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What Julian Assange's case means for Edward Snowden

Will the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange be extradited to the USA or not? The outcome should be decisive in the case of Edward Snowden, believes his lawyer Robert Tibbo.
Roman Schenkel
Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy. (Photo: Victoria Jones/AP, 11. April 2019)

Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy. (Photo: Victoria Jones/AP, 11. April 2019)

Robert Tibbo is keenly following the case of Julien Assange who is in prison in England. The USA is demanding the extradition of the Wikileaks´ founder who published secret documents relating to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. What happens to him is crucial for Edward Snowden´s case. «What happens with Assange will become a case of precedent for people who express a certain political opinion that the USA doesn´t agree with», says Tibbo. The USA wanted to set an example with Assange. «They want to silence him and to lock him away forever.» In that way whistleblowers can be prevented from going public. The message is clear: if you dare, you will pay a high price. «The Assange case therefore affects all whistleblowers. It also affects journalists who work with whistleblowers. And it affects people who in any way support whistleblowers», says Tibbo.

Robert Tibbo, a Canadian lawyer who represents Edward Snowden. (Foto: Benjamin Bechet)

Robert Tibbo, a Canadian lawyer who represents Edward Snowden. (Foto: Benjamin Bechet)

But Tibbo doesn´t believe that Assange will be extradited to the USA. Firstly, there´s the poor state of health of the native Australian. Whilst on the run from the authorities, Assange lived for over seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In that time he urgently required medical care but was unable to leave the embassy to go to hospital. The British government made it clear that they would arrest him immediately, should he set foot outside the building. When Ecuador ended its political protection of him last April, he was arrested. Visible in the media was a white-haired, weak Assange. Secondly, it is well-known how badly the USA treats political prisoners.

«As a lawyer, I would cite Pinochet», says Tibbo. Augusto Pinochet, the deceased Chilean dictator was arrested during a visit to Great Britain in response to an extradition request by Spain. After years of tug-of-war between the two countries, the British Home Secretary decided to release Pinochet on the basis of his ill-health. He returned to Chile where he died. «In contrast to Assange, Pinochet committed countless crimes against humanity. He wasn´t a whistleblower, but a man who had done the most terrible things. He saw to it that people disappeared and were murdered.» That he was supported in the process by the USA is of course the irony of the story.

Translated by Julia Wilson

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