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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, is an outside bet for this year's Nobel peace prize, though, to some, he is a figure of some controversy.

Nobel peace prize: the contenders | World news | guardian.co.uk

Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, is an outside bet for this year's Nobel peace prize, though, to some, he is a figure of some controversy. Assange's whistleblowing website was behind the release of three of the biggest leaks in history: secret communiqués from US diplomats, military logs from Iraq, and war files from Afghanistan. His supporters say he is a fearless champion of human rights and free speech; his detractors reckon him self-important, a man whose reckless disclosures endangered lives. Assange has scooped several big prizes already. These include the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, as well as an award from Amnesty International. He is already on the Nobel prize shortlist after Snorre Valen, a young Norwegian politician, nominated him in February. WikiLeaks is also credited with playing a role in the Arab spring – the site's leaked US diplomatic cables painting a vivid portrait of corruption and decadence among the now-deposed plutocrats of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But the White House is likely to protest vigorously if Assange gets the prize. The US administration accuses the 40-year-old of spoiling relations with international partners, and it has been seeking a way, unsuccessfully so far, to prosecute him for treason. It might also be tricky for Assange to collect the prize in person. He is living under curfew in Norfolk, appealing against extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault allegations. Depending on how the legal process goes over the next couple of months he could either be in England or, if extradited and convicted, inside a Swedish prison cell. Assange does have a broad and unusual coalition of backers. They include anti-war activists, information libertarians, and the Kremlin. In December, a member of Dmitry Medvedev's entourage proposed that the Australian activist and publisher be given the Nobel gong, a suggestion made seemingly to annoy Washington. Assange's recently published and disavowed autobiography makes a reference to the Nobel peace prize on the author's blurb. He might just pull it off.

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