The police guard posted outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Julian Assange is taking refuge was removed this afternoon after three years waiting to arrest the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange is wanted in Sweden on charges of sexual assault–he has been avoiding extradition from England by claiming asylum at Ecuador's embassy. But Assange's lawyers and WikiLeaks representatives have said that his main concern is that if he is taken to Sweden, he may then be extradited to the U.S. and face charges for his part in the 2010 WikiLeaks release of classified military and diplomatic documents.
The statute of limitations on three out of four of the sexual assault allegations against Assange in Sweden have expired–the fourth one could still be prosecuted up to 2020. He has not been charged with anything in the U.S. but there is an ongoing FBI and Justice Department investigation into WikiLeaks, according to Reuters.
England's Metropolitan Police has spent the equivalent of $19.3 million posting police officers outside the embassy to wait for Assange since 2012, the BBC reports.
Now that the officers have been removed from outside the embassy, police will instead use "a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him," they said in a statement. "The Metropolitan Police Service has to balance the interests of justice in this case with the ongoing risks to the safety of Londoners and all those we protect, investigating crime and arresting offenders wanted for serious offences, in deciding what a proportionate response is."
The police made it clear that despite removing the uniformed 24/7 guard they will still be actively trying to arrest Assange–but he has shown no sign of leaving the embassy in the past three years.