Posted by Richard Willett - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 26 June 2024

Experts warn Julian Assange plea deal could set dangerous precedent

Human rights organisations want the next UK government to seek assurances from the US that it will not pursue journalists publishing classified information

The next UK government must push the US for reassurance it will not pursue journalists for publishing classified information, human rights organisations and experts have argued after the release of Julian Assange.

Experts have warned that the plea deal struck between the WikiLeaksfounder and the US authorities – which will see him plead guilty to one charge under the Espionage Act, but avoid serving any additional time in custody – could set a dangerous precedent.

Assange, who has battled his extradition to the US since WikiLeaks published more than 250,000 leaked classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, was facing up to 175 years in prison on 18 counts. He has spent the last five years in Belmarsh prison, and had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years previous to that.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called his release a “significant victory for media freedom” with its general secretary, Anthony Bellanger, adding: “Had Assange gone to prison for the rest of his life, any reporter handed a classified document would fear facing a similar fate.”

But Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), said it was “alarming” the plea had been pursued. “The plea deal won’t have the precedential effect of a court ruling, but it will still hang over the heads of national security reporters for years to come,” he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by Stella Assange, who said her husband would seek a pardon after accepting the charge. “The fact that there is a guilty plea under the Espionage Act in relation to obtaining and disclosing national defence information is obviously a very serious concern for journalists and national security journalists in general,” she told Reuters.

The period after the deal was a time for “persistent advocacy … to ensure that uncovering the truth is never criminalised”, said Sabrina Tucci, a spokesperson for PEN International , while Séamus Dooley, the assistant general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said the treatment of Assange highlighted the need “for global vigilance on the part of journalists”.

The timing of the decision, little more than a week before the UK general election, could indicate that a Labour government could influence its diplomatic allies, said the leading human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson KC.

“I think that one of the factors in the Pentagon conceding was the imminence of a new government,” he said. “I think there was [a] recognition that the final decision would rest with a Labour government, friendly with the Australian Labor government, and not the Conservatives.”

Robertson, who acted for Assange and founded Doughty Street Chambers which has represented the WikiLeaks founder for more than a decade, said the Biden administration should now publicly indicate that it would not pursue journalists for carrying out their work, including the assurance that non-American journalists would be protected under the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech in the US.

Read More: Experts warn Julian Assange plea deal could set dangerous precedent

The Reveal

From our advertisers