Price of truth

Published June 26, 2024

JULIAN Assange will soon be a free man. The WikiLeaks founder, who had been in the crosshairs of the world’s most powerful nation ever since he blew the whistle on its misdoings in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has managed to avoid extradition to the US and a possible lifelong jail sentence. Instead, he was released from prison on Monday under a plea deal with US authorities. As a result of the arrangement, Mr Assange will be able to return home to his native Australia, where he can finally reunite with his family. According to media reports, he had agreed to “plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information”. It was reported that, under the terms of the arrangement, he would be sentenced to 62 months in prison but may not serve additional time. Instead, the time he has already spent in confinement in the UK would be counted towards his sentence.

An inspiration for those who believe in press and speech freedoms, Mr Assange has, through his ordeal, exemplified a special kind of bravery. He never allowed the prospect of being persecuted to get in the way of what he considered his duty: to speak truth to power. In insisting on publishing WikiLeaks’ dossiers on America’s dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite threats and Washington’s stiff opposition, he shone a much-needed light on egregious violations of human rights and the rules of war by the US Army. For doing so, Mr Assange was labelled a ‘digital terrorist’ by the Obama administration, and the CIA under the Trump administration had even considered abducting and/ or assassinating him while he was hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Thankfully, sense now seems to have prevailed, and under pressure from rights activists and journalists, the Biden administration has let Mr Assange go. Good luck to him in the next chapter of his life.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2024

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