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‘Shocking & vindictive’: WikiLeaks slams UK prison sentence for Assange over skipped bail

‘Shocking & vindictive’: WikiLeaks slams UK prison sentence for Assange over skipped bail


WikiLeaks has slammed a UK court’s sentencing of its co-founder Julian Assange as “vindictive.” It also raised major concerns about whether Assange will be treated fairly during an upcoming extradition hearing.
The sentence “is as shocking as it is vindictive,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter on Wednesday, shortly after Assange received almost a year in prison for violating bail conditions.
We have grave concerns as to whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing in the UK.
Julian Assange skipped bail in 2012 while wanted in Sweden over rape allegations (the case was later dropped). The journalist then spent the next several years living under asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, out of fear Britain would hand him over to the US. He was forcibly dragged out of the building last month after the South American nation decided to evict him.
The arrest drew the ire of activists, journalists, and politicians who slammed it as a major threat to freedom of the press.
In the US, Assange was charged with “conspiracy” while working with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who obtained classified data from a Pentagon computer, which was subsequently published by WikiLeaks. Among the leaked files was footage of US troops killing civilians in Baghdad.

 
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    ‘Everyone else must take my place’: Assange in letter from British prison


    ‘Everyone else must take my place’: Assange in letter from British prison


    In a handwritten letter from Belmarsh prison, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says he is being denied a chance to defend himself and that elements in the US that “hate truth, liberty and justice” want him extradited and dead.
    The letter was sent to independent British journalist Gordon Dimmack. It was dated May 13 – ten days before the US announced 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act against the jailed whistleblower.
    In light of the new indictment, Dimmack read out the letter in a YouTube video. A photo of the handwritten note was soon posted online as well

    “I have been isolated from all ability to prepare to defend myself: no laptop, no internet, ever, no computer, no library, so far, but even if I get access it will just be for a half an hour, with everyone else, once a week,” Assange wrote. “The other side? A superpower that has been preparing for 9 years, with hundreds of people and untold millions spent on the case.”
    Assange was arrested on April 11, after Ecuador revoked his political asylum and UK police seized him from the Latin American country’s embassy in London. He was sentenced to 50 weeks behind bars for skipping bail, and sent to Belmarsh, a prison south of London once dubbed 'British Guantanamo' for being used to jail terrorism suspects.
    I am defenseless.
    “I am unbroken, albeit literally surrounded by murderers, but, the days where I could read and speak and organize to defend myself, my ideals, and my people are over until I am free! Everyone else must take my place,” Assange wrote in the letter.
    The WikiLeaks publisher had sought refuge in Ecuador in 2012, claiming – correctly, as it turned out – that trumped-up charges in Sweden would be used to get him extradited to the US. A secret indictment of Assange, only made public in March, charged him with violating the Espionage Act over the 2010 publication of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
    “The US government, or rather, those regrettable elements in it that hate truth, liberty and justice, want to cheat their way into my extradition and death, rather than letting the public hear the truth, for which I have won the highest awards in journalism and have been nominated 7 times for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Assange wrote.
    Truth, ultimately, is all we have.
    The new charges against Assange have alarmed even the mainstream media outlets that have spent years pouring vitriol on WikiLeaks, as they began to realize his prosecution along those lines would essentially criminalize all journalism. However, because Assange and WikiLeaks have been demonized by advocates of the Russiagate conspiracy theory as “agents of the Kremlin” and spies, media pushback against the charges has been muted at best.
     
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    Lone US senator decries use of Espionage Act against Assange as establishment keeps mum

    Lone US senator decries use of Espionage Act against Assange as establishment keeps mum


    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has become a rare voice among the US politicians to denounce the new US indictment of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange as an encroachment on First Amendment rights.
    In a statement on Thursday, hours after Assange was hit with 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act that carry a maximum total sentence of 170 years, Wyden warned that using the draconian legislation to effectively punish Assange for journalistic work might have dangerous implications on the freedom of press in the US.
    "This is not about Julian Assange. This is about the use of the Espionage Act to charge a recipient and publisher of classified information. I am extremely concerned about the precedent this may set and potential dangers to the work of journalists and the First Amendment," Wyden said.
    Wyden is known as a long-time advocate of privacy and civil liberties in the US legislature. He championed legislation forcing the US government to obtain a warrant before spying on Americans outside the US in 2008 and pushed for a congressional investigation into allegations of abuse and torture of prisoners by the CIA during the Bush administration.
    Wyden's take on Assange's work is in stark contrast with that of the Department of Justice, which maintains that Assange "is no journalist." Numerous members of the journalistic community have vented their outrage at the indictment, describing it as an "unprecedented assault" on the First Amendment.
    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has echoed the sentiment, denouncing the charges against the Australian as a "threat to all journalists everywhere."
    US President Donald Trump, who used to praise WikiLeaks when it released damaging emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign before the 2016 election, has not commented on the issue, being seemingly preoccupied with his spiraling feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, likewise, has not said a word on Assange. Her colleagues on the Capitol Hill seem to be following the trend so far.
     
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    ‘Grave concerns’: Assange can barely talk, moved to prison hospital, says WikiLeaks
    ‘Grave concerns’: Assange can barely talk, moved to prison hospital, says WikiLeaks



    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been moved to the hospital wing of the Belmarsh prison in the UK, prompting concerns about his health pending the hearing on his extradition to the US.
    Assange’s health had already “significantly deteriorated” during the nearly seven years he spent inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and has continued to get worse over the seven weeks he has spent in Belmarsh, WikiLeaks said in a statement on Wednesday.

    “The decision of prison authorities to move him to the health ward speaks for itself,” said WikiLeaks, adding that Assange has lost a lot of weight and was barely able to speak to his Swedish lawyer last week.
    “Assange’s health situation on Friday was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him,”
    his lawyer Per Samuelson told reporters after visiting Belmarsh, but the quote was barely reported in Sweden, let alone elsewhere.
    Sweden has rejected Samuelson’s motion to delay Assange’s extradition hearing, though he was never charged with anything. Swedish investigators never interviewed Assange about claims of “sexual assault” that seem to have been trumped-up as a pretext to extradite him to the US in 2012, and prompted him to seek asylum in Ecuador.
     
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