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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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    HomeWorldFor him it's everything now

    For him it's everything now

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    He faces 175 years in prison in the USA: Julian Assange's court hearing begins on Tuesday in London. It's about whether Britain extradites him to the United States.

    Sascha Zastiral reports from London.

    In recent years things have become comparatively quiet around Julian Assange. The founder of the disclosure platform Wikileaks has been in the high-security Belmarsh prison in east London since his arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019. In 2022, then British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange's extradition to the USA.

    Since then, his legal team has been trying to prevent this by all possible means. Ultimately, Assange is facing charges of espionage in the USA. He faces 175 years in prison there.

    Only the European Court of Justice could stop the deportation

    But the peace and quiet is now over. This week it's all on the line for the 52-year-old Australian: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the judges of the High Court in London will address a packed courtroom on the question of whether Assange's legal team will appeal against his extradition before the British courts again can.

    If the application fails, the Wikileaks founder could be on a plane to the USA shortly afterwards. If the British government sticks to the planned deportation, only the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg could stop it.

    Explosive video published

    Assange founded his disclosure platform in 2006. Up until this point, his name was virtually unknown outside of Australia's hacker scene. That quickly changed: In 2007, Wikileaks published a 238-page US Army manual for soldiers guarding al-Qaeda suspects at the US base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The document was marked: “For official use only”. It provided insight into the daily operations at the controversial facility where the United States has been holding suspected terrorists since 2002.

    In April 2010, Wikileaks caused a worldwide stir when it published a 39-minute-long video recorded from a US attack helicopter. It shows an American attack on unarmed men in a square in Baghdad three years earlier. The soldiers believed the men were armed fighters. They opened fire, killing several of them and mocking the victims. Shortly afterwards they fired on another group that was trying to rescue the injured and killed. Two journalists from the Reuters news agency were among the 18 killed.

    Assange was celebrated like a pop star

    In the months that followed, hundreds of thousands of secret documents from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars followed. The explosive papers documented, among other things, the use of torture of prisoners of war by Iraqi security forces and revealed that Washington internally assumed a larger number of civilian victims than was publicly admitted. At the time, Julian Assange was celebrated like an international pop star and was clearly intoxicated by his popularity.

    In November 2010, Wikileaks followed up. The disclosure platform initially gradually began publishing confidential internal reports and situation assessments that US embassies and consulates around the world had sent to the US State Department. The documents dated from 1966 to 2010. Only a few leading Western media initially had all of the more than 250,000 cables and gradually reported on their contents.

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    Within a short time in 2011, Wikileaks suddenly put more and more of the documents online. A 1.6 gigabyte encrypted file containing all embassy cables began circulating on the Internet. A series of mishaps and misunderstandings led to the password being leaked – and the documents becoming publicly available. Wikileaks responded to the glitch by publishing all of the documents unredacted in September 2011.

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