Sunday, July 21, 2024

AMLO celebrates release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed the news of Julian Assange’s release from a prison in the United Kingdom after the Wikileaks founder accepted a plea deal from the United States and departed London’s Stansted Airport on Monday for a U.S. Commonwealth in the northwestern Pacific Ocean where he will appear in court on Wednesday local time.

“I celebrate Julian Assange’s release from jail. At least in this case, the Statue of Liberty did not remain an empty symbol,” López Obrador wrote on social media on Monday night.

Julian Assange at a press conference in 2014
Julian Assange, seen here in 2014 in Ecuador, was released after accepting a plea deal from the United States. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday afternoon Mexico time it was revealed that Assange had agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count in the U.S. of illegally obtaining and disclosing national security material.

The 52-year-old Australian — 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 — is scheduled to appear in a U.S. federal court in the Northern Mariana Islands at 5 p.m. Tuesday Mexico City time.

Assange, who spent more than five years in London’s Belmarsh Prison as he fought extradition to the United States on espionage charges, is expected to fly to Australia from the island of Saipan after his court appearance.

Because of the time he already spent in Belmarsh — following his 2019 arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on a charge of failing to appear in court — he will not be required to serve any additional jail time.

His release, Wikileaks said on X, is “the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organizers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations.”

AMLO: Assange’s incarceration ‘like having freedom in prison’

At his morning press conference on Tuesday, López Obrador said that his government was “very happy” with Assange’s release from jail and described his imprisonment as “a very unjust thing.”

“It was like having freedom in prison, especially freedom of speech,” said AMLO, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Wikileaks founder for years.

“… Now … the Statue of Liberty is happy,” he added.

President López Obrador with
AMLO hosted Julian Assange’s father and brother in 2023. (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

López Obrador said he didn’t expect to speak to Assange or members of his family in the near future, but remarked that “they know what we did” in support of the Wikileaks founder’s quest for freedom.

He noted that his government lobbied the administrations of both former U.S. president Donald Trump and current president Joe Biden on the issue.

AMLO displayed a letter he sent to Trump in December 2020 in which he asked the then president to consider pardoning Assange and said that Mexico was willing to grant asylum to him if he was released from prison.

He also displayed a letter he gave to Biden during the U.S. president’s visit to Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit in January 2023. In that letter, López Obrador requested that Biden ask U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to “review the legality” of the accusations against Assange in the United States as well as the U.S. government’s request to have the Wikileaks founder extradited to the U.S.

“I dare to make this request because I believe that in addition to being an injustice, this case affects the image of the United States in the world,” he wrote.

López Obrador told reporters on Tuesday that he gave the letters to members of Assange’s family, with whom he met in Mexico City in April 2023.

Claudia Sheinbaum with Julian Assange's father and brother at a press conference
When Sheinbaum was mayor of Mexico City, she gave the keys to the city to Assange’s relatives on his behalf. (Claudia Sheinbaum/X)

During a previous visit to Mexico City in 2022, Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton, accepted the keys to the capital on behalf of the Wikileaks founder from then mayor and now President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum.

An overview of AMLO’s support for Julian Assange

“I’m in favor of him being pardoned. Not only that, I’m going to ask the foreign affairs minister 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 said at the time.

“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 at the time.

“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,” AMLO added.

“What he did was reveal information, the same information that The New York Times and other media outlets revealed,” he said “Why aren’t those media outlets being tried?”

By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])

11 COMMENTS

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
AMLOAMLO and Donald Trump walk down a red carpet in an elegant hallway. and Donald Trump walk down a red carpet in a long corridor.

In response to Trump speech, AMLO plans to send his ‘friend Donald’ a letter

9
"I think they're not informing him well about the migration issue and also about the importance of maintaining economic integration between the United States, Mexico and Canada," AMLO said Friday morning.
Claudia Sheinbuam stands with her new cabinet appointees on a stage with the words "Claudia Sheinbaum, Presidenta."

Claudia Sheinbaum names ministers of culture, tourism and labor

0
With the appointment of the three officials, only the army and navy ministries remain to be announced.
President Lopez Obrador at a podium in the National Palace

López Obrador says stricter gun control ‘urgently needed’ in US

9
After the recent attempt on Donald Trump's life, Mexico's president called on U.S. leaders to pledge to stricter federal gun controls.