Who Is Julian Assange? WikiLeaks Founder Who Agreed To Plead Guilty Of Violating US Espionage Law

Who Is Julian Assange? WikiLeaks Founder Who Agreed To Plead Guilty Of Violating US Espionage Law

In exchange for his freedom, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has consented to admit guilt in a U.S. court to disclosing military secrets, according to court records made public on June 24.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Tuesday, June 25, 2024, 12:19 PM IST
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Julian Assange | X

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been a central figure in the realm of digital whistleblowing and transparency activism. Born on July 3, 1971, in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, Assange gained worldwide prominence for his role in the publication of classified documents that exposed government secrets and misconduct. His actions, which began with the release of classified US military and diplomatic documents in 2010, sparked intense debate about the balance between national security, freedom of speech, and the public's right to know.

Wikileaks

With the establishment of WikiLeaks in 2006, Assange began his journey into the realm of activism and information transparency. The platform was created to allow whistleblowers to release private, confidential information to expose hidden facts and hold influential parties responsible. WikiLeaks gained notoriety quickly for its audacious approach to journalism by using the internet's power to circumvent established media outlets and provide the public with raw, unedited data.

The Whistleblowing

The release of several high-profile leaks from former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 marked a turning point in Assange's career. Manning had access to secret military and diplomatic records that exposed widespread misconduct by the US government. These records included proof of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, information about clandestine operations, and diplomatic cables that exposed the US government's honest evaluations of foreign leaders. Under Assange's direction, WikiLeaks released these documents, which made them widely known and caused a profound change in the field of whistleblowing and digital journalism.

Significant Leaks

Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs: In 2010, WikiLeaks published classified military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These leaks included information on civilian casualties, military tactics, and other sensitive data.

Diplomatic Cables: Also in 2010, WikiLeaks released a trove of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world. These cables revealed candid assessments of foreign leaders, sensitive diplomatic negotiations, and other diplomatic activities.

Guantanamo Bay Files: WikiLeaks released documents related to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, revealing details about the U.S. government's treatment of prisoners and the lack of due process.

US Government Reaction

The U.S. government condemned WikiLeaks' actions, accusing Assange of espionage and theft of government property. In response to the leaks, the U.S. initiated legal proceedings against Assange, seeking his extradition and prosecution under the Espionage Act.

The US government subsequently referred to Wikileaks, which Assange founded in 2006, as "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States," given its claims to have published over 10 million documents.

The Espionage

Once these leaks were made public, Assange and WikiLeaks became a global discussion. Although many saw Assange as a champion of openness and free speech, governments, especially those in the US, fiercely opposed him. Under the Obama administration, the US government began a thorough investigation into WikiLeaks's operations, with a particular focus on possible infractions of the 1917 Espionage Act and other laws. This signaled the start of the legal and diplomatic struggle that would shape Assange's later years.

Asylum In Ecuador

Ecuador granted him asylum because of concerns that his extradition to Sweden might result in his extradition to the US, where he might be charged with serious crimes connected to his WikiLeaks journalism. For almost seven years, Assange was detained in the Ecuadorian embassy. During that time, his predicament attracted considerable attention from around the world and presented difficult moral and legal issues pertaining to extradition, press freedom, and human rights.

Struggles In Prison

Assange kept taking part in WikiLeaks operations even as the circumstances surrounding his detention in the embassy got more challenging. While some viewed him as a wanted man trying to evade justice, others saw his situation as a sign of defiance. Diplomatic deadlock over Assange's asylum deepened as pressure from the US and other allies forced successive Ecuadorian governments to reconsider their support.

Julian Assange press image

Julian Assange press image | X

Swedish Extradition Case

Assange was arrested by British authorities in April 2019 after Ecuador revoked his asylum status due to him violating bail terms pertaining to the Swedish extradition case. As a result, a new legal chapter was opened when the US formally asked for Assange's extradition to stand trial over his disclosure of classified information. Assange was charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in connection with his alleged assistance to Manning in gaining access to secret US government databases.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange | X

The proceedings for Assange's extradition started in the UK in February 2020, against a backdrop of media attention and large-scale demonstrations. His defense team fiercely opposed his extradition, claiming that he would not be given a fair trial in the US and that the charges against him were politically motivated. They also emphasized worries about Assange's health, pointing to the psychological effects of years of intense scrutiny and legal risk as well as his protracted detention.

Face Of The Voice Against Unjust

Around the world, journalists, legal experts, and supporters of civil liberties turned their attention to Assange's extradition case. His supporters warned of the potential chilling effect on investigative journalism and whistleblowing activities, claiming that the charges against him constituted an attack on press freedom and the public's right to information.

Deep disagreements over press freedom, government secrecy, and the boundaries of 21st-century digital activism have been highlighted by the drawn-out legal battle.

However, Assange's detractors argued that his actions put lives in danger and jeopardized national security, claiming that WikiLeaks' careless and reckless publication of classified material was to blame.

Asharq Al-Awsat

There is ongoing debate over the moral ramifications of digital leaks and the obligations of sites like WikiLeaks, which raises important issues of transparency, accountability, and the public's right to information access.

Recent News

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, reportedly left the UK following a protracted legal battle in which he was granted bail after entering a guilty plea to criminal charges at the age of 52.

From a British jail, Assange had fought extradition to the United States for the previous five years. Assange will receive compensation for his time spent imprisoned in the UK and will not be kept in US custody. According to a letter from the Department of Justice, Assange is returning to Australia.

On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Wikileaks said that Assange left Belmarsh prison on Monday after 1,901 days in a small cell.

The statement added that he was then "released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK" to return to Australia to his home.

According to a video that Wikileaks posted online, Assange is seen being driven to Stansted and getting on a plane while wearing jeans and a blue shirt.

The US Plea Deal

He will enter a guilty plea to a single charge as part of the agreement, which is anticipated to be completed on June 26 in a Northern Mariana Islands court. The Australian government's spokesperson claimed that the case had "dragged on for too long." As stated in an AFP report

In a victory the following month, the UK High Court ruled that Assange could bring a new appeal against extradition to the US, allowing him to challenge US assurances over how his prospective trial would be conducted and whether his right to free speech would be infringed.

His wife, Stella Assange, tweeted thanks to his supporters "who have all mobilised for years and years to make this come true". After the ruling, his wife Stella told reporters and supporters that the Biden administration "should distance itself from this shameful prosecution".

Julian Assange, the creator of WikiLeaks, is scheduled to enter a plea deal with the Biden administration on a single count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defense documents. With this deal, Assange's nearly 15-year legal ordeal should come to an end.

Case Against Assange

Under the Trump administration, the US filed criminal charges against Assange in 2019 for allegedly breaking the Espionage Act, and they attempted to extradite him from the UK, where he has been detained ever since. The maximum sentence for the first 17 charges, which were related to espionage and one to computer misuse, was 175 years in prison if he was found guilty on all counts.

Global Campaign And Support

Throughout his ordeal, Assange rose to fame among proponents of free speech worldwide and fell from grace among those who believed that by disclosing secrets, he had jeopardized US national security and intelligence sources.

In an attempt to evade extradition, he has been detained for more than ten years or holed up in Ecuador's London embassy. For the past five years, Assange has been held at the high-security Belmarsh prison in London.

WikiLeaks claims that a global campaign involving grassroots organizers, press freedom advocates, lawmakers, and leaders from a range of political backgrounds led to Assange's plea agreement and his impending return to Australia. The United Nations and other international organizations were included in this support.

Future press freedom and the state of digital whistleblowing will probably be significantly impacted by the resolution of Julian Assange's legal disputes. His case has already had a profound impact on the relationship between government accountability, technology, and journalism. It has also forced societies all over the world to consider how to strike a balance between security and transparency.

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