Is Julian Assange alive
Julian Assange: Celebrated and demonized
Opinions differ on Julian Assange. The founder of the discovery platform Wikileaks is seen by many as the uncoverer of war crimes and corruption, as the father of modern investigative journalism, which operates with large amounts of leaked data. Others consider him a traitor, enemy of the state, vicarious agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin or even responsible for the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. Or all together.
His ex-colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg, divorced in strife, once characterized Assange as "so ingenious, so paranoid, so obsessed with power" and accused him of "his ego tour" of the Wikileaks project "too closely tied to himself and his controversial personality" to have.
There is a lot to the genius, just like the pronounced ego. The news magazine "Der Spiegel" quotes Assange as saying: "If you are much smarter than the people around you, you develop an enormous ego - and you get the feeling that any problem can be solved with a little thought."
Assange's alleged paranoia, on the other hand, has proven to be well founded. Since 2010 Assange has been on a "manhunting" list of the US secret services, as reported by the online medium "Intercept", citing secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Extensive secret service operations are documented in it. Their goal: to research, stop or at least harm Wikileaks.
In exposing war crimes and US secrets, Assange has made powerful enemies
When Assange is at the height of his fame, his reputation is massively damaged for the first time. It's summer 2010, the release of the "Collateral Murder" video made Wikileaks known worldwide. With the "Afghan War Diaries" Assange finally became a recognized figure in journalism. On August 21, 2010, the Swedish tabloid "Expressen" reported on rape allegations against Assange. They become the basis of a year-long hunt for Assange - although there is never an official charge.
The basis was a joint visit by two women to a police station in Stockholm. The rather promiscuous Assange had sex with both of them during a stay in Stockholm in August 2010. The women were only concerned with the question of whether Julian Assange could be obliged to take an AIDS test because he had unprotected intercourse with them. None reported violence or just threats of violence.
Günter Wallraff, a founder of German investigative journalism, spoke to Deutsche Welle about a "character assassination campaign" against Julian Assange. "He has been accused of the worst thing that can be accused of someone in an enlightened society: of being a rapist." The allegations against Assange were designed to make the scout into a non-person, Wallraff continues, referring to research by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer.
Melzer, a sober Swiss international law professor, speaks fluent Swedish. He was able to inspect a large number of original documents. In an interview with the Swiss medium "Republik", Melzer raised serious allegations against the Swedish authorities for the first time in early 2020 and spoke of evidence manipulated for political reasons.
"That worked for years," says Günter Wallraff - and tells how much educational work he had to do among his friends and acquaintances in order to organize support for Assange.
Günter Wallraff (left) and ex-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel demand the release of Assange in February
Criticism of an alleged proximity to Moscow first appeared in 2012. Julian Assange continues his journalistic work, initially under house arrest and then in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London because of a Swedish extradition request. The Product: A political talk show called "The World Tomorrow", produced by Assange and his own company, Quick Roll Productions. The client: Russia's state foreign broadcaster "Russia Today". The first interview guest: Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon, via video conference. It is the first international interview of the controversial Hezbollah leader in six years.
A scoop? As is so often the case with Assange, opinions are divided. There is criticism in Germany. "Der Spiegel" headlines: "Julian Assange fails because of Hezbollah boss"; the FAZ writes of the "false start of an information rocket". Main criticism: Assange was too uncritical towards Nasrallah. Assange also met with opposition in the "New York Times" and in the "Guardian", where Luke Harding described him as a "useful idiot" of Russian propaganda. The British BBC, in turn, concentrated in its reporting on mediation offers that Nasrallah had made for the Syrian civil war.
As a talk show guest with Julian Assange: Hezbollah boss Nasrallah
Assange produces a total of twelve episodes of his talk show, with people as diverse as today's Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek or the left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky.
Trump election worker?
In the middle of the 2016 US presidential campaign, Wikileaks released tens of thousands of emails from Democrats, including their presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. They not only harmed Clinton in the race against Donald Trump, but also the reputation of Julian Assange, as investigative reporter Wallraff observed. The public's interest in the information was decisive here: For example, the illegal influence of the democratic party leadership in favor of Hillary Clinton and to the disadvantage of Bernie Sanders in the primary campaign. Wallraff counteracts allegations of Assange's proximity to Russia by referring to Wikileaks publication on Putin or human rights violations in Russia.
Andy Mueller-Maguhn visited Assange in the embassy asylum every month
Andy Müller-Maguhn, former spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club, said he visited Assange almost every month during his embassy asylum - as chairman of the Wau-Holland Foundation, which has put freedom of information on the agenda, among other things. In connection with Assange's stance on the US election campaign and especially the person of the candidate Hillary Clinton, Müller-Maguhn reports "extremely critical debates about which comments are still in the spirit of journalism and freedom of information and where personal disputes begin".
However, Müller-Maguhn also showed understanding for Assange to DW: "Hillary Clinton has said several times in public that he should be killed with a drone. She was foreign minister when he published the embassy cables in 2010, the Afghan and Iraqi war diaries practically fought for his life so that this woman wouldn't become president. You can't blame him for that. "
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