USA/UK: US authorities must drop politically motivated charges against Assange
Ahead of the preliminary appeal hearing in London’s High Court today on the decision not to extradite Julian Assange to the US, Amnesty International has renewed its call on US authorities to drop the charges against him. The organisation’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, said:
“This attempt by the US 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. Given that the US government has reserved the right to keep Julian Assange in a maximum security facility and subject him to Special Administrative Measures, these assurances are inherently unreliable.
Muižnieks called on the court to dismiss the US government’s appeal and also called on Biden to “drop these politically-motivated charges which have put media freedom and freedom of expression in the dock.”
Highlighting how former President Barack Obama opened the government’s investigation into Assange, and how former President Donald Trump subsequently decided to bring charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Muižnieks urged Biden to finally “do the right thing and end this farcical prosecution which should never have been brought in the first place.”
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on January 4 that Assange – an Australian citizen who is charged with espionage for publishing leaked classified documents – could not be extradited to the US, citing mental health concerns and the high risk that the American justice system could not prevent his possible suicide behind bars.
In a statement on Friday, Assange’s fiancé Stella Morris explained that the US government “will re-run arguments that have already been settled by two previous judges, including a very senior High Court judge” and that “it seems unlikely that the judges on Wednesday will reach a different conclusion.”
“Wednesday’s hearing is therefore particularly vexatious,” she said, claiming that the “ultimate strategy by the US government is to try to get the court to dismiss important evidence” about Assange’s mental health and “game the British legal system.”
A protest against US attempts to extradite Assange is set to take place outside the Royal Courts of Justice in Strand, London, on today.
The US extradition request is based on charges directly related to the publication of leaked classified documents as part of Assange’s work with Wikileaks. Publishing information that is in the public interest is a cornerstone of media freedom and the public’s right to information about government wrongdoing. Publishing information in the public interest is protected under international human rights law and should not be criminalized.
If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could face trial on 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act; and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He would also face a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement. Julian Assange is the first publisher to face charges under the Espionage Act.
The US government is expected to challenge the grounds on which it can appeal and may request reconsideration for appeal on the other two grounds, which question the expert profile of one of the expert witnesses and also the assessed risk of Assange committing suicide.
For further information see https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR4544502021ENGLISH.PDF
For more information or to arrange an interview contact Stefan Simanowit at the court: email@example.com