Julian Assange’s arrest at London’s Ecuador Embassy was today branded a “violation” of his asylum rights.
Assange is expected to appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates Court later today after the grey bearded fugitive was carried from the Embassy in Knightsbridge earlier today and into a waiting police van.
The Wikileaks founder was forcibly removed from the Embassy, where he has been holed up since June 2012, by a team of police in Knightsbridge, west London.
Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the decision of the Ecuadorean government to hand over Assange was a ‘violation’ of his asylum rights.
He said: “Ecuador has failed in its duty to protect its citizen.
“He published evidence of American war crimes. He’s a hero, not a criminal.
“The decision of the Ecuadorean government to hand over Assange to the UK police is a clear violation of his Ecuadorean citizenship and asylum rights.
“Assange’s arrest will put him at risk of extradition to the US, where he will very likely face charges that could see him jailed for 30 or more years.
“A secret grand jury has been convened to prepare an indictment against Assange and key Trump officials have said that prosecuting Assange is a priority.
“Assange did not leak anything. He published the leaks of Chelsea Manning, as did other newspapers. Why is he signalled out.”
Mr Tatchell said that the British government should ‘refuse to do the bidding of the Trump administration’.
He added: “It should give public assurances that Assange will not be handed over the US authorities.
“His extradition to the US is not in the public interest.”
Meanwhile, a legal expert has weighed in on the implications of the Wikileaks man’s arrest.
Extradition lawyer Thomas Garner said: “He has been arrested over a 2012 warrant.
“The court will deal with him for that breach.
“He is likely to receive a custodial sentence in the UK and it is now possible that the US will seek to extradite him.
“Last year there was a leak saying there is a secret indictment against Assange in the US. They will not confirm or deny this.
“But if there was to be an indictment it will be possible for them to request his extradition. Assange will contest that very strongly.
“He has said for years that Switzerland was using an allegation to force extradition to the USA.
“It’s at least possible that there is an indictment in the USA.”
“It is impossible to comment on what defence he may or may not have there, particularly given that we do not even know what if anything he might have been indicted with.
“Given Assange’s public statements in the past it is clear that he would attempt to raise many bars to his extradition.
“The extradition court here would not come to any conclusions on the merits of the US case in the proceedings here.
“Its sole concern would be whether there are any legal bar to his being extradited to stand trial in the US. The process would take many months to conclude.
“If there were an extradition request from the US, given the likely complexity of the case, it is doubtful that any final hearing would be heard this year.”