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Joe Biden Says US Govt Is Considering Appeal To Drop Julian Assange Charges

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange protest in Vienna (Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger)

US President Joe Biden yesterday said that his government is considering a request from Australia to drop the decade-long US push to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Biden said at a press conference, “We’re considering it”.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Biden’s comment on Assange was encouraging.

“I’m increasingly optimistic about an outcome, but one certainly has not been delivered yet. We’ll continue to argue the case at every opportunity that we have,” Albanese was quoted as saying by Sky Australia.

The Australian government has for a couple of years called on the US to drop its prosecution against Assange, an Australian citizen who has fought US extradition efforts from a prison in the UK.

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Assange has been indicted by a court on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago.

The US government has accused Assange of encouraging and helping US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning of stealing diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published.

Canberra has said that there is a disconnect between US treatment of Assange and Manning. The US government under Barack Obama had commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence to seven years, which allowed her release in 2017.

Biden’s comment is the latest indication that his administration may have cooled on the idea of putting Assange on trial, which could prove politically toxic in an election year. According to reports, the Biden government is exploring the possibility of allowing the WikiLeaks founder to cut a plea deal that would see him admitted for an early release from prison.

In February, Australia passed a motion that called on the US and UK governments to allow Assange to return to his native country. Albanese and his cabinet members voted in favour of the motion.