British police have decided to end their permanent presence outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up for more than three years to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted to face allegations of sexual assault.
The Metropolitan Police Service said it is still committed to arrest Assange and bring him before the court, but believes a permanent presence of officers outside the embassy is “no longer proportionate.” Instead, police will deploy a number of covert tactics in an effort to arrest Assange should he decide to leave the embassy.
“The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the Embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him,” police said in a statement. “The MPS will not discuss what form its continuing operation will take or the resourcing implications surrounding it. Whilst no tactics guarantee success in the event of Julian Assange leaving the embassy, the MPS will deploy a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him.”
The cost of the permanent police presence outside the Ecuadorian Embassy was at an estimated 12.6 million pounds ($19.3 million) at the end of August.
The accusations in Sweden are unrelated to Assange’s work for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks which brought diplomatic earthquakes to the United States when it began releasing classified documents it had obtained. Assange has claimed the cases have been politically-linked, arguing that the sexual encounters with the two women in Sweden were consensual.
Wikileaks’ first big scoop was on April 5, 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq which left several unarmed civilians killed, including two Reuters journalists. Assange previously said he had been told to expect ‘dirty tricks’ from the Pentagon, including ‘sex traps’ to ruin his reputation.
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