About fifteen representatives of the media and press unions called on Wednesday from Geneva on the British authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release” the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange. “We ask that Julian Assange be released, rehabilitated (and) returned to his family, that he can finally live normally”, launched Dominique Pradalié, president of the international federation of journalists (IFJ) – which claims 600,000 members in more from 140 countries – at a press conference.
On June 17, the British government announced that it had signed the decree for the extradition to the United States of the 50-year-old Australian, detained in the high security prison of Belmarsh, near London, for three years. Julian Assange is being prosecuted in the United States, where he faces 175 years in prison for having published in 2010 on his WikiLeaks site more than 700,000 confidential documents relating to the activities of the American army, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This sets a very dangerous precedent for press freedom,” added Mika Beuster, co-head of the Association of German Journalists, which has 30,000 members. “By extraditing Assange, we are taking democracy hostage,” proclaimed Pierre Ruetschi, director of the Swiss Press Club and organizer of the event. “The appeal asks the British authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Julian Assange,” he added. “This attempt to criminalize journalism is serious.”
Read also: Extradition of Julian Assange: “It is a serious threat to journalism”
To the European Court of Human Rights if necessary
Julian Assange was charged in the United States with “espionage” in May 2019, under a law passed in 1917 to prevent the disclosure of confidential information in time of war. “What is espionage? It is to have only done his job as a journalist, that is to say to have received information, to have verified it and to have transmitted it”, declared Dominique Pradalié, whose organization is in “permanent contact” with the entourage of Julian Assange.
The American authorities, who consider that Julian Assange is neither a journalist nor a press editor, accuse him of having endangered agents and military sources. “What example are we given that one of these revelations has endangered anyone (…)? We still ask for them today, we don’t have them, ”criticized the Frenchwoman.
Julian Assange has announced that he will appeal this decision in the British courts within two weeks – the deadline set by law – before turning to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. “If Julian Assange is released, we will have stolen ten years of his life anyway”, concluded, indignant, Dominique Pradalié. The founder of WikiLeaks was arrested by British police in 2019, after having taken refuge for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Read also: The imminent dismissal of a Bangladeshi journalist mobilizes in Geneva