The Metropolitan Police Service in London has said they have withdrawn the physical presence of officers from outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Julian Assange has been languishing since 2012.
The Inquisitr reported in January that the strong police guard surrounding the building housing the Ecuadorian embassy in London had cost the UK public around $14 million (£9 million British Pounds) since Julian Assange took refuge in the building. Since that report, the figure has increased to a princely $18 million (£12 million) of UK tax payers’ money.
It was calculated that it was costing approximately $16,800 dollars a day to keep three police officers close to the embassy on a 24-hour basis, while in the past, as pictured below, many more officers were involved.
The team consisted recently of one officer keeping watch over the street, another questioning people leaving the building (just in case Assange tried to make a break for it in disguise) and yet another to assist with patrolling the area and questioning people leaving and entering the embassy.
According to the Irish Times, it has now been announced by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) that they have “withdrawn the physical presence of officers from outside the embassy” although they did state the police would strengthen a “covert plan” to prevent Julian Assange’s departure from the embassy.
In a statement, the MPS said, “The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him.”
“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.”
Julian Assange has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy for three years now, and it seems there is no imminent prospect of a diplomatic or legal resolution to the issue.
Assange’s reasoning for applying for asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London related to the fact that Swedish prosecutors wanted to question him on alleged rape charges. Those charges carry a 10-year statute of limitations which is set to expire in 2020.
ABC reports that Assange, 44, fears that should he leave the embassy to visit Sweden for questioning, this could lead to him being extradited to the US and placed on trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010 by his whistleblowing organization, Wikileaks.
While Julian Assange has been housed in the tiny embassy with no access to fresh air or sunshine, he faces arrest should he even step outside the door. He has always denied the rape allegations and insists that the sexual encounter in Sweden was entirely consensual. Several attempts have been made to request Swedish authorities visit Assange in the embassy to perform their questioning, all without success.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) October 12, 2015
According to the UK Foreign Office, their head of the diplomatic service, Simon McDonald, had called on the Ecuadorian ambassador, Carlos Abad Ortiz, to find a resolution to the ongoing impasse. The Foreign Office said in a statement that the UK has been “absolutely clear since June 2012 that we have a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.” According to their statement, that obligation remains to this day.
However, the cost of the 24-hour police guard outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London has cost too much money and was the source of constant criticism in austerity-hit Britain. The police statement said that like all public services, “MPS resources are finite.” With other criminal and other threats to the city of London, the current deployment of a 24-hour guard outside the embassy is no longer believed to be viable.
In the meantime, officials in Sweden said back in August that they are hoping to reach a judicial cooperation deal with Ecuador by the end of this year that would make it possible for prosecutors to question Assange.
[Photo: Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy by Peter Macdiarmid /Getty Images News]