Julian Assange, from asylum to yes to extradition: the story of the founder of Wikileaks

For seven years, his home was a small embassy in the heart of London, where he had found shelter after an extradition request from Sweden to respond to a controversial sexual abuse complaint that was later filed. The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, remained a refugee in the diplomatic headquarters of Ecuador from 19 June 2012 until 11 April 2019, when the South American country decided to withdraw his citizenship and expelled him, allowing the British secret services to arrest him. (THE REACTIONS). Assange is accused in the US of violating theEspionage Act (disputed for the first time in a case of publishing confidential documents in the media) for helping to uncover secret Pentagon documents relating to war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2010. He faces a sentence of 175 years in prison, but meanwhile on January 4, 2021, a British judge rejected the request for extradition to the United States. A sentence that was overturned on 10 December 2021 by the High Court of London, which upheld the appeal of the American legal team. Here is the story of the Australian activist’s final years, from granting political asylum to involvement in the Russiagate scandal.

The Wikileaks earthquake

“This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including the CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize and imprison him. ” With these words Wikileaks, the creature he helped found, describes on Twitter Julian Assange. Born in 1971, journalist, hacker and programmer, in 2007 he was among the promoters of the website which, among other things, reveals hundreds of thousands of secret files of the US government on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on the reports of the US embassies and on the files of Guantanamo prisoners. An investigation by the Grand Jury of Alexandria, Virginia has been underway since 2010 for the publication of confidential documents. In the United States it is branded a “public enemy”.

The rape charge and the refuge in the embassy

In August 2010, a woman accused Assange of taking advantage of sleep to rape her, without a condom. The two were in Stockholm for a conference. She claims that she has always refused him unprotected sexual intercourse. In December, the Australian was arrested in Great Britain and then released on bail. In February 2011, London approved the extradition request submitted by Sweden and invited Assange to appear before a court for June 29, 2012. On June 19, Assange decided not to appear and instead asked for asylum from Ecuador, which accepted him. at its embassy in London. Ecuador, then led by President Rafael Correa, granted him protection because it considers the concerns of the founder of Wikileaks founded that extradition to Sweden exposes him to the risk of extradition to the United States.

The Russiagate case

In 2017, the Russiagate case explodes in the United States, a judicial investigation born following suspected interference by Russia in the electoral campaign for the presidential elections in the United States of America in 2016. According to American intelligence, the led organization by Julian Assange collaborated with the Kremlin to influence the elections. On November 13, 2017 Donald Trump Jr. publishes the exchange of messages with WikiLeaks during the presidential elections in the United States. Two months earlier, news had filtered that Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had proposed to Donald Trump to offer immunity to Assange in exchange for his willingness to exclude that Russia had provided Wikileaks with the hacked emails to Democrats during the campaign. for the presidential elections.

The arrest

Sweden closes the allegations on 19 May 2017. It will reopen the case only if Assange returns to the country by August 2020, otherwise the statute of limitations will apply. There remains, for London, the accusation of having violated the obligations linked to the bail. On 11 January 2018 Ecuador claims to have granted citizenship to Assange, also asking London to recognize him as a diplomat in order to avoid his arrest and probable extradition to the United States where he must answer for the publication of secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010. London rejected the request. The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, calls for “a positive solution in the short term”. On 6 February 2018, the British judge confirmed the arrest warrant. On 11 April 2019, Ecuador revoked the asylum granted to Assange and the Ecuadorian embassy in London expelled him. The British authorities await him and arrest him.

The indictments in the US and the denied extradition request

In May 2019, Assange is indicted in the United States. He is being charged with 17 counts under the Espionage Act for conspiring to obtain classified information and then disseminated online. The documents had been provided by former military Chelsea Manning, sentenced in the US and then pardoned by Barack Obama. If found guilty, Assange risks 10 years for each charge brought against him. The extradition process to the US begins in February 2020 but on January 4, 2021, London District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the American application with a first degree verdict. Judge Baraitser motivated her decision by citing Assange’s mental health conditions, which were considered very precarious by several doctors and his lawyers.

The verdict overturned and the yes to extradition

Eleven months later, Assange’s legal affair is enriched with a new chapter, with the High Court of London which, overturning the first instance sentence, says yes to the extradition of the founder of Wikileaks. The British judges upheld the appeal of the American legal team which opposed the no to the delivery of the former red primrose on the basis of an alleged danger of suicide linked – according to an expert opinion – to the foreseeable judicial and prison treatment. It is now expected that the case will be returned to the lower court to be heard again. “A serious judicial error”. This is how Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner and a member of his legal team, defined the new verdict on the affair in a post published on Twitter by Wikileaks. Moris has announced that he will appeal to the UK judicial authorities “as soon as possible”.