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Saturday May 25, 2024

Assange targeted by US and Trump over his WikiLeaks exposures, says lawyer

Stella Assange likened his case to that of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition activist who died in prison

By Reuters
February 21, 2024
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be seen in this image. — AFP/File
 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be seen in this image. — AFP/File 

LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was targeted by the US over his exposure of state-level crimes, and Donald Trump had requested options on how to deal with him, his lawyers said on Tuesday as they battle to stop his extradition from Britain.

US prosecutors are seeking to put Assange, 52, on trial on 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks’ high-profile release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

They argue the leaks imperilled the lives of their agents and there is no excuse for his criminality. Assange’s supporters hail him as an anti-establishment hero and a journalist, who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing.

At the start of what could be his last chance to stop his extradition from Britain to the United States at London’s High Court, Assange’s lawyers and wife said the case was politically motivated and an attack on all journalists.

Stella Assange likened his case to that of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition activist who died in prison on Friday while serving a three-decade sentence.

“Julian is a political prisoner and his life is at risk. What happened to Navalny can happen to Julian,” she told reporters outside court where a large crowd called for his release. Assange himself was not in court nor watching remotely because he was unwell.

The Australian’s legal battles began in 2010, and he subsequently spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London before he was dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions.