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Assange vindicated

In the past decade Julian Assange has been at the forefront of the digital battle against powerful governments that seek to cover up their gross misdeeds. To some, Assange is a fearless campaigner for the truth. Critics, however, argue that he is nothing but a massive publicity seeker, who has endangered lives by publishing sensitive information into the public domain through Wikileaks. The internet activist made headlines in 2010, when Wikileaks published classified US military video clips, showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two employees from Reuters—a renowned global news agency.  Subsequently, Wikileaks released 90,000 documents detailing US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by approximately 400,000 classified reports on military operations in Iraq. These columns have long argued against the West’s misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this is not where it ends. In the subsequent years, Wikileaks has gone on to publish thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, detailing secrets that have embarrassed governments all over the world.  Quite naturally, Assange has become a target for powerful Western governments that primarily include the United States and its allies. Since 2012, the Wikileaks founder has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid a rape investigation in Sweden. The moment he steps out of the embassy’s premises British authorities will take him into custody, followed by extradition to Sweden. In his defence, Assange has said that these rape allegations are part of a ploy to extradite him to the US, where he faces serious “criminal” charges on the activities of Wikileaks. Under these circumstances, it is significant that a United Nations Working Group report finds that Assange has been subject to “arbitrary detention” by the British government since 2012. The UN body argued that Assange should be allowed to go free and awarded compensation for the time spent under detention. “The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” the UN group’s head, Seong-Phil Hong, said in a statement. “(It) maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation.” Unfortunately for Assange, the UN Working Group’s decision is not binding on the British government and investigations against him in the US will continue. For all his shortcomings, Assange is a pioneer, when it comes to revealing the dark secrets of powerful governments. Following his lead, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a slew of documents that vividly portrayed how the US and the British government not only spy on their own citizens but also foreign governments.
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