Julian Assange, once revered hero of the digital age, is currently waging his most important battle: against being buried alive. Assange had recently lost a lot of sympathy. His biting criticism of the United States was countered by an overly affectionate attitude towards Russia. His vendetta with Hillary Clinton was flanked by a dim proximity to Donald Trump's environment. In the 2016 US election campaign, he gave up his journalistic independence when he suggested to Trump that the Australian government should appoint him as the new ambassador to Washington. And he has hardly ever concealed his contempt for traditional journalism.
All of this, however, is completely irrelevant if the extradition to the United States is now being negotiated in the London Magistrate Court as if he were a serious criminal. The US prosecutors accuse WikiLeaks founder of conspiracy and espionage for publishing around three quarters of a million confidential US government documents in 2010 (along with several journalists, including the author of these lines). Prosecutors have drawn up an anti-espionage law that was passed in World War I to hunt down enemy agents. Just trying to label him a spy shows just how politically poisoned this process is.
Julian Assange once asked the question of power. The most powerful nation in the world is now striking back with a delay of ten years. Her charge contains a message of revenge and deterrence: revenge on Assange, deterring potential whistleblowers. It is an attempt to make an example in the age of large digital leaks.
Julian Assange - What Did This Man Do? With Wikileaks, Julian Assange unveiled potential war crimes in the United States and got involved politically. Now he faces 175 years in prison. What did this man do © Photo: Jack Taylor / Getty Images
All the more, the democratic public must now defend Assange against the threat of extradition. Because if a publicist is persecuted as a spy and is threatened with 175 years in prison for the publication of government documents that reveal dramatic misconduct, not only his life is at risk, but also the architecture of American democracy. Receiving, evaluating and publishing confidential documents is one of the most fundamental tasks of media, which in the USA as well as in Germany are intended as a corrective for the powerful. It may be uncomfortable. But it's not a crime.