Julian Assange was arrested in London on Thursday April 11, following an invitation extended by the Ecuadorian Embassy to the Metropolitan Police to enter the premises. Assange had remained inside the embassy for seven years after seeking asylum from extradition to Sweden in 2012. The arrest of Julian Assange is the latest controversy in a decade-long manhunt.
Assange first came under the spotlight with his exposure of US war crimes in 2010. Originally from Australia, in 2006 Assange used his high IQ to found ‘WikiLeaks’. A global organisation that publishes ‘restricted’ information regarding states’ illegal activities. After an early failure by the US government to shut the WikiLeaks site down, Assange published documents revealing illegal behaviour in the US’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a clear case of journalistic ethics, Assange refused to identify his source — Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst for the US army. Assange, at this point, had committed no crime, he was merely exercising freedom of the press.
However, in 2010, Assange faced two separate allegations of rape and molestation of women in Sweden. In London at the time, Assange was arrested and threatened with extradition to Sweden to face trial for the case. Reportedly fearing a subsequent extradition to a revenge-seeking USA, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The Ecuadorian government were compliant. Their Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patino, said the country shared Assange’s fears of US ‘retaliation that could endanger his safety, integrity and even his life’.
The asylum period lasted for seven years. In this time the rape charges against Julian Assange have been dropped. This was not the result of presumed innocence, but rather a consequence of the impossibility for Swedish authorities to carry out an investigation whilst Assange remained in asylum. Being kept inside a 630 square-foot apartment day and night, has seen a noticeable decline in Assange’s health. Claims of extreme human rights violations have been made. However, on April 11 this was all brought to an end. The Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, elected in 2017, allowed the UK police to enter the embassy and arrest Assange.
Assange now faces charges from the US for conspiracy to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. Providing the assurance that Assange will not face execution, the extradition may be approved. However, the charge brought towards Assange by the US remains dubious. Prior to this accusation, the US government have been unable to legally pursue Assange on any grounds that would not violate freedom of the press. It takes a strong belief in coincidence to accept that the US government have now finally found evidence to ascertain a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange just as his diplomatic refuge has been terminated.
What should not be forgotten in the face of alleged political crimes, is the legitimate arrest Assange faced in 2010. To reiterate, Assange was never actually cleared of the rape charges and Swedish authorities had exhausted all options for pursuing the investigation. This is arguably another case of rape which suggests quite clearly that if a man has power, there is no case. Women will continue to stay silent and not come forward as long as rape is not treated as a priority in the justice system. The allegations of these women should not just be forgotten about because the US judicial system considers itself to have bigger fish to fry.
Conversely, the hacking charges Assange faces cannot be justified by the sexual crimes he may have got away with. It is not acceptable to punish a man for a crime he has not committed with the justification that he may be a criminal in a different respect. This is not justice. If Mr Assange is to face any charges it should be for the alleged rape and molestation that he has been accused of. His extradition based on these hacking allegations would not make up for the failure to face a just trial for these possible offences.
Assange’s work with WikiLeaks exposed the last remaining global superpower acting above the law. Having been caught in their misdemeanours, the US government have spent nearly a decade essentially trying to shut Assange up. The actions of the US government beg the question: how can any liberal democracy give itself such a name when the work of a ‘truth-teller’, who holds the government accountable for their actions, is treated as crime against the state?