days after walking into the Ecuadorian embassy in London and declaring asylum, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was dragged back out onto the streets by British police officers.
Assange, 47, who was heavily-bearded, shouted “The U.K. must resist!” as he was man-handled towards a waiting police vehicle by a clutch of officers. He appeared to be carrying a copy of Gore Vidal’s book History of The National Security State.
“The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behavior of Mr. Assange,” said Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno on Thursday.
Assange, who has an outstanding warrant for jumping bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, was taken into custody after officers were invited inside by embassy officials. It’s a relatively minor charge, but Assange’s imminent freedom is far from assured.
British police confirmed a few hours after the initial arrest that Assange was arrested for a second time on behalf of U.S. authorities on an extradition warrant. The U.K. government didn’t reveal much, only saying Assange is “accused in the United States of America of computer related offences.”
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, have been working to build a case against the Australian cypherpunk for nearly a decade, and a paperwork error last year revealed they have a sealed criminal complaint at the ready in anticipation of this moment.
“The most likely thing is they’ll get him held immediately on the complaint, and then they’ll indict,” said attorney Christopher Ott, a former Justice Department prosecutor who worked on Russia’s election-hacking investigation prior to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “It’s the standard play. There’s a submarine complaint, it goes underwater, it’s sitting, and then it surfaces when the defendant does.”
It’s a new chapter in a saga that began when Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012.
At the time, Assange was facing imminent extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning in a rape and sexual-assault investigation that’s since been dropped on a technicality. He showed up at the embassy after losing a final appeal in the British courts.
Assange had good reason for choosing Ecuador as his protector. A few weeks earlier, then-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa appeared on Assange’s TV interview show on the Russian government’s RT network. The interview revealed Correa as a Wikileaks fan, and the interplay between the two was filled with the friendly banter of fellow travelers.