• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Spring Donation Drive

CounterPunch is a lifeboat piggybank-icon of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
Howie Hawkins
Does the Climate Movement Really Mean What It Says?
Gary Leupp
Bolton and the Road to the War He Wants
Jill Richardson
Climate Change was No Accident
Josh Hoxie
Debunking Myths About Wealth and Race
David Barsamian
Iran Notes
David Mattson
Social Carrying Capacity Politspeak Bamboozle
Christopher Brauchli
The Pompeo Smirk
Louis Proyect
Trotsky, Bukharin and the Eco-Modernists
Martha Burk
Will Burning at the Stake Come Next?
John W. Whitehead
The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops in America
Binoy Kampmark
The Christchurch Pledge and a Regulated Internet
David Rosen
Florida’s Sex Wars: the Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work
Ralph Nader
Trump: Importing Dangerous Medicines and Food and Keeping Consumers in the Dark
Brett Haverstick
America’s Roadless Rules are Not Protecting Public Wildlands From Development
Alan Macleod
Purity Tests Can be a Good Thing
Binoy Kampmark
Modern Merchants of Death: the NSO Group, Spyware and Human Rights
Kim C. Domenico
Anarchism & Reconciliation, Part II
Peter LaVenia
Game of Thrones and the Truth About Class (Spoiler Warning)
Manuel E. Yepe
The Options Trump Puts on the Table
Renee Parsons
The Pompeo/Bolton Tag Team
David Swanson
Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment
Cesar Chelala
Lowering Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Problems are Deeper than “Capitalism” (and “Socialism” Alone Can’t Solve Them)
Chris Zinda
Delegislating Wilderness
Robert Koehler
War’s Unanswered Questions
Robert P. Alvarez
Let Prison Inmates Vote
Barbara Nimri Aziz
A Novel We Can All Relate To
David Yearsley
Carmen’s Mother’s Day Lessons
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ziya Tong’s “The Reality Bubble”
Elliot Sperber
Pharaoh’s Dream
Elizabeth Keyes
Somewhere Beyond Corporate Media Yemenis Die
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail