London: Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange was on Thursday dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in handcuffs, where he had been cooped up for seven years.
The South American country has withdrawn the asylum granted to him, ostensibly under pressure from the US, which has charged Assange of conspiring to hack a computer, as part of the 2010 release of reams of secret American documents. As per the indictment unsealed in US Thursday, the whistle-blower is just one flight away from being in American custody.
The 47-year-old had been holed up in a back room of the embassy in central London since his arrest on sexual assault charges in Sweden. He had claimed asylum on the grounds that he feared ultimate extradition to the US. Right now, he faces up to 12 months in jail in Britain for skipping bail.
He was produced before a judge who described Assange’s defence as ‘laughable’ and his behaviour as that of a ‘narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests’ as the court heard how he tried to fight off arresting officers. Assange, sporting a scruffy beard and unkempt hair, was hauled out of the embassy. The court heard how he resisted arrest and tried to barge past officers in an attempt to return to his private room within the embassy.
The arrest came just 24 hours after Wikileaks had accused Ecuador of an ‘extensive spying operation’, adding that it assumed the intelligence had been handed over to the administration of US President Donald Trump. UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a Twitter message that Assange was no “hero” and had hidden from the truth for years. Fugitive former US government contractor Edward Snowden, however, slammed the arrest, calling it a “dark moment for press freedom.