Editorial : Assange Finally Free From Persecution

【明報專訊】After years of imprisonment, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is finally free and back in his home country Australia.

Established in 2006, WikiLeaks is described by Assange and his supporters as a non-profit international online media group that aims to ensure that governments, businesses and institutions operate transparently by releasing confidential documents and information provided by anonymous sources and insiders.

Over the years, WikiLeaks has released a wealth of explosive insider information and materials. Among these, the 2010–11 revelation of the US's diplomatic and military scandals was the most sensational. The group made public hundreds of thousands of confidential papers related to the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, as well as prisoners at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, exposing indiscriminate killings, torture towards prisoners and other acts by the US Armed Forces.

US investigators later discovered that some of the confidential military and diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks had been provided by Chelsea Manning, an intelligence analyst serving in the US Army. The US described such a leak of national security secrets as the largest in the country's history, stating that the leak had put US military intelligence personnel and local informants in danger and jeopardised US security. It also accused Assange of taking part in helping Manning obtain the documents illegally.

Assange argues that the exposé was aimed at bringing the truth to light, and that it should be protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution regarding freedom of speech and press. Yet the reality was another story. Even though Assange has always been outside of American soil, Washington capitalised on its enormous influence over allies and pursued him for over a decade.

First, the Swedish authorities suddenly issued a cross-border arrest warrant for Assange over a so-called "sexual assault case". In the UK at that time, Assange worried that he would fall into the traps of the law and be extradited to the US. He fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy to seek political asylum, and stayed there for seven years, living within the confines of the embassy in a way that was tantamount to house arrest. May 2017 saw a change of government in Ecuador, with the new president reversing his predecessor's anti-American stance. Later, Assange was expelled and fell into the custody of the British police.

The irony is that the release of Assange now actually also results from political compromise. There have long been voices among Australian politicians to rescue Assange; with the date of his extradition to the US imminent, the incumbent Australian government has intensively lobbied the Biden administration behind the scenes to give Assange mercy. US diplomats would not like the Assange problem to impede Australia's relationship with the US and the UK, the BBC has reported.

Last August, the US Ambassador to Australia proposed a plea agreement for the first time to resolve the incident. In March this year, the British court processing Assange's appeal required Washington to make a series of guarantees, including that Assange had the right to invoke the First Amendment of the US Constitution and that he would not face the death penalty. Otherwise, it would allow Assange to continue his appeal against extradition. For Assange, these marked a long-awaited reversal of his fate.

Assange and his actions are controversial in many ways. Nevertheless, the torture he has been subjected to over the past decade or so has left a deep mark on his physical and mental health.

明報社評2024.06.27:揭露美國惡行招打壓 阿桑奇為真相付代價




美方調查人員事後發現,維基解密公開的軍事外交機密文件,部分來自陸軍情報分析員曼寧(Chelsea Manning)。美方形容這是美國史上最大宗泄露國安機密案,外泄材料令美國軍情人員及當地線人身陷險境,危害美國安全,又指阿桑奇有份協助曼寧非法取得有關文件。






■Glossary 生字 /

sensational : causing great surprise, excitement, or interest

exposé : an account of the facts of a situation, especially when these are shocking or have deliberately been kept secret

leave a mark (on sth/sb) : to have an effect on sth/sb, especially a bad one, that lasts for a long time


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