With just a few days left until the start of Julian Assange’s hearing in London, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – which defends the rights of journalists – has launched a petition opposing his extradition to the United States.
If convicted, he could be sentenced for up to 175 years in prison for charges that include publishing and providing journalists with information that served the public interest.
Assange – who is an Australian editor and activist – had founded WikiLeaks which gained international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Big trouble for Wikileaks, a not-for-profit media organization that releases classified information for public consumption, began in November 2010 when it published 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables (communications).
It was stated to be the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents informed people around the world about U.S. Government’s covert foreign activities.
Later, believed to be under U.S. Government’s pressure, Wikileaks’ major corporate partners severed their relations with the site to disrupt its activities aimed to expose the wrongdoings of various governments around the world.
Most governments that felt uncomfortable with Wikileaks’ revelations, which brought out the truth in the public domain through Wikileaks website, mounted their pressure against Assange to stop his advancing strides against them.
After multiple attempts to disrupt Wikileaks website, Assange was charged with a rape allegation in Sweden. He said that he was falsely indicted in the case. In November 2011, however, Assange lost the case in a British high court that ruled he should be extradited to Sweden to fight his case related to rape allegations. And he was put under house arrest.
RSF urges the UK government to prioritize the principles of freedom of expression and the defence of journalism in its treatment to Wikileaks founder, and to act in accordance with UK law and the country’s international human rights obligations.
The RSF petition – with #FreeAssange hashtag – calls for the United Kingdom not to comply with the United States’ request to extradite Julian Assange.
He is currently held in London’s top-security Belmarsh prison, where – according to RSF – his state of health is very worrying. His extradition hearing is due to start in London on 24 February.
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