(NEW YORK) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t only have to worry about rebel groups overturning his government and the international community condemning his leadership in the face of a 16-month uprising — now he also has to worry about WikiLeaks.
The online leak group announced in a statement Thursday that it’s releasing a collection of more than 2.4 million emails between Syrian government officials, politicians and companies.
WikiLeaks said the release of emails from 2006 to March of this year would “shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy.” WikiLeaks said the release would embarrass not only al-Assad, but also his ruling Baath Party and his political adversaries.
Dubbed “The Syria Files,” WikiLeaks said the “range of information extends from the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath Party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.”
The first batch of emails, published by the Italian news magazine L’Espresso, appear to show that Finmeccanica, a large Italian defense contractor, supplied communications equipment to the Syrian regime, even after al-Assad had begun a violent crackdown on peaceful protests.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the emails appear to indicate a subsidiary of Finmeccanica was selling radio communications equipment worth more than $40 million to police in Syria in May 2011, the same month the European Union declared an embargo on the Syrian government that banned the export of weapons and any equipment that could be used against the Syrian people.
The emails also appear to show that as recently as February of this year engineers from the Finmeccanica subsidiary, Selex Elsag, traveled to Syria to provide training on the use of the communications equipment, including how it could be installed in helicopters. Syria has used helicopter gunships to attack rebel strongholds.
A spokesman for the Rome-based Finmeccanica told The Daily Telegraph the company was trying to verify the authenticity of the emails. WikiLeaks says more emails will be released via several publications in the coming weeks.
WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, is still holed up at the embassy of Ecuador in London where he is seeking asylum to avoid British efforts to extradite him to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
Assange believes his extradition to Sweden will result in him being transported to the United States, where he faces possible prosecution for his group’s 2010 release of hundreds of thousands of classified American military and diplomatic documents.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss and Joe Sutton, CNN
Greg Botelho, CNN Newswire