US Urged By News Outlets To End Prosecution Of Julian Assange

The US should end its prosecution of Julian Assange, leading media from the United States and Europe who cooperated with the founder of WikiLeaks on Monday, citing concerns about freedom of the press.

“This case sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and freedom of the press,” said the editors and publishers of the Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País in an open letter.

Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 charges, including espionage, related to WikiLeaks’ release of classified US military and diplomatic cables. His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Monday marked twelve years since those media outlets cooperated to release excerpts from more than 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the so-called “Cablegate” leak.

This material was leaked to WikiLeaks by US soldier at the time Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the world. The documents exposed “corruption, official scandals and espionage cases around the world,” the letter said.

In August, a group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director Mike Pompeo for alleged spying on them during a visit to Assange while he was staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being released from prison in 2019 for breaching his bail conditions. He remains in prison in London while his extradition case is pending. If extradited to the United States, he faces up to 175 years in a maximum security US prison.

His legal team has applied to London’s High Court to block his extradition in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.

“Publishing is not a crime,” the media said in their letter on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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