WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested at Ecuadorean embassy

Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012. (Reuters)
Updated 11 April 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested at Ecuadorean embassy

  • Ecuador’s government withdrew the asylum they offered Assange
  • The British police were invited into the Ecuadorean embassy

LONDON: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested by British police on Thursday after they were invited into the Ecuadorean embassy where he has been evading the authorities since 2012.

"Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador," police said.

Police said they arrested Assange after being "invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorean government's withdrawal of asylum."

Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation. That probe was later dropped, but Assange fears he could be extradited to face charges in the United States, where federal prosecutors are investigating WikiLeaks.

Assange was taken into custody at a central London police station and he will be brought before Westminster Magistrates' Court, police said.

The British Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan said that 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.”

He added that the British government is “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.” 

 

Assange's relationship with his hosts disintegrated after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno's personal life. Moreno had previously said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.

Moreno said that he had asked Britain to guarantee that Assange 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 its own rules," Moreno said.

WikiLeaks said Ecuador had illegally terminated Assange's political asylum in violation of international law.

Speaking to media earlier today British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Assange’s arrest has shown that no one is above the law, and that he “has hidden from the truth for years and years and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system.”

He added that Assange has actually been “holding the Ecuadorian Embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them.”

“We’re not making any judgement about Julian Assange’s innocence or guilt, that is for the courts to decide. But what is not acceptable is for someone to escape facing justice and he has tried to do that for a very long time and that is why he is no hero.”

In Washington, the US Justice Department accused Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break into a classified government computer at the Pentagon. The charge was announced after Assange was taken into custody.

His lawyer has previously said that Assange planned to fight any US charges against him.

British police said Thursday that Assange had been arrested for breaching his bail conditions in Britain and in relation to the US arrest request.

Assange for years has been under US Justice Department scrutiny for years for WikiLeaks' role in publishing thousands of government secrets. He was an important figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe as investigators examined how WikiLeaks obtained emails that were stolen from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and Democratic groups.

Assange had not come out of the embassy in London for almost seven years because he feared arrest and extradition to the United States for publishing classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks. Although Sweden has dropped the sexual assault case that first led to Assange's arrest in Britain, UK authorities said he would be rearrested if he ever left the embassy because he skipped bail in the original case.

A video posted online by Ruptly, a news service of Russia Today, showed several men in suits around Assange, pulling him out of the embassy building and loading him into a police van Thursday while uniformed British police officers formed a passageway. Assange sported a full beard and slicked-back grey hair.

The WikiLeaks founder entered an innocent plea to a charge that he failed to surrender to custody under an order for his extradition to Sweden on Thursday at Westminster Magistrates Court.

To some, Assange is a hero for exposing what supporters cast as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. But to others, he is a dangerous rebel who has undermined the security of the United States.


Exclusive: St. Kitts & Nevis PM aims to ‘cement ties with the Middle East’

Updated 14 August 2020

Exclusive: St. Kitts & Nevis PM aims to ‘cement ties with the Middle East’

  • Prime Minister Timothy Harris emphasizes ‘enduring appeal’ of Saint Kitts and Nevis amid a global pandemic
  • Dual-island nation has announced a discount in the amount needed to secure citizenship for a limited period

DUBAI: After the turmoil and tedium of the last few months, a distant island getaway is probably what tops most people’s dreams. One Caribbean destination, surrounded by sparkling sand and turquoise waters, is intent on using its natural landscapes to nurse people back to normality — and build commercial bridges to the Middle East in the process.

In an interview via Zoom with Arab News, Prime Minister Timothy Harris noted with satisfaction that his country was home to a number of individuals from the Middle East, including the GCC countries. But his ambitions are clearly much bigger than that.

Harris, who was re-elected to a second term as prime minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis on June 5, says he will continue to deepen the dual-island nation’s relations with the GCC region.

“We intend to open an embassy soon in the UAE,” he told Arab News. “This will further cement our ties to the Middle East region and to the UAE specifically.”

With their relative affluence and large expatriate populations, GCC countries constitute a key part of the catchment area of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“What the CBI program offers applicants is the advantage of mobility,” said Harris, adding: “In the context of St. Kitts and Nevis, it also offers citizenship in a nation that is democratic, peaceful and safe.”

(Full Arab News interview with Prime Minister Timothy Harris)

His government is also counting on efficient processing of citizenship applications to help it stand out in a crowded field.

Amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, some, particularly for those hailing from troubled countries in the Middle East, see a silver lining: A discount on the citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Harris has announced a time-limited reduction in the contribution required to secure citizenship. The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has decided to temporarily reduce the family minimum contribution by $45,000 to $150,000. However, the minimum contribution for a single applicant remains at $150,000.

Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts and Nevis. (Supplied)
A single applicant seeking economic citizenship normally contributes at least $150,000, while the cost for a family of up to four comes to $195,000. But from July 7 until the end of this year, families of up to four people will be able to secure citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis at the discounted rate.
The decision was influenced by the global fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and the efforts of the Harris government to find creative ways to stabilize the economy and put it back on the path to the growth rates it had enjoyed over five years preceding the pandemic.

Harris is upfront about his objectives. “This limited-time offer will provide the resources to help us successfully fight COVID-19 and enhance the safety nets for those who have lost their jobs or income as a consequence," he said.

(St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris talking about his country's COVID-19 response)

“The CBI program is crucial to our growth and development. The effects of COVID-19 have also destabilized our economy. Without the CBI program we would have been in serious danger.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program grants citizenship to individuals of high net worth and their families, who get visa-free access to 156 countries, including EU member states and the UK.

Migrate World Ltd is one of the authorized representatives for the CBI program for the Middle East and Africa. Speaking to Arab News in May, Moe Alhaj, CEO of Migrate World Ltd, said: “There’s been a notable increase — of around 40 percent — in applicants from the Arab world during the pandemic.

“The individuals that the program caters to in the Middle East are largely from Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.” The CBI program does not accept applicants from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

(St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris talking about his country's citizenship program)

During the pandemic, CBI officials say, the program has witnessed a 40 percent increase in applicants from families hailing from the Arab world. Arab News could not independently verify the figure.

What is undeniable is that while the coronavirus crisis continues to ravage countries across the globe, particularly those in North America, the Caribbean region has largely been spared high caseloads.

The total population of residents in the Caribbean is just under 45 million. As of July 27, the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections stood at 91,907. The nations with the highest number of cases are the Dominican Republic with 64,156; French Guiana with 7,332; Haiti with 7,315 cases and Puerto Rico with 5,416. 

Aerial view of Black Rocks Beach on St. Kitts. (Supplied)

St. Kitts and Nevis had one of the lowest numbers. By May 19 all of the 16 cases on its two islands had recovered, although one new case was announced on July 4. There have been no deaths. The islands went into lockdown on March 31 when just eight cases had been declared. It was then extended until April 18 and then again to April 25.

“We began an aggressive public education campaign in our schools and workplaces, security forces and health-care workers early on,” Harris told Arab News. “As cases rose, we were at a high level of alertness and citizens and residents complied, so we were able to stop the spread efficiently.”

The CBI program was launched in St. Kitts and Nevis in 1984 as a way to assist the island’s economy, which had suffered due to the collapse of the sugar industry, and to stimulate foreign direct investment inflows.

FASTFACT

ETHNIC GROUPS

- 53,821 = Population of St. Kitts & Nevis

- 92.5% African

- 3% Mixed

- 2.1% White

- 1.5% East Indian

“Clearly, size does matter and being a small nation state with limited resources, we had to find unique ways of bringing in investment that would help the country thrive from year to year,” Harris told Arab News.

“While COVID-19 has placed the world under enormous strain, St. Kitts and Nevis’s record to date of zero hospitalizations and zero fatalities from the disease underlines the character and enduring appeal of our great country.”

With alluring beaches, laid back Caribbean lifestyle and faraway location, the offer is hard to refuse — if one’s pockets are deep enough.

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor