Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is in a British jail fighting extradition to the United States on charges of releasing hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election campaign.The United Kingdom authorities arrested the publisher in mid-April at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Julian Assange had been using the diplomatic facility as a sanctuary for nearly seven years, while two U.S. presidential administrations tried to put him on trial.Police in Sweden also wanted to extradite Julian Assange for alleged rape and molestation in that country, though prosecutors later dropped the charges. The journalist continues to insist that he is innocent.
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Behind Bars,Awaiting His Fate
By Jim Owen
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is in a British jail fighting extradition to the United States on charges of releasing hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election campaign.
United Kingdom authorities arrested the publisher in mid-April at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Julian Assange had been using the diplomatic facility as a sanctuary for nearly seven years, while two U.S. presidential administrations tried to put him on trial.
Police in Sweden also wanted to extradite Julian Assange for alleged rape and molestation in that country, though prosecutors later dropped the charges. The journalist continues to insist that he is innocent.
The arrest by Scotland Yard officers stemmed from a 2012 indictment for Assange failing to turn himself in to a British court on the Swedish assault charges.
U.K. authorities were finally able to act because Ecuadorian officials revoked the asylum they had been providing for Assange. The South American nation’s president, Lenin Moreno, cited the publisher’s objectionable “behavior,” and slammed WikiLeaks for releasing documents taken from the Vatican in January.
According to the BBC, relations between Assange and the Ecuadorian government had been eroding for several years. Officials took away certain privileges, like access to the Internet; and claimed that Assange’s political activities violated the terms of his asylum.
The Case Against Julian Assange
U.S. federal prosecutors want Assange to face trial for his role in the WikiLeaks release of emails written by John Podesta, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman; and members of the Democratic National Committee. The publication of the documents damaged Clinton’s campaign, which ultimately lost the election to Donald Trump.
In addition, the Justice Department accuses Assange of playing a role in the leak of classified documents that government whistleblower Chelsea Manning obtained from the Defense Department.
Julian Assange could receive a prison sentence as long as five years for conspiring to commit the crime of “computer intrusion.”
Assange has been a controversial figure since he created WikiLeaks in 2006. He made it clear at the time that his intention was to root out and reveal private and classified materials which he believed the public had a right to read.
Officials in former President Obama’s administration blasted Assange in 2010 for publishing film clips of a U.S. military helicopter crew mowing down 18 Iraqi civilians. The same year, American authorities apprehended Manning for giving more than 700,000 documents and videos to WikiLeaks.
The former intelligence analyst was court martialed in 2013 after being found guilty of espionage and other charges. Manning eventually won her release from jail, but recently landed behind bars again for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks.
Legal Battle Over Extradition
Assange is desperately struggling to avoid being sent to the United States, where he would likely be subjected to aggressive prosecution. The 47-year-old Australian native is threatened not only with the demise of WikiLeaks, but also the loss of his personal freedom.
The American political climate is dangerous for the publisher, who has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats. Trump, during his campaign rallies in 2016, praised Assange for making Clinton-related emails public. However, he is no longer among the embattled journalist’s defenders.
Lawmakers of both parties cheered the arrest of Julian Assange and demanded his extradition. Some of them suggested that the defendant is a Russian government agent who endangered U.S. national security.
Julian Assange’s lead attorney, Jennifer Robinson, told reporters that the legal team’s main focus is opposing the U.S. extradition plea. She argued that the U.K. would be setting a “dangerous precedent” by granting the request.
Such an action would have a chilling effect on all journalists and media outlets, Robinson warned. She pointed out that a ruling against her client would send a clear message to anyone considering the publication of information the U.S. government seeks to keep secret.
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Advocates for freedom of the press agree that there is much more at stake than the future of Assange and WikiLeaks. The nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders is among those who have risen to the embattled publisher’s defense.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, during a speech in the House of Commons, declared that “no one is above the law.” Her administration’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, agreed that Assange should not be allowed to “escape justice.”
The publisher does have some U.K. allies, including Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party leader gave the publisher credit for uncovering “atrocities” U.S. forces committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Corbyn called on British authorities to reject the request for extradition.