Biden rival pledges to pardon Assange
US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has vowed to pardon “brave truth-tellers” including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently being held in a British high security prison as he fights extradition to America.
The US “actively persecutes journalists and whistleblowers” instead of championing free speech, Democratic contender Kennedy tweeted on Tuesday. “This isn’t the Soviet Union. The America I love doesn’t imprison dissidents.”
The Australian-born Assange is effectively facing a lifetime sentence for his role in the leaks by US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Assange was arrested in Britain in 2019 after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, allowing police to enter its embassy in London, where he had been holed up for seven years.
Assange was then sent to Belmarsh prison, a facility ordinarily used to house some of the most dangerous criminals in the UK.
Kennedy, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election, said he would pardon both Assange and Manning. The latter spent seven years in US custody after leaking troves of classified materials to WikiLeaks in 2010, but had her sentence commuted by then-President Barack Obama in 2017.
The US government has accused Assange of encouraging and facilitating Manning and is aiming to extradite him for trial. Assange’s defenders have argued that his trial would set a dangerous precedent, and that his actions were no different from other publishers of classified documents who sought to protect their sources.
Kennedy named a number of “other brave truth-tellers” who deserve similar exoneration, including Edward Snowden, who now resides in Russia. Instead of prosecuting them, the presidential hopeful pledged he would “investigate the corruption and crimes they exposed.”
Kennedy is among three people to have formally announced their bids for the Democratic nomination. While incumbent President Joe Biden is the frontrunner, Kennedy is polling at 19%, with author Marianne Williamson trailing at 9%, according to a recent Fox News survey.
The Biden administration has said it has no plans to drop the charges against Assange, despite calls by media freedom advocates. Critics have accused Washington of hypocrisy, citing its habit of lecturing other nations over press freedoms.