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11 Jun, 2023 22:58

Lula calls for ‘mobilization’ to defend Assange

The Brazilian president has voiced concern over the apparently “imminent extradition” of the WikiLeaks co-founder to the US
Lula calls for ‘mobilization’ to defend Assange

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has described the detention of Julian Assange as an attack on democracy and freedom of the press. The WikiLeaks co-founder is set to make a “final” appeal to the High Court in the UK, after his latest motion to block a US extradition request was rejected.

“I look with concern at the imminent extradition of journalist Julian Assange. Assange has done an important job to denounce the illegal actions of one state against another,” Lula said in a tweet on Saturday.

Assange’s wife, Stella, said on Thursday that her husband would seek another “public hearing before two new judges at the High Court,” adding that “we remain optimistic that we will prevail.”

“It is important that we all mobilize in his defense,” the Brazilian leader added, emphasizing that the prolonged detention of the WikiLeaks co-founder “goes against the defense of democracy and freedom of the press.”

After attending the coronation of King Charles III in London last month, Lula denounced Assange’s detention as an “embarrassment” and a “crazy thing.” The Australian national, who has been languishing in London’s Belmarsh high security prison since 2019, recently wrote in a letter to King Charles that “as a political prisoner, held at Your Majesty’s pleasure on behalf of an embarrassed foreign sovereign, I am honored to reside within the walls of this world-class institution,” inviting the monarch to visit the facility.

Assange was arrested after Ecuador revoked his asylum status and allowed police to remove him from the country’s embassy in London. On the day of his arrest, the US Department of Justice served Assange with 17 charges under the Espionage Act, which could potentially see him sentenced to 175 years in prison.

The charges stem from his publication of classified material obtained by whistleblowers, including classified documents alleging US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Assange did not personally hack the materials, he was still charged for his role in publishing them.

His defense team is currently fighting a US extradition request, but a previous appeal of the June 2020 extradition order was rejected earlier this week. On June 6, Justice Jonathan Swift of the High Court of England and Wales rejected all eight grounds for his motion, giving the WikiLeaks publisher a five-day deadline to make his case to a two-judge panel.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), next week’s appeal will be Assange’s last opportunity to fight extradition in the UK, unless he brings his case to the European Court of Human Rights.