This Week in HistoryThis Week in History: Week 26 (26 June 2024)

Julian Assange Walks Free From Persecution

Australian journalist Julian Assange is released after 14 years' incarceration for exposing US war crimes

In June 2024, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was finally released after five years in a UK high-security prison called Belmarsh, following seven years spent in a room at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had sought political asylum in 2012.

Since 2010 Assange had been trying to avoid extradition to the United States, where he faced charges related to the publication of classified military and diplomatic documents through his website Wikileaks.

Assange's case had been a contentious and high-profile international issue, with supporters hailing him as a champion of press freedom and transparency, while critics accused him of endangering lives by leaking sensitive information. After years of legal battles, the authorities ultimately decided not to pursue Assange's extradition, paving the way for his release one day before the first debate of the US presidential election 2024.

persecution (verb): hostility and ill-treatment
incarceration (verb): confinement in a cell or small space
Wikileaks (proper noun): website where whistleblowers and others can upload documentary evidence of government wrongdoing, which may or may not subsequently be published by the website
political asylum (noun): protection granted by a state to a political refugee
extradition (noun): the act of a state handing over an accused person to another state
classified (adjective): top secret
contentious (adjective): controversial; likely to cause an argument
hail (verb): praise enthusiastically

Ecuadorean Embassy in London, August 2012

One of the videos released by Wikileaks

Mini Quiz

1. Before his release, Assange spent the most time at
a) Wikileaks
b) Belmarsh Prison
c) The Ecuadorean Embassy

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2. The USA wanted to extradite Assange on charges related to
a) secret information
b) presidential debates
c) political asylum

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3. The Wikileaks website
a) is like Wikipedia
b) helps people reveal secrets
c) was founded in Ecuador

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Contributor: Matt Errey. Matt is the author of several books including 1000 Phrasal Verbs in Context and Common English Idioms for learners, and Matt's ESL Games and Quizzes for teachers.