Julian Assange Arrested by Scotland YardPosted: December 7, 2010
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit today.
The 39-year-old Australian was held when he attended a central London police station by appointment.
He is now expected to appear before a district judge at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court later today.
As everyone knows by now, Assange faces rape and sexual molestation charges in Sweden.
The accusations have stalked Assange since the summer, before his website began publishing portions of the huge cache of U.S. State Department diplomatic cables that have dismayed American officials and other governments around the world in recent days.
But Assange, who is Australian, and his lawyers and supporters believe that the U.S. has pushed the sexual assault case behind the scenes as a way of embarrassing, harassing and silencing him.
Assange is believed to have been in southern England for much of the past few weeks as the State Department cables have been released. Swedish prosecutors last month issued an international warrant for his arrest, but British authorities did not move to arrest him until this week, apparently because of a technical mistake on the warrant.
At his court hearing, Assange’s lawyers are expected to ask for him to be released on bail while he fights the attempt to extradite him.
That legal battle could take weeks or even months. Assange’s attorneys fear that a successful extradition to Sweden on the sexual assault allegations could also make it easier for him to be extradited to the United States if prosecutors there charge him with various offenses relating to the WikiLeaks disclosures.
According to The Guardian UK, Wikileaks will continue releasing documents from its cache of previously secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
The whistleblowers’ website has made arrangements to continue publishing the classified documents, the airing of which has embarrassed the US government. The leaked cables have provided a daily flow of revelations about the superpower’s involvement in the most sensitive issues around the world, including those affecting Iran, Afghanistan and China.
The decision to press on will help allay fears among Assange’s supporters that his arrest would hobble the organisation’s work.
Assange has also pre-recorded a video message, which WikiLeaks is due to release today. But the Guardian understands the organisation has no plans to release the insurance file of the remaining cables, which number more than 200,000. It has sent copies of the encrypted file to supporters around the world. These can be accessed only by using a 256 digit code.
In one piece of good news for Wikileaks and its supporters, a French judge has resisted pressure from France and the U.S. to shut down the organization’s website.
This whole development was predictable. Once the US got thoroughly embarrassed on the world stage through “Cablegate”, it was certain he was not going to freely roam around.
Julian Assange Becomes the US’s Public Enemy No. 1
He may be on the short list for Time magazine’s “person of the year,” but many Americans consider Julian Assange to be a criminal and a terrorist. The WikiLeaks founder has been fighting a battle on several fronts since the publication of the diplomatic cables. He has now been arrested in London.
London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Assange had been arrested at around 9:30 a.m. local time, by appointment at a police station in the British capital. “He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010,” the statement read. Assange was due to appear before a London court later on Tuesday
If you want to know some background on these charges, you can check on the Daily Mail: ‘The Wikileaks sex files: How two one-night stands sparked a worldwide hunt for Julian Assange’. It’s a bit of a pot boiler, but you probably should read it.
Using a number of sources including leaked police interviews, we can begin to piece together the sequence of events which led to Assange’s liberty being threatened by Stockholm police rather than Washington, where already one U.S. politician has called on him to executed for ‘spying’.
The story began on August 11 this year, when Assange arrived in Stockholm.
He had been invited to be the key speaker at a seminar on ‘war and the role of the media’, organised by the centre-Left Brotherhood Movement.
His point of contact was a female party official, whom we shall refer to as Sarah (her identity must be protected because of the ongoing legal proceedings).
An attractive blonde, Sarah was already a well-known ‘radical feminist’. In her 30s, she had travelled the world following various fashionable causes.
While a research assistant at a local university she had not only been the protegee of a militant feminist academic, but held the post of ‘campus sexual equity officer’. Fighting male discrimination in all forms, including sexual harassment, was her forte.
Glenn Greenwald has an op-ed up on this at Salon: ‘ Anti-WikiLeaks lies and propaganda – from TNR, Lauer, Feinstein and more’. He challenges some fabrications in the right wing press on charges that Wikileaks is endangering intelligence operations.
I understand that the media has repeated over and over the false claim that WikiLeaks “dumped” all 250,000 diplomatic cables on the Internet — which is presumably how this falsehood made its way into Gitlin’s brain and then into his column — but that’s no excuse for him and TNR editors failing to undertake the most minimal due diligence (such as, say, checking WikiLeaks’ website) before publishing this claim.
I imagine more news and reaction will be coming on this story today. We can use this post as a live blog for updates. Please let us know if you hear anything new.