Today is another landmark in one of the worst miscarriages of justice ever perpetrated by our so-called democracies in the West: Julian Assange has now been in a jail cell at Belmarsh prison in London for three years.
The UK and US governments rightly express outrage over reports of war crimes in Ukraine. Yet while doing so, they make an example of Assange for revealing, with definitive proof, their own war crimes. While the media decries the spread of disinformation and attacks against journalists, most stay silent as an actual journalist slowly dying in prison for doing his duty of informing the public.
Assange faces up to 175 years in an American prison. So unless UK Home Secretary Priti Patel stops his extradition to the US by May 18, we’ll likely be marking this date for decades to come. If you value democracy and freedom of speech, we urge you once again to pressure the UK government to stop this travesty of justice and save Julian’s life. Never has our voice been more needed than now.
Protests are being held to mark the third anniversary of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Supporters are escalating demands for his release from Belmarsh prison in London where he has been since he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy.
The United States continues with legal moves to extradite him to face trial on espionage charges.
Vigils are being held outside the Ecuadorian embassy, Westminster magistrates’ court and Belmarsh prison.
Mr Assange, who got married in jail last month, is wanted in the US over the publication of thousands of classified documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Who Is Julian Assange?
Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, famous for releasing hundreds of classified documents, exposing numerous scandals and secrets. According to its official website, WikiLeaks, “Is a multinational media organisation and associated library. It was founded by its publisher Julian Assange in 2006. WikiLeaks specialises in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption”.
Assange and WikiLeaks were involved in famous leaks like the Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, The United States diplomatic cables leak also known as Cablegate.
The Cablegate documents revealed US spying against the UN and other international leaders, disclosed conflicts between the US and its allies, and exposed corruption in countries around the world as documented by US diplomats, all of which to a great extent contributed to the Arab Spring.
WikiLeaks released secret Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election campaign, revealing that the party’s national committee favoured Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
Internal CIA documents describing tools used by the agency to hack devices such as mobile phones and routers were disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017.
Shifting bases for asylum
While Assange was in the United Kingdom in November 2010, Sweden obtained an international arrest order for him based on allegations of sexual misbehaviour. The claims, according to Assange, are a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the United States for his role in the disclosure of classified American secrets.
He breached bail and sought sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012 after losing his appeal against extradition to Sweden. Ecuador granted him shelter in August 2012, citing political oppression as a reason.
Swedish prosecutors, on the other hand, terminated their investigation in 2019, claiming that their evidence had “much deteriorated due to the extended period of time since the events in question.”
Following a series of disagreements with Ecuadorian officials, Assange’s refuge was revoked on April 11, 2019. He was arrested after the police were let into the embassy. He was found guilty of violating the terms of his probation.
He was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison after being found guilty of violating the Bail Act.  In connection with the disclosures, the US government unveiled an indictment against Assange. T he United States government accused Assange with breaching the 1917 Espionage Act on May 23, 2019. On January 4, 2021, a District Judge denied the US request to extradite him, stating that doing so would be “oppressive” due to his mental condition. On December 10, 2021, the Court of Appeal of the United Kingdom declared that Assange can be extradited to the United States to face the charges.
Understanding Julian Assange and his work through some of his interviews
Explaining the process of Wikileaks on TED Talks interview he said, “These are as far as we can tell classical whistleblowers. And we have a number of ways for them to get information to us. We use (this) state of the art encryption to bounce off stuff around the internet, to hide trails, pass it through legal jurisdiction like Sweden Belgium to enact those legal protection. We get information in the mail, the regular postal mail encrypted or not. (We) vet it like a regular news organisation, format it, release it to the public and then defend ourselves against inevitable legal and political attacks”.
Explaining what kind of information is leaked, Assange said in the same TED interview, “There is a question as to what sort of information is important in the world, what sort of information can achieve reform. There is a lot of information that organisations are spending economic efforts into concealing. That’s a really good signal, that when the information gets out there is a hope of it doing some good because the organisation that knows it best, knows it from inside out is spending work to conceal it”.
About the possible loopholes in the Functioning of Wikileaks, Assange in an interview to 60 Minutes said,
“We don’t pretend that the process is absolutely perfect. We did hold back one in five documents for extra harm minimisation and we also improved our process so when Iraq came out there was not even one name that came out”.
Clarifying that their agenda wasn’t Anti-US, in the same interview he said, “We don’t go after a particular country or organisation, we just stick to our promise of publishing material that is likely to have a significant impact”.
In the same interview while Talking about how their work was similar to other US publishers and yet the US was after him, he said “We didn’t go out to get the material, we operated just like any US publisher operates. There has been no precedent that I am aware of in the past 50 years of prosecuting a publisher for espionage”.
Expressing his views about the whistleblowers he said to 60 Minutes, “The only people who can police the system are those inside the system who are in a position to notice the abuse and blow the whistle”.
Differentiating between other news outlets and Wikileaks he said (in the same interview) , “While most reporters gather information and interpret it for the audience , WikiLeaks makes data available for the public and lets them decide”.
Answering the question if (US) State department was allowed to keep secrets he said(to 60Minutes) “We don’t say that the State Department should not have secrets, rather we say if there are people in state department who say that there is some abuse going and there is no proper mechanism for internal and external accountability, then they must have a conduit to get it out to the public and we are a conduit”.
In an another interview to Aljazeera, while Replying to criticism by some journalists regarding alleged irresponsible behaviour of WikiLeaks Assange said, “Saying you are going to censor and not release a lot of the material that’s a big problem. It’s fine to have some kind of staggered release because you want to balance the supply and demand curve. But what I want to hear is that there is a transparent path to publish the vast majority of that data set because that’s what is interesting from a historical and legal perspective.
“One of the fundamental missed lessons of the WikiLeaks experiences is about how to deal with the scale. One part of dealing with scale is to stitch together a big international collaboration and more eyeballs on the material. The other way of dealing with the scale is that scale is inherent in the material”.
If Wikileaks was targeted because of technology it brought. Answering it in an interview to Aljazeera, Assange said “WikiLeaks set an example and the example was a threat because the technology became over time more available to other people who could then follow the example”.
At the TED Talks interview when asked about his core value, Assange replied “capable generous men do not create victims they nurture victims”.