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Biden considers Australia request to drop Assange case

April 11, 2024

On the fifth anniversary of Julian Assange's UK incarceration, Joe Biden said he is considering dropping the US prosecution push against the Wikileaks founder. Assange's home country Australia has called for his release.

A protest marking the 5th anniversary of Julian Assange's incarceration in London's Belmarsh prison
Supporters of Assange say he is being wrongfully accusedImage: Joao Daniel Pereira/ZUMA Press Wire/picture alliance

The US is "considering" Australia's request to drop its persecution push against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said President Joe Biden on Wednesday. 

Assange is wanted in the US on criminal charges over the release of confidential US military and diplomatic records in 2010. He has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse.

The 52-year-old is currently in Britain awaiting extradition to the US. It has been five years since he was incarcerated in the Belmarsh prison.

If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison. 

He was supposed to be extradited in March, but it was put on hold after the UK High Court said the US must assure he would not face the death penalty.

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Australia finds statement 'encouraging'

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been supportive of Assange's release and said the issue had been raised with the US government at all levels. He said the comment from Biden was "encouraging."

"I believe this must be brought to a conclusion and that Mr Assange has already paid a significant price, and enough is enough. There's nothing to be gained by Mr Assange's continued incarceration, in my very strong view. And I've put that as the view of the Australian government," Albanese said.

Australia argues there are discrepancies between the treatment of Assange and US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published.

Manning's 35-year sentence was commuted to seven years by former US President Barack Obama, and she was released in 2017.

One of Assange's lawyers, Barry Pollack, said also Biden's remarks were encouraging. 

Supporters of Assange say he is being persecuted as his work revealed US wrongdoing, especially in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They argue he is an anti-establishment journalist, who remains protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. 

Several rights groups and countries such as Germany, Mexico and Brazil have also opposed his extradition to the US.

tg/wd (AP, Reuters)