Monday, May 20, 2024

Biden ‘Considering’ Request to Drop Prosecution of Wikileaks’s Julian Assange

'Mr. Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough. There’s nothing to be gained by Mr. Assange’s continued incarceration in my very strong view...'

(Headline USA) President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he is considering a request from Australia to drop the decade-long U.S. push to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for publishing a trove of American classified documents.

For years, Australia has called on the U.S. to drop its prosecution against Assange, an Australian citizen who has fought U.S. extradition efforts from prison in the U.K.

A British court ruled last month that Assange can’t be extradited to the United States on espionage charges unless U.S. authorities guarantee he won’t get the death penalty.

Asked about the Australian minister’s request on Wednesday, during a state visit by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said, “We’re considering it.”

Assange has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago.

American prosecutors allege that Assange, 52, encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea (né Bradley) Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published, putting lives at risk.

Australia argues there is a disconnect between the U.S. treatment of Assange and Manning. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama commuted the latter’s 35-year sentence to seven years, which allowed Manning’s release in 2017.

Assange’s supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that was in the public interest.

Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, has said the WikiLeaks founder “is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives.” She has said his health continues to deteriorate in prison, and she fears he’ll die behind bars.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Biden’s comment on Assange was encouraging.

“I have said that we have raised, on behalf of Mr. Assange, Australia’s national interests that enough is enough and this needs to be brought to a conclusion and we’ve raised it at each level of government in every possible way,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Mr. Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough. There’s nothing to be gained by Mr. Assange’s continued incarceration in my very strong view and I’ve put that as the view of the Australian government,” he added.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, responding to Biden’s comments, said in a statement that “it is not too late for President Biden to stop Julian’s extradition to the U.S.

“By dropping the charges against Julian he will be protecting freedom of expression and the rights of journalists and publishers globally,” Hrafnsson said. “We urge him to end this legal process; to free Julian; and to recognize that journalism is not a crime.”

Hrafnsson further claimed, without evidence that the extradition effort “was a politically motivated act” by former President Donald Trump, although the anti-Establishment populist Trump also is believed to have seriously considered a pardon for Assange.

Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, by contrast was reported to have openly speculated about the possibility of assassinating Assange via drone strike as he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Clinton refused to confirm or deny the allegation, while insisting that it was a joke if it did happen.

After Clinton destroyed evidence in a congressional probe of her private email server, Assange struck back by obtaining and publishing a tranche of Clinton emails, as well as emails from campaign manager John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.

Those resulted in several damning stories coming to light, notably exposing Clinton’s collusion with media sources and with the DNC to freeze out a primary challenge by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Podesta’s emails, which included bizarre and often creepy references to foodstuffs such as hot dogs and pizza, fueled online rumors that he was using coded language to conceal a child sex-trafficking ring. The online search for clues would later evolve into the so-called Pizzagate scandal and, subsequently, the QAnon movement.

Clinton falsely claimed that the server hack was a result of Trump’s collusion with Russia and, subsequently, she colluded with the CIA and the FBI to launch a baseless investigation of Trump’s campaign in order to smear his reputation.

The fallout from the Russia-collusion hoax was to destroy the reputations of several trusted and esteemed government agencies and permanently mar the faith that many Americans had placed in the integrity and functionality of the federal government.

Unlike Assange, none of the hoax conspirators were ever held criminally accountable.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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