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WikiLeaks releasing 2.4 million Syria e-mails

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information.

Story highlights

  • One e-mail shows a company trying to get around U.S. sanctions
  • The e-mails are in a range of languages including Arabic and Russian
  • WikiLeaks says the e-mails come from different government ministries
  • The WikiLeaks founder has been fighting extradition

WikiLeaks said Thursday it has begun publishing some 2.4 million e-mails from Syrian politicians, government ministries and companies dating back to 2006.

The e-mails, which are in a range of languages including Arabic and Russian, come from the ministries of presidential affairs, finance, information and foreign affairs, among others.

According to WikiLeaks, the e-mails "shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, but they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another."

One e-mail shows an Italian company trying to get around U.S. sanctions on Syria and another indicates that the company was sending engineers and helicopter radio equipment to Syria as recently as February 2012.

Syrian forces began their crackdown against protesters in March 2011 and that has sparked a grass-roots uprising and a bloody regime offensive against dissenters.

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WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has published about 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, causing embarrassment to the government and others. It has also published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in Britain in 2010 over allegations of rape and sex crime charges in Sweden.

    Two women have accused Assange of sexually assaulting them in August 2010 when he was visiting Sweden in connection with a WikiLeaks release of internal U.S. military documents.

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    He has been arrested in absentia, Swedish prosecutors have said. Swedish authorities want to question him about the allegations, which he denies.

    Assange has been fighting extradition ever since, saying the allegations are retribution for his organization's disclosure of American secrets. His bail conditions included staying every night at the home of a supporter outside London.

    Assange applied for asylum to Ecuador on June 19 and has been inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since then. It is unclear when Ecuador will decide on the request.

    He sought refuge at the embassy five days after the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom dismissed a bid to reopen his appeal of the decision to send him to Sweden -- his last option in British courts.

    A representative for the WikiLeaks founder said Assange will not honor a notice that British police served him requiring that he surrender to authorities.

    "This should not be considered any sign of disrespect," said Susan Benn of the Julian Assange Defense Fund, who read the statement. Benn said the United States has empaneled a grand jury in its goal to press charges against Assange. Turning himself in would have started a process that would have ended with Assange's extradition to the United States, she said.

    "It is clear that there is a plan to bring Julian Assange to the United States," she said.

    Citing what she called cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of the alleged source of leaked documents, Pfc. Bradley Manning, Benn said that sending Assange to the United States "would be a violation of his rights."

    Police said Assange has violated the terms of his bail by staying at the embassy, and that ignoring the notice to turn himself in is a further violation.

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