The freedom of all of the press is threatened by the US indictment of Julian Assange in connection with the publication of U.S. government documents.

We must oppose Assange’s extradition to the U.S. because he is unlikely to receive a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, where the intelligence and defense industries are based.

We must oppose Assange’s extradition to the U.S because he is likely to face cruel and inhumane treatment.

Assange is likely to face the same torturous treatment as did Chelsea Manning, who leaked the classified documents to Assange and Wikileaks that are at the center of the charges against Assange. In 2012, the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, declared that Manning was being tortured by solitary confinement while awaiting trial. Manning served seven years of a 35-year sentence before President
Obama commuted her sentence just before leaving office in January 2017.

Last week, Manning was released from 27-day stint in solitary confinement because she refused to testify to a grand jury regarding the Assange case. She refused because she supports a free press and the public’s right to know. She opposes secret courts like grand juries, which are an affront to the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial and are an authoritarian anachronism that still remains only in the United States and Liberia. This grand jury investigation should end. Manning should go free.

The United Nations has formally, repeatedly, and recently again declared that Assange’s detention was a violation of human rights and called for Assange freedom. Many of the nations of the world appreciate Assange and Wikileaks for publishing documents that revealed US spying and covert actions against their countries.

Whistleblowers and their publishers should be protected, not persecuted. The documents Manning provided to Wikileaks revealed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. They showed US knowledge of and complicity in torture, corruption, war-mongering, and authoritarian rule in many countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Tunisia, which added fuel to the Arab Spring uprisings.  They revealed that the US was spying on the leadership of the UN and many countries ambassadors to the UN. They revealed that the US was still holding Guantanamo prisoners who had been cleared for release. These revelations are the kind of information a free press should reveal and the citizens of a democracy should know.

Rather than prosecuting a publisher for reporting the truth, the war crimes and human rights violations exposed by Wikileaks should be prosecuted by US and international courts. Those who committed crimes should be prosecuted, not the journalist who reported them.

Howie Hawkins 2020

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