FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Julian Assange is a Political Prisoner Who Has Exposed Government Crimes and Atrocities

Julian Assange is a political prisoner. He has never been charged with a crime. Everyone who recognizes his name should know this, and if they don’t it is only because the largest media outlets have misreported or not reported the basic facts of his detention. This in itself is a searing indictment of the media that Assange and WikiLeaks have struggled to reform. It also puts to shame all of the Western governments, political leaders, and journalists who claim to care about human rights and civil liberties but remain silent ― or worse ― about one of the world’s most famous prisoners of conscience.

In 2015 the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention found that the governments of the UK and Sweden have arbitrarily detained Assange. They ordered his release and compensation.

He is imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the government of Ecuador has granted him political asylum. He cannot leave because if he does, he will be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in a criminal case in which no charges have been brought. But the real threat is that Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where a grand jury would likely indict him (if they have not already prepared a sealed indictment, which is considered likely). He would be imprisoned pending trial and could face life in prison or even the death penalty. The Swedish government, in particular, has shown no interest in resolving the case for which they had wanted to question Assange ― it took them more than four years to finally decide to question him in London ― but rather have chosen to keep him imprisoned.

What has been Julian Assange’s real crime, that these three governments (US, UK, and Sweden) have collaborated to keep him from seeing the outside world? His crime, and that of WikiLeaks, has been the practice of journalism, and particularly in defense of human rights and civil liberties. That is why he has received so many journalism awards, including The Economist New Media Award (2008), the 2009 Amnesty International UK Media Award, the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (UK), and many others.

Assange and WikiLeaks’ real offense was to expose the crimes of the most powerful people in the world. Thanks to WikiLeaks, millions saw the classified video of the US military gunning down eighteen people in Iraq, including two Reuters employees, in July of 2007. In July 2010, WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Diary, which included more than 75,000 previously secret reports from the US military in Afghanistan. The Iraq War Logs, which recorded over 66,000 civilian deaths in Iraq, were also released by WikiLeaks, and exposed the widespread use of torture by Iraqi forces. The files indicate that the US may have known about this torture when it was turning over thousands of prisoners to Iraqi custody.

The thousands of diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in November 2010 ― in collaboration with major news outlets including The New York Times and The Guardian ― also revealed human rights abuses, corruption, and other crimes by various governments. WikiLeaks also developed a methodology for protecting whistleblowers who expose abuses and crimes. Human rights advocates throughout the world have used WikiLeaks documents to challenge governments and defend their citizens in court and in the realm of public opinion.

It is not surprising that the most powerful people in the world, especially in the United States, would want to silence and punish someone who exposes their crimes and atrocities. What is surprising, or should be, is that they could get so much help in doing so.

This column originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail