“Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom,” NSA whistleblower and leaker Edward Snowden wrote on Twitter in reaction to seeing WikiLeaks' Julian Assange dragged by UK police from his seven year asylum captivity at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday.
A bearded, disheveled-looking Assange was filmed being roughly escorted out of the embassy by British police and loaded into a police van. Assange can be seen shouting:
"The UK must resist this attempt by the Trump administration."
The arrest came, as WikiLeaks predicted, a mere days after the organization was tipped off that Ecuador was preparing to swiftly end Assange's asylum and hand him over the UK authorities, after which it's further believed the WikiLeaks founder will be extradited to the United States.
As we reported Assange's lawyer has confirmed that he was arrested not solely on charges stemming from skipping bail in the UK, but in connection with an extradition request from the US.
Snowden tweeted that the dramatic images of UK authorities dragging Assange out of the embasy were a “dark moment for press freedom.”
He further commented that a publisher of “award-winning journalism” being arrested and thrown into a security van would “end up in the history books."
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. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom. https://t.co/ys1AIdh2FP— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
Notably Snowden pointed to the presence of UK "secret police" as part of the operation, some of which had been filmed staking out near the front door of the embassy in the days leading up to the arrest.
Snowden referenced a video of a journalist approaching what was believed to be a pair UK plain clothed secret police, who staged themselves as disinterested civilians casually smoking on a street corner.
For the folks reflexively saying "there weren't any secret police!", here's the reporter who was on the ground saying some of the arresting officers had been staking out the embassy in plain clothes for days. https://t.co/T6LoOfCN9H— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
Here is the video Snowden referenced as proof of the beefed up secret police presence near the embassy in the days before Assange's arrest:
We caught up with one of the undercovers, the one I spoke to, who went extra far out of the way to avoid walking past us while meeting someone. Asked his opinion of @Wikileaks. He tried to slyly film back. #SpyOnTheSpies #ProtectAssange @DefendAssange pic.twitter.com/G6nU7AT2dp— Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules) April 8, 2019
Snowden also pointed out that "the United Nations formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human right" and followed in the wake of the arrest with: "Regardless of what you think of the man as a person, if you believe in human rights law, this matters."
Hours after Assange was loaded into the police van, WikiLeaks confirmed he'd been taken to Westminster Magistrates court, noting "He has been arrested under a US extradition warrant for conspiracy with @xychelsea for publishing classified information revealing war crimes in 2010."