Wednesday, 10 February 2021 10:58

Biden justice department opts to continue with case against Assange Featured

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Biden justice department opts to continue with case against Assange Courtesy YouTube

The Department of Justice under new US President Joe Biden has decided to continue its bid to seek the extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange from the UK, according to a report from Kevin Gosztola, a freelance journalist who has his own site on Substack.

Assange, an Australian citizen, is currently in Belmarsh prison in the UK, after a judge who decided in January against granting the American request for extradition, said he would be a flight risk and needed to be kept in the UK for the appeal against the ruling.

Gosztola quoted DoJ spokesman Marc Raimondo as having told Reuters, "We continue to seek his extradition."

The statement comes just two days before the deadline for the Americans to submit the grounds for appeal to the court.

On 4 January, District Judge Vanessa Baraister told the Old Bailey in London that Assange should not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges as the risk that he would commit suicide were too high.

She said while the charges had been brought against the 49-year-old Australian in good faith, the state of his mental health meant that the extradition request had to be denied.

Baraister said Assange was likely to be imprisoned at a supermax facility in the US if extradited and would find a way to take his own life.

“Extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health,” she said.

There were expectations in some quarters that Assange would benefit from a decision made while Barack Obama was president, when his administration considered whether it could bring criminal charges against Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information.

As American journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote: "...the Obama DoJ concluded such a prosecution would pose a severe threat to press freedom because there would be no way to prosecute Assange for publishing classified documents without also prosecuting The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and others for doing exactly the same thing."

Gosztola wrote that just a day ago, a coalition of civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Centre for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, and Reporters Without Borders, signed a letter demanding the DoJ drop the charges against Assange.

"The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment 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," the letter to acting attorney general Monty Wilkinson said.

"Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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