Is Julian Assange a criminal or a champion for transparency? (2019)January 23, 2021
New York (CNN)In a last-minute bid to persuade President Donald Trump to pardon Julian Assange, Wikileaks has reached out to several high-profile reporters asking for help in its efforts to rescue its founder from potential life in prison.
The messages sent to reporters over Twitter direct message said that Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, had directed Wikileaks to reach out for possible assistance.
“She was hoping that you may have ideas or contacts that could help convince Trump to pardon Assange,” said one version of the message sent to multiple reporters.
Another version of the message characterized Assange as someone who faces prison “for journalistic activities.”
“He is a free speech hero,” the message added.
The messages were sent to reporters, including this one, at some of the nation’s top news organizations.
Wikileaks did not respond to a request for comment, but Moris confirmed to CNN that she did ask the organization to “reach out to some of its most influential followers.”
Moris said that some journalists, who she did not name, have responded by asking for interviews with Assange. She argued that Assange’s case has “major Constitutional implications” and it could essentially “turn investigative reporting into a criminal enterprise.”
Moris added that she hopes to make contact with someone in the White House about Assange’s case, but so far has not been in contact with anyone.
“I am not in touch with anyone in the White House, hence the effort to ask people who might have contacts to speak to them themselves, and make the principled case for a pardon,” Moris said.
Assange was arrested in April 2019 when British authorities entered the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had been holed up for seven years, and took him into custody on a US extradition warrant.
The Wikileaks founder has been charged under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables. He faces up to 175 years in prison.
A British judge last week denied Assange bail, saying that “there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr. Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court and face the appeal proceedings.”
The judge in the case, however, has denied a request to extradite Assange to the US.
Trump has issued a number of controversial pardons as his days in office dwindle. In December, he pardoned longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign manager Paul Manafort. He also pardoned four Blackwater guards convicted in an Iraq massacre.
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