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Biden says US ‘considering’ ending prosecution of Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder is currently fighting extradition from the UK

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Wednesday 10 April 2024 19:33 BST
Assange 'persecuted for exposing true cost of war', says wife

President Joe Biden has said that his administration is weighing whether to accede to the Australian government’s request to end the years-long prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently fighting extradition from the United Kingdom after years in detention there.

Last month, the Australian parliament’s lower house voted to approve a measure officially calling for the US to drop the case against Mr Assange, whose organisation has been described by US officials as a “hostile non-state intelligence” entity which helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of former president Donald Trump.

Mr Biden was asked about the request as he met with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on Wednesday.

He replied: “We’re considering it.”

The charges faced by the Austrailian-born computer hacker stem from his work with the US soldier Chelsea Manning. In 2019, a federal grand jury charged Mr Assange with 18 violations of US laws including the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Assange conspired with and assisted Ms Manning’s efforts “to crack a password hash to a classified US Department of Defense computer” while Ms Manning was serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Some press freedom advocates claim Mr Assange should be considered a journalist and afforded the protections generally extended to legitimate journalists who engage in gathering and dissemination of news.

But critics of Mr Assange and his WikiLeaks organisation have also noted that he has routinely worked with and accepted information from persons and entities known to be hostile to the US, including foreign governments seeking to damage American interests.

Mr Assange has been detained by British authorities since 2019 when he was dragged from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he’d been evading arrest on bail-jumping charges for the previous seven years.

While American officials are currently seeking his extradition, a British court has put the case on hold until the US provides assurances that Mr Assange will not be subject to the death penalty if he is convicted in an American court.

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