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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The world dangerous man

The world dangerous man is Julian Assange

Experienced something this week by Julian Assange is not known since boyhood: a prolonged period without a computer. The editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks has spent the past four nights in Wandsworth Prison deprived of the laptop that constitutes one of his few possessions, waiting for the next stage in the extradition process that could result in his being put on trial in Sweden for the alleged sexual assault of two women.

The liberal establishment is rallying to his cause. John Pilger and A L Kennedy were among those calling for his release yesterday, and there are allies of another kind: computer hackers from all corners of the world who have teamed up to attack websites that, under pressure from the American government, have withdrawn online donation facilities from WikiLeaks.

Classified US material on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now an avalanche of State Department cables, many embarrassing, have catapulted Assange and WikiLeaks to global prominence. Supporters say the sexual assault allegations are part of a campaign orchestrated by the US, which has suffered enormously from leaks, to discredit the creator of what has been described as "the most dangerous website in the world".

WikiLeaks remains something of a mystery. Who runs it? How does it work? And what will it do next? Julian Assange has many enemies, but is he also running out of friends?

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