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The US is ‘considering’ dropping charges against Assange, according to Biden

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had supported a motion in the lower house in February calling for Assange’s return to his home country

Charges against Assange
Julian Assange, in a file image.Matt Dunham (AP)
Macarena Vidal Liy

U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged this Wednesday in public for the first time that he is “considering” a request from Australia to drop the case against Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, for endangering national security with the online leak of thousands of classified documents 14 years ago.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese supported a motion in the Australian lower house in February calling for Assange's return to his home country.

“We are considering it,” Biden responded to journalists’ questions while heading to the Oval Office with the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, for a meeting during the latter’s visit to Washington. Until now, the United States has been immersed in a long legal battle to obtain the extradition of Assange, currently behind bars in a maximum security prison on the outskirts of London. He has been indicted in the U.S. with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one charge of computer misuse. Washington has alleged that the leak of nearly 250,000 diplomatic and military cables in 2010 endangered American sources, citizens, and national security.

The extradition process has been at a standstill since last month, when the High Court of Justice in London determined that the United States must provide guarantees that Assange, 52, would not face the death penalty if found guilty of the charges against him. Last year, the British government gave approval for the surrender of the co-founder of WikiLeaks.

In the ruling issued at the end of March, the British court gave the United States three weeks, until April 16, to offer assurances it considered necessary for Assange. If not, they indicated, the accused could move forward in his fight against extradition. The next hearing was provisionally set for May 20.

In a message on X, formerly Twitter, Assange’s wife Stella responded to the U.S. president’s comment with the message: “Do the right thing. Drop the charges.” One of Assange’s lawyers, Barry Pollack, told the Reuters agency that “It is encouraging that President Biden has confirmed that the United States is considering dropping its case against Julian Assange.” Three weeks ago, Pollack indicated that the WikiLeaks co-founder’s lawyers saw no signs that the United States was considering dropping the case.

So far, the U.S. Department of Justice, in charge of the case, has not made any statements regarding Biden’s comment.

Assange and his supporters around the world allege that the U.S. prosecution is politically motivated, describing the Australian as a human rights defender who has exposed U.S. wrongdoing around the world, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Human rights organizations, defenders of press freedom and governments such as those of Mexico and Brazil have launched multiple calls to release him.

If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security U.S. prison.

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