The international hacker group Anonymous issued a warning message to the British government following the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London on Thursday.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was apprehended in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11 after Quito revoked his seven-year political asylum for alleged repeated “violations of international conventions”. The whistleblowing website has criticized Ecuador’s move, calling it a violation of international law, Sputnik reported.
“Let Assange free or you will pay!”, read the warning that has been issued by the hacker group Anonymous to the “captors” of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested by the UK police “on behalf of the United States authorities”.
“This is a message for the UK government and their cohorts around the world who are working to silence whistleblowers… This arrest and the greater persecution of Wikileaks and other whistleblowers sends a clear message that these governments will stop at nothing to maintain their secrecy,” the hacktivists wrote.
In a lengthy message, Anonymous highlighted that Assange is considered to be an “enemy of the state” because he has brought to light the crimes of both the left and the right.
“Influential people representing the governments of the UK, the United States, and Ecuador have all signed off on this unprecedented attack on journalism… Every single powerful person who has signed off on this order should be shaking in their boots, because the force of the internet is about to be unleashed upon them. All the way from the CIA, the President of the United States, and down to the arresting officers that carried Assange out of the embassy, you have all exposed yourselves as enemies of the people and it is time for Anonymous to act accordingly”, the group warned.
Julian Assange has been arrested in what WikiLeaks described as an illegal termination of his political asylum in violation of international law.
Within hours, the WikiLeaks founder appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to surrender to an arrest warrant and skipping bail after an extradition order to Sweden in 2012. He was found guilty, and faces a prison term of up to 12 months when he is sentenced at a Crown Court at a later date.
The UK judge also said that the United States needs to produce its case for requesting Assange’s extradition from Britain by June 12.
Following his arrest, the US Department of Justice also announced charges against him, accusing the whistleblower of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, to “commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer”. If found guilty on hacking charges, Assange could face up to five years in a US prison.
Assange’s arrest has prompted thousands of people to sign a petition urging the UK government not to hand the journalist over to the United States, where he is wanted for leaks of classified government data.
“The sentence is already clear: if not the death penalty then life in a supermax prison and ill treatment like Chelsea Manning. The very extradition of Julian Assange to the United States would at the same time mean the final death of freedom of the press in the West”, the petition added.
Reacting to the news of the Australian’s detention, another world-famous whistleblower, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, tweeted that it was a “dark moment for press freedom”.
Assange, who rose to international prominence after leaking a trove of classified documents on US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department cables, found asylum in the Ecuadorian diplomatic premises in 2012 when he tried to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was under investigation in a sexual assault case.
The Australian journalist has denied the rape allegations, calling them politically motivated because they followed the leak of US documents. Even though Sweden later dropped the case, British police said they intended to detain Assange as soon as he left the embassy, for violating the conditions of his bail.