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Wife of Julian Assange says Biden's comments mean case could be moving in the right direction

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Wife of Julian Assange says Biden's comments mean case could be moving in the right direction
April 11, 2024
JILL LAWLESS - AP

LONDON (AP) — The wife of Julian Assange said Thursday her husband’s legal case “could be moving in the right direction” after President Joe Biden confirmed the U.S. may drop charges against the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder.

It came as supporters in several cities rallied to demand the release of Assange, on the fifth anniversary of his incarceration in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison.

Biden said Wednesday that his administration is “considering” a request from Australia to drop the decade-long U.S. push to prosecute Assange for publishing a trove of classified American documents. The proposal would see Assange, an Australian citizen, return home rather than be sent to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

Officials have not provided more details, but Stella Assange said the comments are “a good sign.”

“It looks like things could be moving in the right direction,” she told the BBC, saying the indictment was “a Trump legacy and really Joe Biden should have dropped it from day one.”

Assange has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors allege that Assange, 52, encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published, putting lives at risk.

Australia argues there is a disconnect between the U.S. treatment of Assange and Manning. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence to seven years, which allowed her release in 2017.

Assange’s supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange has been in prison since 2019 as he fought extradition, having spent seven years before that holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid being sent to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested and imprisoned him in Belmarsh for breaching bail in 2012

The U.K. government signed an extradition order in 2022, but a British court ruled last month that Assange can’t be sent to the United States unless U.S. authorities guarantee he won’t get the death penalty.

A further court hearing in the case is scheduled for May 20.

Assange was too ill to attend his most recent hearings. Stella Assange has said her husband’s health continues to deteriorate in prison and she fears he’ll die behind bars.

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