Is Julian Assange Finally on the Path to Freedom?

julian assange wikileaks ecuadorian embassy
A general view of the building housing the Ecuadorian embassy in central London on June 19, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lived for four years. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

For the last four years Julian Assange has been trapped in an embassy surrounded by police. The New York Times Editorial Board yesterday called for focus on "the serious legal, ethical and security issues" at stake in the case against Assange. We agree.

Like the underground author that gives Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle its name, Assange is a writer who disseminates work providing critical insight into readers' political reality and their collective history. Powerful actors go to great efforts to silence him.

WikiLeaks analyzes and publishes authentic information from inside the world's most powerful and corrupt organizations.

In the United States, recent leaks that show that the DNC subverted the presidential primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders have drawn particular ire from key actors and media outlets that have been implicated.

Although these revelations have dominated headlines, over the past year WikiLeaks has divulged how terrorism is funded, the corrupt deals and environmental crimes of Chinese mining companies in the Central African Republic, the IMF's plans to strong-arm Chancellor Merkel over the Greek debt crisis, NSA economic espionage against France, Germany and Japan, and the draft text of major secret multilateral 'trade' agreements including TPP, TISA and TTIP.

Assange has continued to reveal the truth to us despite having been detained unlawfully, without charge. As conceded by The New York Times Editorial Board, his "long years in the Ecuadorean Embassy have not silenced WikiLeaks."

He was arrested in December 2010, just days after WikiLeaks started publishing "Cablegate." He was thrown into prison. He kept publishing.

He was electronically shackled and placed under house arrest for 18 months. He kept publishing.

For the last four years he has been surrounded by a police siege in an attempt to thwart his asylum rights. He keeps publishing.

Assange embassy wikileaks united nations Sweden police arrest UK US
Julian Assange peers out from behind a curtain at London's Ecuadorian Embassy, February 5. The WikiLeaks founder talked to Newsweek about the four-year embassy standoff shortly after a U.N. ruling that found his detention unlawful. Reuters

In February the U.N. found that his detention was unlawful and that the governments of the U.K. and Sweden must set him free and award him compensation. Although the U.N. issued a note to editors that its decision is ultimately "legally binding", many reporters simply repeated the U.K. talking point, blasted out through the BBC, claiming it is not.

After huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the U.N. human rights system down, the U.K. has done everything in its power to bury the U.N.'s finding. The U.K. resorted to gunboat diplomacy, threatening Ecuador with severe trade and cooperation repercussions unless they coughed up Assange. The U.K. has also refused him safe access to a hospital for tests and treatment, perhaps in the hope that his health will eventually deteriorate to such a degree that the "Assange problem" will go away on its own.

Such heavy-handed tactics are not so surprising after revelations that strong backroom pressure by the U.K. and the United States had come to bear on the U.N. Working Group that investigated Assange's case for 16 months in what seemed an improper, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to influence its jurists.

Sweden decidedly parted with its glory days as a champion of global human rights and international law and sheepishly followed the U.K.'s footsteps.

This month marks four years since Ecuador granted Assange political asylum after Sweden and the U.K. refused to promise that they will not extradite him to the United States over WikiLeaks. Ecuador assessed that he risks a similar fate to that of his alleged source, Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in what the U.N. described as "cruel and inhuman" conditions. Manning, imprisoned since May 2010, was hospitalized recently after attempting suicide.

On August 16, Assange's U.S. defense attorney Barry Pollack requested Attorney-General Loretta Lynch to close the WikiLeaks case following the precedent set by her decision to close the probe into Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information.

The Ecuadorian attorney general announced this month that steps are finally under way to take Julian Assange's statement in relation to the Swedish matter. The Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm already investigated the same allegation in 2010, and closed the case after finding that Assange had "committed no crime whatsoever." The alleged victim herself said that "police made it up", that she "did not want to accuse him of anything"; she had been "railroaded by police."

Despite reopening the preliminary investigation into the same allegation in September 2010, Sweden's Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny has done nothing for six years. The U.N. described her inaction as "indefinite procrastination." Sweden's Court of Appeal was less forgiving: it condemned the prosecutor for breaching her professional duty.

Julian Assange is The Man in the High Castle of our time. His contribution may seem superhuman, but he is not. He is a human being, unlawfully deprived of his freedom and family. He fights for our freedom. Let us make his freedom a reality.

Margaret Ratner Kunstler is a New York civil rights attorney who represents WikiLeaks staff. Melinda Taylor is an international human rights and defense attorney who is also a member of Mr. Assange's legal team. Stella Moris is a legal analyst and member of Julian Assange's legal team.