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WikiLeaks Blasts UK Decision to Extradite Assange to US: “Dark Day for Press Freedom”

by Adan Salazar
June 17th 2022, 12:46 pm
"Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job."
"Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account."
Image Credit:
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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WikiLeaks criticized the UK’s decision to extradite founder Julian Assange to the US to face hacking and espionage charges, saying it represents “a dark day for press freedom and British Democracy.”

Responding to news that British Home Secretary Priti Patel had signed the extradition order Friday, the WikiLeaks organization accused the UK government of infringing on Assange’s rights as a journalist.

“This is a dark day for Press freedom and for British democracy,” the watchdog whistleblower organization wrote in a message posted to Twitter.

“Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination.”

Once in the US, Assange would be jailed until he could face charges he violated the 1917 Espionage Act, a crime WikiLeaks says he did not commit, and which carries a 175-year sentence.

“Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.”

The organization also slammed Patel for signing the order and asserted her legacy would be solidified “as an accomplice to the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.”

WikiLeaks, which publishes leaks and official government documents provided by anonymous sources concerning war, spying and corruption, additionally pointed out the case is “political” in nature as Assange has managed to offend people in powerful positions.

“Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; tortured and rendered; bribed foreign officials; and corrupted judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing,” the organization’s statement said. “Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account.”

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said the order “sends a chilling message to journalists the world over” and agreed Assange’s human rights could be violated in the US if he’s extradited.

“If the extradition proceeds, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Assange faces a high risk of prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture and other ill treatment,” Callamard said.

“Diplomatic assurances provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken on face value given previous history,” she added.

WikiLeaks has vowed to appeal the extradition order.

Their message comes in response to a statement released by the UK Home Office Friday claiming their order does not violate Assange’s human rights.

The Home Office wrote “the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”

Agence-France Presse notes that while the order has been issued, court and legal battles could span several months.

Assange would first need permission to appeal from the High Court. If that was granted, the hearing might not be until early next year.

“He could also make an application to the European Court of Human Rights,” said Kate Goold, an extradition lawyer at London firm Bindmans.

“Once you get to the European Court of Human Rights, it’s a very, very slow process,” added another specialist Rebecca Niblock, from lawyers Kingsley Napley.

“Extradition is a very lengthy process and it is very unlikely that this will be the end of it.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has followed Assange’s case closely, outlined Friday why it’s in Assange’s best interest to avoid being charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, which offers defendants little more than meaningless show trials.

But putting oneself in Assange’s position, it is easy to see why he is so eager to avoid extradition to the U.S. for as long as possible. The Espionage Act of 1917 is a nasty and repressive piece of legislation. It was designed by Woodrow Wilson and his band of authoritarian progressives to criminalize dissent against Wilson’s decision to involve the U.S. in World War I. It was used primarily to imprison anti-war leftists such as Eugene Debs, as well as anti-war religious leaders such as Joseph Franklin Rutherford for the crime of publishing a book condemning Wilson’s foreign policy.

One of the most insidious despotic innovations of the Obama administration was to repurpose and revitalize the Wilson-era Espionage Act as an all-purpose weapon to punish whistleblowers who denounced Obama’s policies. The Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all previous administrations combined — in fact, three times as many as all prior presidents combined. One whistleblower charged by Obama officials under that law is NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who in 2013 revealed mass domestic spying of precisely the kind that Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (now of CNN) falsely denied conducting when testifying to the Senate, which led to legislative curbs enacted by the U.S. Congress, and which courts have ruled unconstitutional and illegal.

What makes this law so insidious is that, by design, it is almost impossible for the government to lose. As I detailed in a Washington Post op-ed when the indictment was first revealed — arguing why it poses the greatest threat to press freedoms in the West in years — this 1917 law is written as a “strict liability” statute, meaning that the defendant is not only guilty as soon as there is proof that they disclosed classified information without authorization, but they are also barred from raising a “justification” defense — meaning they cannot argue to the jury of their peers that it was not only permissible but morally necessary to disclose that information because of the serious wrongdoing and criminality it revealed on the part of the nation’s most powerful political officials. That 1917 law, in other words, is written to offer only show trials but not fair trials. No person in their right mind would willingly submit to prosecution and life imprisonment in the harshest American penitentiaries under an indictment brought under this fundamentally corrupted law.

Needless to say, all parties interested in journalists holding powerful governments accountable should be very concerned with what happens to Julian Assange.


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Julian Assange Extradition Approved By UK Authorities

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