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20 Oct, 2023 14:10

Assange to become honorary citizen of major EU capital – officials

Rome will confer the recognition on the jailed WikiLeaks founder, a city councilor has said
Assange to become honorary citizen of major EU capital – officials

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be granted honorary citizenship of Rome, city councilor Antonella Melito said on Tuesday. She added that the process will be completed after all the necessary paperwork has been done.

Assange, 52, has been incarcerated at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019 as he fights extradition to the US, where he could face a life sentence over the 2010 release of highly sensitive US Army intelligence information related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to Melito, by granting Assange citizenship, Rome intends to send a message of “solidarity and support to all those who are unjustly detained and convicted in violation of their fundamental rights.” 

The motion to confer honorary citizenship on the Australian activist was presented by a former mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi. On Wednesday, Raggi posted on social media that “an important step was taken in the protection of Julian Assange, as a person and as a symbol.” She added that the Wikileaks founder’s case shows that “freedom of the press must always be defended.”

In June, Assange’s wife Stella visited the Vatican and met with Pope Francis. Later, in an interview with the Catholic Herald magazine, she said that Francis had sent a letter to her husband in March 2021, which was a “significant event” at a particularly low point for him. At the time, a lower court in Britain had ruled that Assange’s treatment in the US “would not be humane,” but decided not to grant him bail.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in August that he was frustrated by the lack of a diplomatic solution to end Assange’s detention. He said he would continue to press the US to cease its prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder, despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejecting all previous pleas from Canberra to ensure his wellbeing.

“This has gone on for too long. Enough is enough,” Albanese told reporters at the time. “We remain very firm in our view and in our representations to the American government and we will continue to do so.”