WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was served with extradition notice by Britain's Metropolitan Police on Thursday, marking the first step in extraditing the Australian to Sweden to face charges of sexual misconduct.
The notice was served on Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The Australian had sought refuge at the Embassy in London on June 19, seeking diplomatic asylum in the South American nation to avoid extradition to Sweden.
According to the Scotland Yard, the notice served Thursday requires a 40-year-old man, apparently Assange, to attend a police station "at a time of our choosing." Incidentally, international diplomatic arrangements prevent Metropolitan Police from going into the embassy to arrest Assange.
The BBC later quoted the Yard as saying in a statement that the move was the standard procedure in all extradition cases and is the first step in the removal process. The statement added that Assange "remains in breach of his bail conditions and failure to surrender would be a further breach of those conditions and he is liable to arrest."
Assange was arrested in London on a Swedish arrest warrant in December, 2010. The Australian is currently staying at a friend's home in Suffolk after being freed on bail. His bail conditions included surrendering his passport, wearing an electronic tag to monitor his location, adhering to a strict curfew of 12 hours every day and reporting to police on a daily basis.
The Ecuadorian Embassy had said in a statement last week that Assange would "remain at the Embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government," while his application for asylum was considered.
Ecuador is yet to make a final decision on Assange's asylum bid. Notably, Ecuador had invited Assange two years ago to seek residency in that country. But, the government led by Leftist President Rafael Correa quickly withdrew the offer and accused Assange of violating US laws.
Earlier in the month, the British Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by Assange against his extradition to Sweden and upheld its May 30 ruling that the European arrest warrant for him was valid. The Supreme Court rejected arguments by Assange's lawyers that the European arrest warrant was invalid because it was issued by prosecutors rather than a judge, and stated that "judicial authority" could mean a prosecutor.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning in connection with allegations that he had raped one woman and molested another while on a visit in August, 2010. He has since admitted to having met the two women while in Sweden, but denied having engaged in any non-consensual sex with them. He claims that the case is part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting his controversial website and is politically-motivated.
Assange fears that he could be later extradited from Sweden to the U.S. on separate charges relating to publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, for which he could face the death penalty there. Nevertheless, Swedish authorities have guaranteed that the European Court of Human Rights would intervene if Assange was to face the prospect of "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the US.
WikiLeaks, a website that publishes leaked classified information online, had earlier released some 250,000 classified cables sent from U.S. Embassies around the world to several newspapers, embarrassing Washington in the diplomatic front. That move fueled a wave of public anger in the US, resulting in numerous calls for bringing Assange to justice for alleged treason.
by RTT Staff Writer
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