Last week, Priti Patel signed an order to extradite Julian Assange to America, says Andrew Neil in the Daily Mail. The WikiLeaks founder is wanted by the US on 18 charges of espionage and could face a “ludicrous” 175 years behind bars. Of course, if Assange’s character and behaviour were on trial, “we’d probably say good riddance”. The 50-year-old jumped bail and hid in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years to avoid rape charges; colluded with Kremlin-linked hackers to undermine America’s 2016 election; and put lives in danger when he dumped 250,000 secret US cables on the internet in 2011.
But we still shouldn’t be sending him to rot in some “hi-tech American hellhole”. After all, it’s thanks to Assange that we learned of the “ruthless, illegal and even barbaric steps” Washington was prepared to take in its post-9/11 war against terror. His “devastating dumps of data” revealed war crimes that had been covered up, torture and brutality, corrupt inquiries and unfair incarcerations. One leaked video showed US soldiers laughing as they shot and killed unarmed Iraqi civilians. “All this by the self-styled greatest democracy in the world.” The truth is, Assange did what should come naturally to all good journalists – “exposing what powerful people don’t want to be exposed”. If he ends up incarcerated, “it would chill investigative journalism in free societies across the globe”.