In a major show of support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 16 members of Congress have written to President Joe Biden calling for his immediate release from prison in the UK.
Led by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), this bipartisan group includes Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Squad (D-IL). The letter states that Assange is being persecuted for his journalistic practices, a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The letter goes on to demand that Assange be released from prison immediately, that all charges against him be dropped, and that he be allowed to safely return to his home in the United States.
This action comes as Assange’s recent extradition hearing has been adjourned until September 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Assange’s seven-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy ended in April 2019, and since then he has been detained in a maximum-security prison in the UK.
This congressional call is in line with the growing chorus of support for Assange from whistleblowers, human rights advocates, and organizations like the Free Assange Coalition and Courage Foundation.
This group of legislators also noted that Assange’s imprisonment and extradition attempts “undermine the public’s right to know”, citing journalistic practices such as the disclosure of redacted documents showing evidence of alleged war crimes during the Iraq War.
The lawmakers also pointed out that the misuse of the US Espionage Act to target Assange has set a dangerous precedent that could leave other investigative journalists vulnerable to prosecution and punishment for engaging in news gathering practices.
Whether or not the Biden administration will heed this bipartisan call is yet to be seen. However, what is certain is that support for Assange’s freedom continues to grow, and it is certainly gaining effective political traction.