It’s time for the Trump administration to drop charges against imprisoned journalist.
By S.T. Patrick
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” This is exactly what WikiLeaks was founded to do by Julian Assange. Since the mission of WikiLeaks was ultimately successful in holding governments accountable by releasing classified documents that highlighted wrongdoings across the globe, Assange has been one of the most wanted men in the world.
On June 19, 2012, he checked himself into the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum. Other than a few very brief periods of bail, that was the last day Assange walked freely in the world he had so honestly discussed. Since then, he has been held captive by threats, false charges of sexual misconduct, and the fear of extradition. It is time that President Donald Trump end the assault on freedom of the press. It’s time to direct the Department of Justice to drop its extradition claim on Assange, who today languishes behind bars at Belmarsh Prison, one of the UK’s harshest correctional facilities.
Assange was kept in solitary confinement until recently, when fellow prisoners, in a rare act of solidarity, petitioned for his release to general population. Being kept in solitary is a form of legalized torture, according to many psychiatrists. Corrections officials can pretend the decision was “to protect him and to keep him safe,” but with solitary confinement comes further isolation from the outside world. Since his confinement, reports have leaked that Assange’s physical and mental health continue to deteriorate. No country will have to argue against freedom of the press if Assange dies first.
While it appears that the world’s strongest powers (Trump’s Justice Department, included) have all litigiously pressured Assange’s ability to practice freedom of the press again, there are international politicians who have sought his release. In October 2019, in Australia, Assange’s native country, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce called for the Australian government to take action to prevent Assange from being extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States. He was joined in the endeavor by other popular regional politicians in Australia. Joining the condemnation of Assange’s arrest and indictment were former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, former Bolivian President Evo Morales, the Russian spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In the U.S., Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Dr. Ron Paul (R-Texas) have been the most outspoken American politicians against Assange’s arrest.
Gabbard said one of her first acts as president would be to drop the charges against Assange. Paul said Assange is a journalist and should be given the same protections as such. “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth. . . . In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.” He added, “This is media, isn’t it? I mean, why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?”
It’s still up in the air when a final decision on extradition will be made. In January, both the prosecution and defense teams asked for more time to prepare their cases. The judge reluctantly agreed, moving the hearings to February and May.
President Trump has time to act. Currently, Assange faces 17 charges related to the Espionage Act of 1917 and a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. If Trump’s 2016 tirades against the Deep State are to be believed, he should feel some kinship toward the man who has done more than anyone to expose the machinations of the same Deep State. Instead, Assange and Trump both wait—Assange in prison and Trump for the 2020 election. If Trump wants to show his political base that he is a constitutionalist, that he believes in a free press that has exposed real news to combat Trump’s mantra of “fake news,” he should instruct Attorney General William Barr to drop the extradition claim and the charges today and set Assange free.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.