Civil Liberties Groups Plead With Biden To Stop Persecuting Julian Assange
Two dozen civil liberties and human rights groups are pleading with President Joe Biden to make things right with journalist Julian Assange. “We, the undersigned press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights advocacy organizations, write today to share our profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” the letter opens.
It is signed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International USA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the First Amendment Coalition, Human Rights Watch, the Knight First Amendment Institute, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, and more.
The groups urge Biden to give up on the Trump administration’s appeal of a United Kingdom court decision denying the United States’ request to have Assange forcibly returned to the U.S.
They argue that the prosecution and extradition attempt is “a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad,” since the “criminal” conduct Assange is accused of “is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do.”
“Some of the charges included in the indictment turn entirely on Mr. Assange’s decision to publish classified information,” their letter points out. “News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance.”
The Assange situation “will present the Biden administration with an early test” of whether he plans to carry on the Trump administration’s hostility to journalists and press freedom, suggests Jameel Jaffer at Just Security. While “Assange is a complicated figure, and he seems to have alienated basically everyone,” there is still “near-universal agreement among human rights, civil liberties, and press freedom organizations that the case against him poses a major threat to press freedom not just here in the United States but around the world.”
The Institute for
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