Stella Assange optimistic Biden will drop ‘Trump era’ pursuit of her husband

Stella Assange has described the US president’s comments on potentially dropping the “Trump era” prosecution against her husband as a “good sign”.

Joe Biden responded “we’re considering it” when asked about a request from the Australian government to call off the pursuit of Julian Assange on Wednesday.

The WikiLeaks founder faces prosecution in the United States over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose secret military and diplomatic files in 2010 relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Biden’s intervention comes on the fifth anniversary of Assange being sent to Belmarsh prison in London, where the Australian remains in a legal battle to avoid extradition.

Ms Assange has called on Joe Biden to drop the “Trump era” prosecution, citing a dangerous precedent for freedom of the press.

Julian Assange extradition
Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, speaking during a press conference (Lucy North/PA)

“It’s a Trump legacy and really Joe Biden should have dropped it from day one.

“It would set a precedent that could be used against the rest of the press because it criminalises journalistic activity, news gathering, and that’s why Obama didn’t pursue it and commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence.”

Former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 for handing over more than 700,000 documents containing classified information to WikiLeaks, but her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017.

On Mr Biden’s comments, Ms Assange said: “I think it’s a good sign.

“The prime minister of Australia overnight said that he is optimistic so it looks like things could be moving in the right direction.”

Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese said he had raised Mr Assange’s as a matter of national interest.

He told ABC: “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.”

During a two-day court hearing in February, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said unless assurances were given by the US, the 52-year-old would be able to bring an appeal against his extradition.

HMP Belmarsh
Julian Assange is being held in HMP Belmarsh (Yui Mok/PA)

The judges said US authorities had three weeks to provide the assurances, with a final hearing potentially taking place in late May.

“He is being charged for publishing truthful information that revealed state criminality,” Ms Assange said, adding: “Julian embarrassed the United States.”

Ms Assange said her husband is “extremely unwell” from the stress of potential extradition and cited “credible reports that he was this victim of a murder plot that the CIA was hatching”.

She said: “So, the country that has plotted to assassinate him is still able to extradite him, and I hope Joe Biden really drops this case now as the entire human rights community and press freedom community is asking him to do.”

In January 2021, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange should not be extradited to the US because of a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against him on all other issues.

Later that year, US authorities won their High Court bid to overturn this decision, paving the way towards Assange’s extradition.

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