Julian Assange

Family of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Rally for His Freedom in Oakland

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, currently detained in London, could face 175 years in prison if he is extradited to the United States for leaking top-secret government documents over a decade ago.

A British judge refused to follow the United States' extradition requests this January, in fear Assange would commit suicide in solitary confinement. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would continue to pursue his extradition.

Family members and supporters of Assange are on a nationwide tour to advocate for both his freedom and the freedom of the press. Their most recent stop was in Oakland Saturday, one of the 17 cities where they are holding rallies this summer.

Gabriel Shipton, Assange's brother, said dropping the extradition request could help the Biden Administration re-establish the idea that the United States is on a "moral high ground" when confronting overseas authoritarian states.

"They often get Assange thrown back in their faces," Shipton said. "'Look at what you're doing to Assange, how could you confront us on our human rights or press freedoms?' We've seen this with the Russian ambassador to the U.K."

Noam Chomsky, renowned linguist and historian, said the charges Assange faces are not sufficient, and he should instead be honored for his service of releasing information that has been extremely valuable to the American public.

"This gross miscarriage of injustice prolonged over many cruel years should be ended at once. Julian Assange should not only be free, but should be accorded the great respect that he originally deserves for his contributions," Chomsky said.

Daniel Ellsberg, journalist and Pentagon Papers whistleblower, said the use of the Espionage Act against those who are not spies, but are individuals who give information to the American people, is a violation of the First Amendment. In video, he shared the similarities in his case compared to Assange's when he released the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

"I was the first to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for giving information to the American public in order to reveal war crimes, crimes against peace, deceptions of the public," Ellsberg said, totaling a possible sentence of 115 years in prison.

Assange is facing 175 years.

"Essentially the same charges that I faced exactly, and as wrongly based and unconstitutional in my own case," Ellsberg said.

If he is convicted, Assange would be the first journalist in the country to be convicted for releasing information. Ellsberg said it is in the interest of journalists throughout the world to prevent his expedition, as other democracies may imitate the policies.

"It's in the interest of democracy and of journalism to ensure that the cause for which John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton are engaged in right now should prevail," Ellsberg said.

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