Sixteen Democratic and Republican members of US Congress have called for US President Joe Biden to withdraw the extradition request by the United States against Australian journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a document published by Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, showed Thursday.
“As Members of Congress deeply committed to the principles of free speech and freedom of the press, we write to strongly encourage your Administration to withdraw the U.S. extradition request currently pending against Australian publisher Julian Assange and halt all prosecutorial proceedings against him as soon as possible,” the document, published by Stella Assange on X (formerly known as Twitter), read.
The Members of Congress, namely James McGovern, Thomas Massie, Rashida Tlaib, Eric Burlison, Ilhan Omar, Paul Gosar, Ayanna Pressley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Pramila Jayapal, Matthew Rosendale, Greg Casar, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Jesus Garcia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Senator Rand Paul, said in the document that “deep concerns about this case have been repeatedly expressed by international media outlets, human right and press freedom advocates, and Members of Congress, among others.”
The Members of Congress said they believe the US Department of Justice “acted correctly in 2013 … when it declined to pursue charges against Mr. Assange for publishing the classified documents because it recognized that the prosecution would set a dangerous precedent.”
They added that “it is the duty of journalists to seek out sources, including documentary evidence, in order to report to the public on the activities of government.”
“The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalizing common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the press. We urge you to ensure that this case be brought to a close in as timely a manner as possible,” the document read.
Since April 2019, Assange has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison while he faces prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act. If convicted, the WikiLeaks founder could face 175 years in prison. In December 2022, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to fight his extradition.
WikiLeaks was founded by Assange in 2006 but rose to prominence in 2010 when it began publishing large-scale leaks of classified government information, including from the US.