Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested on Thursday, hauled out of London’s Ecuadorian embassy where he’d been holed up since June 2012. Within hours, he was in front of a judge, declared guilty and was remanded in custody to await sentencing.
But Assange’s arrest and conviction had nothing to with what made him so notorious, so divisive, ie. publishing thousands of classified US Government documents via WikiLeaks. Instead, the 47-year-old found himself in the docks for skipping bail back in 2012. He’d failed to surrender to British police, while wanted for questioning on sexual assault charges.
In fact, it was those charges, levelled against him by two Swedish women, that sent Assange fleeing into the shelter of the embassy in the first place.
But why did he need to hide? What about the hacking charges? And why did Ecuador suddenly turn its back on him?
The moment #Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is arrested at Ecuadorian embassy in London
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 11, 2019
What was Julian Assange accused of?
In August 2010, authorities in Gothenburg, Sweden, issued an arrest warrant for Julian Assange after two women, identified only as AA and SW, came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Police were seeking to question the Australian over claims he raped one of the women and coerced and sexually molested the other while in Stockholm for a conference earlier that month.
The warrant detailed four alleged offences, including that he had “unprotected sexual intercourse with [AA] without her knowledge” and “deliberately consummated sexual intercourse with [SW] by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state.”
Assange, who fled to the UK before he could be arrested, has firmly denied the allegations.
But fighting the charges in a Swedish court wasn’t something he was prepared to risk… because he believed that the Swedes would hand him over to the United States. In fact, he openly alleged via WikiLeaks that the sexual assault case was a setup engineered by the US Government to silence his organisation.