Why was Julian Assange arrested, will he go to prison and did the WikiLeaks have a panic button at the Ecuador Embassy?

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WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has been arrested by British police outside Ecuador’s embassy in London.

The 47-year-old was ejected on April 11, 2019 – here’s what you need to know.

Julian Assange has been living in London's Ecuadorian embassy for four years after he was granted asylum
Julian Assange has been living in London’s Ecuadorian embassy for four years after he was granted asylum
PA:Press Association

Who is Julian Assange?

The 47-year-old is an Australian native who spearheaded the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks to expose the inner workings of governments, military and trade deals around the world.

Assange is a hacker, freedom of information advocate and considers himself a political refugee.

He was born in Queensland in 1971 and attended the city’s Central university where he studied programming, mathematics and physics.

Assange has a software designer son called Daniel with ex-wife Teresa.

Why was Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy?

Assange was visiting Sweden in August 2010 to speak at a conference when he met two women and had sex with them.

They accused him of rape and molestation and Assange was questioned but never charged over the claims.

He was initially told he could leave the country, but in November of that year, Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest.

Assange has always denied the claims.

He gave himself up a week later and appeared before a judge in Westminster, where his supporters stumped up £240,000 for his bail.

In June 2012, Swedish prosecutors called for him to be extradited – a measure his lawyers opposed in case he was sent to the US.

On June 19, 2012, he fled bail and applied for asylum in Ecuador, through the embassy in Knightsbridge, London.

 Julian Assange addresses media and supporters from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy in February this year
Assange addressing media and supporters from the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy in February 2016
Getty Images

Why was he arrested?

The Ecuadorian authorities stated that he could remain in the embassy as long as he wished.

On February 6, 2018, Westminster Magistrates Court ruled to uphold Scotland Yard’s warrant for his arrest.

A UK judge told Assange that he should face the charges against him.

In a stinging attack on Mr Assange, she said he appeared to “consider himself above the normal rules of law”.

She said: “Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered Mr Summers’ arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.”

In 2018, Ecuador closed off Assange’s communications with the outside world after the Australian breached an agreement he had made with the South American country a year earlier.

Its government said Assange’s behaviour online risked jeopardising the nation’s relationship with the UK.

On July 27, it was reported Ecuador’s president said Assange must eventually leave the embassy.

Then in April 2019, Ecuador’s new president Lenin Moreno said the country was withdrawing Assange’s diplomatic immunity, meaning police were free to enter the embassy and arrest him.

Assange has been transferred to London’s Wandsworth Prison
AFP or licensors

Will he go to prison?

The US Department of Justice has indicted Assange in connection with the publication of damaging classified Iraq war files .

The department called it “one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.”

This carries a maximum sentence of five years – but it’s believed Assange will be levelled with dozens more charges once he arrives in the states.

Among them, he could be accused of espionage – a crime that can carry a 20-year sentence.

The US authorities must produce a case by June 12 and he faces a long battle to avoid extradition to America where he was today charged over the Iraq War Logs.

Swedish lawyers want to reopen the sex allegations which first sent Assange into hiding – a move which has cost the British taxpayer more than £10m.

Prosecutors there are considering relaunching a rape investigation into Julian Assange.

Officials said the allegations made against him were due to expire under the country’s statute of limitations in August next year.

But his arrest  means the investigation  could  be reopened after a request from an alleged victim.

Assange has been convicted of skipping bail in 2012 and faces a maximum of 12 months when he is sentenced at a later date

He is currently in Wandsworth Prison in South West London.

Did the WikiLeaks have a panic button at the Ecuador Embassy?

Assange was arrested in a way that ensured he wouldn’t be able to press a mysterious panic button he claimed would have “devastating consequences” to the Ecuadorean embassy.

It has been revealed that his swift arrest was designed to stop him pressing an emergency panic button.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Jose Valencia said audio recordings from a few months ago captured Assange threatening ambassador Jaime Merchan with pressing the button which would have “devastating consequences” for the embassy if he was arrested.


British authorities were told about the threat — which cops acted on by not allowing Assange to return to his room in the embassy during his arrest to carry out any secret plans.

But it’s not yet clear what was meant by the panic button threat.

A previous version of this story said that Assange had sex with two men who later accused him of rape. In actual fact they were women. The story was corrected on March 10, 2016.


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