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Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange raise $56 million to buy an NFT for his U.S. extradition battle

February 9, 2022, 8:12 PM UTC

Last week, a group supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange created the AssangeDAO, which focuses on raising funds for his upcoming battle to avoid extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. on espionage charges.

The collective, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)—or people pursuing a common interest without any central authority—began mobilizing on Dec. 10, the day that the U.S. government won its appeal over a “British court ruling that barred Assange’s extradition to the U.S.,” AssangeDAO wrote on its website. Since 2019, Assange has sat in British prison pending his U.S. extradition hearings over charges that could land him in prison for up to 175 years.

Assange supporters argue that the Australian national isn’t a criminal, but a journalist and defender of free speech. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, previously said that it set a “dangerous precedent” if journalists face charges from U.S. authorities for publishing “truthful information” about the U.S.

Soon after AssangeDAO’s launch, the group teamed with Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, to collect funds for the sole purpose of bidding on a non-fungible token (NFT) created by Assange and digital artist Pak.

Now, in just one week, AssangeDAO has raised $53 million, or 17,422 of the cryptocurrency Ether, from over 10,000 contributors through fundraising platform Juicebox. Notable contributors include Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who donated 10 Ether, or approximately $32,000.

As of Wednesday morning, AssangeDAO used the $53 million it collected to bid on—and win—the Clock NFT—a digital clock tracking the number of days Assange has spent locked up—by Assange and Pak. The NFT sale proceeds will go to the whistleblower’s legal defense fund and awareness campaign about the “free speech implications of his case,” says the group’s mission statement.

AssangeDAO’s crypto-fundraise smashes Juicebox’s previous fundraising record from ConstitutionDAO, the group which late last year raised money to try to buy an original copy of the 243-year-old U.S. Constitution. The DAO’s campaign had raised 11,613 Ether, equivalent to around $49 million at the time.

The Clock NFT won by AssangeDAO is part of a larger NFT collection by Assange and Pak called Censored. The other part of the Censored collection will feature censored messages from NFT buyers. That collection has so far raised 670 Ether, around $2.1 million, with 100% of the proceeds donated toward “human rights, freedom of information, digital privacy, child education, and health organizations,” wrote artist Pak on Twitter.

Founded in 2006 by Assange, WikiLeaks publishes news leaks and classified documents. During 2010, the site released 500,000 classified and secret U.S. military files and reports relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—and broadcasted a confidential video showing an American helicopter on an air strike that killed civilians and journalists in Baghdad. The U.S. government is trying to prosecute Assange for releasing the confidential files, which it says endangered U.S. national security. Before Assange was jailed in the U.K., he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London from 2012 to 2019.

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