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Europe: Human rights report to oppose extradition of Julian Assange to US - European assembly says WikiLeaks founder’s detention ‘sets dangerous precedent’

Thursday 30 January 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jan/28/julian-assange-detention-sets-dangerous-precedent-for-journalists

Julian Assange
Human rights report to oppose extradition of Julian Assange to US

European assembly says WikiLeaks founder’s detention ‘sets dangerous precedent’

Ben Quinn

Tue 28 Jan 2020 20.00 GMT
Last modified on Wed 29 Jan 2020 10.34 GMT

Supporters of Julian Assange at a protest in London. They are likely to use the report in their fight to stop his extradition. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Julian Assange’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent for journalists”, according to politicians from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm, who voted on Tuesday to oppose the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US.

The words of support for Assange and implicit criticism of the UK government will be contained in a final report produced by the Labour peer Lord Foulkes for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which focuses on upholding human rights across the continent.

Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison prior to an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

Foulkes had drafted an initial report – Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe – that will now contain amendments referring to Assange tabled by a number of European parliamentarians.

One of the amendments backs the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on torture who called last year for Assange’s release and for extradition to the United States to be blocked. The other states that his possible extradition to the US “would set a precedent and threaten journalists’ freedoms in all member states”.

Foulkes told the Guardian that campaigners and supporters of Assange had written to him while he was writing the report, which addresses media freedoms and threats to journalists in countries including Russia, Turkey and Malta, and asked that he consider including an amendment mentioning Assange.

As a rapporteur for the assembly, he said it was not his role to do so but that colleagues from other states had done so.

He added: “I was in favour of him being sent back to Sweden when there were allegations against him to face, but as far as the US is concerned I think there would be deep concerns if he were to be sent there.”

While the report is non-binding on the UK or on British courts, Assange’s supporters are likely to cite it as a moral weight in their campaign to stop his extradition.

If convicted, Assange faces a prison term of up to 175 years.

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/20/the-guardian-view-on-extraditing-julian-assange-dont-do-it

The Guardian view on extraditing Julian Assange: don’t do it

Editorial

The US case against the WikiLeaks founder is an assault on press freedom and the public’s right to know

Wed 20 Nov 2019 18.24 GMT
Last modified on Thu 21 Nov 2019 13.56 GMT

Photo: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van, after he was arrested by British police in April. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Sweden’s decision to drop an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange has both illuminated the situation of the WikiLeaks founder and made it more pressing. He must be defended against extradition to the United States in a case that digs at the foundations of freedom and democracy in both Britain and the US, and could see him sentenced to a total of 175 years.

Mr Assange is in Belmarsh prison, where he served a 50-week sentence for skipping bail. He had entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest when Sweden asked Britain to extradite him for questioning. Though he denies any wrongdoing, that investigation was appropriate. Prosecuting authorities have said the complainant’s evidence was credible and reliable, but that the passage of time – Mr Assange entered the embassy in 2012 – meant that witnesses’ memories had faded.

The path has now been cleared for the US charges against him. They are entirely different. They relate to the secret military and diplomatic files provided by Chelsea Manning, which exposed appalling abuses by the US, and corrupt and brutal behaviour by other governments. These were covered by the Guardian, the New York Times and others, providing the public with important and necessary information. The Guardian, like others, strongly opposed Mr Assange’s subsequent decision to publish unredacted documents in bulk. But the material’s importance remains indisputable.

The Obama administration decided against pursuing Mr Assange under the Espionage Act, realising the threat to first amendment rights. Donald Trump enthused about his organisation on the 2016 campaign trail: “I love WikiLeaks,” he announced, after it published Democratic party emails stolen by Russian state hackers. But his administration has chosen to prosecute Mr Assange, and to do so explicitly on charges of publishing classified information through WikiLeaks.

Press freedom advocates in the US have rightly described this decision as “terrifying” and a “dire threat” to reporters, particularly given Mr Trump’s relentless assaults upon the media. But Sajid Javid, then home secretary, signed the extradition order and the matter is with the courts. The full proceedings will begin in February.

The case against extradition is strengthened by the nature of the US penal system – particularly given concerns about Mr Assange’s health – and the shameful treatment of Ms Manning. The army whistleblower was held in solitary confinement for years. Though her sentence was commuted by Barack Obama, she has been jailed again, for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury assumed to relate to Mr Assange’s case.

This is not a question of how wise Mr Assange is, still less how likable. It is not about his character, nor his judgment. It is a matter of press freedom, and the public’s right to know. It is unclear whether it would be safe to extradite Mr Assange to the US. It is certain that it would not be right.