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Assange: Latest Court Date Reaction

8 January 2021

After Monday’s unexpected ruling against the extradition of Julian Assange on medical grounds, two days later the same lower courtjudge denied a request for bail.

Speaking outside the court Stella Moris, partner and mother of Assange’s two young children said: “Julian should not be in Belmarsh prison in the first place. I urge the President of the United States to pardon Julian.”

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said: “We think it is unjust, unfair and illogical – when you consider her ruling two days ago about Julian’s health which of course is caused, in large part, because he is being held in Belmarsh prison. To send him back there doesn’t make any sense.”

Rebecca Vincent from Reporters Without Borders who has been monitoring Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings said: “Reporters Without Borders condemns this decision taken today which we view as unnecessarily cruel. We fully believe that Julian Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism. He shouldn’t have to spend another moment unjustly deprived of his liberty.”

Amnesty International said that the “decision to refuse the bail application renders Assange’s ongoing detention arbitrary, and compounds the fact that he has endured punishing conditions in high security detention at Belmarsh prison for more than a year.”

After the judge’s extradition ruling on Monday a Guardian editorial declared ‘Relief, not victory’. “A judge has rightly rejected the US request, but only on mental health grounds. The case should be dropped.” Not only is Julian still languishing in HMP Belmarsh despite a ruling that he should be freed, but Judge Baraitser accepted the U.S. government’s repressive arguments criminalizing journalism.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said “Considerations of press freedom and potential ill-treatment should prevent his extradition. Hope this brings proceedings to a swift end”

All major human rights organizations voiced their support for the decision to block the extradition to the United States including: Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Committee to Protect Journalists, National Union of Journalists, Australian Union of Journalists (MEAA), Article19, Freedom of the Press Foundation, International Press Institute – as well as politicians and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum.

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United Kingdom: UN expert cautiously welcomes refusal to extradite Assange

5 January 2021

GENEVA (5 January 2021) – UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer today welcomed a British court’s refusal to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on the basis that he would be exposed to “oppressive” conditions of imprisonment that would almost certainly cause him to commit suicide.

“This ruling confirms my own assessment that, in the United States, Mr. Assange would be exposed to conditions of detention, which are widely recognized to amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Melzer.

Mr. Assange is currently being held in prolonged solitary confinement at Belmarsh Prison in London under a US extradition request for espionage and computer fraud. “If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years imprisonment under inhumane conditions of near total isolation,” Melzer said.

At the same time, the judgement on Monday sets an alarming precedent effectively denying investigative journalists the protection of press freedom and paving the way for their prosecution under charges of espionage. In 2010, Mr. Assange published sensitive military documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I am gravely concerned that the judgement confirms the entire, very dangerous rationale underlying the US indictment, which effectively amounts to criminalizing national security journalism,” Melzer said.

The United States has announced it will appeal the judgment, but welcomed the judge’s dismissal of all arguments in defence of Assange based on press freedom, the public interest in the exposure of government misconduct, the prohibition of political offence extraditions, and the US failure to provide fair trials to national security defendants.

“This is of great concern,” said Melzer. “None of these questions will now be reviewed by the Appeals Court, as the only issue at stake will be Mr. Assange’s medical fitness to withstand US conditions of detention.

“Should the US provide assurances that Mr. Assange will be treated humanely, his extradition could potentially be confirmed on appeal without any meaningful review of the very serious legal concerns raised by this case.”

Melzer has repeatedly expressed in individual communications and statements that Mr. Assange has been subjected to more than 10 years of arbitrary detention and political persecution. During a visit conducted to Belmarsh Prison in 2019, Melzer and a specialized medical team found that Mr. Assange showed all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.

“The judgement fails to recognize that Mr. Assange’s deplorable state of health is the direct consequence of a decade of deliberate and systematic violation of his most fundamental human rights by the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ecuador,” said Melzer.

According to the expert, the failure of the judgment to denounce and redress the persecution and torture of Mr. Assange, “leaves fully intact the intended intimidating effect on journalists and whistleblowers worldwide who may be tempted to publish secret evidence for war crimes, corruption and other government misconduct”.

“Mr. Assange must now be immediately set free, rehabilitated and compensated for the abuse and arbitrariness he has been exposed to,” said Melzer. “Even with a pending appeal, his continued isolation in a high security prison is completely unnecessary and disproportionate. There is no justification whatsoever for preventing him from awaiting the final judgment in a setting where he can recover his health and live a normal family and professional life.”

“Hopefully this judgement will put an end to the persecution and imprisonment of Mr. Julian Assange as an individual. But in the big picture it sets a devastating precedent severely undermining press freedom, accountability and the rule of law.”

ENDS

Read statement from the OHCHR official website.

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Knight Institute Comments on Decision to Reject U.S. Request for Extradition of Julian Assange

4 January 2021

Says indictment under the Espionage Act will continue to cast a shadow over investigative journalism.

NEW YORK—A British judge today rejected the U.S. request for the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. Assange’s case is the first in which the U.S. government has relied on the Espionage Act as the basis for the prosecution of a publisher.

The following response can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“This is a victory for Assange, but it’s not an uncomplicated victory for press freedom. The court makes clear that it would have granted the U.S. extradition request if not for concerns about Assange’s mental health, and about the severe conditions in which the U.S. would likely imprison him. In other words, the court endorses the U.S. prosecution even as it rejects the U.S. extradition request. The result is that the U.S. indictment of Assange will continue to cast a dark shadow over investigative journalism. Of particular concern are the indictment’s counts that focus on pure publication—the counts that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified secrets. Those counts are an unprecedented attack on press freedom, one calculated to deter journalists and publishers from exercising rights that the First Amendment should be understood to protect.”

Jaffer submitted expert testimony to the U.K. court about the press freedom implications of the Assange indictment. Read the testimony here.

Read the statement from KFAI’s official website.

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ARTICLE 19 welcomes news Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not face extradition

4 January 2021

Earlier today at the Old Bailey, a judge ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage and of hacking government computers. The US authorities have said they will appeal the decision.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Mr Assange would not be extradited owing to concerns over his mental health, setting out evidence of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and stating that he appears to be “a despairing man, fearful for his future.” 

ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director Quinn McKew said:

“We warmly welcome the news that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States on charges of violation of the Espionage Act. 

“This would have dealt a significant blow to press freedom, unjustly criminalising those who gather news and expose the truth. It would have meant that all those who pursue and reveal human rights abuses by the US and other governments, as well as other powerful entities, would also be at risk of extradition and prosecution on vague ‘national security’ grounds.

“We call on the new US administration of President-Elect Joe Biden to drop all charges against Mr Assange and to urgently improve protections for all whistleblowers and others who hold power to account.” 

ARTICLE 19 has closely monitored the case and has repeatedly raised concerns about criminal investigations into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as well as the prosecution of those who were sources of information, such as Chelsea Manning. The legal process was marred by serious obstacles to open justice. Despite assurances from the court, ARTICLE 19 and other freedom of expression NGOs were not provided with access to monitor the proceedings as independent NGO observers in person or online which seriously hampered our ability to monitor the proceedings.

In November 2013, the US Department of Justice concluded it would not bring charges against Assange because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting US news organisations and journalists, raising serious First Amendment issues. However, in April 2019, the Department made public a previously sealed indictment against Assange for conspiring to gain access to classified information on a computer.  This was then followed in May 2019 with a 18-count indictment under the Espionage Act for seeking and publishing the classified information on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

ARTICLE 19 has criticised the Espionage Act for being vaguely-worded and not complying with international standards on freedom of expression. Journalists and publishers should not be liable under espionage laws for disclosing information of public interest. Equally, whistleblowers and those who provide information to media outlets should not be prosecuted if there is a strong public interest in the release of the information.  By doing so, the US plays into the hands of authoritarian governments who routinely prosecute journalists under the guise of the protection of national security.

Read the statement from ARTICLE 19’s official website.

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National Union of Journalists welcomes Assange’s extradition victory

4 January 2021

The ruling not to allow Julian Assange’s extradition, announced today at the Old Bailey, brings to a close a dark episode for media freedom.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This decision will be welcomed by all who value journalists’ ability to report on national security issues. However, whilst the outcome is the right one, Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s judgement contains much that is troubling. Her basis for dismissing the US’ extradition request was the suicide risk that Assange poses in a US penal system that would probably have kept him in near total isolation.

“The judge rejected the defence case that the charges against Assange related to actions identical to those undertaken daily by most investigative journalists. In doing so, she leaves open the door for a future US administration to confect a similar indictment against a journalist.

“Given his lengthy period of incarceration, it is surely also time to grant Assange bail so that he can join his young family.”

The US has 15 days to appeal. Its lawyers have already indicated that they will lodge papers to this effect. Judge Baraitser says that she will refuse Assange bail until this process is complete.

Read the statement from NUJ’s official website.

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International Federation of Journalists welcomes decision not to extradite Julian Assange

4 January 2021

Judge Vanessa Baraitser today ruled against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States arguing it would be “oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health”. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its UK and Australian affiliates, the NUJ and the MEAA welcome the decision and are urging the authorities to immediately release him.

The judge argued Assange suffers from depression and that there is a high risk of suicide. If extradited, she considered it likely the US would send him to prison under special administrative measures (SAMs) and wouldn’t prevent Assange from committing suicide. Therefore, she considered his extradition “unfair”.

Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge”, judge Baraitser said.

The American government has now 15 days to appeal the decision.

“The IFJ welcomes the judge’s decision not to extradite Assange because of the risk the extradition would pose to his health and well-being. However we are disappointed that that the judge appears not to adequately address the threat to media freedom his extradition would have posed in today’s ruling. For years the IFJ and all its affiliates, particularly in the UK, Australia and the USA, have been reminding people that the detention of Julian Assange is contrary to international law and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, Julian Assange’s health has deteriorated dramatically since his imprisonment in April 2019 and the Covid-19 virus in his prison poses a serious threat to the survival of our colleague, holder of the IFJ International Press Card. It is time for the US to drop its attempts to extradite him“, said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger.

A long fight against Assange’s extradition

The 49-year-old, father of two, sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years has already spent 16 months at Belmarsh top security jail.

He has been indicted in the United States under the Espionage Act for WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Department cables.

If convicted, Assange would face 175 years in prison. He is accused by the Americans of encouraging whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010 to break into the government’s computer system to provide information containing clear evidence of war crimes, including the publication of the video Collateral murders. The video showed, via an onboard camera on a US Apache helicopter in Iraq, the deliberate shooting on 12 July 2007 in Baghdad of civilians by the US military. At least 18 people were killed in the incident, including two journalists from the Reuters agency. 

Both the IFJ and its British and Australian affiliates, the NUJ and the MEAA, have repeatedly highlighted the risks to journalism posed by Assange’s threatened extradition. Today’s ruling avoids a terrible precedent for the potential prosecution of any journalist who published material in similar circumstances.

The IFJ raised Assange’s case at the United Nations and joined over 40 press freedom, human rights and privacy groups to call on the UK government to release Mr. Assange without further delay and block his extradition to the US.

Journalist Tim Dawson has been reporting on the extradition hearings and on behalf of the NUJ and the IFJ. The NUJ also wrote to government ministers calling for the extradition to be halted, among other actions.

NUJ General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “This decision will be welcomed by all who value journalists’ ability to report on national security issues. The judge rejected the defence case that the charges against Assange related to actions identical to those undertaken daily by most investigative journalists. In doing so, she leaves open the door for a future US administration to confect a similar indictment against a journalist”.

Read the statement from IFJ’s official website.

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IPI welcomes UK court decision not to extradite WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange

4 January 2021

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, welcomed today’s decision by a British judge blocking the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.

The U.S. government had sought Assange’s extradition in connection with his role in publishing a vast trove of American military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The U.S. Justice Department on May 23, 2019 unveiled a new indictment against Assange under the Espionage Act, which represented a significant escalation of those efforts. Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted.

“The decision to deny the U.S. government’s extradition request is a victory for press freedom,” IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “As IPI has previously stated, regardless of one’s opinion of Julian Assange, his prosecution in the U.S. under the Espionage Act would have set a dangerous precedent that would cast a chilling effect on the work of journalists in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

Prasad added: “We urge the U.S. government to drop its charges against Assange under the Espionage Act and end its extradition attempt.”

U.S. authorities have two weeks to appeal the judge’s decision.

Read the statement from IPI’s official website.

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ECPMF welcomes UK court decision not to extradite Assange to USA

4 January 2021

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) welcomes today’s decision not to extradite Julian Assange to the United States of America. District Judge (DJ) Vanessa Baraitser accepted that Assange is depressed and at risk of suicide. She was satisfied that if extradited, Assange could be held in strict isolation, which would pose a major threat to his mental health. Therefore, DJ Baraitser ruled, it would be unjust to extradite Assange.

We welcome the blocking of the extradition today but remain gravely concerned by the proceedings. They exposed the fact that the 2003 UK-US extradition treaty is ripe for abuse and does not adequately protect journalists and whistleblowers. The US Government’s indictment attempts to criminalise the protection of journalist-source communications and the publication by journalists of classified information. Both are crucial and routine activities for investigative journalists. Indeed, technical measures such as those employed by Assange to facilitate leaks and protect whistleblowers and other sources are now a staple of investigative reporting. In this regard, we strongly disagree with DJ Baraitser, who in her judgment accepts the US government’s lawyers’ arguments that Assange’s conduct went beyond that of a journalist.

The US government has announced that it will appeal the decision. In the interim, a hearing regarding bail has been set for Wednesday 6 January 2021. Given the political nature of the prosecution and especially in light of Assange’s mental health problems in focus today, ECPMF calls for his immediate release.

Lack of access for civil society observers

Today’s ruling concludes a week of hearings of the legal arguments at the Woolwich Crown Court in February 2020 and four weeks of witness testimony hearings at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, in September 2020. ECPMF attempted to observe the witness testimony hearings remotely but did not receive access to the Crowd Video Platform facility. Other civil society observers who had been sent login details had their access abruptly revoked on the first day of the witness hearings. We note that observers who were at the court have also expressed frustration at the extensive barriers established for those attempting to monitor the case, including NGO and political observers. At each stage, the court refused to recognise civil society observers’ specific role or make provisions allowing for professional monitoring of the proceedings. The ECPMF reiterates that trial monitoring is both the exercise and observation of the fundamental right to a fair and public hearing, allowing for scrutiny of its fairness and protecting against judicial arbitrariness. It is highly concerning that in a case of such significance, the court has failed to live up to standards of transparency and openness.

Read the statement from ECPMF’s official website.

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RSF – UK court blocks US attempt to extradite Julian Assange, but leaves public interest reporting at risk

4 January 2021

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved by the 4 January decision of UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocking the United States’ attempt to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, but is extremely disappointed by the court’s failure to reject the substance of the case, leaving the door open to further prosecutions on similar grounds.

Although Judge Baraitser decided against extradition, the grounds for her decision were strictly based on Assange’s serious mental health issues and the conditions he would face in detention in the US. On the substantive points in the case – in which the US government has pursued Assange on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – the judge’s decision was heavily in favour of the prosecution’s arguments, and dismissive of the defence.

“We are immensely relieved that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US. At the same time, we are extremely disappointed that the court failed to take a stand for press freedom and journalistic protections, and we disagree with the judge’s assessment that the case was not politically motivated and was not centered on journalism and free speech. This decision leaves the door open for further similar prosecutions and will have a chilling effect on national security reporting around the world if the root issues are not addressed,” said RSF’ Director of International Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent. 

The US government has indicated that it intends to appeal the extradition decision. Assange remains detained on remand in high-security Belmarsh prison, pending the judge’s consideration of his bail application on 6 January. RSF calls again for his immediate release, and will continue to monitor proceedings.

Despite extensive difficulties securing access – including refusal by the judge to accredit NGO observers and threats of arrest by police on the scene – RSF monitored the 4 January hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), and has been the only NGO to monitor the full extradition proceedings against Assange.

The UK and US are respectively ranked 35th and 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Read statement from RSF’s official website.

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Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes UK decision not to extradite Julian Assange, urges DOJ to drop charges

January 4, 2021

New York, January 4, 2021 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed a British court’s decision to deny the United States’ request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and urged the U.S. Department of Justice to drop all charges against him.

“We are heartened that a British court has denied the United States’ request to extradite Julian Assange. The U.S. government’s decision to charge the WikiLeaks founder set a harmful legal precedent for the prosecution of journalists around the world simply for interacting with their sources,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge the U.S. Department of Justice to refrain from further pursuing extradition through appeals and to drop all charges against Assange.”

If extradited and convicted in the United States, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison: 10 years for each of the 17 charges filed under the Espionage Act, and five years for a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violation, according to CPJ research.

Read the statement from CPJ’s official website.

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Freedom Of The Press Foundation – Assange extradition rejected: A huge sigh of relief for press freedom

4 January 2021

Today, a UK judge rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act and CFAA charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of secret Defense and State Department documents that made global headlines in 2010 and 2011.

The judge based her decision on the fact that the United States prison system is so repressive, Assange would be a serious suicide risk if he was sent to the U.S.

Virtually all major press freedom and human rights groups have condemned the US government’s attempt to prosecute Assange as an existential threat to journalists’ rights.

The following statement can be attributed to Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm, who testified as an expert witness in the UK hearings on behalf of the defense:

Today’s ruling is a huge sigh of relief for anyone who cares about press freedom. While the judge’s opinion contains many worrying assertions that disregard journalists’ rights, her rejection of the Trump administration’s extradition request means the US government likely won’t be able to obtain any precedent that would criminalize common newsgathering and publishing practices. And that is a very good thing.

The Trump administration has indicated it would appeal the decision. A bail hearing for Assange has been set for Wednesday.

Freedom of the Press Foundation again calls on the US Justice Department to immediately drop its charges against Assange and for the UK to release him from prison.

Read the statement from FPF’s official website.

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Amnesty – UK: Assange extradition decision welcome but exposes “politically-motivated process”

4 January 2021

Responding to the decision by the Magistrate’s Court in London not to approve the extradition of Julian Assange to the US where he would face a risk of ill-treatment in prison, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, said:

“We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA and that the court acknowledged that due to his health concerns, he would be at risk of ill-treatment in the US prison system. But the charges against him should never have been brought in the first place. The charges were politically-motivated, and the UK government should never have so willingly assisted the US in its unrelenting pursuit of Assange. We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA and that the court acknowledged that due to his health concerns, he would be at risk of ill-treatment in the US prison system. But the charges against him should never have been brought in the first place Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks

“The fact that the ruling is correct and saves Assange from extradition, does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial. It has set a terrible precedent for which the US is responsible and the UK government is complicit.” The fact that the ruling is correct and saves Assange from extradition, does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial Nils Muižnieks

BACKGROUND

The US extradition request is based on charges directly related to the publication of leaked classified documents as part of Assange’s work with Wikileaks. Publishing such information is a cornerstone of media freedom and the public’s right to information about government wrongdoing. Publishing information in the public interest is protected under international human rights law and should not be criminalized.

If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could have faced trial on 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act; and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He would also face a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement. Julian Assange is the first publisher to face charges under the Espionage Act.

Read the statement from Amnesty’s official website

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EFF Statement on British Court’s Rejection of Trump Administration’s Extradition Request for Wikileaks’ Julian Assange

January 4, 2021

Today, a British judge denied the Trump Administration’s extradition request for Wikileaks Editor Julian Assange, who is facing charges in the United States under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The judge largely confirmed the charges against him, but ultimately determined that the United States’ extreme procedures for confinement that would be applied to Mr. Assange would create a serious risk of suicide.

EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn said in a statement today:

“We are relieved that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the right decision to reject extradition of Mr. Assange and, despite the U.S. government’ initial statement, we hope that the U.S. does not appeal that decision. The UK court decision means that Assange will not face charges in the United States, which could have set dangerous precedent in two ways. First, it could call into question many of the journalistic practices that writers at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, and other publications engage in every day to ensure that the American people stay informed about the operations of their government. Investigative journalism—including seeking, analyzing and publishing leaked government documents, especially those revealing abuses—has a vital role in holding the U.S. government to account. It is, and must remain, strongly protected by the First Amendment. Second, the prosecution, and the judge’s decision, embraces a theory of computer crime that is overly broad — essentially criminalizing a journalist for discussing and offering help with basic computer activities like use of rainbow tables and scripts based on wget, that are regularly used in computer security and elsewhere.

While we applaud this decision, it does not erase the many years Assange has been dogged by prosecution, detainment, and intimidation for his journalistic work. It also does not erase the government’s arguments that, as in so many other cases, attempts to cast a criminal pall over routine actionsbecause they were done with a computer. We are still reviewing the judge’s opinion and expect to have additional thoughts once we’ve completed our analysis.”

Read the judge’s full statement.

Read the statement from EFF’s official website.

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RSF STATEMENT: US/UK: “Future of journalism” at stake as historic extradition decision looms in case of Julian Assange

January 1, 2021

Just days ahead of the historic forthcoming decision in the US extradition case against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again condemns the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism and calls for his immediate release.

Extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange are set to conclude on 4 January, when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is due to give her decision in a 10 am hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey). This follows a week of proceedings in February 2020 at the Woolwich Crown Court, during which legal arguments were presented, and four weeks of proceedings at the Old Bailey in September, when witness testimony was heard.

“The case against Julian Assange is outrageous. It is clearly politically motivated and intended to make an example of Assange and create a chilling effect on media around the world. If the US government is successful in securing Assange’s extradition and prosecuting him for his contributions to public interest reporting, the same precedent could be applied to any journalist anywhere. The possible implications of this case simply cannot be understated; it is the very future of journalism and press freedom that is at stake,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.

RSF will be attempting to monitor the 4 January hearing either remotely or in person. Following the judge’s decision to revoke access for all NGO observers at the start of September’s proceedings at the Old Bailey, the only way RSF could monitor proceedings was to gain physical access to the very few spaces made available in the public gallery of the overflow courtroom each day. RSF was the only NGO to do so, and documented extensive barriers to open justice.

Ahead of the 4 January decision, RSF has delivered the final version of its petition of more than 108,000 signatures (between the international and German versions), which closed on 31 December 2020, calling on the UK authorities not to extradite Assange. 10 Downing Street previously refused to accept the petition when RSF attempted to deliver it on 7 September alongside Assange’s partner Stella Moris, and never acknowledged the email submission that followed. 

This time the petition has been submitted via email to Number 10, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. RSF has also posted a visual containing the names of all signatories to its home page and across all of its international social media accounts.

The US and UK are respectively ranked 45th and 35th in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Read their statement from the official website.

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Open Letter to President Donald Trump regarding Julian Assange from Australian parliamentary group

22 December 2020

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Members of the Bundestag from almost all parliamentary groups have founded a joint working group to release the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

21 December 2020

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The Guardian view on Julian Assange: do not extradite him

EDITORIAL, Fri 18 Dec 2020

The US should never have brought the case against the WikiLeaks founder. This attack on press freedom must be rejected

On 4 January, a British judge is set to rule on whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States, where he could face a 175-year sentence in a high-security “supermax” prison. He should not. The charges against him in the US undermine the foundations of democracy and press freedom in both countries.

The secret military and diplomatic files provided by Chelsea Manning, and made public by WikiLeaks working with the Guardian and other media organisations, revealed horrifying abuses by the US and other governments. Giving evidence in Mr Assange’s defence, Daniel Ellsberg, the lauded whistleblower whose leak of the Pentagon Papers shed grim light on the US government’s actions in the Vietnam war, observed: “The American public needed urgently to know what was being done routinely in their name, and there was no other way for them to learn it than by unauthorized disclosure.”

No one has been brought to book for the crimes exposed by WikiLeaks. Instead, the Trump administration has launched a full-scale assault on the international criminal court for daring to investigate these and other offences, and is pursuing the man who brought them to light. It has taken the unprecedented step of prosecuting him under the Espionage Act for publishing confidential information. (Mike Pompeo, secretary of state and former CIA director, has previously described Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence agency”). In doing so, it chose to attack one of the very bases of journalism: its ability to share vital information that the government would rather suppress.

No public interest defence is permissible under the act. No publisher covering national security in any serious way could consider itself safe were this extradition attempt to succeed – wherever it was based; the acts of which Mr Assange is accused (which also include one count of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network) took place when he was outside the US. The decision to belatedly broaden the indictment looks more like an attempt to dilute criticisms from the media than to address the concerns. The real motivation for this case is clear. His lawyers argue not only that the prosecution misrepresents the facts, but that he is being pursued for a political offence, for which extradition is expressly barred in the US-UK treaty.

Previous cases relating to Mr Assange should not be used to confuse the issue. Sweden has dropped the investigation into an accusation of rape, which he denied. He has served his 50-week sentence for skipping bail in relation to those allegations, imposed after British police dragged him from the Ecuadorian embassy. Yet while the extradition process continues, he remains in Belmarsh prison, where a Covid-19 outbreak has led to his solitary confinement. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has argued that his treatment is “neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis”. He previously warned that Mr Assange is showing all the symptoms associated with prolonged exposure to psychological torture and should not be extradited to the US. His lawyers say he would be at high risk of suicide.

Such considerations have played a part in halting previous extraditions, such as that of Lauri Love, who denied US allegations that he had hacked into government websites. But whatever the outcome in January, the losing side is likely to appeal; legal proceedings will probably drag on for years.

A political solution is required. Stella Moris, Mr Assange’s partner and mother of his two young children, is among those who have urged Donald Trump to pardon him. But Joe Biden may be more willing to listen. The incoming president could let Mr Assange walk free. He should do so.

Read from The Guardian website

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A cross-party group of MPs has written to the Justice Secretary asking for a meeting between MPs and Julian Assange.

17 December 2020

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United Kingdom: UN expert calls for immediate release of Assange after 10 years of arbitrary detention

Read the statement here

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ASLEF welcomes NUJ condemnation of Julian Assange detention – Statement

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Unite welcomes NUJ condemnation of Julian Assange detention – Statement

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NUJ letter to trade unions

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US intelligence sources discussed poisoning Julian Assange, court told

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Vietnam war leaker Daniel Ellsberg warns against extraditing Julian Assange