WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was arrested in London on Thursday morning, nearly seven years after he first sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange’s attorney said he’s been arrested on U.S. extradition request as well as for breaching U.K. bail conditions, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Assange first sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case. Two years earlier, the Swedish government issued a warrant for Assange in connection with allegations of sexual assault and rape from two women.
He consistently denied the allegations and surrendered to British police the following month and was released on bail. However, he then evaded police and fled which caused the Met to issue a second warrant which ultimately led to his arrest Thursday.
In 2017, Swedish prosecutors dropped their preliminary investigation into the allegations which brought an end to a seven-year legal battle.
The 47-year-old had refused to leave the embassy in London, and claimed he would be extradited to the U.S. for questioning over WikiLeaks’ activities. The activist organization became globally renowned for publishing secret information and news leaks which on some occasions caused embarrassment for governments and public officials.
WikiLeaks in its response to the arrest accused Ecuador of “illegally” terminating Assange’s “political asylum in violation of international law.”
“Julian Assange did not ‘walk out of the embassy’. The Ecuadorian ambassador invited British police into the embassy and he was immediately arrested,” WikiLeaks said in another tweet.
Assange’s relationship with Ecuador started to deteriorate earlier this month after the country accused him of leaking personal information about President Lenin Moreno’s life.
Moreno accused WikiLeaks of intercepting phone calls and private conversations as well as “photos of my bedroom, what I eat, and how my wife and daughters and friends dance,” the Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Moreno provided no evidence, but the incident reflected ongoing tension between Assange and his hosts at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Following the arrest on Thursday, Moreno accused Assange of “discourteous and aggressive behavior.”
“Today, I announce 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,” he said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, said Moscow hopes that Assange’s rights will not be violated, according to Reuters.