Today marks the thousandth day of Julian Assange’s detention, 440 of which have been spent in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the rest under house arrest.
In 2010, Julian Assange, founder and editor of Wikileaks published half a million top secret documents that had been leaked from the Pentagon, many included explicit details of the murder of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan by US armed forces.
The documents caused such embarrassment to the US government that they have since initiated a federal criminal investigation against Assange and other Wikileaks staff on the grounds of espionage. The US authorities are presently seeking extradition of Assange for trial before a grand jury.
In 2010, the Swedish authorities began a separate investigation against Assange for Sexual Assault. Through the UK police force they sought to arrest and extradite him to Sweden to face trial. Assange spent the two years hence under house arrest while fighting his extradition in courts which he eventually lost in 2012.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy on the 19th June 2012 to seek asylum from the Ecuadorian Government fearing political persecution from the US government and possible extradition to the US later down the line. The Ecuadorian government said:
“The Government of Ecuador believes that these arguments lend support to the fears of Julian Assange, and it believes that he may become a victim of political persecution, as a result of his dedicated defence of freedom of expression and freedom of press as well as his repudiation of the abuses of power in certain countries, and that these facts suggest that Mr Assange could at any moment find himself in a situation likely to endanger life, safety or personal integrity.”
UK forces are prohibited from entering the embassy with the intention of detaining Assange under the Vienna Conventions and have refused to allow Assange safe passage from the embassy to Ecuador, stating that Mr Assange will be detained the moment he exits the building.
As the detention is self initiated asylum, the situation is neither simple nor clear cut. The Ecuadorian government has made attempts to facilitate interviews between Swedish authorities and Mr Assange on their premises under the strict proviso that Mr Assange will be protected from the United States. The Swedish Government refused.
In an age where our data is increasingly in the public domain, protection of that data becomes ever more important. The fight for liberty in the digital age, is more important than it ever has been.
We have seen the likes of Manning, Snowden and Assange heavily persecuted for blowing the whistle on the grotesque violations of our privacy by our governments. Manning was imprisoned for 35 years. Snowden was de-facto exiled awaiting imprisonment should he return. Assange is an international refugee.
These three individuals are heroes of the information age. We must not forget what they have sacrificed to highlight our governments abuses of our freedom. We cannot allow their sacrifices to be vein.
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