Tuesday 7 February 2023

López Obrador turns to Assange and will ask Biden to exonerate the founder of WikiLeaks

The Mexican president, who offered asylum to the Australian 'ex-hacker', praises him as "the best journalist of our time"

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Q REPORTS (El Pais) The Julian Assange case periodically occupies a chapter of the foreign action of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This Tuesday the Mexican president announced that he will ask his US counterpart to exonerate the WikiLeaks founder.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (left), with his counterpart, Joe Biden, at the White House last November. (AP file photo)

The matter, however, is particularly pressing at this time for two reasons. First, the former Australian hacker faces likely imminent extradition from the UK to the US after British authorities last week agreed to Washington’s request. Added to this is that Obrador is planning a meeting with Biden at the White House in July to discuss and, in addition to the bilateral agenda, he has also promised to address Assange’s procedural situation.

It is not the first time that the Mexican president has tried. He already did it, without success, in the final stretch of Donald Trump’s mandate. In his opinion, he is “an unfairly treated prisoner of conscience.”

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“His crime, in quotes, was to denounce serious human rights violations in the world, in addition to the interference of the United States Government in the internal affairs of other countries. That was what Assange did,” Obrador stated during the morning press conference.

Assange faces 18 charges, including espionage, for WikiLeaks publications on abuses at Guantanamo and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, classified information and diplomatic cables.

For this reason, Obrador has described him as “the best journalist of our time, in the world.”

“He has been very unfairly treated, worse than a criminal. The treatment they have given this journalist is a shame for the world”, he continued. “I want to state that yes, I am going to ask President Biden to address this matter, I am aware that it goes against hard, severe groups, which exist in the United States as in all countries, but humanism must also prevail,” Obrador insisted.

The ex-hacker’s extradition may, in any case, be delayed by the appeal filed by his defense.

The Mexican president, who has also urged the United Nations to speak out, as well as “all organizations in defense of human rights”, has recalled that “Mexico opens the doors to Assange”. His government has already offered Assange protection on more than one occasion.

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“He is sick and it would be a sign of solidarity, of brotherhood, to allow him to receive asylum in the country that Assange decided to live in, including Mexico,” López Obrador said in early January.

However, that offer could not be made then, nor could it now be translated into formal asylum because his procedural situation has not yet been resolved, explained the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, who confined it to “a procedural issue.”

The Mexican and American presidents will meet in July despite the snub at the ninth Summit of the Americas, which Obrador did not want to attend because the representatives of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were not invited.

Assange’s exoneration request is part of the same chapter of the president’s international agenda, which seeks to lead a bloc of leftist or anti-establishment governments in Latin America.

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The election of Gustavo Petro in Colombia last Sunday gives these positions greater regional weight. Even so, and despite the good relationship between Mexico and the United States, Biden has not given any signs at the moment of being open to exonerating the WikiLeaks founder.

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