Assange – Campaigner For Truth or Criminal?

Posted November 2nd, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, a website that makes classified and secret documents available to the public by posting the documents on the Internet.

Assange defends people's right to know what leaders, corporations and other powerful figures are doing. His fans call him a campaigner for truth, while critics decry him as a publicity seeker who puts others in danger by releasing classified information.

Born in 1971 in Townsville, Queensland in northern Australia, Assange is described as very intelligent with excellent computer skills. That ability led to trouble in the mid-1980s when he began hacking computers. He was eventually caught and pleaded guilty, paid a fine and did not serve time in jail.

He founded WikiLeaks with a group of like-minded people in 2006. The website has released hundreds of thousands of classified documents, many about U.S. diplomatic and military operations. The workings of his website are shrouded in secrecy.

The releases generated international controversy and significant anger, and led U.S. authorities to investigate whether Assange broke any laws.

In November, 2010, a Swedish court ordered the detention of Assange on suspicion of rape and sexual molestation. He denied the charges but surrendered to British police in December, who held him in custody pending a ruling on the Swedish extradition request.

He was released on bail on December 16, and fought extradition to Sweden. In February of this year, a judge rejected Assange's arguments and ruled he can be extradited. Assange launched an appeal in July.

Two weeks ago, Assange said his organization was forced to suspend publishing secret documents in order to concentrate on fundraising to ensure its future survival. Assange said a financial blockade by American companies such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal means WikiLeaks will have to aggressively focus on raising funds.

On November 2, Britain's High Court rejected Assange's appeal against his extradition. Attorneys for Assange have two weeks to decide whether to try to have Wednesday's ruling overturned.