Exclusive: Assange's partner says U.S. extradition request politically motivated
The U.S. request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain is politically motivated, untenable and detrimental to a free press and journalism, Stella Moris, the whistleblower's fiancee, said in an exclusive interview with CGTN on Sunday.
Britain's high court ruled on November 10 that Assange can be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, overturning a lower court ruling earlier this year, a decision which Moris, an attorney, said Assange's legal team would appeal.
In a wide-ranging discussion with CGTN, Moris argued that Assange's extradition, which the U.S. has insisted on, is politically motivated. "The nature of the crime that they're prosecuting is journalistic activity. The U.S. is taking an outrageous case," she said.
"Julian is not an American citizen. He has nothing to do with the United States other than having published its crimes," she added, emphasizing the extra-territorial nature of the extradition case against Assange, who is an Australian citizen living on British soil.
"(The) Trump administration decided to use extradition as a political tool to further its political and economic interests... because he (Assange) has been publishing evidence of U.S. corruption and work lines, and they want to silence him forever," Moris claimed.
"It has to be seen in the context of the Trump administration. Julian was not indicted under the Obama administration," she added.
Assange, 50, is wanted in the United States on allegations of disclosing national defense information following WikiLeaks's publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars a decade ago, which included Apache helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down Reuters journalists and children in Baghdad's streets in 2007.
She also rebuffed the argument that the content published by Wikileaks constituted a national security threat to the United States.
"This is the kind of sweeping talking point that the U.S. has advanced from day one, but when it comes to actually substantiating that talking point, they come up with zero under oath," she said, adding that the U.S. government has acknowledged that "no person has come to harm as a result of the publications" and saying the impact is just "a political embarrassment basically."
"It is that simple... they want to silence someone who has been publishing true information to the public about government crimes."
She also agreed the U.S. actions were not just harmful to Assange, but also to a free press and journalism.
"When you look at the impact outside of the United States within the United States, it's clear, this is a frontal attack against the first amendment," Moris said.
"The New York Times, the Washington Post have published editorials, saying as much as chilling free speech, as we know it, as we've seen until now. This is why they're publishing these editorials because they're not publishing everything they're getting, or they're not publishing really important, controversial things because of this prosecution."
"But beyond the U.S. borders, the U.S. has taken an extra territorial case to limit press freedom abroad," she added.
"It is absolutely incomprehensible that they have been, they're basically declaring universal jurisdiction over speech, over what one can publish in the UK, in China... It's extremely dangerous for, for any media worker on, for free speech globally, that it is being criminalized."
When asked about the extradition of Assange at Monday's regular press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Assange case fully demonstrated the U.S.' double standards regarding freedom of the press and speech.
"Anyone can enjoy freedom of the press and speech, as long as they refrain from criticizing or disclosing crimes and deplorable records committed by the U.S., otherwise they will be thrown into jail such as what happened to Julian Assange," Wang said.