Three years after arrest, MEAA calls for Assange’s freedom – iTWire

three-years-after-arrest,-meaa-calls-for-assange’s-freedom-–-itwire

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Three years to the day after WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange was arrested in the UK and taken to a maximum-security prison, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the body representing journalists in Australia, has called for his release.

MEAA Media federal president Karen Percy said in a statement on Monday that Australia must step up its diplomatic efforts to get the US Government to drop a bid to extradite Assange.

The next hearing in his case is expected on 20 April when the extradition order is scheduled to be issued; it will then be sent to British Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval.

Assange's lawyers will have time to make submissions against the extradition until 18 May.

On 14 March, the UK Supreme Court turned down an appeal from Assange to hear arguments against his extradition.

In January, the High Court had turned down a request from Assange's lawyers to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, leaving it to the higher court to decide on whether it would hear a challenge.

On 10 December 2021, a two-bench High Court panel reversed a 4 January lower court verdict the same year to deny the US the right to extradite Assange to try him on criminal charges in Washington.

British District Judge Vanessa Baraister had ruled in January that Assange should not be extradited, saying the risk he would commit suicide in a US jail was too high.

The MEAA statement called on the Biden administration to drop the charges against Assange, which it described as posing "a threat to press freedom worldwide. The scope of the US charges imperils any journalist anywhere who writes about the US Government".

“Julian Assange’s work with WikiLeaks was important and in the public interest: exposing evidence of war crimes and other shameful actions by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Percy said.

“The stories published by WikiLeaks and its mainstream media partners more than a decade ago were picked up by news outlets around the world.

“The charges against Assange are an affront to journalists everywhere and a threat to press freedom.”

The statement said Washington had not produced convincing evidence that publishing of the leaked material endangered any lives or jeopardised military operations, but their lasting impact had been to embarrass and shame the US.

“Yet Assange faces the prospect of jail for the rest of his life if convicted of espionage charges laid by the US Department of Justice,” Percy said.

“The case against Assange is intended to curtail free speech, criminalise journalism and frighten off any future whistleblowers and publishers with the message that they too will be punished if they step out of line.

“The US Government must see reason and drop these charges, and the Australian Government should be doing all it can to represent the interests of an Australian citizen.”

Assange faces criminal charges in the US for publishing classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now, after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.

The Australian was arrested on 11 April 2019 and removed from the Ecuador embassy where he had taken refuge for seven years. His asylum was withdrawn shortly before he was arrested and he appeared in court shortly thereafter. The US made a formal request for his extradition on 6 June 2019.

Assange, 50, is one of the better-known hackers Australia has produced.

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