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Biden says he's considering Australia's request to drop prosecution of Assange

11/4/2024 5:56
        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. Asked about the request on Wednesday, as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for an official visit, 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 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 Manning’s 35-year sentence to seven years, which allowed her 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.
        
        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., which was a politically motivated act by his predecessor."
        
        "By dropping the charges against Julian he will be protecting freedom of expression and the rights of journalists and publishers globally," she said. "We urge him to end this legal process; to free Julian; and to recognize that journalism is not a crime."
        
        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.
        



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