New arrest as revolting claims about Assange emerge
A senior Ecuadorian official says a Swedish software developer living in Quito and who is allegedly close to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested as authorities attempt to dismantle a blackmail ring that in recent days had threatened to retaliate against President Lenin Moreno.
The official said Ola Bini was arrested Thursday at Quito's airport as he was preparing to board a flight for Japan.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity and didn't provide any additional details about Bini.
On a blog, a Swedish man by the same name describes himself as a software developer working in Quito for the Center for Digital Autonomy, a group based in Ecuador and Spain focused on privacy, security and cryptography issues. It makes no mention of any affiliation with Wikileaks.
On Twitter earlier Thursday, Bini called claims by the Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo that Russian hackers and someone close to Wikileaks were working inside Ecuador "very worrisome" news.
"This seems like a witch hunt to me," Bini wrote.
REVOLTING CLAIMS ABOUT ASSANGE
More details have emerged of how Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange got away with extraordinary behaviour while inside the Ecuadorean embassy.
Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo claimed he had smeared poo over the walls at the embassy, where he was granted asylum for seven years.
"During his stay at the Ecuadorean Embassy, during the government of the former president Rafael Correa, they tolerated things like Mr Assange putting faeces on the walls of the embassy and other types of behaviour of this kind that is far removed from the minimum respect a guest should have in a country which has generously welcomed him," she said.
She did not make it clear if he had used his own poo or someone else's.
Australian consular officials will visit the WikiLeaks founder in a London jail on Friday after he was arrested.
Supporters fear Assange could face the death penalty if the US succeeds in an extradition bid, but Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australia remains "completely opposed" to capital punishment.
Earlier, a judge slammed Assange as a "narcissist'' as he found the 47-year-old Australian guilty of breaching bail.
Assange, who has spent the past seven years in self-imposed confinement in the Ecuadorean Embassy, had pleaded not guilty to one count of breaching bail, after he failed to appear in the Westminster Magistrates Court as required back on July 29, 2012.
But District Judge Michael Snow called Assange a "narcissist who cannot get past his own interests" and found him guilty.
"His behaviour through his counsel is shameful," he told the court.
"I have no hesitation at all in finding Mr Assange guilty of his charge."
Assange appeared in the Westminster Magistrates Court about five hours after he arrested, appearing in court one at 2.15pm London time (11.15pm AEST), wearing a black suit with his white hair slicked back into a bun.
While was waiting for his lawyer to arrive, he sat in the dock reading a Gore Vidal book, History of the National Security State, which he was photographed with during his arrest.
While flicking through the pages, he turned the cover towards the public gallery which was packed with media who he had given a thumbs-up and a salute to minutes before.
Judge Snow told the court Assange had been further arrested on a US extradition warrant for allegedly conspiring with former US Army analyst Chelsea Manning to "disclose classified documents'' between January and May 2010.
Assange has been remanded in custody for sentence in Crown Court on a date to be fixed.
His extradition matter was adjourned until May 2, when he will appear in court by videolink.
Assange declined to give evidence about his breach of bail, but lawyer Liam Walker spoke on his behalf, claiming previous attempts at having the warrant thrown out were heard by biased judge.
Mr Walker told the court Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot should have recused herself as the "activities of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange" impacted on the work of her husband, the Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom.
Judge Snow slammed the submission, saying it was "grossly unfair and improper" to "try to ruin the reputation of a senior judge in front of the press".
He went on to say Assange's breach of bail merits the maximum sentence which is 12 months in Crown Court, but only three months in Magistrates Court.
PM SAYS ASSANGE MUST FACE THE MUSIC
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made his bed and now he has to lie in it, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
Mr Morrison says US plans to extradite Mr Assange from the United Kingdom have nothing to do with Australia.
He says Mr Assange - who's accused of the biggest leak of classified information in US history - must face the music like any other Australian in hot water overseas.
Asked if Australia would oppose the US extradition bid, he told the ABC: "When Australians travel overseas and find themselves in difficulty with the law, they face the judicial systems of those countries.
He said Mr Assange was receiving nothing more than the standard consular assistance afforded to Australians in trouble in other countries. On confirmation the US would seek extradition, the prime minister said: "It's not nothing to do with us, it is a matter for the US." Mr Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson says his extradition will set a very dangerous precedent for all media organisations and journalists around the world.
"An Australian citizen … faces years, potentially decades or life in prison for having published material that the Walkley Awards gave him the most outstanding contribution to Australian journalism for," she said on Friday. "The Australian Government ought to be defending its citizen and asking the US to stop this."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Julian Assange should be entitled to consular assistance from Australia, but "no more, no less".
"I don't know what's gone on in the last seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy, and I suspect that will come to light over the coming days," Mr Shorten said.
"He's an Australian, so therefore he is entitled to consular assistance - no more, no less, but he's certainly entitled to consular assistance, I notice the government has said the same thing."
Mr Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson has said the Australian government should do more to intervene in the case since he was arrested.
MAY THANKS UK COPS FOR ARREST
Earlier today, British Prime Minister Theresa May has issued a comment from the House of Commons on the arrest of Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
"I am sure that the whole House will welcome the news this morning that the Metropolitan Police have arrested Julian Assange for breach of bail, after nearly seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy. He has also been arrested in relation to an extradition request from the United States authorities.
"This is now a legal matter before the courts. My Right Honourable Friend the Home Secretary will make a Statement on this later, but I would like to thank the Metropolitan Police for carrying out their duties with great professionalism and to welcome the co-operation of the Ecuadorean government in bringing this matter to a resolution.
Mr Speaker, this goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law."
ECUADOR PRESIDENT'S LASHING
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno outlined a scathing list of claims against Julian Assange, saying the Australian has interfered in other countries' affairs, been rude to Ecuador, mistreated guards at the embassy and blocked security cameras.
In a three-minute video message spoken in Spanish and translated into English, Mr Moreno outlined the reasons why he had revoked Assange's asylum.
He said that he had asked the British Government to ensure Assange was not extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.
"Today I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behaviour of Mr Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organisations (Wikileaks), 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,'' Mr Moreno said, in his message posted on Twitter.
"For six years the Ecuadorean people have protected the human rights of Mr Assange and have provided for his every day needs at the facilities of our embassy in London.
"Mr Assange violated, repeatedly, clear-cut provisions of the conventions on diplomatic asylum of Havana and Caracas, despite the fact he was requested on several occasions to abide by and respect these rules.
"He particularly violated the norms of not interfering in the internal affairs of other states.
"The most recent occasion occurred in January 2019 when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents.
"Key members of that organisation visited Mr Assange before and after such illegal acts. This and other publications has confirmed to the world suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to Wikileaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.
"The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Julian Assange. He installed electronic and distortion equipment not allowed.
"He blocked the security camera of the Ecuadorean Mission in London. He has confronted and mistreated guards.
PAMMY ANDERSON OFFERS SUPPORT
The dramatic video of Assange's arrest prompted his rumoured girlfriend, former Baywatch star and vegan activist Pamela Anderson to offer her support on social media.
"Julian Assange is a HERO for the people. And the people will not allow this vile injustice," she tweeted.
"He was right all along. He will be EXTRADITED. It's confirmed! It's time for a change."
She then called for Assange sympathisers to support Diem 25, a pan European political movement.
"My friends at @DiEM_25 are a step in the right direction. Your vote is an initial step."
THE US INDICTMENT AGAINST ASSANGE
Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who leaked a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks, was jailed last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury.
In a statement, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said: "We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities."
The US Justice Department has charged Assange with computer hacking conspiracy, alleging he helped whistleblower Chelsea Manning break into a computer in "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States".
According to a Justice Department statement, Assange conspired with former intelligence analyst Manning to crack into US government servers and release classified documents to Wikileaks.
The indictment alleges that over four months in 2010 Manning "downloaded four, nearly complete databases from departments and agencies of the United States" containing information about US army activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These were published on Wikileaks between 2010 and 2011.
Assange then colluded with Manning, according to the indictment, to crack the passwords of secure servers and release information that "could be used to the injury of the United States and the advantage of a foreign nation"
"He had accessed the security files of our Embassy without permission.
"He claimed to be isolated and rejected the internet connection offered by the embassy. And yet he had a mobile phone with which he communicated with the outside world.''
Mr Moreno said Ecuador has upheld the "generous conditions'' of Assange's asylum, but that the Australian had "legally challenged in three different instances the legality of the protocol.''
"In all cases, the relevant judicial authorities have validated Ecuador's position,'' he said.
"In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain to guarantee (he) would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.
"The British Government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with it's own rules.
"Finally, two days ago, WikiLeaks, Mr Assange's allied organisation, threatened the Government of Ecuador.
"My Government has nothing to fear and does not act under threats.''
WikiLeaks issued a call for` donations to help fund Assange's legal fight.
"This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010,'' the organisation said on Twitter.
"Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him. #ProtectJulian.''
The UK Government confirmed it had been involved in lengthy negotiations over Assange's fate.
"It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next,'' said State Minister for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan.
"We are very grateful to the Government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken.
"Today's events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries.
"I look forward to a strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Ecuador in the years ahead."
HOW THE ARREST UNFOLDED
In a statement at 10.11am London time (7.11pm AEST), the Met said: "Julian Assange has been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service at the Embassy of Ecuador on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates Court on June 29, 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.''
That was the date Assange jumped bail in London and took refuge in the embassy, as he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden on two sexual assault allegations.
Assange always claimed the allegations were a stalking horse designed to have him extradited to the US to face trial for publishing more than 750,000 American documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had been obtained by former US Army Analyst Chelsea Manning.
"The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) had a duty to execute the warrant on behalf of the Westminster Magistrates Court and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorean government's withdrawal of asylum," the Met said in a statement.
President Moreno inherited Assange as a full-time lodger at the embassy when he was elected in February 2017, but never particularly enjoyed hosting the Australian, with the Melbourne-born Assange frequently rowing with his hosts, who criticised him for everything from meddling in elections to failing to clean his bathroom.
He has occupied two rooms for almost seven years, with celebrity guests such as Pamela Anderson seen visiting, but has never been able to go outside, for fear of being arrested.
After an escalating row in recent weeks, where Mr Moreno accused Assange of leaking pictures of himself and his family, Assange supporters had been gathering outside the embassy in support of the Australian, who is backed by free speech advocates.
While Manning was sentenced to 35 years jail for her role in leaking the documents (her sentence was commuted after seven years on the orders of former US president Barack Obama), current President Donald Trump has never been clear on what his thoughts are on Assange and whether he should be prosecuted.
A court document accidentally made public in the United States earlier this year seemed to indicate a criminal indictment had been prepared on Assange.
Assange was given a new Australian passport last year and is entitled to consular help from Australia.