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11.04.2019

Julian Assange’s prosecution must observe human rights and freedom of expression principles

by ECPMF

On Thursday, UK authorities arrested WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange after the Ecuadorian Embassy in London withdrew his asylum. He had been staying in the embassy for seven years, over fears of being extradited to Sweden and from there to the United States to be prosecuted for publishing a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables online.

The Ecuadorian Embassy, and Ecuador President Lenín Moreno, made it clear that Assange well overstayed his welcome. The Ambassador allowed the Metropolitan Police Service to execute a warrant which magistrates had issued back in 2012. The 47-year-old Assange was taken away in handcuffs.

The ECPMF joins Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in calling for the United Kingdom to observe human rights and freedom of expression in its treatment of Assange. His contributions through WikiLeaks, used by outlets around the world for journalistic reporting, should be taken into account, as well as the necessity to protect sources.

Harsh punishment against Assange could pose a danger to press freedom by deterring whistleblowers from denouncing abusive practices by those in power.

Charging Assange under the Espionage Act is a threat to press freedom Julian Assange in 2014. By Cancillería del Ecuador - https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgcomsoc/14933990406/, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Assange has been a highly controversial figure, in the public eye since he founded WikiLeaks in 2006. He has encouraged a wave of other whistleblowing cases that have exposed the US’s excessive use of violence in a military context, as well as the country's use of apparatus to spy on diplomatic allies and regular citizens. He has also been accused of sexual assault in Sweden, in a case now dismissed, and of meddling in the US elections against candidate Hillary Clinton.