Updated May 23, 2019

Timeline: Julian Assange's 9-year legal limbo reaches its climax

Julian Assange in route to the Westminster Magistrates Court on April 11, 2019. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Julian Assange's Ecuadorian refuge has ended after more than six years, with the WikiLeaks chief facing American extradition for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

The big picture: Few figures have been so influential in our past decade — think Hillary Clinton's emails, Iraq War footage that created a political firestorm in President Obama's first term, and his offers to assist Edward Snowden. Follow the 9 year timeline of Assange's legal entanglements — which today entered a new phase, as he prepares to fight an extradition request to the U.S.


2006: Assange establishes WikiLeaks and begins publishing classified information and news leaks from anonymous sources.

August 2010: A Swedish prosecutor issues an arrest warrant after 2 Swedish woman accused Assange of rape and molestation in separate allegations.

November 2010: WikiLeaks begins to release what it says are 251,287 diplomatic cables acquired from an anonymous source, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation. The source is later discovered to be army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who is later convicted and sentenced under the Espionage Act. Sweden also issues an international arrest warrant for Assange.

December 2010: Assange surrenders to British police. The courts find he should be granted bail.

May 2012: Britain’s Supreme Court rules in favor of returning Assange to Sweden, but his attorneys request a delay.

August 2012: Assange is granted asylum at London's Ecuadorian Embassy, which cites concern over human rights abuses if he is extradited to Sweden. He first entered the embassy in June 2012.

August 2015: Swedish prosecutors drop molestation charges against Assange after they ran out of time to question him, but he still faces a rape accusation.

February 2016: The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finds that Assange has been "arbitrarily detained" by Sweden and the United Kingdom since December 2010, and calls for both governments to end his "deprivation of liberty."

October 2016: The government of Ecuador says it has severed Assange's internet due to WikiLeaks' release of hacked emails during the 2016 election — later revealed to be part of the Russian government's interference on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Assange announces in December that his internet connection is reinstated.

April 2017: Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo describes WikiLeaks as a "nonstate hostile intelligence service" that constitutes a threat to U.S. national security.

May 2017: Swedish prosecutors drop their 7-year investigation of the rape allegation against Assange.

November 2017: An errant line in a legal filing reveals that the Eastern District of Virginia has filed sealed charges against Assange.

December 2017: Ecuador grants Assange citizenship in a failed effort to give him diplomatic immunity.

February 2018: British Judge Emma Arbuthnot says the country will not drop charges against Assange after he skipping bail in 2012 by seeking asylum the Ecuadorian Embassy.

April 2019: One week before Assange is arrested, the Ecuadorian president says that Assange "has violated the agreement we reached with him and his legal counsel too many times," per the Washington Post.

April 11, 2019: Assange is arrested under a U.S. extradition warrant after Ecuador withdraws its offer of asylum. He is found guilty of skipping bail by a British judge, who calls him a "narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest."

May 23, 2019: A grand jury returned an 18-count indictment against Assange for violating the Espionage Act. Assange faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.

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