At a rally held on Sunday, supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the charges brought against the Australian journalist for releasing secret U.S. military secrets that were disclosed by a whistleblower.
Before 4 p.m. on Sunday, Garland was seen leaving his home in a motorcade and passing by the Assange supporters who had put up posters calling for the prosecution to be stopped. Some speakers at the rally argued that the journalist’s charges constitute an assault on press freedom.
“I think the Julian Assange case is extremely important,” said Martha Allen, director of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press. “We need media, democracy, freedom of the press for the individual, not just the five corporations that pretty much run everything. So this case is crucial for independent media, for freedom of the press, for all of us, not just the rich and the powerful and those running what’s going on in this country and elsewhere … This is an injustice and it needs to end. Free Julian Assange.”
Assange is accused of disclosing cables that described war crimes carried out by the American government in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Guantánamo Bay detention facility more than ten years ago. The tens of thousands of papers that U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning released to Wikileaks also revealed incidents of CIA torture and rendition.
The “Collateral Murder” film, which showed the American military shooting dead civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, was also released by Wikileaks 13 years ago.
Currently, Assange is fighting extradition to the US, where he would be charged with 17 counts of receiving, possessing, and disclosing secret information to the public in violation of the Espionage Act, as well as one count of conspiring to commit computer intrusion. If extradited, he will stand trial in Alexandria, Virginia, and may get a term of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison in the United States.
“Freedom worldwide depends on Julian Assange,” OpEd News’ Dominique Filanowski said at the vigil. “So free Julian and let’s get it where he doesn’t get extradited. Let’s still fight that until the very end. If the inevitable does happen where he is extradited, then we keep fighting it here.”
Since being expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11 for violating his bail terms, Assange has been detained at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison. After Sweden refused to guarantee that he would be shielded from extradition to the United States, he had applied for asylum at the embassy in London to escape being sent back to Sweden on charges that he had sexually assaulted two women. The allegations of sexual assault were later dismissed from the investigation.
After Wikileaks released the cables in 2010, the Obama administration chose not to arrest Assange because doing so would have required charging the journalists from major news organisations who also published the contents.
The Justice Department of the late President Donald Trump then filed an Espionage Act indictment against Assange, and the Biden administration has continued to seek his punishment.
“We care for the human rights of Julian Assange and the persecution he’s undergoing. And we care about our First Amendment and press freedom,” event organizer Paula Iasella told Fox News Digital.
Iasella claimed that since 2021, vigils have been held close to Garland’s house. She added that she had on numerous times been allowed to pass letters to Secret Service personnel for distribution to the attorney general’s advisors.
“My message to Merrick Garland has been the message from day one,” she explained. “I pleaded with him. I said, ‘You are taking Trump’s prosecution and making it your legacy. You’re going to destroy your legacy over this press freedom case of the century.’ And I said, ‘You should drop the charges to save your legacy. You shouldn’t be strapped to such a negative thing of prosecuting a journalist under the Espionage Act.'”
At the vigil, Filanowski told Fox News Digital that he thinks Assange will only have a “snowball’s chance in hell” of receiving justice if he is extradited to the United States.
“If he does end up getting extradited, which seems like a 99.9% chance that he will, then I don’t think he’ll get a fair case here,” Fillanowski said. “He’s not going to be able to present any evidence at the trial. Forget the Espionage Act, which prevents you from being able to say like, ‘Hey, I did it for the better of humanity so that the public knows, like the crimes that were committed by the United States.’ He can’t say any of that there.”
By the time of publication, the Justice Department had not responded to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
In an open letter published last year, editors and publishers from The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pas demanded that the United States drop the Assange trial. The media outlets and the Australian journalist collaborated to publish snippets from the more than 250,000 papers that he was able to access through the Cablegate leak.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., spearheaded a letter to the Justice Department earlier this year pleading for the dismissal of the charges against Assange.
According to Yahoo in 2021, the CIA purportedly had plans to assassinate Assange under the Trump administration following the release of secret agency hacking tools known as “Vault 7,” which the agency said marked “the largest data loss in CIA history.” According to the article, the CIA discussed assassination plans for Assange in London “at the highest levels” of the government and had created assassination “sketches” and “options” on the instructions of Mike Pompeo, the CIA’s former director.
The Yahoo story also indicated that the CIA had made a political decision to accuse Assange and had advanced arrangements to capture and rendition Assange.
The Democratic National Committee’s attempts to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary were disclosed when Wikileaks released internal conversations between the DNC and Clinton’s campaign.