The persecution of Wikileaks has taken another dramatic turn with its leading figure, Julian Assange, seeking political asylum in Ecuador in late June. Assange has been in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden. Extradition was expected to begin on 28 June after all legal appeals had been exhausted.
At the time of writing Assange was still holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London awaiting a decision. Outside the Embassy British police are poised to arrest him for breaking strict bail conditions.
His legitimate fear is that if he were extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault and rape he would then be extradited to the US to face charges related to his work with Wikileaks. Sweden has never refused an extradition request by the US and is expected to help facilitate the process. The Swedish allegations were made in 2010 soon after Wikileaks began publishing huge amounts of classified documents. The role of US imperialism has been especially exposed by Wikileaks.
There are reports that in the US a secret Grand Jury, which is an undemocratic ‘prosecutors’ tool’ without any defence oversight, is preparing a case against him.
While we do not know the basis of the rape and sexual assault allegations, we can say that the US has clear political motivations. The use of Interpol to pursue someone for sexual assault allegations is also highly unusual.
If there is any basis to the allegations they should be properly investigated. In a society where crimes against women are often ignored and trivialised such allegations cannot be dismissed out of hand. Assange however should have the right to defend himself without the fear of political persecution or extradition to the US.
There is little doubt that Assange stands no chance of receiving a fair trial if he is taken to the US. This is not only because of the fundamentally undemocratic laws that would be used against him, but also because of the baying for Assange’s blood by right-wing politicians and the media. The treatment of whistleblower-soldier Bradley Manning is just a taste of what Assange could expect.
Assange and Wikileaks more generally are being persecuted because Wikileaks has exposed many important facts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the corporate domination of politics and the secretive, anti-democratic nature of capitalist governments. Many of the leaks reveal the double standards and blatant lies of world leaders.
Capitalist governments are desperately trying to hide the fact that they do not act in the interests of ordinary people. Instead they defend and support the interests of big businesses that are directly opposed to the interests of the vast majority of society.
Documenting and exposing this is not ‘high-tech terrorism’ but a basic democratic necessity. On this basis all attempts to persecute Wikileaks and whistleblowers should be opposed.
The controversy over Assange’s situation has pushed to one side the content of the leaks themselves. It is the crimes committed by imperialist powers in the interests of big business that should be the focus of investigation.
Wikileaks has lifted the lid on a rotten system. Alongside defending that organisation, the task now is to use this information to build a mass movement that is capable of affecting social change. Only by replacing capitalism with a democratic socialist society can we really guarantee full freedom of speech, accountability, openness and an end to imperialist wars.