In the race for the 2024 US Presidential Elections, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has made a significant campaign pledge: to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Kennedy Jr. emphasized that the United States should not be a country that imprisons dissenters.
The presidential hopeful’s bold promise extends to other whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden, who, like Assange, has faced persecution for exposing government wrongdoing.
Kennedy took to social media to assert that the US should be upholding free speech, rather than persecuting journalists and whistleblowers. In a series of tweets, he committed to pardoning individuals such as John Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner, Daniel Hale, Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, and Edward Snowden.
WikiLeaks, established in 2006, gained widespread attention in 2010 after publishing a series of leaks provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The leaked information revealed previously unreported incidents involving the US military killing civilians in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Additionally, WikiLeaks disclosed over 25,000 messages from American diplomats, which showed the US seeking sensitive biographical and biometric data on key UN officials. The organization also released a video in 2010 depicting the killing of civilians by a US military helicopter in Baghdad.
The US government initiated a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks following the 2010 leaks, and Assange faced legal battles in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. In 2012, after losing his fight against extradition, Assange sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he was granted asylum due to political persecution and the risk of extradition to the US. However, after disputes with Ecuadorian authorities, Assange’s asylum was revoked in 2019, and he is currently held in Belmarsh, a category A prison in London.