Julian Assange extradition: Joe Biden considers request to drop prosecution of WikiLeaks founder

President Joe Biden speaks during a State Arrival Ceremony for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, April 10, 2024
President Joe Biden speaks during a State Arrival Ceremony for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, April 10, 2024 Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with Associated Press
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The Wikileaks founder and his allies have spent years fighting against his extradition to the US while he remains in custody in the UK.


President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he is considering a request from Australia to drop the decade-long US push to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for publishing a trove of American classified documents.

Australia has consistently called on the US to drop its years-long prosecution against Assange, an Australian citizen who has fought US extradition efforts from prison in the UK.

Asked about the request on Wednesday, as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for an official visit, Biden said: "We’re considering it".

Assange has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago. 

American prosecutors allege that the 52-year-old encouraged and helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that were subsequently published on WikiLeaks, putting lives at risk.

Australia argues there is a disconnect between the US treatment of Assange and Manning, who was convicted for her part in the explosive Wikileaks incident. 

Then-US President Barack Obama commuted Manning's 35-year sentence to seven years, which allowed her release in 2017.

Assange's supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that was in the public interest.

Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, has said the WikiLeaks founder "is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives". 

She has said his health continues to deteriorate in prison and she fears he'll die behind bars.

Assange has 'already paid a significant price'

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said Biden's comment on Assange was encouraging.

"I have said that we have raised, on behalf of Mr Assange, Australia’s national interests that enough is enough and this needs to be brought to a conclusion and we’ve raised it at each level of government in every possible way," Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Mr Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough. There’s nothing to be gained by Mr Assange’s continued incarceration in my very strong view and I’ve put that as the view of the Australian government," he added.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, responding to Biden's comments, said in a statement that "it is not too late for President Biden to stop Julian’s extradition to the US, which was a politically motivated act by his predecessor.

"By dropping the charges against Julian he will be protecting freedom of expression and the rights of journalists and publishers globally," she said. 

"We urge him to end this legal process; to free Julian; and to recognise that journalism is not a crime".

A British court ruled last month that Assange cannot be extradited to the US on espionage charges unless US authorities guarantee he will not face the death penalty.

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