Biden says US ‘considering’ ending prosecution of Assange

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US President Joe Biden has revealed that his administration is “considering” Australia’s request to end the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“We’re considering it,” Biden said in response to a question shouted by a reporter during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House, on Wednesday local time.

Assange, an Australian citizen, has been engaged in a battle against US extradition efforts from prison in the United Kingdom for more than a decade.

He spent seven years in self-exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and on Thursday marks five years in the high-security Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of the British capital.

The 52-year-old is currently waiting to learn if he can make a last-ditch appeal against extradition to the US, after a UK court last month delayed a decision on his case. It is now expected on May 20.

Other protests in support of Assange are expected around the world on Thursday.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson called for “a political solution” to the prosecution of Assange, as supporters rallied in London to mark the fifth anniversary of his arrest there.

“This is a case that just should never have been started in the first place,” Mr Hrafnsson told AFP at the Wednesday afternoon at a rally in central London.

“The solution to this case where we are dealing with a political persecution is a political solution and a political push,” Hrafnsson said.

Washington has spent several years trying to extradite Assange – who was indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse – to face charges over WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of classified military and diplomatic files which related to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American prosecutors said that he endangered lives.

Attempting to halt the extradition process, Assange has suffered a string of court losses in the long-running legal saga, which his supporters see as a battle for media freedom.

Campaign groups including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have called for his release and denounced the prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act, which has never been used over the publishing of classified information.

Meanwhile Australia’s parliament passed a motion in February with the prime minister’s support calling for an end to the legal saga.

Mr Hrafnsson said Canberra should “link” the case to its landmark AUKUS security pact with Washington and London, as well as possible trade agreements and future co-operation to secure Assange’s release.

“They should be bold and say we have nothing to discuss unless you drop the charges against Julian Assange so he can walk free and come back to Australia,” he said of the country’s government.

– with AFP

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