British Police Withdraw from Ecuadorian Embassy Housing Julian Assange

Julian Assange
The Associated Press

British police have been withdrawn from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sought refuge since 2012.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said it was “no longer proportionate” to commit officers to a permanent presence outside the embassy. They nonetheless emphasised that they would “make every effort” to arrest Assange should he leave the embassy, promising to employ “a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him.”

“Whilst the MPS remains committed to executing the arrest warrant and presenting Julian Assange before the court, it is only right that the policing operation to achieve this is continually reviewed against the diplomatic and legal efforts to resolve the situation,” the statement continues. “This decision has not been taken lightly, and the MPS has discussed it with the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

“Like all public services, MPS resources are finite,” it states. “With so many different criminal, and other, threats to the city it protects, the current deployment of officers is no longer believed proportionate.”

According to the BBC, it has cost the Metropolitan Police over £12m to guard the embassy since 2012.

Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning with regards to a rape accusation. WikiLeaks claims that Assange could be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden, where he could face up to 45 years in prison.

The official WikiLeaks Twitter account claims that the Ecuadorian ambassador has been summoned to the U.K.’s foreign office to discuss the Assange case.

After withdrawal of the police presence, a Dominos employee was seen delivering a pizza addressed to “J Assange” to the embassy, with a note bearing instructions to “please make yourself visible.”

After being questioned about the pizza by Business Insider tech editor James Liam Cook, the official WikiLeaks Twitter account denied that Assange had ordered a pizza. “A journalist did so they could write that dumb story” said the account, which is believed to be operated by Assange himself.

Fellow Business Insider contributor Ned Donovan then offered to buy Assange a new pizza, but it appears he did not respond. 

The account later clarified that “at no time during the embassy siege has delivered food been ordered. It is a high stakes embassy siege. Think.”

Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.