Plans to break Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy included costumes, diplomatic bags, and secret flights to Switzerland

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by UK police on Thursday after living in Ecuador’s embassy in London for almost seven years.
  • Assange was arrested after Ecuador revoked his asylum, and he now faces extradition to the US after being charged with conspiracy to hack classified US government computers.
  • Throughout Assange’s tenure at the Ecuadorian embassy, various ideas were put forth to help him escape from the UK – from being smuggled out of the embassy in a diplomatic bag, to being transported to Ecuador via boat.
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Thursday after taking up residence there for almost seven years.

The arrest came following Ecuador’s decision to revoke Assange’s political asylum, alleging bad behaviour throughout his stay.In a video, Ecuadorian President LenĂ­n Moreno described instances in which Assange mistreated embassy staff and facilities. He added that WikiLeaks continued to engage in political activity, like leaking Vatican documents in January, that served as evidence that Assange “violated the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states,” and “confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr. Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks.”

Assange was arrested and taken to court in London, where he was convicted of breaching bail conditions. There has been a warrant for his arrest in the UK since June 2012, after he failed to appear in court related to charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden. He has denied those charges, and Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation against him in 2017. However, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, who represents Assange’s accuser, told the Associated Press that “we are going to do everything” to have the Swedish case reopened “so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape.”


Read more:
US asks to extradite Julian Assange over leaked state secrets after he was arrested and forcibly removed from Ecuador’s London embassy

He was also charged by the US Department of Justice with conspiracy to hack classified government information, after leaking a trove of classified government documents and communications to former US soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010.

Up to this point, Assange has evaded arrest thanks to the Ecuadorian government, which officially granted him political asylum in August 2012, two months after he was first admitted to the embassy seeking protection. Since then, he has been confined to the 330-square-foot space and unable to leave. Over the years, there have been various attempts to help him escape the UK.

Smuggled to freedom in a diplomatic bag

First, in August 2012, before Assange was granted asylum and reports swirled that the UK planned to raid the embassy and arrest him, Alex Barker, EU Correspondent for the Financial Times, proposed an unusual idea:

According to Barker’s plan, Ecuador could send Assange to Switzerland, which isn’t a member of the EU and doesn’t have strong extradition laws with the US, and from there to South America.

That plan clearly didn’t pan out.

The Ecuadorian embassy also brainstormed wideranging ideas to help Assange escape from the UK, according to leaked slides obtained by BuzzFeed in 2015. Most notably, officials proposed smuggling Assange to freedom in a diplomatic bag intended to hold documents. That idea was quickly dismissed by officials, who knew police outside had “advanced technology that can detect body heat,” according to the document.

Other ideas included giving Assange diplomatic immunity by making him Ecuador’s representative to the United Nations, or smuggling him out in a diplomatic car. But, officials came to the realisation that that probably wasn’t the most realistic of options either, since “the British police can be found in all the routes that would allow Assange to take a diplomatic car.”

Finally, officials mulled over the idea of discreetly executing Assange’s escape, according to the slides seen by BuzzFeed. “Assange could leave in fancy dress,” the document said, “or try to escape across the rooftops towards a nearby helipad, or get lost among the people in [the department store] Harrods.”

The document made no mention of where Assange would go after after escaping through bag, car, or throngs of busy shoppers.

Russia bound

Even Russia considered helping Assange escape. In 2017, diplomats held secret talks in London with people close to Assange to see if they could help him flee, according to The Guardian. Those diplomats considered smuggling Assange out of the embassy and transporting him to either Russia or Ecuador. Sources told the publication that the operation to break out Assange included giving him diplomatic documents – so he could claim diplomatic immunity by Ecuador – and helping him make his escape via diplomatic car. They also considered putting him on a boat to Ecuador.

The covert operation, which had been scheduled for Christmas Eve of that year, was ultimately terminated after being considered too risky. The Associated Press reported that Assange also tried to obtain a visa in 2010 to enter Russia.

While various ideas hatched over the years to help Assange escape from the Ecuadorian embassy, it appears that none quite panned out. Assange now faces possible extradition to the US, where he could face up to five years in prison if found guilty of the conspiracy charges.

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