Assange labelled "narcissist" by judge after found guilty

 

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange winked and smiled as he arrived at a London court where a judge quickly found him guilty of breaching bail and labelled the Australian a "narcissist" who "cannot get past his own self-interest."

The hearing came hours after his dramatic arrest at the Ecuadorean embassy where he spent the last seven years holed up.

Assange gave a thumbs up from a police van to a huge media scrum, who were joined outside the Westminster Magistrates Court by protesters and supporters.

In a statement, Metropolitan Police confirmed the Wikileaks founder was taken into custody and was "further arrested on behalf of the United States".

He is wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning - where he was today charged in his absence with "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the US".

The Met Police said they were "invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorean government's withdrawal of asylum".

In a video capturing the extraordinary moment, the bearded 47-year-old could be seen being dragged out of the embassy in handcuffs, clutching a book.

"The UK has no freedom. The UK has no stability. The UK must resist," Assange appeared to yell as he was dragged into a police van by at least eight Scotland Yard detectives.

After weeks of speculation Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by Scotland Yard Police Officers inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
After weeks of speculation Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by Scotland Yard Police Officers inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

The book Assange was clutching as he was dragged down the embassy steps was History of the National Security State by Gore Vidal - and he continued to read it as he sat in the dock at the Westminster Magistrates Court, before he entered a plea of not guilty to surrender to custody as required for an extradition order to Sweden.

He was almost immediately found guilty and will be sentenced on May 2.

Judge Michael Snow described Assange as a narcissist. He told the court: "His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get past his own self-interest."

Assange was wearing a black suit and had his scruffy long hair tied back for the hearing. The basis of his defense was that he couldn't expect a fair trial in British courts as the UK's purpose was to "secure his delivery" to the United States

Judge Snow said the US must produce an extradition case by June 12. Before he appeared in court, the US Department of Justice called for his return to the country and warned he could face up to five years in prison over the government leak allegations.

Assange waved to the public gallery before he was remanded into custody.

Australia has requested consular access to Assange.

'HE WON'T GET SPECIAL TREATMENT'

Speaking on Sunrise this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had not been in touch with Assange's legal team.

"(The Australian government) are helping provide with the consular assistance as usual and he will have to face the justice system when Australians go overseas and if they violate other countries laws then obviously they have to face the process before those alleged actions, that is where he will be," he said.

"He will get the consular assistance as you would expect him to but he will have to make his way through whatever has come his way in terms of the justice system there."

"He won't be getting special treatment from Australia. He will be getting the same treatment that any other Australian would get in circumstances."

ASSANGE 'FURTHER ARRESTED ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES'

The Wikileaks founder has been living in the embassy for almost seven years after a warrant was issued for his arrest on June 29, 2012 when he failed to surrender to Westminster Magistrate's Court.

British authorities were seeking his arrest on behalf of Swedish police who wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation. The case against him in Sweden was dropped, but the UK charge for failing to appear remained valid.

If found guilty of that charge, he could face a year in a British jail. But Assange has always believed the charge was being used to aid US prosecutors who want to put him on trial for treason after he released thousands of classified government documents through Wikileaks.

He fears he could face death penalty if extradited to US over WikiLeaks scandal, although But Ecuadorean President Moreno said today the UK had confirmed it would not extradite Assange to a country where he could face the death sentence.

Jen Robinson, who has previously represented Assange as his lawyer, confirmed the 47-year-old was arrested "not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request".

She told news.com.au last year she was concerned he could be forced from the embassy.

"We are monitoring that really closely. From our point of view he requires ongoing protection (because) the risk of prosecution is as high as it has ever been," she said last August.

Speaking outside court, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said: "Anyone who wants the press to be free should consider the implications of this case. If they will extradite a journalist to the US then no journalist will be safe. This must stop. This must end.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said consular officers would seek to visit Assange at his "place of detention" in London police station.

"Mr Assange will continue to receive the usual consular support from the Australian Government," Ms Payne said in a statement.

"I am confident, as the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly confirmed in July 2018, that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom."

Speaking to the House of Commons after Assange's arrest, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May said it proved that "no one is above the law."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: "Julian Assange is no hero. He's hidden from the truth for years and years, and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system."

Wikileaks had previously expressed fears Assange's arrest for violating his bail conditions in the UK would be used as a pretext to extradite him to the US.

Metropolitan Police confirmed Assange had "been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities" after he arrived at central London police station.

"This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as possible," police said.

The US State Department has yet to comment.

Through Wikileaks, Assange published the Afghanistan War Diary, a collection of some 90,000 mainly secret US government documents relating to the military engagement of Allied forces in Afghanistan, in July 2010.

Three months later, WikiLeaks published 400,000 classified documents in its Iraq War Diary.

Criminal charges were filed against Assange by the US Justice Department back in 2012 related to the publication of the classified documents which humiliated and exposed the government.

Wikileaks has since responded to Assange's dramatic arrest, specifically calling out the CIA.

'THE PATIENCE OF ECUADOR HAS REACHED ITS LIMIT' - ASSANGE'S END

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno took to social media to explain why Assange had been kicked out of the embassy, claiming the Australian-born computer program had repeatedly violated international conventions.

The "aggressive and discourteous behaviour (of Assange), the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organisation against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable," President Moreno said.

In his video, President Moreno said Ecuador had "protected the human rights" of Assange for six years and ten months.

Mr Moreno said the Wikileaks founder had repeatedly been asked to "respect and abide by the rules" but the "patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Assange".

The Ecuadorean president also claimed Assange "installed electronic and distortion equipment" and "blocked security cameras" in the embassy.

He also accused him of "mistreating guards" and "accessing security files in the embassy without permission".

Assange's relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Moreno's personal life.

Mr Moreno had previously said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.

The president 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," Mr Moreno said.

Via Twitter, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid praised the arrest and said "no one is above the law".

In a statement, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, said the UK was grateful to Ecuador.

"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," Sir Duncan said.

"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."

Ecuador gave Assange citizenship in December 2017 but he has long been an annoyance for the staff at the embassy.

The 47-year-old lost his Wi-Fi in the embassy in March last year after Ecuadorean officials accused him of using the internet to try and influence other countries politics.

President Moreno disputed Assange's loss of internet in his statement today, saying he has had a mobile phone the entire time to "communicate with the outside world".

Assange sued the Ecuadorean government in October, accusing the country of violating his civil rights.

The lawsuit came after embassy staff limited Assange's visitors and demanding he had to clean his bathroom and care for his cat.

'DARK MOMENT FOR FREEDOM'

Assange's case has opened up explosive debate about security and free speech.

His supporters view him as a crusader who fearlessly exposes injustices such as torture and alleged war crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 47-year-old Australian's critics accuse him of cosying up to authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and putting Americans' lives at risk.

Fugitive former US government contractor Edward Snowden - himself wanted for leaking details of secret US surveillance programs - called Assange's arrest a "dark moment for press freedom".

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Britain of "strangling freedom".

Assange's mother Christine tweeted that she had been advised that her son faces up to 12 months in a British prison.

"Our focus is as always to STOP a U.S. Extradition!" she wrote.

THE JULIAN ASSANGE SAGA

JULY 2010 WikiLeaks releases its Afghanistan War Diary, a collection of some 90,000 mainly secret US government documents relating to the military engagement of Allied forces in Afghanistan.

AUGUST 2010 Swedish prosecutors issue arrest warrant for Assange in connection with claims of sexual offences.

OCTOBER 2010 WikiLeaks publishes 400,000 classified documents in its Iraq War Diary.

DECEMBER 2010 Assange gives himself up to British police. He is released on bail after his supporters pay £240,000 ($A438,770) in cash and sureties. He is electronically tagged and the legal battle over his extradition to Sweden begins.

FEBRUARY 2011 Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London rules that Assange should be extradited to Sweden. Assange vows to appeal against the decision fearing extradition to the US.

MAY 2012 The Supreme Court rules that Assange should be extradited to Sweden.

JUNE 2012 Assange takes refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and claims political asylum. British authorities threaten to arrest him if he leaves the embassy.

AUGUST 2012 Ecuador grants Assange asylum.

AUGUST 2015 Swedish prosecutors drop three cases of alleged sexual offences against Assange, but say the investigation into a suspected rape in 2010 is ongoing.

FEBRUARY 2016 A UN panel says Britain and Sweden have been subjecting Assange to "arbitrary detention" and that he should be released.

DECEMBER 2016 Assange says he is innocent in "politicised" rape case.

MAY 19, 2017 Swedish prosecutors say they are dropping their preliminary investigation into a rape allegation.

MAY 24, 2017 Leftist Lenin Moreno is inaugurated as president of Ecuador and states Assange can remain in embassy but warns him not to meddle in Ecuador's domestic politics and labels him a "hacker."

December 12, 2017 Ecuador grants Assange citizenship.

JANUARY 24, 2018 Moreno makes it plain that Assange has overstayed his welcome, saying his inherited problem was "like a stone in your shoe."

FEBRUARY 6, 2018 A British court rules that the arrest warrant for Assange for breach of bail conditions remains valid.

MARCH 28, 2018 Ecuador suspends Assange's internet access and banned him from receiving visitors because his social media messages are putting its "good relations" with Britain, the European Union and other nations "at risk."

OCTOBER 2018 Ecuador imposes a new set of house rules on Assange, saying he must clean his bathroom, look after his cat, James, and pay for his own electricity and internet.

NOVEMBER 15, 2018 Reports emerge in the US that Assange has been charged under seal by the US Justice Department for unspecified crimes.

APRIL 2, 2019 Moreno accuses Assange of repeatedly violating the terms of his asylum. He says that private photographs of himself and his family have been circulated online, though does not directly accuse WikiLeaks of circulating the hacked photos.

WikiLeaks says Moreno's statement is retaliation for WikiLeaks having reported on corruption allegations against Moreno.

APRIL 4, 2019 WikiLeaks says Assange is to be kicked out of the embassy in "hours to days."

APRIL 11, 2019 British police arrest Assange at Ecuador's embassy after the country's government revoked his asylum status.



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