PARIS - A British court is still considering whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges. The WikiLeaks founder could benefit from a growing wave of support across Europe among those who oppose his possible transfer to the United States to face trial. Assange's European legal team intends to seek political asylum in France for him.
The high-profile case of Julian Assange has brought a number of lawyers who claim to defend the man who considers himself a whistleblower. In France, one the members of this legal team wants President Emmanuel Macron to grant asylum to Assange, who is jailed in London and faces extradition to the United States. Eric Dupond-Moretti, a well-known French lawyer, claims the current process is unfair. Assange could spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison, if convicted.
He explained that the United States wants to have a political process and that freedom of press is threatened with this case. He said the Constitution of the United States would prevent the prosecution of a U.S. citizen for such facts. This case is a concern for all journalists, non U.S. citizen around the world. Dupond-Moretti said the U.S. Supreme Court stated clearly in different decisions that freedom of expression cannot be prosecuted as it is case with Assange.
In London, a lawyer for the United States accused Julian Assange of risking the lives of intelligence sources by publishing classified U.S. government documents. Assange faces charges under the U.S. Espionage Act for the 2010 release via his website of a trove of files detailing the realities of U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Organizations supporting the Wikileaks founder call it a bogus argument. Rebecca Vincent is the Britain Bureau Director for Reporters without borders.
“Whether it should be a matter of criminal offense to leak information, the question of public’s interest defense is very important. Of course, it is the prerogative of states and some information action must be confidential. But when the information leaked is in the public interest, when it contributes to journalism, and, in fact, political change on the basis of revelations that the public has a right to know. We consider a matter of press freedom and we will defend it. That is very much the case with Mr. Assange,” she said.
In 2010, WikiLeaks also released hundreds of thousands of documents in their original form -- including the secret identities of diplomats and local sources. It was a shocking revelation that brought to light some US intelligence operations, including spying on leaders from foreign countries, such as France or Germany. For that specific reason, some French lawmakers think Julian Assange should be rewarded with asylum in France.
Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a centrist French representative, is one of them.
He said that even if the United States has been an ally of France, before Donald Trump came to power, the French cannot trust them because, to defend their own interests, the [Americans] can spy on foreign leaders. Lagarde said he thinks it is a red flag between democracies. For that, he saif, some countries should give Julian Assange the proper recognition for releasing American secrets.
Julian Assange's legal battle in Britain is far from over as the hearing is expected to take several weeks before the judge make a decision on his case.