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Betting odds suggest Assange a contender for Nobel Peace Prize

posted 12 Oct 2012, 15:43 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Oct 2012, 15:44 ]

Betting odds suggest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a contender for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (REUTERS) -  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is considered by many to be a contender for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, with bookmaker 'Paddy Power' putting him at odds of 16/1 to win.

The former computer hacker gained international prominence in 2010 when Wikileaks began releasing secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.

That made him a hero to anti-censorship campaigners but a menace to Washington and other governments. Assange also faced widespread criticism that he had put lives at risk by blowing the cover of sources who spoke to diplomats and intelligence agents in countries where it was dangerous to do so.

Assange was arrested in December 2010 on an extradition warrant from Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women.

He denies wrongdoing and says he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he could be transferred to theUnited States where he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

After his detention, he lived under strict bail conditions at the country mansion of a wealthy supporter ineastern England.

"This has been a very successful smear campaign so far but I think that its days are numbered and people are starting to wonder, is what is claimed really true and if it is true where's the evidence, why has no evidence been provided even to me and my defence attorneys?" he said from the grounds of the house after his release.

In May 2011 Assange was presented with an award from the Sydney Peace Foundation for what it said was his exceptional courage in the pursuit of human rights.

In October of that year, he offered his support to thousands of Occupy protesters gathering in the heart ofLondon's financial district.

Despite pursuing legal options to avoid his extradition, Assange's claim that a European Arrest Warrent under which his extradition was sought was invalid, was rejected by Britain's Supreme Court.

"The majority has concluded that the Swedish public prosecutor was a judicial authority, within the meaning of both the framework decision and the extradition act. It follows that the request for Mr Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed," the president of the Supreme Court Lord Nicholas Phillips said in May 2012.

Less than a month later, Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London, breaking his bail conditions. He was later granted diplomatic asylum by Ecuador.

In August, he addressed crowds of media and supporters from the balcony of the embassy.

"As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to and re-affirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on? Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark," he said.

Assange remains at the embassy. If he leaves the building, he risks imprisonment.

Assange once enjoyed support from socialite Jemima Khan, film director Ken Loach and journalist John Pilger, but most of his high-profile backers have since distanced themselves from him. Many former friends and associates have turned against Assange also, describing him as a megalomaniac.

However, he still has loyal followers and rallies in support of him are planned in several countries.

Instantly recognisable with his unusual white-blond hair, Assange has appeared in an episode of hit U.S. animation show "The Simpsons". He has also launched a talk show on Russia Today, a Kremlin-funded English language TV station.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday (October 12).