Since 7 December 2010, Assange has struggled to defend himself and to keep the public informed – the many people supporting him. As Wikileaks publishes private, secret, and classified information from anonymous news sources and whistleblowers, its founder has upset a lot of people too, including governments and corporations.
Yet the claim ‘the public should know’ also has strong staying power.
Journalist and Assange’s bail guarantor John Pilger said: “This is a man who has made some very serious enemies for the very best of reasons, and has done a job of extraordinary journalism on behalf of all of us.”
In July 2010, Wikileaks began releasing online many tens of thousands of US Army documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They included revelations about how the Americans fought the Taliban, about killing of civilians, about prisoners. The website organisation said its mission was “to bring important news and information to the public.”
The site’s founder said: “It is up to a court to decide, clearly, whether something is, in the end, a crime. That said, prima facie, there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material.”
Later in 2010, Wikileaks and five major newspapers in Spain, France, Germany, the UK and the US published sensitive diplomatic cables from several hundred US embassies. Sharing the unguarded comments in the cables with the world made the Americans even angrier.
Washington threatened Assange with criminal prosecution, and began repressive measures, letting friends like the French government know.
Ex-foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said: “Hillary Clinton told me they were going to keep after him, and she wanted sanctions to be severe. I approve.”
Assange lives with Washington on his heels. He is convinced that extradition to Sweden will lead to a US court and charges under the Espionage Act.
His legal team resolutely say the pursuit is politically motivated.
An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights would prolong the fight but not necessarily stop extradition.