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Julian Assange's arrest stirs strong reactions from foes, allies alike

Updated April 11, 2019

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange bieng taken into custody at a central London police station. — Screengrab of footage shot by Ruptly
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange bieng taken into custody at a central London police station. — Screengrab of footage shot by Ruptly

The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London on Thursday sparked passionate reactions from foes and allies alike on Thursday.

Following his arrest, the US Justice Department charged Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break into a classified government computer.

Supporters branded his arrest by British police an assault on freedom and a trampling of asylum protections, while his enemies hailed it as an overdue step towards justice.

The revelation that, on top of charges of breaking bail conditions, he was also arrested under a US extradition warrant kept secret for long — as he had long claimed, often to scorn — heightened the drama surrounding his detention.

Here is a summary of reactions from officials, activists and celebrities to the 47-year-old Australian's arrest.

UK: Assange is 'no hero'

Assange's arrest shows "in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law", British Prime Minister Theresa May declared.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said Assange "is no hero", stating: "He has hidden from the truth for years and years and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system."

Ecuador: 'Sovereign right'

"Ecuador has decided with sovereign rights to withdraw the diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange for repeatedly violating international conventions and the protocol of co-habitation," President Lenin Moreno said on Twitter.

Moreno's government said Ecuadoran nationality granted to Assange in 2017 was also withdrawn "due to various irregularities found in his paper work".

WikiLeaks: Asylum halt 'illegal'

"Ecuador has illegally terminated Assange's political asylum in violation of international law," WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

Australia: 'Due process'

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was "confident" that Assange "will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom". She said consular officers would visit Assange in detention.

UN expert: Rights 'violations'

Ecuador has exposed Assange "to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights" by placing him closer to extradition to the US, the United Nations special rapporteur on summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, told AFP by email.

Snowden: 'Dark moment'

"Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom," US whistleblower Edward Snowden said on Twitter.

Russia: UK 'strangling freedom'

"The hand of 'democracy' is strangling freedom," Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Facebook.

Ecuador leader branded 'traitor'

"The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange [...] What he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget," Ecuador's former leader Rafael Correa wrote on Twitter.

Sweden accuser: 'Prosecuted for rape'

"We will do everything we can to get the prosecutors to reopen the Swedish investigation so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and be prosecuted for rape," his accuser's lawyer Elisabeth Massi Fritz told AFP.

'Pamela Anderson: 'Shock'

"I am in shock. How could you Equador (sic)? (Because he exposed you). How could you UK?" wrote the former "Baywatch" actress Pamela Anderson, reportedly a close friend of Assange, on Twitter.

In colourful language, she suggested Britain acted under pressure from the United States and to divert attention from its woes over Brexit.