On September 7, 2020, Julian Assange will leave his cell in Belmarsh Prison in London and attend a hearing that will determine his fate. After a long period of isolation, he was finally able to meet his partner—Stella Moris—and see their two sons—Gabriel (age three) and Max (age one)—on August 25. After the visit, Moris said that he looked to be in “a lot of pain.”
The hearing that Assange will face has nothing to do with the reasons for his arrest from the embassy of Ecuador in London on April 11, 2019. He was arrested that day for his failure to surrender in 2012 to the British authorities, who would have extradited him to Sweden; in Sweden, at that time, there were accusations of sexual offenses against Assange that were dropped in November 2019. Indeed, after the Swedish authorities decided not to pursue Assange, he should have been released by the UK government. But he was not.
The true reason for the arrest was never the charge in Sweden; it was the desire of the U.S. government to have him brought to the United States on a range of charges. On April 11, 2019, the UK Home Office spokesperson said, “We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused in the United States of America of computer-related offenses.”
The day after Assange’s arrest, the campaign group Article 19 published a statement that said that while the UK authorities had “originally” said they wanted to arrest Assange for fleeing bail in 2012 toward the Swedish extradition request, it had now become clear that the arrest was due to a U.S. Justice Department claim on him. The U.S. wanted Assange on a “federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.” Assange was accused of helping whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010 when Manning passed WikiLeaks—led by Assange—an explosive trove of classified information from the U.S. government that contained clear evidence of war crimes. Manning spent seven years in prison before her sentence was commuted by former U.S.