Julian Assange is Finally Free After 14 Years

Julian Assange was freed on June 26 under a plea deal with the U.S. government where he pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the U.S. Espionage Act and was sentenced to time served while in the British jail. Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, an internet site designed to expose crimes and corruption committed by powerful individuals and government institutions while protecting the anonymity of those leaking the information.

Starting in April of 2010, Assange began to publish secret U.S. documents which exposed U.S. military atrocities committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents included a video and audio recorded during a U.S. Army Apache helicopter strike on a Baghdad neighborhood. The commander is recorded saying “light ’em all up,” after which the video shows twelve civilians being killed, including two Reuters war correspondents. The audio records the helicopter crew laughing as it launched Hellfire missiles into a building in which some of the victims had taken refuge.

Wikileaks was based in London and the U.S. government was eager to shut it down. It filed a 10-count indictment, claiming Assange had violated the Espionage Act, which carried a maximum sentence of 10 years on each count. Assange managed to get asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he avoided capture for seven years. In April of 2019, British cops dragged him off to a high security prison where he was incarcerated for the next five years while court proceedings dragged on.

Many prominent people called on the U.S. government to drop its efforts to imprison Assange, including the late Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. Thousands of people demonstrated on Assange’s behalf. While the U.S. government likes to brag about freedom of the press, it does its best to cover up the atrocities it commits in the course of trying to rule the world. Courageous individuals like Assange, who expose the hideous inner workings of the system, play an important role in both helping raise the consciousness of ordinary people, and arming with important information those of who are fighting for a better world.