Amnesty International on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to drop the U.S. government’s extradition request for Julian Assange and end its “farcical prosecution” of the WikiLeaks founder.
“President Obama opened the investigation into Julian Assange. President Trump brought the charges against him. It is now time for President Biden to do the right thing,” Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty’s Europe director, said in a statement.
The renewed call from Amnesty came on the eve of a preliminary appeal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London at which the U.S. government will be allowed to partly challenge a lower court’s January ruling blocking Assange’s extradition.
The New York Times reported last month on how the U.S. is attempting to challenge the assessment that Assange would face “oppressive” conditions in prison if extradited.
The summary of the decision to accept the appeal said that the United States had “provided the United Kingdom with a package of assurances which are responsive to the district judge’s specific findings in this case.”
Specifically, it said, Mr. Assange would not be subjected to measures that curtail a prisoner’s contact with the outside world and can amount to solitary confinement, and would not be imprisoned at the supermax prison in Florence, Colo., unless he later did something “that meets the test” for imposing such harsh steps.
“The United States has also provided an assurance that the United States will consent to Mr. Assange being transferred to Australia to serve any custodial sentence imposed on him,” the summary said.
Assange, who’s been imprisoned for over two years at London’s maximum-security Belmarsh jail, faces an 18-count indictment stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of classified information that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Seventeen charges are under the Espionage Act and one is under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
“This attempt by the U.S. government to get the court to reverse its decision not to allow Julian Assange’s extradition on the basis of new diplomatic assurances is a blatant legal sleight of hand,” said Muižnieks. “Given that the U.S. government has reserved the right to keep Julian Assange in a maximum security facility and subject him to Special Administrative Measures [SAMs], these assurances are inherently unreliable.”
Muižnieks added that the court should dismiss the “disingenuous appeal,” and called on Biden to “take the opportunity to drop these politically motivated charges which have put media freedom and freedom of expression in the dock.”
According to Stella Moris, Assange’s partner and mother of two of his children, Assange is expected to attend the Wednesday hearing in person.
In a Friday update on his case, Moris framed the appeal as “the latest move by the U.S. government to try to game the British legal system.” She continued:
The U.S. government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: aggressive tactics and subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment…
The big picture is that any assurance short of dropping the case entirely is entirely worthless. Julian is being punished for doing his job. He published true information that the public had the right to know and which revealed serious wrongdoing on the part of states and their agents.
If found guilty, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
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