The Biden administration will appeal decision to deny extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
The quiet announcement — released amidst former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, President Biden’s cabinet nomination hearings, and COVID-19 relief negotiations — signaled that a war on whistleblowing will continue no matter who occupies the Oval Office in Washington.
The US vs Julian Assange
Free speech advocates were elated last month when UK judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange could not be extradited to the United States due to possible “suicide risk” in a US federal prison.
Though the good news was quickly dashed after Judge Baraitser denied a bail request for Assange a few days later. The refusal to grant bail was made worse when joined with the judge’s comments about Julian’s case and the work done by Wikileaks, which she characterized as “unlawful” and “not protected by claims [Assange] was acting as a journalist.”
The US, now under President Biden, will “defend” inmate handling within US federal prisons in an effort to reverse the judge’s original ruling denying extradition. US Justice Department spokesperson Marc Rainmondi confirmed this in unequivocal terms last Friday: “Yes, we filed an appeal and we are continuing to pursue extradition.”
Biden himself has been conspicuously silent on the Assange case since taking office last month. Though in 2010 he referred to Assange as a “hi-tech terrorist” and, when asked about the case during the 2020 election, suggested the Wikileaks founder was not “immunized” from prosecution if the allegations of hacking put forth by the US Justice Department were true.
If extradited to the US, Assange faces up to 175 years in jail. DiEM25 has previously written about the US government charges against Assange and why they constitute an attack on freedom of speech and whistleblowing.
A cause for hope?
Pursuit of Julian Assange by the Biden administration may not last.
Spokesperson Raimondi is a holdover from the Trump administration. Merrick Garland, the Biden administration’s nominee for the Department of Justice (which oversees the Assange case) may act differently after confirmation by the US Congress. There is further hope given Garland’s history siding on free speech cases.
Human rights organizations have also put pressure on the new Biden administration to drop the charges; calling on him to put a stop to the ‘criminalization of the key tools of investigative journalism that are essential for a healthy democracy’.
We at DiEM25 vigorously oppose attacks, whether personal or professional and by governments or private corporations, on those who risk everything to come forward and expose corruption. We call on the Biden administration to drop the unconstitutional indictment of Julian Assange and accept the decision of the British judge not to extradite him.
We passionately ask you to sign our petition in support of Julian Assange. It already has more than 11,000 signatures; let’s continue to make our voices heard!
DiEM Voice — the movement’s arts and culture platform — is also hosting an open call for works on the subject on Julian Assange. Find out more and submit to the open call here.
Until then, #FreeAssange!
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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