Who is Julian Assange?
Who is Julian Assange?
The 49-year-old was born in 1971 in Townsville, north-eastern Australia.
In 2006, he founded WikiLeaks in 2006 as part of a collective. The website enabled anyone to anonymously submit leaked secret documents.
He shot to fame in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.
WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare often critical US appraisals of world leaders, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family. Assange in London court for US extradition hearing. Assange has faced multiple controversies, including charges of sexual assault, following a visit to Sweden. Human rights groups criticized him for going public with the Afghan war logs while not adequately protecting informants.
In a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, he stayed in Ecuador’s embassy in London from 2012 to 2019 where he was granted asylum. But Assange was arrested for breaching bail in 2019 after a change of government in Quito brought an end to his asylum in the mission. The years in the embassy took a toll on both his mental and physical health, according to his lawyers, doctors and UN experts.
Why was he up for extradition to the US?
In April 2019, a grand jury in the US state of Virginia charged Assange with one count of computer hacking. This was for allegedly assisting former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in accessing classified documents that exposed the US military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In May 2019, the WikiLeaks founder was indicted under the US Espionage Act on 17 counts for soliciting, gathering and publishing US military and diplomatic documents in 2010, all provided by Manning.
The US Justice Department on June 11, 2020 formally asked Britain to extradite Assange to the US to face a total of 18 charges.
What has the reaction been like?
His extradition has sparked criticism, among others by Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture who told DW: “the United States is trying to criminalize investigative journalism.”
Christian Mihr, director of the German branch of Reporters without Borders (RSF) attended many days of the court proceedings in London.He told DW he believed that British authorities had “attempted to systematically shut out international observers.”
The process was “political,” Mihr added.
The German government’s Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler has urged the UK to adhere to human rights and fulfil humanitarian obligations in the extradition process.
German Green party member of parliament Margit Stumpp, told DW that she sees “the rule of law being violated” in the extradition procedures.
“I’ve often been to Turkey, and there I had no problems getting into the courtroom,” Stumpp said.