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United Kingdom: Joint letter calling on Home Secretary not to extradite Julian Assange to the US

Friday 7 October 2022 - 4:12pm

Julian Assange

PEN International joins Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and 14 organisations – including English PEN, PEN Suisse Romand, PEN Sydney, Scottish PEN, Slovene PEN and Swedish PEN - in urging the new UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to intervene in the US government's request to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. These groups, representing press freedom, free expression, and journalists' organisations, have also requested a meeting with Braverman to discuss concerns in the case, after a request for a meeting with former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, went unanswered. The full text of the letter is below.

The Rt. Hon Suella Braverman, Secretary of State for the Home Department, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF

7 October 2022

Dear Home Secretary,

We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations, are writing to raise the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and request you to urgently intervene to ensure he is not extradited to the United States.

In June your predecessor, Priti Patel, signed the order to extradite Mr Assange, despite widespread international concern that his extradition would have alarming implications for journalism and press freedom. In fact, many of the signatories in this letter wrote to Ms Patel warning that Assange’s prosecution “would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.”

Our request for a meeting was unfortunately left unanswered. We are therefore now asking you, Home Secretary, to meet with the signatories of this letter to discuss the case in detail.

We urge you, Home Secretary, to intervene in this extradition request as a matter of priority. In the US, Mr Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years. He is highly likely to be detained there in conditions of isolation or solitary confinement despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide.

Further, Mr Assange would be unable to adequately defend himself in the US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defence. This would not align with the values of fairness, justice and a public commitment to media freedom that the UK continues to promote.

You now have an opportunity to ensure that this extradition does not proceed. An opportunity to demonstrate through action that the UK means what it says in its commitment to media freedom. And most importantly, the opportunity to reunite Mr Assange with his young family after many years of separation – an act that may ultimately save his life. We ask you to seize this opportunity as a matter of urgency and ensure that the UK government acts in the interest of journalism and press freedom and does not enable the US government to continue to pursue this more than decade-old, politically motivated case.

We look forward to hearing from you and discussing the case further. We would be grateful for a prompt response. Please reply via Azzurra Moores at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at amoores@rsf.org.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship

Mark Johnson, Legal & Policy Officer, Big Brother Watch

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director, Blueprint for Free Speech

Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN

Alix Parodi, President, PEN Suisse Romand

Tanja Tuma, President, Slovene PEN

Alix Parodi, President, PEN Suisse Romand

Zoë Rodriguez, joint President, PEN Sydney, and Chair of the PEN International Women Writers

Jesper Bengtsson, President, Swedish PEN

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org