President López Obrador said Tuesday that he would raise the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange when he meets with United States President Joe Biden in Washington next month.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel last week approved the extradition of the 50-year-old Australian to the United States, where he faces espionage charges stemming from the way in which he obtained confidential U.S. government material he published on the Wikileaks website. However, lawyers for Assange – who was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 after holing up there for almost seven years – intend to appeal the decision.
López Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference that he would ask Biden to attend to the matter. “I’m aware that he’s going after tough, severe groups that exist in the United States, … but humanism must also prevail,” he said.
“Mexico will open its doors to Assange if it is resolved to free him,” López Obrador said, renewing his offer of asylum to the Wikileaks founder.
“There are mechanisms to do it. When I wrote to President Donald Trump [to ask him to exonerate Assange] I remember that he was about to finish his term and in accordance with the laws of the United States, presidents have the power to issue decrees to free prisoners – pardoning is a power of presidents,” he said.
López Obrador described Assange – who published troves of classified material on the Wikileaks website including a 2007 U.S. military video dubbed “collateral murder” that shows a U.S. helicopter in Iraq fatally attacking civilians, including two Reuters journalists – as a “prisoner of conscience” who has been “unfairly treated.”
“His crime, in quotation marks, was to report serious human rights violations in the world as well as interference of the United States government in the internal affairs of other countries – that’s what Assange did,” he said.
“He’s the best journalist of our time in the world and, I repeat, he’s been very unfairly treated, worse than a criminal. This is a disgrace for the world,” said López Obrador, known more for attacking journalists rather than trying to protect them.
“A lot of people don’t know that what he did, with an unorthodox investigation, was to gather [diplomatic] cables, reports from United States embassies, that spoke about acts of interventionism and about crimes committed – flagrant violations of human rights, [exposed] not just [in] texts, but [in] images too.”
The president said he hoped the justice system in the United Kingdom would protect Assange but instead the U.K. government approved his extradition to the U.S., a move AMLO described as “disappointing.”
The U.K. has condemned the Wikileaks founder to life in jail, López Obrador charged. “What about liberties? Are we going to remove the Statue of Liberty in New York? Are we going to continue talking about democracy? Are we going to continue talking about the protection of human rights, of freedom of speech?”
AMLO declared that the United Nations and all human rights organizations should be speaking out in favor of Assange, asserting that “there can’t be silence.”
The new Australian government, which took office last month, is facing pressure to lobby Biden and bring Assange home after its predecessor refused to intervene in the case. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Monday that he intends to lead a government that “engages diplomatically and appropriately with our partners” but declared that he wouldn’t make a public demand for the U.S. to drop its prosecution of Assange.
“There are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, that somehow makes it more important. It doesn’t,” he said.
Mexico News Daily