PEN International’s video in support of Assange, featuring our spokesperson Sabrina Tucci, which is being promoted by the Free Assange campaign and on our social media channels: https://twitter.com/FreeAssangeNews/status/1752746659723800886
12 February 2024: A public hearing in the extradition trial of Wikileaks editor, publisher, and founder Julian Assange, initiated by the US authorities in 2019, will occur on 20-21 February 2024. The two-day hearing will convene before a panel of two judges reviewing a prior High Court decision made by a single judge in June 2023, which denied Assange permission to appeal. This will determine whether Assange will have further chances to present his case in UK courts or will have exhausted all appeals, leading to the commencement of the extradition process. An application before the European Court of Human Rights remains a possibility. If extradited, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for exposing human rights abuses perpetrated by the US army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
‘Using espionage laws to target journalists and publishers who disclose information in the public interest infringes fundamental rights of press freedom and freedom of expression, both safeguarded within the legal framework of the UK. Assange’s case is politically motivated and challenges the core of investigative journalism and democratic principles, necessitating the protection of these rights for the broader preservation of a free and responsible press. PEN International and PEN Centres around the world have repeatedly called on the US authorities to drop the charges against Assange and to withdraw their extradition request. With the prospect of his extradition alarmingly close, we call on the UK authorities to urgently refrain from extraditing him and to release him from prison immediately’, said Burhan Sonmez, PEN International President.
Representatives from PEN International, English PEN, and PEN Norway will seek to attend the hearing on 20-21 February to monitor the proceedings and demonstrate solidarity with Assange and fellow publishers, writers and journalists who are increasingly being targeted by authorities around the world, for exposing uncomfortable truths.
PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres urge the UK authorities to stop the extradition of Assange, as it would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom worldwide. Assange must be released from prison immediately and reunited with his family.
The US authorities must drop the charges against Assange and withdraw their extradition request. The fact that a government decides that a specific document is secret or confidential does not make it so, and on many occasions – such as evidence of human rights violations or corruption – the public’s right to know overrides the state’s desire to keep matters secret.
The US and UK authorities must uphold their publicly declared commitment to safeguard media freedom on a global scale, resisting the continuation of this politically motivated case that spans more than a decade.
Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been given asylum for almost seven years. He was arrested for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. In May 2019, the US Department of Justice filed 17 additional charges against Assange, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act. US prosecutors had already charged him with one hacking-related count, including a list of actions that fall under journalistic activities.
In June 2019 the UK Home Secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, signed a request for Assange to be extradited to the US where he could face the risk of serious human rights violations. In January 2021, a UK District Judge decided against extraditing him to the US, citing medical grounds relating to Assange’s poor mental health. Despite widespread international concern that his extradition may lead to serious human rights violations, and have alarming implications for journalism and press freedom, in June 2022 Priti Patel, the then UK Home Secretary, signed the order to extradite Assange.
Assange has been held in the high-security Belmarsh Prison since his arrest in April 2019. In May 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nils Melzer, visited him in prison, noting ‘all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture’. In December 2020, he reiterated his call for UK authorities to promptly release Assange from prison or to subject him to supervised house arrest throughout the US extradition proceedings.
For more information about PEN International’s work in support of Assange, including PEN International’s 2022 resolution on the abuse of the US Espionage act, and the prosecution of Assange as a threat to freedom of expression, click here.
Note to Editors
For further information, please contact Aurélia Dondo, PEN International Head of Europe and Central Asia Region: Aurelia.firstname.lastname@example.org
To schedule an interview or for comments before, during and after the hearing, please contact Sabrina Tucci, PEN International Communications and Campaigns Manager: Sabrina.Tucci@pen-international.org, and + 44 7738 301325