National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden condemned Thursday’s arrest of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange as a “dark day for press freedom.”
The Metropolitan Police Service arrested Assange, 47, Thursday morning at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, on a warrant issued by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 29, 2012, for failing to surrender to the court. It has since been confirmed that the arrest came in response to a U.S. extradition request.
Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy nearly seven years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. With the statute of limitations running out on most of the accusations, the case was dropped in 2017. He has remained at the embassy, fearing that he could be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over WikiLeaks’ release in 2010 of sensitive government data from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The Metropolitan Police Service said its officers had been invited into the embassy to arrest Assange after Ecuador’s government withdrew Assange’s asylum following what it said were repeated violations of international conventions on diplomatic asylum.
Sharing media of the moments before Assange’s arrest on Twitter, Snowden said “images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the UK’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of—like it or not—award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books.