Julian Assange. Cyber-activist who has become a symbol of freedom of information

Julian Assange. Cyber-activist who has become a symbol of freedom of information
Julian Assange. Cyber-activist who has become a symbol of freedom of information

Detained for five years in the United Kingdom and claimed by the United States, Julian Assange has become over the years in the eyes of his supporters a symbol of freedom of information. Those close to him fear that his fight could cost him his life.

The United States wants to try the former hacker for the dissemination, from 2010 on the WikiLeaks platform, of more than 700,000 documents concerning Washington’s military and diplomatic activities

The 52-year-old Australian obtained on Monday that British justice agreed to examine a final appeal against his extradition. But whatever the outcome, his relatives describe him as already very physically diminished by 12 years of confinement – seven in the Ecuadorian embassy and five in prison.
And his defense has continued to warn of the risk that he will commit suicide if he is handed over to American justice.

In the event of extradition, “Julian will be put in a hole, so deep that we will never see him again,” said Stella Assange, his former lawyer, who he married behind bars in March 2022, in mid-February.

“Everyone knows that Julian’s mental health is extremely worrying and that his survival is at stake,” repeated last week the woman with whom he had two children when he was a refugee in the Ecuadorian embassy.

The United States wants to try the former hacker for the dissemination, from 2010 on the WikiLeaks platform, of more than 700,000 documents concerning Washington’s military and diplomatic activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julian Assange has been detained at Belmarsh high security prison, east London, since April 2019, after being taken from the Ecuadorian embassy, ​​where he had taken refuge seven years earlier, disguised as a courier . He was then facing charges for rape in Sweden, which have since been dropped.

The Australian began his life tossed from right to left by his mother, Christine Ann Assange, a theater artist separated from his father before his birth.

He compares his childhood to that of Tom Sawyer, between building a raft and exploring his environment. At the age of 15, he had already lived in more than 30 Australian cities before settling in Melbourne where he studied mathematics, physics and computer science.

Caught up in the hacker community, he began hacking NASA and Pentagon websites using the pseudonym “Mendax”.

When he launched WikiLeaks to “liberate the press” and “unmask state secrets and abuses”, in 2006, he became, according to one of his biographers, “the most dangerous man in the world”.

He became known to the general public in 2010 with the publication of hundreds of thousands of American documents. Which earned him to be presented as a champion of freedom of information.

Ten years before his election to the presidency of the United States, Joe Biden, then vice-president of Barack Obama, believed that Julian Assange was more akin to a “high-tech terrorist” than to an heir to the “Pentagon papers” having revealed in the 1970s the lies of the United States about the Vietnam War.

“According to the North American vice-president, the truth about the United States is terrorism,” retorted Julian Assange, who also told AFP in 2013 that this country wanted “revenge” on him.

His image as a white-haired “cyber-warrior” has sometimes become blurred over the years, particularly when his platform released thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic Party in 2016, during the US presidential campaign. and Hillary Clinton’s team.

These revelations sparked strong praise from candidate Donald Trump. According to the CIA, these documents were obtained from Russian agents, which WikiLeaks denies.

This episode fueled suspicions, by his detractors, of collusion with Russia by Julian Assange whose revelations are often to the detriment of the United States and who collaborated with the RT television channel, close to the Kremlin.

In 2011, the five newspapers (including The New York Times, The Guardian and Le Monde) associated with WikiLeaks condemned WikiLeaks’ method, which makes public unredacted telegrams from the US State Department, believing that they are likely to “put certain sources at risk”.

But, at the end of 2022, the same newspapers called on the American government to drop the charges against Julian Assange because “publishing is not a crime”.

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