Founder of online watchdog group WikiLeaks Julian Assange was arrested in the U.K. yesterday. He now faces extradition to the U.S. on charges of aiding the hacking of U.S. government computers. The “hacktivist” had been holed-up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past 7 years. During that time he had become a minor celebrity.
An Australian citizen, Assange first sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was facing accusations of rape. That investigation was dropped because Assange was successful in evading the arrest warrant. Assange has said the allegations are “without basis.”
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 with the stated goal of publishing information the rich and the powerful were trying to keep secret.
The U.S. government alleges that in 2010 Assange aided U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in hacking U.S. government computers. Manning would subsequently give Assange more than 700,000 confidential documents and materials downloaded from Defense Department computers. WikiLeaks would ultimately publish them.
Among the cache of materials was video of U.S. soldiers allegedly opening fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007 killing and wounding several people, including children.
In 2016, WikiLeaks published thousands of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The U.K. will now decide whether to extradite Assange to the U.S. If convicted in the U.S. he faces up to five years in prison.
Photo by Ricardo Patiño via Flickr