Clutching a copy of a book by the late U.S. media critic Gore Vidal, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was forcibly bundled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and into a waiting British police van on Thursday, setting up a potential court battle over attempts to extradite him to the U.S. to face charges related to the publication of tens of thousands of secret government documents, the Guardian UK and the Associated Press report.
British police arrested Assange after the South American nation decided to revoke the political asylum that had given Assange sanctuary for almost seven years. Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said he took the action due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily life.”
During the arrest, Assange resisted officers as they struggled to handcuff him, according to reports from the scene.
“This is unlawful, I am not leaving,” he said, as he was led to the police van.
He was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and charged with breaching bail, which carries a 12-month sentence.
In Washington, the U.S. 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 U.S. charges against him.
At a newsbriefing later, a spokeswoman for the UK Prime Minister said the government was aware in advance that the Ecuadorians intended to revoke Assange’s asylum status, allowing him to be arrested, according to a tweet from a UK Press Association journalist.
“There has been a dialogue with Ecuadorian government from the onset,” the spokeswoman said. “The decision to revoke asylum was one for them entirely.”