Dozens of parliamentarians from six parties as well as independent MPs and Lords in the UK have called on the US Attorney-General to drop extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Anadolu News Agency reports.
On the fourth anniversary of Julian Assange's imprisonment, 23 British MPs and 14 Lords, wrote a letter on Tuesday, demanding Merrick Garland to close Assange's extradition process.
Assange, an Australian citizen, is being held in the UK, where authorities authorised his extradition to the US last year. He is wanted for his alleged role in espionage and the dissemination of classified US military information.
He was dragged out of Ecuador's embassy building in London in 2019, where he took refuge for more than seven years. If extradited to the US, Assange faces a prison sentence of up to 175 years.
Meanwhile, British parliamentarians are joined by lawmakers in the US, Australia, Mexico and Brazil, who are also writing to the US government, asking for proceedings against Assange to be dropped.
The parliamentarians warn that extradition "would clearly have a chilling impact on journalism and would set a dangerous precedent for other journalists and media organisations. It would also undermine the US reputation on freedom of expression and the rule of law."
"Likewise, extradition is opposed by the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic," the letter noted.
They also called upon Garland to take a stance "to uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution" and drop the extradition proceedings to allow Assange's return to Australia.
And in U.S. seven House Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for charges against Australian journalist Julian Assange to be dropped.
The letter was led by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and was also signed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Greg Casar (D-TX).
Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is currently imprisoned in the U.K. and awaiting possible extradition to the U.S., faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act and one charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
Assange would face up to 175 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
WikiLeaks is known for publishing information about the U.S. State Department, Guantanamo Bay and the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published a video entitled Collateral Murder, which shows American soldiers killing over a dozen Iraqi citizens, including two Reuters journalists.
"Press freedom, civil liberty, and human rights groups have been emphatic that the charges against Mr. Assange pose a grave and unprecedented threat to everyday, constitutionally protected journalistic activity, and that a conviction would represent a landmark setback for the First Amendment," the letter states.
Congressional Letter to DOJ on Julian Assange Indictment Final by Brandon Chew on Scribd
The letter states that much of the information published by WikiLeaks has been published by other outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, and that under the logic of Assange's indictment any of those outlets could also be prosecuted for their reporting.
"The prosecution of Mr. Assange marks the first time in U.S. history that a publisher of truthful information has been indicted under the Espionage Act," the letter states. "The prosecution of Mr. Assange, if successful, not only sets a legal precedent whereby journalists or publishers can be prosecuted, but a political one as well.
"In the future the New York Times or Washington Post could be prosecuted when they publish important stories based on classified information," the letter states. "Or, just as dangerous for democracy, they may refrain from publishing such stories for fear of prosecution."
The letter concludes by stating that the prosecution of Assange "needlessly undermines our own moral authority abroad and rolls back the freedom of the press under the First Amendment at home."