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Rights groups request US drops Assange extradition request

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Two dozen human and civil rights, and press freedom groups have sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to drop the extradition appeal and dismiss the indictment of Julian Assange.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, continues to be the subject of criminal and extradition proceedings in the US under the the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, note the organizations that signed the letter, Index on Censorship, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Amnesty International USA being among them.

There has been widespread criticism of the charges brought against Assange under the Espionage Act, since they are seen as criminalizing journalistic practices such as reporting about information leaked from governments – one of the hallmarks of free press and democracy.

The request to US authorities to abandon the attempt to extradite and prosecute the Australian whistleblower and journalist, who is held in the UK, is not the first of its kind – the original was made in February. This letter comes after news reports that kidnapping or killing of Assange was on the table in 2017 when the CIA discussed these options – and that was even before he was charged in the US.

Citing Yahoo News and announcing its support for the letter, EFF said that the CIA also had plans to spy on persons associated with WikiLeaks.

The letter states that there is even more urgency to the request now considering the Yahoo News revelations about CIA activities, which the groups said heightened their concerns “about the motivations behind this prosecution, and about the dangerous precedent that is being set.”

The letter reiterates that the different organizations behind it have different views on Assange and WikiLeaks, but agree that the case against him represents “a grave threat” to press freedom in the US and internationally, and if seen through, would create a precedent that would put other journalists and publishers at risk going forward.

The letter also notes that media outlets, both those supportive and critical of Assange and his work, have opposed the charges against him.

The extradition request has been denied by a UK judge once, but the US decided to appeal and a hearing is set to take place next week.

The letter can be found here.

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