Lazy eyes listen
Several Democrats in the House have signed a letter urging the Department of Justice to drop its charges against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange and halt extradition proceedings aimed at bringing him to the US to face prosecution under the World War I-era Espionage Act.
On the fourth anniversary of Assange’s 2019 arrest, a group of progressive senators called as ‘the Squad’ wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, stating the allegations against him pose a severe threat to the free press.
“We write to urge you to uphold the First Amendment’s protections for press freedom by dropping the criminal charges against Australian publisher Julian Assange and withdrawing the American extradition request that is currently pending with the British government,” the lawmakers wrote.
They went on to cite warnings from a long list of human rights, civil liberties, and press freedom organizations, including the ACLU, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Defending Rights and Dissent, and Human Rights Watch, that Assange’s case poses a “grave and unprecedented threat to everyday, constitutionally protected journalistic activity.”
Assange was detained by British authorities in 2019 after losing his political asylum status at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been hiding for more than seven years due to the publishing of substantial volumes of confidential material by Wikileaks. Under then-President Donald Trump, the US Department of Justice released a multi-count indictment against Assange on April 11, 2019, the same day of his arrest, charging him with 17 counts of espionage, which could result in the death penalty.
In the years following, he has been incarcerated at the UK’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison while Washington pursues an extradition request to bring Assange to the US to face his charges. The publisher’s legal team has appealed a previous judgement in favor of extradition based on Assange’s poor health, a process that is now ongoing in British courts.
Democratic senators stated that prosecuting Assange would “greatly [diminish] America’s credibility” as a global supporter of human rights and set a dangerous legal precedent “under which journalists or publishers can be prosecuted.”