Julian Assange

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, a website that has famously published documentary evidence of governmental wrongdoing (particularly of US war crimes during the War on Terror). He spent almost a decade sheltering at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, trying to avoid being extradited to the US to face espionage charges (despite not being a US citizen).

The early efforts to deport him revolved around allegations of him committing sexual assault in Sweden. Specifically, he’s alleged to have engaged in “stealthing” (removing the condom during sex with women who expected him to use a condom). The Swedish police investigation was very bizarre and never moved beyond a preliminary stage despite running for nine years. At first they asked Assange to come in for an interview, which he did before he even left Sweden. Then after he left, Swedish authorities applied to extradite him from the UK, which Assange’s legal team agreed to so long as Swe­den promised not to extradite him further, to the US (where they wanted him on those espionage charges). Swe­den refused to agree to this condition. Then, the UK courts ordered that Assange be extradited to Sweden, which is what precipitated him claiming asylum with the Ecua­dor­ian embassy. Ecua­dor, at that time (2012), had a left-wing government which was happy to grant him asylum. However, there was no real way to get Assange out of the embassy and into Ecuador proper, because the UK basically said they’d arrest him the second he stepped foot outside (and maintained extremely expensive 24/7 surveillance outside to make sure they could make good on the threat). This is how he ended up stuck inside the embassy for several years.

There were several ways this situation could’ve been resolved earlier. Apparently, the Swedish authorities considered withdrawing their extradition request not long after they made it, to which the British authorities basically told them, “don’t you dare”. Then, Assange also offered to meet with Swedish investigators for the further interview they said they wanted within the Ecuadorian embassy. While Britain tried to pressure the Swedes not to do it, the Swedes eventually did anyway, and afterwards formally closed their investigation (quashing the extradition request). Assange technically should’ve been a free man at this point, but Britain was determined not to let him be, so they decided to charge him with “bail jumping” (because he hadn’t reported for extradition to Sweden on request, but instead evaded this by claiming asylum with Ecuador). Bail jumping is only a minor offence, but the UK decided to keep up their extremely expensive 24/7 surveillance going, anyway. It later came out in a Yahoo! News investigation (of all things) that “White House officials” had been the ones to think of charging him with bail jumping.

Assange was eventually arrested after a right-wing government came to power in Ecuador (and accepted a $4.2 billion dollar IMF loan, which some think was secretly conditional on this). They allowed British authorities to enter the embassy and arrest Assange for bail jumping. Shortly afterwards, the US government “unseal[ed] an indictment for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion”, and then a few months later “brought a second indictment, bringing seventeen charges against Assange under the Espionage Act”. As of time of writing, Assange is still at Belmarsh Prison in the UK, fighting his extradition to the US.

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