Julian Assange Faces Death Penalty: Should Wikileaks Founder Be Tried in the US Under the Espionage Act?


The founder of the whistleblower site WikiLeaks has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy to the United Kingdom since July to avoid extradition to Sweden, where authorities want him for questioning over rape allegations. After two months of hiding in the embassy, Assange’s political asylum appeal was approved on Thursday.

Assange fears that the Swedish authorities will hand him over to the U.S. government, where he could be tried for espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified documents, or computer fraud. If convicted of espionage or treason, Assange faces the death penalty. He might be tried in a military tribunal or a secret trial, as there is no guarantee that Assange will receive a fair trial.

The Australian embassy in Washington stated in February that "the U.S. investigation into possible criminal conduct by Mr Assange has been ongoing for more than a year."

The Espionage Act makes it illegal to disclose information dealing with issues of national defense. In 2010, WikiLeaks exposed about 250,000 State Department cables, but he has not been charged of a crime.

Assange can feel safe in Ecuador as long as President Rafael Correa remains in office, which should not be too difficult, considering he is the most popular democratically-elected president in the country’s history.

If Assange somehow makes it to Ecuador, he doesn’t have to worry about prosecution from the U.S., but he may never be allowed to leave the country.

Nevertheless, Assange faces a great challenge in securing safe passage to Ecuador without possible arrest in London. 

Weigh in: Should Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange be tried in the US under the Espionage Act?

How will this scandal play out?