Julian Assange: still wanted, still here
Over the past week, Julian Assange, co-founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been hoping for a solution to his long-term asylum status at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been living indoors since June 2012. Last Friday a solution was said to be found when a UN panel ruled that Assange is being ‘arbitrarily detained’ and should, instead, be freed. For a man whose career has been defined by exposing state malpractice around the world, particularly by the US government (note the infamous Collateral Murder video of 2010), it’s no surprise that the likes of the US authorities are keeping an eye on him. Speculation suggests that if the Interpol Red Notice issued for the extradition of Assange to Sweden were to be followed, this could pave the way for further extradition of Assange to the USA.
Regardless of Assange’s position as either a cybercriminal or poster-boy for democracy in the digital age, what also needs to be considered is the seriousness of the accusation of rape made against him by the Swedish authorities. Some people have dismissed this allegation, along with two previous allegations of sexual assault (which have since been withdrawn), as a mere ‘set-up’ to ensure he can be forced, by extradition request, into the hands of the US government; only this is not easy to prove, as no such request has yet been made by the Americans. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that Assange was at least sexually involved with the two women who made the allegations, therefore it is difficult to argue that Sweden’s request for Assange to face trial in Sweden is merely ‘arbitrary’. Furthermore, his life’s work is built on the principle that states, particularly state officials, and other powerful individuals are not above the laws they uphold, so he would do well not to act as an exception to this, if he wishes to be consistent.
Ultimately Assange has agreed to go through with proceedings, on the condition that he will be protected from extradition to the USA. Sweden has guaranteed no such protection, along with the British authorities, who have clearly said Assange would be arrested on the point of leaving the Ecuadorean embassy. This makes his situation stickier, without a doubt. Assange has repeatedly asserted that the sexual assault and rape claims against him are ‘without basis’. Nonetheless, this doesn’t exempt him from facing trial, nor does it stop him being responsible for leaking multitudes of classified information, for better or worse. The one question that remains is whether or not this man should be allowed to get away with leaking such information. Is he upholding freedom or putting lives in danger? In some cases, some of the information leaked could be ‘harmful’, but from what I’ve seen so far the only people harmed are the corrupt trying to cover their backs.