Julian Assange a Controversial Public Figure - Seeker's Thoughts

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Julian Assange a Controversial Public Figure

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in a superseding indictment for recruiting and conspiring with computer hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia who could provide anti-secrecy, a website with classified information, and conspired with members of hacking organizations.

According to a new Justice, Department indictment announced on 24th June 2020.

The indictment accused Assange of conspiring with members of the hacking group known as LulzSec and Anonymous.

The new indictment does not add new counts to the 18 count indictment filed against Assange under the Espionage Act in the year 2019, but it does broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged.

According to the prosecutors - He also worked with a 17-year old hacker who gave him information from a bank and directed the teenager to steal additional material, including audio recordings of high ranking government officials.

What Assange’s lawyers said in a statement on this?

Barry Pollack who is Assange’s lawyers said – “the government’s relentless pursuits of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”

 While today’s superseding indictment is yet another chapter in the U.S. government’s effort to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information.

He added, “The indictment continues to charge him with violating the Espionage Act based on WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes committed by the U.S government.

Assange is jailed as a whistle-blower in the USA, the threat to free speech globally would be immense. WikiLeaks was once an important whistleblowing website that deserves freedom of speech protections.

Who is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange is also known as Julian Paul Assange who grabbed the attention of the world due to his website WikiLeaks. Not everyone is his supporter, yet his position in the world remains debatable. Initially, he started as a programmer, and later on, he acted like an investigating journalist.

Why is Julian Assange controversial?

WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but obtained international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning.

Chelsea Manning is an American activist and whistle-blower, and she was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of the violation of Espionage Act and other offenses. She was even imprisoned from 2010 until 2017 when her sentence was commuted. 

Chelsea manning remains a very crucial figure when the name of Julian Assange is taken, as she disclosed the classified information to WikiLeaks first, went to jail, and again went to jail in 2019 for denying to testify against Julian Assange. 

Julian Assange published the Collateral Murder Video, the Afghanistan War Logs, The Iraq war logs, and the Cable Gate video in 2010, and earned the person of the year in the ‘Time Magazine’. 

However, the United States was not pleased by the leaks, therefore, a criminal investigation was launched against WikiLeaks and even asked allied nations for assistance.

In August 2010, two women entered a police station in Stockholm accusing Assange of rape and sexual assault.

In November 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange. Assange denied the allegation and mentioned that it was just a pretext for him to be extradited from Sweden to the United States because of his role in publishing secret American documents.

On 7th December 2010, Julian surrendered to United Kingdom Police but was released on bail within 10 days.

He challenged extradition proceeding but failed.  As a result, Julian breached 340000 Euro bail and sought asylum from Ecuador.

In 2012, Assange was granted Asylum by Ecuador due to fear of political persecution on position extradition to the United States. He remained in Ecuador Embassy for seven years in London. But the asylum could only protect Assange from British arrest but only on Ecuadorean territory, which meant that if he tried to leave the embassy, he could have been arrested.

In August 2015, as there were two charges of sexual assault and rape against Julian, the charges of sexual assault were dropped due to the statute of limited violations by Swedish Prosecutors. 

In 2016, a United Nation’s Panel decided that Assange has been arbitrarily detained, and recommended his release and compensation for deprivation of liberty. But, it was rejected by the Swedish and British governments as the decision of the UN’s panel was non-binding for those countries.

In 2016, WikiLeaks returned to headlines as the website released 1200 emails from Clinton’s private server during her tenure as a secretary of State. It impacted American elections but on the eve of elections, Assange released a statement in which he declared that he has no “personal desire to influence the outcome”.

In 2017, Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorian Citizenship in December. In March 2018, the government cut his internet connection stating that ‘the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom with the rest of the states of European Union and Other nations would be endangered by his actions”

In April 2019, after Ecuador announced the withdrawal of Assange’s asylum. Therefore, Julian Assange was arrested in London Embassy.

Shortly afterward, US authorities has= charged Assange with Conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsa Manning to break into a classified government computer at the Pentagon.

On May 1, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail back in 2012, when he found refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy.

On 23 May 2019, the United States government further charged Assange with violating the Espionage Act of 1917

However, the indictment raised questions about First Amendment protections and whether investigative journalists could also find themselves facing criminal charges.

Executive editors from top newspapers including The Washington Post and The New York Times criticized the government's decision to charge Assange under the Espionage Act.

As a result of the revocation of his asylum, and at the request of his alleged rape victim's lawyer, Swedish prosecutors reopened their investigation in May 2019.

On 13 June, British Home Secretary Said Javid revealed he has signed the US extradition order.
On 14 June, a procedural hearing at Westminster magistrates' court decided that a full extradition hearing should begin on 25 February 2020

The Making of the Julian Assange

During 1987, Julian Assange was 16-year-old, and he decided to hack under the name Mendex. He had two others in a group named “The International Subversives”.

In September 1991, Assange was found hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel. Nortel was a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation.

The Australian Federal Police tapped Assange's phone line (he was using a modem), raided his home at the end of October, and eventually charged him in 1994 with 31 counts of hacking and related crimes.

In December 1996, he pleaded guilty to 24 charges (the others were dropped) and was ordered to pay reparations of A$2,100 and released on a good behavior bond.

The perceived absence of malicious or mercenary intent and his disrupted childhood were cited to justify his lenient penalty.

Is he a hero? Or not?

Assange’s attempt to subvert the judicial process and place himself above the rule of law is why many people refused to support Assange in his hold-out in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Julian faces the real possibility of being extradited to the US to face espionage charges.

 If Assange is jailed as a whistle-blower in the USA, the threat to free speech globally would be immense. WikiLeaks remains an important whistleblowing website and deserves freedom of speech protections.

Julian Assange did not show faith in Justice, and instead of staying in Sweden and facing charges for sexual assault and rape, he fled to the UK. Sweden has a long track record of protecting human rights as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. Julian Assange should not have denied justice to victims.

Assange may now face a similar sentence like Chelsea Manning. Chelsea Manning was the public interest whistle-blower and exposed the wrongdoing of American military above stated wars especially in Iraq.

There were thousands of cases of torture, abuse, rape, and even murder by their allies in the Iraqi police and soldiers. Manning was sentenced to a 35-year jail sentence. She was only released because President Obama gave her a presidential pardon at the end of his second term. However, if Assange faces, he may not have a similar chance as Chelsea Manning.

It would be hard to argue that Assange should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for publishing US government secrets without also prosecuting publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post for committing precisely the same crime.

The picture is complex. Assange should face jail for breaching bail, and he should face justice for the rape allegations. He shouldn’t be extradited to the US. Here is where gets are more complex still.

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