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Timeline

A record of WikiLeaks‘ releases and Julian Assange’s persecution

2010

April: WikiLeaks releases Collateral Murder, a classified US military video showing a helicopter gunship slaying eighteen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists and their rescuers, thus documenting a war crime.

July: WikiLeaks publishes the Afghan War Logs, a collection of over 75,000 documents, revealing information on unreported killings of hundreds of civilians by coalition forces, increased Taliban attacks, and involvement by Pakistan and Iran in the insurgency.

August: during his visit to Sweden, Assange becomes the subject of sexual assault allegations. He was questioned, and the case was initially closed. In November 2010, however, the case was re-opened.

October: WikiLeaks publishes the Iraq War Logs, exposing numerous cases of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqi police and soldiers, as well as proof of the US government’s involvement in the deaths and maiming of more than 200,000 people in Iraq. The War Logs showed the true number of civilian deaths in Iraq and is the most detailed record of war to date.

Cablegate, now the Public Library of US Diplomacy, is a growing collection of 3,326,538 diplomatic cables from 274 consulates and embassies from 1966 to 2010, began to be published in November 2010. PLUSD documents fifty years of United States diplomatic relations across the globe, its activities, its component corporations, its allies and its enemies.

Following the release of the first batch of US diplomatic cables, in December 2010, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange were denounced as “terrorists” by several politicians and media commentators. Former US vice-president Joe Biden branded Assange as a “high-tech terrorist” while the prominent Republican Sarah Palin called him “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” urging for his immediate capture by any means necessary. Fox News commentators called WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, asking the US government to move immediately and aggressively against them. In an interview with CBC, Professor Tom Flanagan suggested President Obama have WikiLeaks director Julian Assange assassinated, saying, “Obama should put out a contract and use a drone, or something…”

Julian Assange was arrested at a London police station on 7 December 2010, following the European arrest warrant from Sweden relating to alleged sexual assault. He appeared in court the same day, saying he intends to fight his extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations. Assange was denied bail and remained in custody till 14 December, when he was released on house arrest.

In 2010, following WikiLeaks’ publication of Iraq and Afghan War Logs and State Department diplomatic cables, several major financial institutions, including Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, refused to process donations to WikiLeaks, cutting off 95% of its revenue. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights openly criticised the extra-legal financial blockade against WikiLeaks, as have the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

2011

The Guantanamo Files released in April, exposing systematic and routine violations of the Geneva Conventions and abuse of 800 prisoners as young as 14 and as old as 89 at Guantanamo Bay.

The US government opened a grand jury investigation in May 2011 into the passing of hundreds of thousands of secret US embassy cables to WikiLeaks, an investigation which is still open to this day.

2012

Assange sought political asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, days after the Supreme Court rejected the last of his appeals against extradition to Sweden. Assange and his supporters have argued that his removal to Sweden would be followed by a potential extradition to the US, likely on Espionage Act charges, where he could face the death penalty. On 19 June 2012, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announced that Assange had applied for political asylum, his government was considering the request, and Assange was at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

On 16 August 2012, Ecuador invoked international law in recognising the political persecution of Julian Assange, granted him the status of political refugee, judging his life to be at grave risk. Ecuador’s decision was backed by the Union of South American Nations countries and ALBA.

The Syria Files are published beginning in July, providing an extraordinary insight into the Assad government through over two million emails from 680 Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies and the regime’s international security contracts.

Khaled El-Masri, Lebanese-born German citizen, who was seized in Macedonia in 2003, transferred to Kabul as part of US “Extraordinary Rendition” program and detained for four months before being released without any charges on a roadside in Albania, took a case to the European Court of Human Rights, using six cables released by WikiLeaks in evidence. The Court ruling from December 2012 found that his treatment amounted to torture, and that he had been effectively disappeared by the US and Macedonian authorities.

2013

Major trade agreements TPP, TTIP & TISA – drafted and negotiated in secret without proper democratic oversight – were made public when WikiLeaks published multiple draft chapters and negotiating positions, fueling social justice and fair trade movements. The documents were published in multiple releases over 2013, 2015 and 2016. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are now stalled, while Trade in Service Agreement (TiSA) remains classified.

2014

The Minton Report, a scientific study commissioned by oil trading company Trafigura, was released in September 2014 by WikiLeaks, detailing how the Dutch multinational had dumped toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, affecting 108,000 people and “capable of causing severe human health effects.” The report had been suppressed through a super injunction, which was later abandoned as the company’s lawyers gave up on attempts to keep it secret.

2015

The Saudi foreign ministry files, passed to WikiLeaks in June 2015, reveal Saudi Arabia offered a bribe to the United Kingdom of $100,000 to “help” the UK campaign to join the Human Rights Council. Part of the deal, offered by the UK, was a vote swap that saw Saudi Arabia leading the Human Rights Council.

The NSA World Leaders Targets: a number of releases in July 2015 and February 2016, documenting NSA targets, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s meetings with Heads of State, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Ministers Berlusconi and Netanyahu, President Hollande, the Japanese cabinet, UNHCR and WTO officials.

2016

CAR mining files released in February, revealing mining operations conducted by Western and Chinese companies in the Central African Republic (CAR) that escape responsibility for environmental consequences. The files contain detailed maps of mining rights, mining contracts with illegal kickbacks and secret investigative reports.

On 5 February, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish governments since 7 December 2010, including his time in prison on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy, and that he was “entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.”

The Democratic National Committee Leaks consist of 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the US Democratic National Party leadership, which resulted in the resignation of five top officials who had stacked the deck against one of the two Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders, to favour Hillary Clinton.

After receiving criticism from other Swedish law practitioners, the Swedish prosecutor in the Assange rape case agreed to interrogate Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, with interviews finally beginning on 14 November 2016.

German BND-NSA Inquiry: In December 2016, WikiLeaks released 2,420 documents originating from various agencies of the German government, including the BND and Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution that contains early agreements between the BND and the NSA, internal processes at the BND, but also more recent details on the close collaboration between the two agencies.

2017

Vault 7: starting in March 2017, WikiLeaks publishes Vault 7, detailing activities and capabilities of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to perform electronic surveillance and cyber warfare. The files include details on the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and software capabilities, such as the ability to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and operating systems of most smartphones, including products such as Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which can be turned into covert microphones.

In April 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” and said “we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”

On 19 May 2017, the Swedish authorities dropped their investigation against Assange. However he still faces arrest if he leaves the Embassy building in Knightsbridge, London, for breaching his former bail conditions in the UK when he entered Ecuadorian Embassy.

Russia Spy files, which began to be released in September 2017, consist of over 650,000 critical documents relating to Russia under Vladimir Putin, including releases about surveillance contractors in Russia.

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in late 2017.

2018

Assange’s health is deteriorating: doctors who examined him call for Assange to be granted safe passage to hospital.

Julian Assange continues to face arrest if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy, after a judge ruled on 6 February that the arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks founder has been proportionate and in the public interest. The ruling came a day after it was revealed that Swedish prosecutors attempted to close their investigation into Assange in 2013, but British prosecutors dissuaded them from doing so.

In March 2018, Ecuador indefinitely suspended Julian Assange’s internet access in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. In a message posted to Twitter, the Ecuadorian government said that the suspension is the result of Assange breaking a late 2017 agreement “not to issue messages that supposed an interference in relation to other States.” Assange was also barred from receiving visitors. Numerous public figures have issued statements in support of Assange calling for Ecuador to #ReconnectJulian and end his isolation. At least four open letters from civil society advocates around the world have been sent to the Ecuadorian government, calling for an end to Assange’s isolating conditions. More than 87,000 supporters have signed a petition launched by Brian Eno and Yanis Varoufakis, hosted by DiEM25.

Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and various individuals it alleges participated in the plot to hack its email servers and disseminate the contents during the 2016 election. The DNC also sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing the hacked materials, though it does not allege that WikiLeaks participated in the hacking or knew about it in advance; its sole role, according to the DNC’s lawsuit, was publishing the hacked emails. According to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Trevor Timm, writing for The Intercept, the DNC lawsuit poses a serious threat to media freedom in the US.

Reports about Assange’s stay in Ecuadorian embassy being in jeopardy mount from May 2018. CNN reports that the situation has become “unusually bad” and that Assange’s refuge in the Embassy may end “any day now.”

In June 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence visited Ecuador, where the case of Julian Assange was raised in the meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Before his visit, ten Democratic Senators sent a letter to Mr. Pence urging him to address the issue.

A ruling from Inter-American court of Human Rights ruled that states granting asylum must provide safe passage to asylees in embassies.