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Urgent LALIT call on Mauritian Journalists to Oppose Julian Assange Extradition to USA

25.10.2021

 Freedom of the Press is at a crossroads.


LALIT calls on all Mauritian Journalists, and all media institutions, to add their individual and collective voices to the demand for the immediate release of Julian Assange, Wikileaks journalist and publisher, and to call for him not to be extradited to the USA. Please, LALIT calls on you, put on record your position in the next 48 hours. 


Julian Assange’s case comes up on 27 and 28 October at Belmarsh Prison in the UK. He published the documents released by Chelsea Manning, who was granted a pardon by President Obama. His case will define the future for press freedom world-wide for years to come.


Below we publish a renewed demand sent by 25 Press Freedom groups in the USA to the US Attorney General to withdraw all charges from Julian Assange, following the recent exposure by Yahoo News outlet of the CIA plans to kidnap and/or murder Julian Assange. This can give Mauritian journalists an idea of how other journalists are taking a stand. 


We call on Mauritian journalist to stand up and be counted. This is the single most important Press Freedom issue of our times. 


Julian Assange, this brave man, exposed war crimes by the USA and UK. What he published was also published by major newspapers, like The Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, El Pais, who have not been charged. He also exposed the way the US and the UK used the Marine Protected Area around Chagos in order to maintain their illegal occupation of the Chagos including Diego Garcia. And it was this that permitted the State of Mauritius and the African union to take the UK to Court over Chagos.


Now it is these two states, the USA and UK, who are torturing the very man who exposed them for illegal rendering and torture on Diego Garcia, as well as for the intentional killing of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and for wars without any lawful cause, nor any justification. The UN Special Rapporteur has documented the forms of torture to which Assange has been subjected. See our article: “On the Importance of Freeing Julian Assange”, 21 April on www.lalitmauritius.org)


Julian Assange won his case in January this year in the UK courts, when he opposed the demand by the USA for his extradition to face charges of espionage. However, the Trump administration appealed against this judgment. Biden has now come and supported the Trump appeal. 


So, last Friday, LALIT members participated in a worldwide Live Tribunal and also Video Tribunal, putting on trial the USA for war crimes in the War on Terror, while simultaneously supporting the very man who published the nature of many of these crimes, journalist Julian Assange, who now, ironically, comes up in a UK tribunal defending a Biden-led case for extradition to the USA to stand trial for “espionage”, in a country which is not even his own. He is Australian. The Tribunal is called the Belmarsh Tribunal to commemorate his bravery by naming the place of torture of Julian Assange, the Belmarsh Prison. 


The Tribunal heard brilliantly argued evidence and passionately proposed ideas from a broad spectrum of astute and caring witnesses: expert investigative journalist from Italy Stefania Maurizi, Julian Assange’s partner and mother of his two young children Stella Morris, one of his lawyers Renata Avila Pinto, the world-renowned Edward Snowden in exile in Moscow from Moscow, three British MPs including Jeremy Corbyn who Mauritians know because of his support of Chagossians, an ex-MI5 agent, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam war Daniel Ellsberg, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, former President of Equador Raphael Correa, with the great intellectual Tariq Ali, who was active in the previous Tribunal against Vietnam War Crimes in 1966-7 together with philospher-activists Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, opening and closing proceedings masterfully. 


In an article by Freedom of the Press Association (at www.freedom.press/news), the association said that “The United States prosecution of Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom around the globe. In light of that fact, and in light of shocking reporting late last month about CIA plans to kidnap or even assassinate him, the charges must be dropped. We’ve joined a coalition of more than two dozen press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights groups reiterating that position in a letter delivered today [15 October] to Attorney General Merrick Garland.”


Read the letter from some 25 American free press organizations, in full:


U.S. Department of Justice


950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW


Washington, DC 20530


October 15, 2021


 


To: Attorney General Merrick Garland:


We, the undersigned press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights advocacy organizations, write again to share our profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.


In February, members of this coalition wrote to the Acting Attorney General, urging that the criminal charges against Mr. Assange be dropped.


We  now renew that request with even greater urgency, in light of a recent story in Yahoo News describing alarming discussions within the CIA and Trump administration before the indictment against Assange was filed.


The Yahoo News story only heightens our concerns about the motivations behind this prosecution, and about the dangerous precedent that is being set. As we noted in our earlier correspondence, the signatories to this letter have different perspectives on Mr. Assange and his organization. We are united, however, in our view that the criminal case against him poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad. We were disappointed that the Department of Justice appealed the decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to reject the Trump administration’s extradition request.


Especially in light of the recent news report, we urge you to drop that appeal and dismiss the underlying indictment.


Respectfully,


(in alphabetical order) 


Access Now


American Civil Liberties union


Amnesty International USA


Center for Constitutional Rights


Committee to Protect Journalists


Defending Rights & Dissent


Demand Progress Education Fund


Electronic Frontier Foundation


Fight for the Future


First Amendment Coalition


Free Press


Freedom of the Press Foundation


Human Rights Watch


Index on Censorship


Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University


National Coalition Against Censorship


Open The Government


Partnership for Civil Justice Fund


PEN 


America


Project on Government Oversight


Reporters Without Borders


RootsAction.org


The Press Freedom Defense Fund of First Look Institute


Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts