What will become of Julian Assange?

A hearing on whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the US will take place in a London court on May 2. The Wikileaks founder was arrested last Thursday in London after Ecuador stripped him of his asylum status. Commentators discuss whether Assange's treatment at the hands of the judiciary - and the media - is justified.

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The Atlantic (US) /

He got what he deserved

The Atlantic has no sympathy with Julian Assange:

“He has put innocent people's lives in danger. … He has seemingly colluded with foreign regimes not simply to out American crimes but to help them carry off their own. ...Yet none of these vices has landed him in the dock. If he is innocent of hacking U.S. government systems - or can offer a valid public-interest defense for the hacking - then let him have his day in court, first in Britain and then in America. But don't continue to fall for his phony pleas for sympathy, his megalomania, and his promiscuity with the facts. Julian Assange got what he deserved.”

newsru.com (RU) /

Wikileaks founder should stop whining

Journalist Alexander Morosov also believes that Assange has until now been treated with leniency. He writes in a Facebook post published by newsru.com:

“I don't feel the slightest pity for him. He stole confidential data. But instead of being punched in the kidneys or poisoned he can live with impunity in a country that's a member of the military alliance whose data he stole. He lives as a hero. Films have been made about him. ... What's more, the world's best lawyers will prevent his extradition. Here at home, meanwhile, we've got 'kirovles' [the fraud case against Kremlin critic Navalny] and the like, which are nothing short of Kafkaesque, and neither lawyers nor the public can do a thing to help. ... To say nothing of all the imprisoned Crimean Tatars, Jehovah's Witnesses and Ukrainians.”

Ethnos (GR) /

Assange can be as dirty as he likes

Ethnos is incensed by the way many media reports have focussed on Assange's life in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and his supposed lack of hygiene:

“Let's assume Assange did everything he's accused of. ... Even that he's a 'miserable little worm', as the British deputy foreign Secretary Alan Duncan called him in a free lesson on politeness and diplomacy. The question, however, is whether this is an investigation into Julian Assange's character or into what truths are contained in the documents published by Wikileaks. ... Bearing in mind how much has already been published on topics where human lives are at stake, Assange can be as dirty as he likes. ... We shouldn't lose sight of the matter at hand.”

Mérce (HU) /

Watergate journalists would be behind bars today

If Assange is extradited, press freedom won't be worth a cent, news website Mérce fumes:

“How is serious investigative journalism supposed to be done in today's Europe? If you discover something unpleasant in which the US is somehow involved - and that's not difficult when you work for a big newspaper - must you tremble at the prospect of being extradited? And what if Nato member Turkey one day demands your extradition? How long would Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - who helped topple Richard Nixon by exposing the Watergate cover-up - remain free today?”

Ziare (RO) /

Assange can't insist on press freedom

Assange hasn't made any journalistic revelations, security expert Hari Bucur-Marcu counters on the news website Ziare:

“If this had been about journalistic research into war crimes, the atrocities committed by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the illegal and exposing operations of the CIA, Assange could have insisted on his right to freedom of expression and free information for the public. Even if he had revealed US secrets that put the lives of secret service agents and their operations at risk. But this is not about journalistic research. It's simply about secret documents being stolen electronically and then leaked onto a website.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Women's suffering secondary again

Assange has been accused of rape and sexual molestation by two women in Sweden, and should be handed over to Stockholm, Labour MP Jess Philips demands in The Guardian:

“The fact that Sweden was not even informed about the actions due to take place so that it could have considered seeking his extradition for possible charges of rape tells us that when big boys are playing toy soldiers no one cares how many lady figures are brushed off the table. ... The UK government should support his extradition to Sweden before they even begin to consider any pressure from the US.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Power struggle over new technologies

This is about more than Julian Assange's personal fate, Mediapart writes:

“This is about the future of the digital revolution, and whether it will be democratic or authoritarian in nature. ... No technology automatically brings freedom. It's the social, political and economic use that is made of it that determines whether it is emancipatory or regressive. And that is exactly what is at stake on the symbolic battlefield over the fate of Assange, Manning and Snowden: will the people themselves appropriate these digital tools in a democratic way, or will the alliance of state powers and economic monopolies confiscate them in an authoritarian fashion?”

The Independent (GB) /

Assault on press freedom and whistleblowers

The Independent is appalled by Assange's arrest:

“If a person can be arrested for exposing what were very likely war crimes, what does it say about us as a society that we have allowed it to happen? … He may have put people in danger by refusing to redact sensitive information. He may have helped Trump get elected, and he must be made to answer the allegations of sexual assault against him. Yet those things must not cloud our view of what took place today, however difficult it is to place them aside. A clear attack on the freedom of the press, on the freedom of whistleblowers to publish damaging information about powerful institutions, was carried out on the streets of London.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Desire for revenge threatens to pervert justice

The British judiciary should not extradite Assange, Der Standard urges:

“Whether Assange receives a fair trial according to European standards is questionable to say the least. The anger that has been pent up there for years over the embarrassing Wikileaks revelations is too great. The whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who as a US soldier provided him with documents on Iraq, has had first-hand experience with that in her years in prison. And even if the charges being put forward by the US judiciary against Assange are limited for now, the conviction of the founder of Wikileaks would also be a blow to press freedom.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Trump will ensure merciful outcome

US correspondent for La Repubblica Federico Rampini explains why he doesn't believe Assange will face a lengthy prison sentence in the US:

“From hero of the freedom of information to Vladimir Putin's 'digital killer'. Between these two extremes lies Julian Assange's American parable. It is precisely because of this polarity that he was first defended by the left and the glorified by Donald Trump and the right-wing TV channel Fox News. His last coup - the massive anti-Hillary campaign - may have been decisive for Trump's move into the White House. ... The charges are 'conspiring to hack' [he allegedly encouraged whistleblower Chelsea Manning to hack into a computer]. A far less serious allegation than that of spying, which was dropped.”

Bild (DE) /

Wikileaks found never served interests of freedom

The tabloid Bild has no sympathy with Assange:

“Publishing stolen, confidential, highly sensitive data was not a service to freedom but a knife in the back. Countless people whose identities were revealed in the Wikileaks had to fear for their safety after that. With the help of the Russian government, the democracy that he was purportedly trying to defend was plunged into a crisis. ... Assange's war against state structures became a fight against Western freedom. His arrest is right and fair.”

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