Assange’s Former US Lawyers Applaud His Release From Prison After Years Of Persecution By US Government – OpEd

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 For several years beginning in 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights was part of the legal team that represented Julian Assange. Before his death in 2016, Michael Ratner, the Center’s president emeritus at the time, was Assange’s lead lawyer in the United States. Today, in response to Assange’s guilty plea to a single felony offense under the Espionage Act with a sentence of time served, our legal director Baher Azmy, who twice visited Assange when he was confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, issued the following statement:

“The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the decision to release Julian Assange after more than a decade of unjust imprisonment. Assange is a publisher persecuted for nearly fifteen years by the U.S. government and its allies in retaliation for exposing their grave crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. He was targeted for exposing human rights abuses and other injustices, while those responsible for these offenses have largely escaped accountability. 

Assange’s guilty plea in no way undermines the importance of his journalistic activities, which are unmatched in the post-9/11 era for exposing U.S. and international criminality and corruption, and for showcasing the human costs of voracious U.S. militarism. He exposed human rights abuses at great personal cost, triggering an unprecedented crackdown on government leaks by the Obama Administration, which also targeted Chelsea Manning for her singularly courageous role in whistleblowing U.S. war crimes. The plea deal represents the Biden administration’s belated acceptance of what was obvious to the world: Assange was and is a journalist. 

Still, his conviction under the Espionage Act sets a terrible precedent. The law is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the U.S. government chose to use it against Assange. 

‘Democracies die behind closed doors,’ U.S. Circuit Judge Damon Keith wrote in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, and few have done more than Julian Assange to force those doors open and expose the truth. May his courage and Chelsea Manning’s inspire others to similar action. We are proud to have represented him and the principles he stood for, and we wish him well as he begins the slow process of rebuilding his life in freedom.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach.

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