United behind Julian Assange: Legislators from Ilhan Omar to Rand Paul pressure Biden to drop the charges against the journalist

The US Justice Department presented up to 18 charges against the Australian, who, if extradited and prosecuted in the United States, could face up to 175 years in prison.

The trial that will resolve the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States has begun. The founder of WikiLeaks is in the hands of the Supreme Court in London, which will decide whether his case can remain in the United Kingdom or if he must be extradited. Meanwhile, a diverse group of American legislators wrote to Joe Biden to ask him to drop the accusations against the Australian activist. The list includes names such as Rand Paul (R-KY) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY).

What is Julian Assange accused of? The United States Justice Department filed up to 18 criminal charges against him for the dissemination of classified material and diplomatic cables between 2010 and 2011 on his WikiLeaks portal. He has since been fighting extradition to U.S. soil and, if found guilty, could receive a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

The aforementioned material includes Armed Forces information during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea Manning, an Intelligence analyst for the United States Army, was already sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for being one of WikiLeaks' sources, although her sentence was later commuted by former President Barack Obama.

As the Australian previously stated, he is on a crusade to challenge Western power structures and defend human rights. Specifically, he spoke of seeking "radical transparency and truth."

"It runs the risk of criminalizing common journalistic practices"

A bipartisan group of legislators from the Senate and the House of Representatives jointly signed a letter dedicated to Biden, explicitly asking him to reverse the judicial actions against Assange.

After summarizing the Australian's case, the legislators recalled the actions of the Obama Administration when Biden was vice president and recalled the dangers of limiting the journalistic function, citing legislation enacted by Woodrow Wilson.

"We believe the Department of Justice acted correctly in 2013, during your vice-presidency, when it declined to pursue charges against Mr. Assange for publishing the classified documents because it recognized that the prosecution would set a dangerous precedent. We note that the 1917 Espionage Act was ostensibly intended to punish and imprison government employees and contractors for providing or selling state secrets to enemy governments, not to punish journalists and whistleblowers for attempting to inform the public about serious issues that some U.S. government officials might prefer to keep secret," they wrote.

A few paragraphs later, they noted that the decision to pursue the charges could damage diplomatic relations with Australia and, in turn, benefit the Chinese government's rhetoric about American "hypocrisy" with freedom of the press.

"It is the duty of journalists to seek out sources, including documentary evidence, in order to report to the public on the activities of government. The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalizing common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the free press. We urge you to ensure that this case be brought to a close in as timely a manner as possible," they concluded.

The legislators who signed the letter in favor of Assange

  • Rand Paul (R-KY)
  • James P. McGovern (D-MA)
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY)
  • Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
  • Eric Burlison (R-MO)
  • Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
  • Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
  • Ayanna Pressley (D-OH)
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)
  • Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
  • Matthew Rosendale (R-MT)
  • Greg Casar (D-TX)
  • Cori Bush (D-MO)
  • Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)
  • Jesús G. "Chuy" Garcia (D-IL)
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)