What’s going on with Julian Assange?
Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, has been pretty under the radar since he took asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy 7 years ago. That was until early April when his name began to fill up our news feeds again.
So, what’s going on with Julian Assange?
In early April, Assange’s 7-year asylum was revoked by Ecuador President Lenin Moreno as a result of having “repeatedly violated” the conditions of his asylum. On 11th April Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy by British police and arrested on behalf of the US on request of his extradition. He has been charged by the US with “a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S government computer.”
What does this mean for Assange?
Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for violation of bail conditions. The US has requested that Assange be extradited to stand trial for his involvement in assisting Chelsea Manning to access a government computer as a part of the 2010 leak by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of U.S. military reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American diplomatic communications. There are fears over Assange’s safety if he is indeed extradited to America and further worries that he will not stand a fair trial seeing as his ‘crimes’ were against the US government. British judge Michael Snow, who sentenced Assange, has given the US government until the 12th of June
Who is Julian Assange?
Assange, born in Australia in 1971, gained a reputation as a talented computer programmer and was arrested in the mid-1990s for hacking. In 2006 he founded WikiLeaks, a site that releases information from sources that were… He rose to fame in 2010, when WikiLeaks published a classified US Military video from an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which a dozen innocent people were killed, including two Reuters news staff. WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret US documents that shed light on illegal actions of not only the US government and military but world leaders such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and members of the Saudi Arabian royal family. Many people see Julian Assange as a ‘hero’ trying to bring about peace by shedding light on corrupt governments, whereas his critics simply see him as a criminal who should answer for his ‘crimes’.
Why was Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy anyway?
Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after he was involved in a sexual assault case in Sweden, though the charges were later dropped. Assange decided to seek asylum over fears that, should he go to Sweden to be interviewed for the case, he would then be extradited to the USA where he would be arrested for his involvement in accessing government information with Chelsea Manning. This was one of the largest compromises of classified information in American history. It has been suggested that Sweden is considering reopening the sexual assault investigation now that Assange is no longer in the Embassy.
What exactly is the US charging him with?
US prosecutors announced charges against Assange for conspiring with the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain unlawful access to a government computer. The indictment was filed in March 2018 and said that in March of 2010 Julian Assange was involved in a conspiracy to help Manning crack the password of a Defense Department computer that was connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a government network used for classified documents and communications.
Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was jailed on the 8th of March after a judge found her guilty of refusing to testify before a grand jury, which is believed to be in relation to the Assange investigation. In 2013, Manning was convicted of ‘espionage and other offenses’ for providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Could Assange fight the indictment?
Nick Vamos, a lawyer at London-based firm Peters & Peters and former head of extradition at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said that “Everybody can challenge an extradition request on the basis it would be contrary to their human rights for them to be extradited.”
Assange would be able to argue that it would be impossible for him to have a fair trial given what happened to Chelsea Manning, the publicity about his case and that he has in effect been tried by the media. He could also argue the potential conditions he would face in US prisons.
Vamos stated that “He could argue the entire request is politically motivated that he is being prosecuted by reason of his political opinions or his political affiliations, that it’s revenge, it’s vindictive, it’s a vendetta.”
More useful information on the proceedings against Assange so far: