WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JULIAN ASSANGE — WHO WANTS A PIECE OF HIM AND WHY
The U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against Australian-born WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Thursday, but the United States is not the only country with an ax to grind.
Sweden, Ecuador, the U.K. and the United States each have a bone to pick with the 47-year-old Assange, all for different reasons.Advertisement
Two Swedish women, referred to only as Miss A. and Miss W., accused Assange of sexual assaults that stemmed from separate consensual encounters in 2010 that the women say became nonconsensual when he allegedly refused to wear a condom.
By the time Swedish authorities called Assange for questioning, he had already flown to the U.K. In 2011, a British court ruled in favor of his extradition. Assange’s attorneys fought the extradition, but ultimately lost their appeal in 2012.
Assange requested asylum in central London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, where he has been living in self-imposed exile ever since, even after Sweden dropped the case against him in 2017.
According to witnesses, however, it wasn’t the sexual assault charge Assange truly feared. Rather, he was convinced that if he went to Sweden to face that charge, the United States would extradite him on espionage charges.
Protesters demonstrate in support of Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in South Kensington … (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
The Swedish Prosecution Authority noted following Assange’s arrest Thursday that the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had not yet expired, hinting that the case against him could still be reopened.
Assange initially turned himself in to British authorities following the accusations of the two Swedish women, and it was the British court that ruled against him in 2012, declaring that his extradition was lawful.
When Assange went to the Ecuadorian Embassy instead of complying with the extradition order, he was in breach of his bail conditions.
In front of a British judge on Thursday following his arrest, Assange’s attorneys argued that he had remained in exile because he knew “he would never have received a fair trial.”
The judge responded by finding Assange guilty of breaking his bail conditions and calling him a “narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.” He was ordered to appear in court again May 2, and will remain in custody until then.
Although the Ecuadorian government allowed Assange asylum in its London embassy for seven years, witnesses say that there is no love lost between Ecuador and Assange.
Officially, Ecuador Interior Minister María Paula Romo stated that Assange’s asylum was revoked over his attempts to influence Ecuador’s internal affairs.
Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador … (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
“We are not going to allow Ecuador to become a hacking center and we cannot allow illegal activities to take place in the country in order to harm citizens or other governments,” Romo said Thursday.
But other reports indicated that, in addition to meddling in government business, Assange violated behavioral standards while a guest of the embassy — including but not limited to putting feces on walls.
The United States wants Assange on a number of computer hacking charges, most notably related to the information provided by convicted leaker and former Army private Chelsea Manning. (RELATED: US Charges Assange For Role In 2010 Diplomatic Leaks)
From the DOJ press release:
The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password on classified Department of Defense (DoD) computer systems.
Assange, through WikiLeaks, is also suspected of taking an active role in assisting former NSA analyst Edward Snowden in his 2013 release of thousands of classified documents.
When Russian agents hacked the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers, WikiLeaks made sure they were disseminated to the public.
Greek former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and other politicians … (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
WikiLeaks was further scrutinized by the Mueller probe, as investigators sought to learn whether anyone within the Trump campaign may have had prior knowledge of the DNC emails prior to their public release.
CNN reported that initially, authorities were concerned that Assange’s status as a journalist or publisher would entitle him to certain protections. But now that U.S. investigators claim to have evidence that Assange may have played a much more active role in stealing the information, the balance appears to have shifted.