WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has appealed in London against his extradition to Sweden, where he is facing rape charges based on the testimony of two female supporters.
Meanwhile, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German who worked with Assange until September 2010, has published an incriminating book, "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website."
Has Assange been betrayed, or is the cyberspace revolutionary getting his just deserts?
The two Swedish girls' accusations of "nonconsensual sex" with Assange sound strange because they admit that they had had sex with him before. One of them claims Assange had sex with her while she was asleep, which is considered nonconsensual sex in Sweden but not in Britain, as Assange's lawyers point out.
Assange has been living under house arrest at a friend's mansion in eastern England since December. An ankle monitor ensures that he does not flee the country.
Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, said Tuesday there is a large chance the London High Court will decide to extradite his client.
Worse still, the Swedish authorities may decide to extradite him to the United States, where he could be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility or face the death penalty for publishing secret diplomatic documents.
A ruthless martyr
Assange is not a martyr but a revolutionary who has been ruthless in the pursuit of his goals. While fighting for the freedom and dignity of every individual, he sometimes trampled on the freedom and dignity of certain individuals, using the most destructive modern weapon available - information technology.
The book by Domscheit-Berg, who had worked at WikiLeaks since 2007, gives an insight into this trait of Assange. The documents he published not only exposed secret methods used by the U.S. administration in Iraq but also endangered the lives of American agents there by revealing their identities. The information he had gave him power, and he became as secretive and merciless as the governments he criticized.
Here is what Domscheit-Berg has to say about the change at WikiLeaks in his book: "Over the course of my time with Julian Assange at WikiLeaks, I would experience firsthand how power and secrecy corrupt people. As the months passed, WikiLeaks developed in a direction that dismayed core members of the team and led us to leave the project in September 2010. I was confident that the diplomatic, almost reticent criticism I voiced at the time would cause people to question the power of WikiLeaks and the chief figure behind it, as is the case with other organizations."
However, Assange is still winning the public opinion war against his critics. Even some U.S. feminist organizations have supported him. A March poll by Reuters-Ipsos showed that 79% of people in 24 countries were aware of WikiLeaks and two-thirds of those believed Assange should not be charged, possibly because he may act like a dictator but is in fact "a friendly next-door revolutionary."
Assange, a 40-year-old Australian computer expert, has had his fair share of problems.
Like many other of his contemporaries, Julian grew up in a single-parent home. His mother split with his biological father before he was born and later fled across Australia hiding from her second husband, a musician in the New Age group Santiniketan Park Association, led by Yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne.
Assange attended many schools. He did not have the most attentive mother. Sometimes he would stay home and educate himself by reading library books. Then he traded in books for a computer.
Julian was attractive and had the talent to convince women to make sacrifices for him. He married a 16-year-old girl when he was 18, the couple had a son, and then they split and battled for custody of their son.
Assange lost the battle, which fostered a hatred for Australia's social services and all the officials who awarded custody to the mother. Infuriated, he convinced other victims of Australia's family laws to supply him with information about the official incompetence on condition of anonymity, which he intended to publish.
He left the Australian social services alone when he and his ex-wife settled their dispute. By that time, Assange was no longer interested in the boy but he continued playing with the idea of creating an association of "angry clients" of state services and publishing information about the bureaucrats' dirty deeds.
He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne, but soon decided that science does not offer money or power in the modern world. Instead, he created secret data storage and protection software, which promised both big money and power. Assange founded a company that offered Internet access services. In 2006, he wrote an essay, "Conspiracy as Governance," which many think is stronger stuff than Marx's "Das Kapital" or Lenin's "The State and Revolution."
Assange acted on the ideas in his essay and set up a site of "angry insiders" - the people who know about abuses in their companies but do not make them public for fear of reprisal. He put his finger on one of the sore spots of the modern world: secretive and totalitarian "management structures" whose dubious corporate codes of conduct dehumanize their employees.
Assange's goal was to hack into such companies, including the U.S. Department of State, the Pentagon and the presidential staffs of corrupt developing countries, and publish the information he acquired on the Internet. It was a truly revolutionary plan.
He told French newspaper Le Monde that there were cases in history when the unexpected disclosure of truth to the masses prompted political and social unrest. In this age of the Internet, any text or picture can be broadcast across the world at a moment's notice and with minimum costs, he said.
The French and Russian revolutionaries could not imagine that almost everyone in the 21st century would have this capability thanks to the Internet, where they can publish any information and complement it with photos, video or choice quotes from secret correspondence.
From 2007 through 2010, Assange was creating his band of revolutionaries, traveling from one country to another, and most often staying in Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands, whose liberal Internet laws offered him the best opportunities for carrying out his plan. It should be said that Assange is also skilled in rallying young people dedicated to the cause and to him. He has many supporters in every country, especially young women, who acted as both assistants and lovers ready to do anything for their idol.
WikiLeaks' year of glory was 2010, when it published the secret Iraq and Afghanistan files.
And then Assange's plan hit a roadblock. Like the French and Russian revolutionaries before him, his idea ran up against the "crooked wood of man." For example, his revelations about the luxury shopping sprees and expensive cosmetic surgery done abroad by the Azerbaijani president's wife did not provoke a pubic outcry in the country. Even if the people were outraged, they did not express their feelings openly.
Real humanitarian reforms are impossible without first changing the main reformer - the people. Assange, who speaks only English and is not well versed in ethnic distinctions, was wrong to think that the Australian or British political traditions can be applied in other countries.
As for the recent Arab revolutions, he has recently admitted that the role of the Internet had been exaggerated. Again, everything depends on humans, not technology, because Facebook and mobile communications can just as easily be used to spy on enemies of the government.
Worse still, his group of revolutionary supporters split after the period of news-breaking revelations of 2007-2010. Part of them said they believe that "bourgeois laws" can correct the violations exposed by WikiLeaks. Assange's main opponent Daniel Domscheit-Berg broke with Assange and launched a competing site, OpenLeaks, a "technology provider" supplying anonymous online drop boxes for organizations.
Domscheit-Berg is urging Assange to surrender to Swedish authorities, saying that Sweden is a democratic country whose courts are independent of the United States. Unfortunately, the documents WikiLeaks has published show that this is not so.
Assange can only hope his millions of supporters around the world will protest in favor of a light sentence, just as the public recently forced the U.S. authorities to relax the harsh pretrial detention conditions of Bradley Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed confidential material to WikiLeaks.
The truth seekers are joining forces. But they are fighting not for Julian Assange, a weak and sometimes ruthless man, but for a more open society, for personal freedom and the right to know.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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