The unprecedented spectacle of the entire world becoming virtual prisoners in their own homes over the coronavirus pandemic provides an unplanned and unconscious act of solidarity with Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, who has been imprisoned in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since last April.
If there is such thing as divine retribution in this materially obsessed world, perhaps the outbreak of COVID-19, as the viral disease has been labeled, could just be it. The global contagion offers the citizens of the world an opportunity to take pause from washing their hands and buying toilet paper to, just maybe, reflect upon the trials and tribulations that have haunted Julian Assange ever since he first sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012.
For the uninitiated, Assange had made himself a marked man back in 2010 when he unloaded a deluge of damaging US government records, particularly the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan War Logs (July 2010) and Cablegate (November 2010). Today, the Trump administration is fighting hard for his extradition to the US where he faces charges under the Espionage Act for purportedly helping US Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning hack the incriminating data. If found guilty, the Australian native could face a 175-year prison sentence.
For those individuals, however, who have been following the behind-the-scenes saga between the Democrats and the Trump administration, they better understand that the real reason for Trump wanting Assange back in the US might just have a lot more to do with Russiagate and the hacked cables from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 than anything else. Indeed, Assange, 48, seems to have become an unwitting pawn in a momentous power struggle – a full-blown civil war, albeit without the battlefields and musket shot – now playing out in the United States. As November draws closer, it will only get worse.
At a time when the American people have other things on their minds, first and foremost the coronavirus, many have forgotten or never knew that Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, has been busy for the last year investigating the origins of the Russia-collusion story, which has harassed Trump ever since he set foot in office. Key to that injurious charge is the Democrats’ claim that Russia provided WikiLeaks with emails “hacked” from DNC computers. There’s just one problem with that story. Assange has categorically denied it.
“Our source is not a state party,” Assange told Fox anchor Sean Hannity in an interview inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. “So the answer – for our interactions – is no.”
So if the Russians were not responsible for hacking the DNC, then who? Who else would have had the opportunity, means and motive for accessing such sensitive information? One name that continues to arise is that of Seth Rich, the former DNC staffer who was gunned down on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.
Assange has never revealed the identity of its DNC email source, however, but Wikileaks did offer a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of the DNC staffer. Meanwhile, Rich’s family has vociferously denied that Seth had any connection to the data release.
ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 9, 2016
Would Julian Assange, in the event that he is extradited to the United States, be willing to enter into some sort of plea bargain with US prosecutors to clear himself of possible treason charges in exchange for information – if that information does in fact exist – as to the identity of the DNC source? It does not seem beyond the realm of possibility, although of course the prospect of a journalist being forced to bargain in such a manner for the sake of his freedom is deplorable, and would send a chill though the world of journalism.
The question now is of no small import: will Julian Assange survive his confinement in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. Since last April until January of this year, Assange had been held in solitary confinement without access to his legal team. This month, in an interview with Aljazeera, Assange’s father, John Shipton, said that his worst fear is that “after 10 years of steadily increasing persecution, Julian will die in jail.”
“Julian has lost about 15 kilograms of weight since leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in April,” Shipton said. “He has also become vulnerable to clinical depression.”
Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to resume on May 18.
Today, as the coronavirus wreaks its havoc around the world, forcing millions of people to regulate their lives, or have their lives forcibly regulated for them – in essence, become prisoners inside of their own homes – freedom appears much more fragile today. If nothing else, we can use this opportunity bestowed upon us by an enemy we can’t even see to consider the tremendous sacrifice Julian Assange has made in the name of truth.