Who Is Julian Assange And How Long Has He Been At The Ecuador Embassy?

11 April 2019, 12:10 | Updated: 11 April 2019, 12:44

Assange often appeared on the embassy balcony
Assange often appeared on the embassy balcony. Picture: PA

Julian Assange: Journalist, computer programmer and activist.

Who is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange first came to major international attention as the founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

He was born Julian Paul Hawkins in Australia on July 3, 1971. Often reluctant to talk about his background he led a nomadic childhood, living in over thirty Australian towns by the time he reached his mid-teens.

In 2006, he began work on WikiLeaks, a website intended to collect and share confidential information on an international scale.

Why was the WikiLeaks founder arrested?

In August 2010 Assange learnt he was being investigated by the Swedish police for allegations that included two counts of sexual molestation, one count of illegal coercion, and one count of rape. After a European Arrest Warrant was issued by Swedish authorities on December 6, Assange turned himself in to the London police.

How long has he been at the Ecuador embassy?

Seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden over the claims, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. He was arrested at the same embassy on Thursday the 11th of April 2019, following the withdrawal of his asylum by the government of Ecuador.

At the time, he feared should he be extradited to Sweden he could be arrested by the US and face charges relating to WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

In August 2015 the charges of sexual assault allegations from 2010 were dropped due to statute of limitation violations by Swedish prosecutors. The statue of limitations on the rape allegations will expire in 2020.

Assange spent seven years in the embassy, with it all coming to an end on a Sunny Thursday. Moments after police were invited into the the embassy, Assange can be seen wagging his finger at officer as he is carried out, before being unceremoniously hurled into a van.

When Assange founded the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks he could not have known the level of controversy it would cause. In 2016 the website released release more than 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables, many of them messages containing confidential information, or embarrassing notations about foreign leaders.

The release caused embarrassment for governments around the globe, especially in the US where the inner workings of a world that had remained secret were laid bare.

Mid 2017, Sweden announced they would drop their rape investigation of Julian Assange.

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in December 2017, but tensions developed between the activist and his hosts.

In March 2018, the government removed his internet access in order to maintain the good relations that Ecuador has with the United Kingdom, and "with the rest of the states of the European Union, and other nations." 

Julian Assange made regular public appearances from the embassy
Julian Assange made regular public appearances from the embassy. Picture: PA

Mr Assange's refuge ended just one day after the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson held a press conference announcing unnamed individuals in Spain has threatened to leak a "massive trove of documents" on Assange.

Hrafnsson claimed that videos, photos and audio captured inside the embassy, and that the government of Ecuador were carrying out an "extensive spying operation."

The next day officers from the Metropolitan Police were invited into the embassy by the Ambassador and Julian Assange was arrested on charges of failing to surrender to the court. He was taken to a central London police station, and will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court as soon as is possible.