A group of British MPs asked President Biden on Friday to end his administration’s search for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, who remains jailed in London pending an extradition request from the United States.
A group of 24 MPs from various parties made the request in an open letter to Mr Biden that was issued when he met with British officials while visiting the UK during his first overseas trip in office.
Mr Assange, an Australian, is wanted by the United States Department of Justice on charges related to the operation of the WikiLeaks site, including requesting, receiving and posting classified government material.
WikiLeaks first embarrassed US authorities during the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president, by publishing thousands of documents from the State and Defense Departments.
Assange was subsequently charged with related crimes in 2019, when former President Trump was in the White House, and as a result has been incarcerated in a high-security prison in London for more than two years.
In January, before Trump left office, a UK judge ruled against extraditing Assange to the United States, where he risks spending decades behind bars. However, the Biden administration appealed that decision.
“The effect of your predecessor’s decision to bring a criminal case against a member of the press working in our country is to restrict the scope of press activities permitted here and to set a precedent that others will undoubtedly exploit,” the MPs wrote. in the letter to Mr. Biden.
The letter, addressed by Richard Burgon, a member of the Labor Party, said that the case against Assange weakens the right to publish information that governments find uncomfortable and undermines public trust in the legal systems of the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Our countries are also increasingly faced with the contradiction of defending press freedom abroad while holding Mr. Assange for years in the UK’s most notorious prison at the request of the US government,” the US government concluded. letter. “We ask you to drop this prosecution, an act that would be a wake-up call to freedom that would resonate around the world.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment sent over the weekend. Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, responded to a question last month about the president’s possibility of dropping the indictment by emphasizing the Justice Department’s functions independently of the White House.
Assange faces violations of the US Espionage Act for WikiLeaks, as he has released material that includes diplomatic cables, a detailed description of US military activities abroad, and information on those detained at Guantanamo Bay. He and his supporters maintain that he acted as a journalist, while the Justice Department vehemently disagrees.
Among the most prominent MPs who signed the letter are former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his shadowy former Home Secretary Diane Abbott, both from the Labor Party, among others.