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López Obradorand Assange López Obrador: Assange, right, 'is a journalist and deserves a chance.'

Mexico to offer asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

'We'll give him protection,' president says of Assange, who is wanted in the US for espionage

Mexico will offer political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, President López Obrador said Monday after a British judge blocked the 49-year-old Australian’s extradition to the United States.

“I’m in favor of him being pardoned. Not only that, I’m going to ask the foreign affairs minister [Marcelo Ebrard] to do the relevant paperwork to ask the government of the United Kingdom about the possibility of allowing Mr. Assange to be freed and for Mexico to offer him political asylum,” he told reporters at his regular news conference.

López Obrador’s remarks came after Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales ruled that Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage and hacking of government computers because there would be a severe risk of him committing suicide while being held in a high-security U.S. prison.

“The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future. I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” Baraitser said.

Explaining his decision to offer asylum to Assange – who was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 after holing up there for almost seven years – López Obrador said that asylum is a right and that Mexico has a tradition of offering protection to foreigners.

“But at the same time, [there is] also the responsibility to take care that he who receives asylum doesn’t intervene, doesn’t interfere in the political affairs of any country,” he said.

“Firstly, I am pleased that in England they have given protection to Mr. Assange, that his extradition to the United States hasn’t been authorized,” López Obrador said.

“It’s a triumph of justice; I’m pleased that they act this way in England because Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance. We will be in a position to offer asylum and we congratulate the United Kingdom court for the decision taken today, … it was a very good decision. So, a pardon for Mr. Assange … and asylum in Mexico, we’ll give him protection.”

The president’s position on the Wikileaks founder stands in stark contrast to his position on other asylum-seekers, notably Central American migrants, whose welcome in Mexico has been less than warm since López Obrador took office. Nor is the president known for being sympathetic toward journalists.

The move was seen by a former ambassador to the U.S. as another indication that the president is “determined to pick a fight with Democrats and the incoming Joe Biden administration. “Saying this morning that he will seek to offer asylum to Assange is lunacy, sheer lunacy,” Arturo Sarukhán wrote on Twitter.

López Obrador has previously called for Britain to release Assange and described his imprisonment as “torture.” Documents published by Wikileaks revealed the world’s “authoritarian” machinations, he said last year.

Assange will appear in court again on Wednesday as his legal team lodges a new application for his release on bail. Lawyers for the United States government, which sought the Wikileaks founder’s extradition, are appealing the ruling handed down in London on Monday morning.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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