The arrest of Julian Assange in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy on Thursday is disturbing, as the Wikileaks founder “told the truth” and revealed criminal practices, according to Dick Marty, a former Swiss senator and prosecutor.
"What is Assange guilty of? Telling the truth. He didn’t reveal military secrets that endangered the defence of the United States or the West. He revealed criminal practices,” said Marty, who investigated CIA secret prisons in Europe for the Council of Europe.
“History will remember people like Assange and [former US National Security Agency contractor] Edward Snowden as people who fought for freedom”, he told Swiss public television, RTS, on Thursdayexternal link.
A bearded and frail-looking Assange, who founded Wikileaks in 2006, was arrested by British police on Thursday after Ecuador terminated his asylum at its London embassy. He had lived there since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation. Sweden dropped that investigation in 2017, but Assange was arrested on Thursday for breaking the rules of his original bail in London.
Swedish prosecutors said on Thursday that they had received a formal request to reopen the sexual assault investigation closed in 2017 involving Assange, from the legal counsel representing the alleged victim.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s dramatic arrest could pave the way for his extradition to the US where the 47-year-old faces a charge of computer intrusion conspiracy. As he was dragged from the embassy, Australian-born Assange was heard shouting, “This is unlawful, I'm not leaving.”
The US indictment, which was made secretly last year and released on Thursday, does not charge Assange for publishing classified material. WikiLeaks released the classified war information on its website in 2010 and 2011.
There is no mention in the indictment of WikiLeaks's publication of emails damaging to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which US intelligence agencies have said were stolen by Russia in a bid to boost Republican Donald Trump's candidacy.
After his arrest on Thursday, Assange supporters were quick to characterise it as an assault against the rights of journalists all over the world who seek to uncover secrets.
"Obviously, the United States does not want to open the breach to directly prosecute a journalist for doing his job, so they are trying to invent a pretext that would be that of pseudo-computer piracy," Julian Assange's legal adviser, Juan Branco, told RTS on Thursday. "But we know that the objective is to silence someone who has revealed crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the American army."