Julian Assange: why was he arrested and will he be extradited to the US

Juliann Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the Government not to extradite Julian Assange to the US Julian Assange following his arrest yesterday.
The WikiLeaks founder was hauled out of Ecuador's London embassy by Metropolitan Police officers on Thursday after his asylum was withdrawn. Assange had spent 2,487 days hiding there to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations - claims that he denies.

The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations.

However, an arrest warrant for the Australian-born fugitive has also been issued by the US, where he faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, in relation to his collaboration with army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Corbyn is insisting that Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

In a tweet, the Labour leader posted a video released by WikiLeaks that allegedly shows Pentagon footage of a 2007 air strike “which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists”, reports the BBC.

The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.

Assange has voiced fears that his extradition to the US could also lead to further “charges relating to WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables”, says The Guardian.

Addressing the Commons on Thursday, Labour's shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, questioned the US government's motivation for targeting Assange. She said: “Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security. He is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations.”

According to BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale, the interventions by Abbott and Corbyn mean “the battle over Assange's future will now be as much political as it is legal”.

Leading free speech campaigners have also argued that the indictment that will form the basis of Assange’s extradition is a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms and could have a devastating effect on whistle-blowing journalism.

Harvard University law professor Yochai Benkler told The Guardian that Assange’s charge sheet was “vastly over-broad and could have a significant, chilling effect”.

Uncertainty remains over whether courts in the UK will approve the extradition. Like most extradition treaties, that between the US and the UK excludes “political offences”.

“There’s no clear definition of that term, but it is known to cover crimes like treason, espionage and sedition, as well as offences that are directed in some way against the power of the state,” reports Politico.

John Bellinger, the US State Department’s legal adviser under President George W. Bush, told the news site that British courts tend to have a broader view of what constitutes political offences.

But “in this case, it may be - in order to get Assange extradited to the US - just easier to focus on things the US and UK governments can agree on, even if it means leaving some other things off the table”, Bellinger added.

Assange remains in custody following an appearance at Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday, where he was found guilty of breaching his bail. He faces up to 12 months in a UK prison for that charge.