Andrés Manuel López Obrador has defended activist Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, and asked the US authorities for a pardon. “If they take him to the United States and sentence him to the maximum penalty and death in prison, we must start the campaign to dismantle the Statue of Liberty,” the Mexican President suggested at his press conference on Monday. The President has added that he will discuss the issue with his counterpart Joe Biden during his next visit to Washington on July 12.
López Obrador’s comments came after he was questioned by a spread published by the newspaper this weekend Washington Post and the organization Reporters Without Borders. The publication criticized the situation of insecurity and violence experienced by media representatives in Mexico. So far this year, 12 journalists have been murdered in the country, a rate of two murders a month. “It’s the smear campaign against the government of Mexico,” the president assured.
Condemning Assange, López Obrador commented, would mean that the monument in New York “is no longer a symbol of freedom”. The Mexican President said he had already raised the issue with former President Donald Trump and sent him a letter asking that he not be prosecuted. “There must be no silence,” he added. The President has called for the White House to fund several civilian organizations that have criticized his administration, particularly human rights organizations, and has returned to the case of Assange, who had asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK between 2012 and 2019.
Wikileaks was behind a massive leak of hundreds of thousands of sensitive US government documents and diplomatic cables, and its revelations rocked several countries early in the last decade. “When this information was published, various media participated, they agreed worldwide to publish all the information because they considered that it was a contribution to defending human rights and freedom of expression, so as not to continue with the double talk the lies to explain one thing and do the other,” said López Obrador.
Assange faced an extradition order in Sweden for sex crimes, but the rape case was dropped in 2017 and he is one of the top targets of US justice for revealing sensitive information. The Australian activist has accused him of political persecution for several years. The British government signed his extradition to the United States on June 17. With Ecuador withdrawing asylum from Assange, the López Obrador government considered offering diplomatic protection to the founder of Wikileaks, and there were contacts between the lawyers representing him and the State Department. The President approved the offer last May and June, but so far the asylum has not materialized. “It is a shameful act,” said the president at the time on the case against Assange.
López Obrador was invited to Washington after announcing earlier last month that he would not be attending the Biden administration-organized Summit of the Americas in protest at the failure to subpoena Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Miguel Díaz-Canel. from Cuba and Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua. Last week it was announced that border security and migration issues would dominate the bilateral agenda, as would economic integration and a joint plan to fight inflation. Only this Monday did it become known that the Mexican delegation would bring up the possible extradition of Assange to the United States.
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