Edward Snowden, the man who blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s surveillance of the American people, has issued a statement against the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“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,” Snowden wrote on Twitter. “Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.”
In a subsequent tweet, he explained why he used the term “secret police” by retweeting a report of plainclothes police staking out the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the days leading up to Assange’s arrest.
As The Daily Beast notes, Assange had been living in the embassy for close to seven years. He sought asylum there to avoid extradition after he was charged with sexual assault in Sweden. But his extended stay at the embassy had become fraught with tension. When he entered the embassy, Rafael Correa was the president of Ecuador and he was a supporter of WikiLeaks’ work. Correa even appeared on Assange’s TV show on Russia’s RT Network. But WikiLeaks’ involvement with U.S. election interference caused friction in his relationship with the then-Ecuadorian president and his access to the Internet was cut off until after the vote.
Correa left office in 2017 and was succeeded by Lenín Moreno. Moreno would prove to be less accommodating to Assange than his predecessor. After Assange publicized his opinion on Catalan independence, Moreno’s government cut off his Internet and imposed strict rules on his online activity when it was reinstated. They also regulated his visitors, told him to clean his own bathroom, and to take care of his cat.
According to The Daily Beast, the proverbial last straw came when Moreno accused Assange and WikiLeaks of leaking documents to the press which allegedly show that the government was involved in a shady deal with a Chinese company.
“Mr. Assange has violated the agreement we reached with him and his legal counsel too many times,” Moreno said during an interview on Tuesday, April 2. “It is not that he cannot speak and express himself freely, but he cannot lie, nor much less hack private accounts or phones.”
The Ecuadorian government revoked Assange’s asylum on Thursday, April 11, before he was carted out of the embassy by police officers. According to CNN, he attempted to resist arrest, which explains the scenes of him being carried out of the doors. He now faces the prospect of extradition to the United States, where he has been formally indicted for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.