April 11, 2019 1:02 pm
Updated: April 12, 2019 2:17 pm

Villain or victim of a smear campaign? Julian Assange’s complicated history

WATCH: WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange arrested in London

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday at the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. after Ecuador revoked his political asylum.

He was placed under arrest for failing to surrender to the U.K. court in 2012 where he was being tried at the time for alleged sexual assault.

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READ MORE: Wikileaks’ Julian Assange removed from Ecuador embassy, found guilty of breaching bail

A judge found him guilty of breaching his bail conditions Thursday afternoon, and Assange could face up to one year in jail, the U.K. Press Association reports.

Shortly after his arrest, an indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice was unsealed saying the country was charging him with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.”

Those charges stem from his alleged contribution to the leak of thousands of classified documents that were later posted on WikiLeaks.

He faces extradition to the U.S.

Many people have decried the arrest as a violation of human rights and a violation of Assange’s right to free speech.

There are now two cases against Assange: one involving allegations of rape and the other stemming from conspiracy allegations.

Sexual assault case and political asylum

In the sexual assault case, Assange was previously accused of rape and molestation by two Swedish women in August 2010.

One charge was dropped, but an international arrest warrant was issued, and Assange surrendered himself to police in London.

Assange denied the charges, saying at the time that they were a smear campaign after the release of thousands of U.S. documents.

The accuser in the case told U.K. newspaper The Guardian that, for her, “this was never about anything else than his misconduct against me and other women and his refusal to take responsibility for this.”

After making bail, Assange requested political asylum from the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, which is where he has been living for seven years.

In 2017, Swedish authorities dropped the investigation into the rape allegations, citing time constraints.

WATCH: Arrest of Julian Assange may test press protections

Swedish prosecutors said they were asked to reopen the case following Assange’s arrest Thursday.

“We will now look into the matter and determine how to proceed. We cannot pledge any time frame for when a decision will be made,” deputy chief prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said in a statement.

Assange has previously said he wouldn’t leave the embassy over fears of charges and extradition to the U.S.

He was first arrested Thursday for not adhering to the bail conditions that stemmed from the sexual assault investigation.

But shortly after, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges relating to the leak of classified documents.

READ MORE: Pamela Anderson posts series of tweets lamenting Julian Assange arrest

Computer offences case

In 2010, hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents were leaked to WikiLeaks by former American soldier Chelsea Manning and published by various news outlets.

Among the documents published were those known as the Iraq and Afghanistan “war logs” as well as documents about U.S. military prison Guantanamo Bay.

Assange was charged in secret in March 2018, a U.S. official told Reuters.

WATCH (May 2017): Assange hails victory after Sweden drops probe, says prepared to end impasse

In documents unsealed after Assange’s arrest, U.S. officials say Manning worked with Assange in a “hacking conspiracy” to gain passwords to a U.S. government computer.

“Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures,” a statement from the Department of Justice reads.

Critics decried the leak of the documents, saying Manning and Assange put U.S. and NATO military operations at risk as well as the lives of the soldiers.

WATCH: Prosecutors get indictment against WikiLeaks’ Assange

Free speech argument 

Those who support Assange, including his lawyers and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, say his possible extradition to the U.S. sets a dangerous precedent.

“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom,” Edward Snowden said in a statement after his arrest.

Snowden, a former U.S. spy agency contractor, fled the U.S. after leaking documents from the country’s National Security Agency.

Others worry Assange could face the death penalty or torture if sent to the U.S.

WATCH: Chelsea Manning jailed for not testifying about WikiLeaks

“Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges,” Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, said in a statement, claiming the allegations “boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source.”

But the Guardian, which was one of the organizations that worked with Assange to publish the documents in 2010, called Assange’s case a “morally tangled web.”

WATCH: Ecuador’s president accuses Assange of assaulting embassy staff, lawyer says there’s risk for WikiLeaks founder

“(Assange) believes in publishing things that should not always be published — this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him,” an editorial from the paper asserted before his arrest.

“But he has also shone a light on things that should never have been hidden.”

The editorial says he should have to face the charges from Sweden as well as charges for skipping bail, but he shouldn’t have to face extradition to the U.S.

WATCH: Assange lawyer asserts ‘dangerous precedent’ set with arrest

“But when the call comes from Washington, it requires a firm and principled no. It would neither be safe nor right for the U.K. to extradite Mr. Assange to Mr. Trump’s America,” the editorial reads.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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