Assange's troubles

Assange's troubles

The UK high court’s decision to extradite Julian Assange, founder and editor of the whistle blowing web site WikiLeaks, to Sweden to face charges of sexual offences levelled against him in that country  is a setback to the web site.

The court upheld the ruling of a lower court and it was largely expected, going by the nature of the court proceedings, the trend of arguments and precedents.  But it neither closes the legal avenues available for Assange, who is planning to go in appeal against it in the Supreme Court, nor does it weaken the high moral position acquired by the web site and its founder through their sustained advocacy and action in support of the cause of openness in public life and diplomatic conduct.

The campaign against and harassment of Assange started after the web site had made public thousands of secret cables which exposed the double standards and seamy side of US diplomacy and greatly embarrassed the US. After it failed to prevent the publication of the cables, the US launched a series of vindictive actions against Assange and started putting pressure on others to punish him. The actions were both personally directed against him and financially against the web site. The extradition decision is a culmination of these actions.

The charges against Assange are flimsy and are of a technical nature and are clearly politically motivated. Alongside the personal attack, attempts have been made to financially strangle the web site. It runs on donations, and donors and banks have been coerced to choke off funds and stop dealing with it. But Assange has been brave and resourceful enough to keep himself one step ahead in a typically David versus Goliath situation and  keep the web site going, without any thought of compromising on principles.

If Assange is extradited to Sweden, there are chances of his being handed over to the US to stand trial on charges of espionage and actions impinging on national security, though WikiLeaks has taken care to avoid sensitive information on security or matters which put the lives of individuals at risk, in all its revelations made till now.

The actions against him have arisen out of sheer embarrassment. But Assange enjoys overwhelming support from people all over the world who value freedom of expression and human and democratic rights. It is an irony that he is being harassed by those who claim to be champions of these values and rights.