Colombian President Says He’s Calling on Biden to End Assange Prosecution
01:11 GMT 23.11.2022 (Updated: 15:25 GMT 28.05.2023)
In a subsequent message on social media, President Petro wrote he would “ask President Biden… not to charge a journalist just for telling the truth.”
Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with a delegation representing jailed WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at the presidential palace Monday for a discussion which also included Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva.
“I met with WikiLeaks spokespersons to support the global fight for the freedom of journalist Julian Assange,” Petro explained Monday in a post published on Twitter. “I will ask President Biden along with other Latin American presidents not to charge a journalist just for telling the truth,” the Colombian president wrote.
WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said in a subsequent release
that “President Petro and Foreign Minister Alvaro Duran [have] shown a clear commitment to support the fight for Julian Assange's freedom, and strongly recognized the implications for press freedom worldwide that Assange's extradition would set.”
Hrafnsson lauded Colombia’s top officials for having “pledged to assist in getting other leaders in the region to follow Colombia's position and to collectively and individually urge the Biden administration to call off the proceedings against Assange and grant him his long overdue freedom.”
Assange has been languishing in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh prison since 2019, and is facing a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in a US Supermax facility if he’s extradited to the US to face trial on espionage charges. In June, the UK’s then-Home secretary, Priti Patel, approved the extradition – a decision which Assange’s legal team announced they were appealing in August.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has also been a strong advocate
for the WikiLeaks founder’s freedom, telling reporters in July that if Assange was taken “to the United States and is sentenced to the maximum penalty and to die in prison, we must start a campaign to tear down the Statue of Liberty.”
Lopez Obrador, who met with Biden the following week, said afterwards that he reiterated to the US president that “Mexico is offering protection and asylum to Julian Assange” but that he had not yet heard back
“I left a letter to the president about Assange, explaining that he did not commit any serious crime, did not cause anyone’s death, did not violate any human rights, and that he exercised his freedom, and that arresting him would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression,” Lopez Obrador said.
Although Biden promised to ‘re-engage’ with Latin America upon taking office, ties between the US and other nations in the region have remained strained. In fact, tensions hit a new level of uneasiness during Biden’s much-vaunted ‘Summit of the Americas’ in June, which saw the American president snubbed by a number of leaders following the US’ refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua over accusations of human rights violations.