Julian Assange: from political asylum to prison

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces his first British court hearing since the US submitted a formal extradition request

Jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing extradition to the United States over the 2010 publication of thousands of leaked classified documents. Swedish prosecutors decided Tuesday to drop a separate rape investigation against him. Here is a recap of Assange's battle to avoid extradition. - 2010: assault charges - Between July and October 2010, Assange's WikiLeaks whistleblowing website releases 470,000 classified military documents concerning US diplomacy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It later releases another batch of more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables. In November a Swedish prosecutor issues a European arrest warrant for Assange over sexual assault allegations involving two Swedish women. He denies the claims, saying they consented. But he turns himself in to police in London in December and is arrested pending a ruling on the Swedish request for his extradition. A week later he is released on bail. - 2012: embassy refuge - In February 2011 a British judge rules that Assange can be extradited to Sweden. He launches an appeal, claiming the Swedish allegations are a pretext to transfer him to the United States. In June 2012 he takes refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition. Ecuador, then ruled by left-wing president Rafael Correa, grants him asylum in August. In May 2017 Swedish prosecutors drop the sex assault investigation, frustrated by the failure to have Assange transferred. In December Ecuador grants Assange nationality but is blocked by Britain from according him diplomatic status. - 2019: arrest, prison - In January 2018 Ecuador, now ruled by right-wing President Lenin Moreno, says its hosting of Assange has become "untenable". In March it temporarily cuts off his communications, including use of the internet or a mobile phone. Tensions peak in April 2019 when Moreno says Assange has "repeatedly violated" the conditions of his asylum. Ecuador cancels his citizenship on April 10. The next day British police drag Assange out of the embassy, having been informed that his asylum has been withdrawn. He is arrested on a US extradition request. In May Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for having breached bail in 2010. The legal process for his extradition to the United State begins. Swedish prosecutors also say they are reopening the 2010 rape investigation. - US charges - On May 23 the US Justice Department formally charges Assange with having violated the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010. UN rights experts Nils Melzer says Assange had been subjected to drawn-out "psychological torture" that had seriously affected his health. Assange makes his first appearance since being jailed on June 15, telling a court via videolink that WikiLeaks is "nothing but a publisher". The judge says his full extradition hearing will start in February. Back in court again on October 21, Assange appears frail and confused. - Swedish charge dropped - On November 19, Swedish prosecutors say they have dropped their rape investigation because "the evidence is not strong enough", despite "credible" claims from the woman who filed the complaint.