Calls Grow To Release Julian Assange

“I know it’s frustrating, I share the frustration,” Albanese told ABC television from London where Assange is being held pending a U.S. extradition case. “I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is and the U.S. administration is certainly very aware of what the Australian government’s position is. There is nothing to be served by his ongoing incarceration.”

Assange, an Australian citizen, is battling extradition from Britain to the United States where he is wanted on criminal charges over the release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables in 2010. Washington says the release of the documents had put lives in danger.

Albanese said Australians were failing to understand the reasons for freeing the source who leaked the documents to Assange while he still remained in prison, referring to the release of former U.S. soldier and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning. Assange spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London after being offered refuge but was dragged out by British police in 2019. He has been staying in a prison in London while his extradition case was decided.

Albanese has been advocating for the release of Assange, who faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison if extradited to the United States.

“Enough is enough, this needs to be brought to a conclusion, it needs to be worked through,” said Albanese. In November, Albanese had raised the issue in meetings with United States officials but did not confirm on Friday if he would raise it with President Biden during his visit to Sydney on May 24 for the Quad leaders’ summit. “The way that diplomacy works … is probably not to forecast the discussions that you will have,” he said.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)

Last week on the four-year anniversary of WikiLeaks founder’s imprisonment in UK’s high security prison politicians across the globe sent an open letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland calling on him to drop the unprecedented charges against Julian Assange.

U.S. policymakers cosigned a letter lead by Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib and joined by New York Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Texas Rep. Greg Casar, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Missouri Rep. Cori Bush.

“The prosecution of Julian Assange for carrying out journalistic activities greatly diminishes America’s credibility as a defender of these values, undermining the United States’ moral standing on the world stage, and effectively granting cover to authoritarian governments who can (and do) point to Assange’s prosecution to reject evidence-based criticisms of their human rights records and as a precedent that justifies the criminalization of reporting on their activities,” the lawmakers wrote.

Richard Burgon MP who organised the UK letter said: “British Parliamentarians are increasingly alarmed by the potential extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. Any extradition would, in effect, be putting press freedom on trial. It would set a dangerous precedent for journalists and publishers around the world. Four years on since Julian Assange was first detained in Belmarsh High-Security prison, now is the right moment to draw a line under this outrageous prosecution initiated by the Trump Administration, drop the charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to Australia.”

“The 48 Australian federal parliamentarians who put their name to the formal letter of concern, in concert with similar letters from parliamentarians from around the world, represents millions of constituents. This is no small matter and must not be dismissed.” Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark in the Australian Federal Parliament said.

97 Mexican lawmakers joined calls urging the US to cease it prosecution of WikiLeaks journalist and publisher Julian Assange emphasizing the global implications in this case.

Almost 100 Brazilian parliamentarians signed the letter to US President Joe Biden citing chilling precedent that extradition would set for other journalists and publishers around the world

Read the UK letter
Read the US letter
Read the Australian letter
Read the Mexican letter in English \ In Spanish
Read the Brazilian letter

U.S. letter

Dear Attorney General Merrick Garland,

We write you today to call on you to uphold the First Amendment’s protections for the freedom of the press by dropping the criminal charges against Australian publisher Julian Assange and withdrawing the American extradition request currently pending with the British government.

Press freedom, civil liberty, and human rights groups have been emphatic that the charges against Mr. Assange pose a grave and unprecedented threat to everyday, constitutionally protected journalistic activity, and that a conviction would represent a landmark setback for the First Amendment. Major media outlets are in agreement: The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel have taken the extraordinary step of publishing a joint statement in opposition to the indictment, warning that it “sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

The ACLU, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Defending Rights and Dissent, and Human Rights Watch, among others, have written to you three times to express these concerns. In one such letter they wrote:

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do. Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

The prosecution of Julian Assange for carrying out journalistic activities greatly diminishes America’s credibility as a defender of these values, undermining the United States’ moral standing on the world stage, and effectively granting cover to authoritarian governments who can (and do) point to Assange’s prosecution to reject evidence-based criticisms of their human rights records and as a precedent that justifies the criminalization of reporting on their activities. Leaders of democracies, major international bodies, and parliamentarians around the globe stand opposed to the prosecution of Assange.

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic have both opposed the extradition. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called on the U.S. government to end its pursuit of Assange. Leaders of nearly every major Latin American nation, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Argentinian President Alberto Fernández have called for the charges to be dropped. Parliamentarians from around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia, have all called for Assange not to be extradited to the U.S.

This global outcry against the U.S. government’s prosecution of Mr. Assange has highlighted conflicts between America’s stated values of press freedom and its pursuit of Mr. Assange. The Guardian wrote “The US has this week proclaimed itself the beacon of democracy in an increasingly authoritarian world. If Mr. Biden is serious about protecting the ability of the media to hold governments accountable, he should begin by dropping the charges brought against Mr. Assange.

Similarly, the Sydney Morning Herald editorial board stated, “At a time when US President Joe Biden has just held a summit for democracy, it seems contradictory to go to such lengths to win a case that, if it succeeds, will limit freedom of speech.”

As Attorney General, you have rightly championed freedom of the press and the rule of law in the United States and around the world. Just this past October the Justice Department under your leadership made changes to news media policy guidelines that generally prevent federal prosecutors from using subpoenas or other investigative tools against journalists who possess and publish classified information used in news gathering. We are grateful for these pro-press freedom revisions, and feel strongly that dropping the Justice Department’s indictment against Mr. Assange and halting all efforts to extradite him to the U.S. is in line with these new policies.

Julian Assange faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act and one charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.  The Espionage Act charges stem from Mr. Assange’s role in publishing information about the U.S. State Department, Guantanamo Bay, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of this information was published by mainstream newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, who often worked with Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks directly in doing so. Based on the legal logic of this indictment, any of those newspapers could be prosecuted for engaging in these reporting activities. In fact, because what Mr. Assange is accused of doing is legally indistinguishable from what papers like the New York Times do, the Obama administration rightfully declined to bring these charges. The Trump Administration, which brought these charges against Assange, was notably less concerned with press freedom.

The prosecution of Mr. Assange marks the first time in U.S. history that a publisher of truthful information has been indicted under the Espionage Act. The prosecution of Mr. Assange, if successful, not only sets a legal precedent whereby journalists or publishers can be prosecuted, but a political one as well. In the future the New York Times or Washington Post could be prosecuted when they publish important stories based on classified information. Or, just as dangerous for democracy, they may refrain from publishing such stories for fear of prosecution.

Mr. Assange has been detained on remand in London for more than three years, as he awaits the outcome of extradition proceedings against him. In 2021, a U.K. District Judge ruled against extraditing Mr. Assange to the United States on the grounds that doing so would put him at undue risk of suicide. The U.K.’s High Court overturned that decision after accepting U.S. assurances regarding the prospective treatment Mr. Assange would receive in prison. Neither ruling adequately addresses the threat the charges against Mr. Assange pose to press freedom. The U.S. Department of Justice can halt these harmful proceedings at any moment by simply dropping the charges against Mr. Assange.

We appreciate your attention to this urgent issue. Every day that the prosecution of Julian Assange continues is another day that our own government needlessly undermines our own moral authority abroad and rolls back the freedom of the press under the First Amendment at home. We urge you to immediately drop these Trump-era charges against Mr. Assange and halt this dangerous prosecution.

Members of Congress

CC: British Embassy; Australian Embassy

Ithaka: Film With Julian’s Father and Brother

In his interview below with Del Bigtree, host of The Highwire which airs online Thursdays from 2-4 ET, Julian’s father and brother point out that both sides of the aisle in Congress support Julian’s release now.

John and Gabriel Shipton discuss their gripping documentary, Ithaka, which chronicles the unrelenting struggle to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, their son and brother, from a high-security prison in Britain for his part in releasing classified US government files to the public.

The Many Costs of The War on Terror

The United States has waged an endless War on Terror on the Arab world in response to what we are told were attacks on the World Trade Center by Arabs flying planes into the towers. However, raise serious questions about the veracity of that narrative.

Assange exposed the many abuses in what has become a War of Terror on the Muslim world. The cost of this war is not measured just in the trillions of dollars drained from the US economy, the massive destruction of the Middle East, or the lives of American service men and women.

The cost of the war is also reflected in the growing alienation of the Global South. BRICS Nations Are Expanding Dramatically! explains that many nations are now interested in joining the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). This spells the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency and a great decline in America’s power in the world.

Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, was destroyed on the false charge that it had “weapons of mass destruction” — none of which were found. However, Saddam Hussein was killed and many of the historic treasures of Baghdad, the capital, were destroyed.

Iraq war: When Baghdad fell, the country’s treasures were lost says:

The New York Times called the looting of the museum and its invaluable collection of archaeological artefacts — many of which dated to the early days of human culture and civilisation — “one of the greatest cultural disasters in recent Middle Eastern history”.

Yet, it was the House of Wisdom in Baghdad that jumpstarted the European Renaissance.

The following articles show that the deep debt the West owes the Arab world.

It is past time now to make peace.

**By Neenah Payne