There are few figures in the world more controversial than Julian Assange, the 47-year-old Australian computer programmer and Wikileaks editor. Assange has been simultaneously praised and villainized as a hero of transparency and privacy and for compromising government secrets.
In a move that many thought would come sooner, Assange has finally been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has taken refuge since 2012.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for almost seven years, and many are wondering about the timing of his arrest. The initial call for his apprehension came after he skipped bail in 2012 following the leak of highly-private government information.
Jen Robinson of Assange’s legal team has asserted that the arrest also involves an extradition request from the United States.
The court judge in Westminster, Michael Snow, has labeled Assange a “narcissist,” adding that he believes Assange cannot get past “his own self-interest.” Assange has pleaded not guilty and been remanded into custody as of press time.
A spokeswoman for the UK government has maintained that the UK did not lobby for Assange’s arrest, but that the decision was entirely theirs. Ecuador’s foreign minister, Jose Valencia, cited “interference in external matters” and “breaches of international accords” as reasons that the government was forced to suspend Assange’s citizenship.
Theresa May praised the decision, while many other politicians around the world were more conflicted about the consequences of the arrest. Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, claimed that the UK had guaranteed that Assange would not be tortured or face the death penalty.
Geoffrey Robertson has criticized the arrest as a “breach of international law”, adding that Ecuador might even be blackballed over the incident. Glenn Greenwald, a well-known American journalist, took to Twitter to criticize the arrest as a “criminalization of journalism.”
Edward Snowden, famous for leaking NSA documents in 2013 related to global surveillance, called the incident a “dark moment for press freedom” in a tweet that has since gone viral.
What Will Happen?
The question remains whether the UK will actually extradite Assange to the United States. The extradition request involves the fact that he conspired with Chelsea Manning to publish material including “government secrets” on Wikileaks in 2010.
Robinson railed against the arrest, stating that it sets a dangerous precedent for anyone willing to “publish truthful information about the United States.” Assange faces up to five years in jail in the United States if convicted.
Assange was a huge fan of Bitcoin and the concept of cryptocurrency in general, and Wikileaks, the international non-profit organization he founded that published significant news leaks, secret information, and documents of that nature, has accepted cryptocurrency donations for years now. In fact, BTC donations are already surging after his arrest.