Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard took to Twitter on Tuesday to call on Donald Trump and his administration to cease its efforts to charge and extradite journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Likewise the Trump Admin should drop its efforts to charge & extradite Julian Assange,” she tweeted after calling for a pardon for whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked intelligence to Assange. “Failure to do so is a threat to the freedom & civil liberties of every American (especially journalists and publishers).”
The journalist has been imprisoned in Britain since 2019 and is currently on trial for his role in releasing confidential U.S. government information and violating the country’s espionage law, Reuters reported. While critics claim his role in publishing the documents undermined American national security, supporters argue that his actions exposed U.S. government abuses of power and should be protected as free speech.
As reported by Newsweek, Gabbard said on the campaign trail that she would drop the charges against Assange and noted that he uncovered “egregious abuses” of Americans’ constitutional rights.
In addition to Gabbard, journalist Glenn Greenwald — who is himself a target of Brazil due to similar exposures of executive corruption — has defended Assange and highlighted the importance of the trial.
“The greatest threat to press freedom since 2016 — the ongoing attempt by DOJ to extradite Assange in connection with publishing documents — is underway in the UK, and US journalists who spent 4 years flamboyantly depicting themselves as free press warriors are largely silent.”
The Espionage Act that is being used to prosecute Assange was notoriously used by the Obama administration to prosecute eight individuals for their alleged role in leaking government information to the media. Trump’s administration has faced accusations of weaponizing the legislation and has prosecuted five whistleblowers under the law to date — and three without it.
In an op-ed for Al Jazeera, Amnesty International human rights expert Julia Hall echoed Greenwald and claimed that the case against Assange is a high-stakes trial that will test the pillars of America’s free expression, media freedom, and the public’s right to access information. She also noted the various disturbing aspects of the country’s pursuit of Assange, which has led to his imprisonment in a facility used for seasoned criminals, and the apparent strategy of cutting him off from his friends, family, and legal team.
“It has diminished him both physically and emotionally — often to the point of disorientation,” she wrote.
Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for charges under the Espionage Act and five years for one charge of computer fraud.