This week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, attempted to take refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy by seeking political asylum. The move was taken as a desperate final attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where Assange faces accusations over an alleged sex crime. While it may appear to some that Assange is trying to avoid punishment for the alleged rape of a woman in Sweden, in reality his fear of eventually being extradited from Sweden to the United States, where he could face persecution for his political activities, and is a legitimate one that highlights the way the international community views the United States’ human rights record.
Assange, a 41-year old computer programmer from Australia, launched his international online not-for-profit, Wikileaks, which publishes classified documents from unknown sources around the world, back in 2006. The many cables leaked by Wikileaks have uncovered countless atrocities perpetrated by U.S officials in the war in Afghanistan, as well as files relating to the war in Iraq and the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison camp. U.S officials are now brainstorming ways that will allow them to call for Assange´s extradition and subsequent prosecution. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has claimed that Assange violated the espionage act of 1917, and federal authorities are attempting to gather together evidence that would connect Assange to the receipt of information from Bradley Manning, who is under indictment in the U.S for allegedly giving classified information to Wikileaks.
Assange's attorneys believe that the U.S is waiting to request Assange's extradition once he goes to Sweden because the process would be faster therethan in the U.K. where extradition could take years. The fact that Sweden has a policy of no-bail for prisoners, and would hold Assange until he testified in relation to the alleged rape, would also facilitate Assange´s extradition from the Scandinavian country. If extradited to the U.S., many believe that Assange would face being held in an underground cell without the ability to communicate with anyone, and would possibly be subject to torture. There also exists the very real possibility that he would be given a life sentence in prison.
Meanwhile, Assange has applied for asylum in Ecuador as a final bid to save his own life. Ecuador President Rafael Correa is now carefully considering the petition on the basis of the universal declaration of human rights, as many believe this to be a case of political persecution. Correa has stated that he believes in the work of Wikileaks and wants to promote any activities that uphold transparency in government. Correa has stated that he encourages Wikileaks to publish any information it receives on Ecuador, claiming that any information shared could only work in favor of the South American country. If the Ecuadorian government deems Assange´s life is at stake, he will be grated asylum.
President Correa's attitude, so different from that of U.S. officials, leaves one questioning the legitimacy of a government that needs to condemn a man to prison for sharing information about its covert activities. Instead of focusing on proving that Assange is a threat to U.S. national security, the country’s officials and general public should begin to ask why Wikileaks has been able to encounter such a large quantity of information that implicates U.S. officials in illegal activity and atrocities both overseas and on U.S. territory. They should also question why a man who has fought for the freedom of information is terrified to be charged under the law of a country that has held itself up as a beacon of freedom since its very establishment. The fact that an entrepreneur working for transparency can be persecuted in such a way by a modern democratic country is shocking to say the least.