A group of over 160 current and former politicians endorsed a letter that demands the UK government release WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange immediately. The publisher is currently fighting extradition to the US at Old Bailey court in London and could face up to 175 years in prison for exposing US war crimes.
The group includes heads of state, congressional members, diplomats, and lawmakers from all across the globe. Notable endorsees include the President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez, former President of Brazil Lula da Silva, former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Zapatero, and UK PM Jeremy Corbyn. The only US politicians on the list are former Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska and former Rep. Ron Paul from Texas.
The letter is addressed to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other UK officials and was written by the group Lawyers for Assange.
The letter demands the UK grant Assange his freedom: “We call on you to act in accordance with national and international law, human rights and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr. Assange his long overdue freedom – freedom from torture, arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty, and political persecution.”
The group says that if Assange is extradited, he would not face a fair trial and could be subject to torture. The letter cites UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer.
“Professor Nils Melzer has expressed with certainty that, if extradited to the US, Mr. Assange will be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019. After examining Assange in Belmarsh with medical experts in May 2019, Melzer said that the publisher exhibited, “all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma.”
The US is indicting Assange on 17 counts of espionage. The letter says these counts, “Present standard and necessary investigative journalistic practices as criminal.” Assange is also facing an indictment on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The letter says initial indictment criminalized Assange’s efforts to protect his source’s identity, which “falls squarely under the standard journalistic practice and duty of protecting the source.”
The US added a new superseding indictment to its case in June, which Assange’s lawyers were not given sufficient time to prepare a defense for. “The new indictment has emerged unjustifiably late in the day, is based on no new information and the testimony of two highly compromised sources,” the letter reads.
Because of the reasons listed above, the letter says that if Assange is extradited, it would “gravely endanger the free press.”