In what appears to have been a highly-orchestrated operation on Thursday, Julian Assange was arrested by UK authorities, following the Ecuadorian government’s removal of his political asylum and the IMF’s approval of a $4.2 billion loan to Ecuador. Conjecture about what this means and what’s next are all over the board and informed by the bias of whoever is writing. Hillary fans like VICE-HBO paint a very bleak future for Assange, while Q followers describe the arrest as “A rescue and extraction.” Attempting to tease out the theatrical and the optical from the letter of the law in this story is an interesting exercise.
Timed with the arrest was the announcement by the DOJ of the charge against Assange of “conspiring to break into a classified government computer”, for which he is facing extradition to the US. If convicted, he would serve a maximum of five years in prison. The charge refers to a failed attempt by Assange to help Chelsea Manning to break a computer’s password.
British authorities say they arrested him in relation to the US’ “provisional extradition request” and Assange is also looking at 12 months in UK prison for jumping bail there in 2010. He remains in British custody and will next appear in court on May 2nd by video link on the extradition matter.
Hearing of his arrest, a lawyer for a Swedish woman who had accused Assange of rape, announced that she would do everything to have the case, which was closed in 2016 reopened for Assange to be extradited to Sweden.
Assange’s lawyers say they will vigorously fight his extradition, citing the leaked details of the Grand Jury investigation of him, which they say included several more charges which could lead to decades in prison or even the death penalty under the Espionage Act. In contradiction to these claims, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said he’d received a written assurance from the UK government that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.
Chelsea Manning remains in prison for refusing last month to give evidence in Assange’s Grand Jury investigation. Her lawyers argued Thursday that Assange’s indictment strengthens her claims of grand jury abuse, as her testimony was not needed to obtain this indictment and that her continued detention is “purely punitive.”
Many Alternative News pundits, like Dave at the X22 Report have a very optimistic view of the Assange arrest. They note that as Assange was carried out of the Embassy by British law enforcement Thursday, he held a copy of the Gore Vidal book, “History of the National Security State” in one of his manacled hands. They ask if the arrest were hostile, would he be allowed to carry a book into the paddy wagon?
Lending credence to the idea that Assange may not be facing serious punishment, a lawyer who writes for the emptywheel blog cited a principle of International law known as the Doctrine of Specialty, included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial may be tried only for those offenses cited in the extradition, which means the US cannot bring additional charges against Assange unless those charges are *smaller* and rely on the same evidence as the original charge.