united states determined to prosecute wikileaks founder julian assange for political expression

by Tim Phillips

In a Guardian article today, attorney Michael Ratner writes that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is correct to fear the worst with regard to his potential detention and prosecution by U.S. authorities. Ratner, who is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is Assange’s U.S. attorney. He cites three pieces of evidence to show that the U.S. is determined to prosecute Assange:

A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, empanelled to investigate violations of the Espionage Act – a statute that by its very nature targets speech – has subpoenaed Twitter feeds regarding Assange and WikiLeaks. An FBI agent, testifying at whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial, said that “founders, owners and managers” of WikiLeaks are being investigated. And then there is Assange’s 42,135-page FBI file – a compilation of curious heft if the government is “not interested” in investigating its subject.

Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19, to prevent his extradition to Sweden, and has been living there ever since. He’s not a Swedish citizen, does not reside in Sweden, and has not been charged with any crime. Indeed, a Swedish prosecutor initially dismissed the sexual assault allegations against him. Yet the prosecution later demanded that Assange be incarcerated for a police interrogation, even though police already interviewed him in August 2010.

Ecuador recently offered to allow Swedish officials to interview Assange at its embassy in London, in person or by video conference, but Ecuador’s foreign minister said in a statement released yesterday that Sweden declined. This affirms suspicions that the proceedings in Sweden are a means of subsequently extraditing Assange to the U.S., where he could be sentenced to death or life in prison.