Wednesday 11 December 2019
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The News - 22 days ago

Julian Assange: World?s most-wanted whistleblower

LONDON: A fearless campaigner for democratic openness, or a criminal trying to avoid justice: after a decade in the limelight, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains a highly polarising figure.The 48-year-old Australian is the figurehead of the whistleblowing website that exposed government secrets worldwide, notably the explosive leak of US military and diplomatic files.But he has spent most of the past decade either in custody or holed up in Ecuador s London embassy as he has tried to avoid extradition -- first to Sweden and then to the United States.Transparency and anti-war campaigners have hailed Assange for revealing the deaths of civilians, torture and clandestine military operations with the release of 500,000 US documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars.But the United States and its allies have accused him of risking lives by sharing information on sources, intelligence techniques and key infrastructure sites.He is currently being held at the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London, where he is resisting transfer to the US to face charges relating to his WikiLeaks work.His team have previously warned about his health and an independent UN rights expert said in November that his continued detention was putting his life at risk.The saga began in 2010 when Assange faced allegations of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, which he always denied, saying they were a pretext and the ultimate goal was to transfer him to the US.He was in Britain at the time but dodged an attempted to extradite him to Sweden by claiming political asylum in Ecuador s embassy in London.For seven years he lived in the small apartment in the embassy, exercising on a treadmill and using a sun lamp to make up for the lack of natural light in a situation he compared to living in a space station.But after a change of government in Quito, Ecuador lost patience with its guest and turned him over to British police in April. He was arrested for jumping bail and jailed.After his arrest it was revealed that the US were charging him with violating the US Espionage Act with the 2010 leaks, and he is now fighting extradition.

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