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February 23, 2020 - Updated on February 26, 2020

UK: At the start of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing, RSF renews calls for his release

At the start of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing in London, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) renews calls for his release and for the UK not to comply with the US extradition request. Following an RSF action staged outside Belmarsh prison on 23 February, a delegation from RSF will be monitoring the extradition hearing starting on 24 February.

From 24-28 February, RSF representatives will be present at the Woolwich Crown Court in London to monitor the start of the US extradition hearing in the case against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The delegation will be comprised of RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent and RSF Germany Director Christian Mihr.

“We are here to show our serious concern for the continued persecution of Julian Assange, and to call again for his release. Extraditing him to the US, where he would face charges in connection with his contributions to journalism, would set a very dangerous precedent. The world is watching what takes place in London this week, and the UK has a final chance to prove it means what it says when it comes to the global defence of press freedom,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

“It is an unprecedented step for us to undertake this type of international trial-monitoring mission in an established democratic country, which would be more typical in countries ranked much further down our World Press Freedom Index. But I am joined by colleagues from other RSF offices as what is at stake is of such great international concern. We call again for the UK government to prioritise press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources in this case, and not to comply with the US extradition request,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

RSF firmly opposes Assange’s possible extradition to the US, and has launched a petition calling for the UK not to comply with the US extradition request. RSF believes that Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism in publishing leaked information that was in the public interest, and that his persecution has extremely worrying implications for investigative journalism and press freedom.

RSF also remains seriously concerned for Assange’s health, following the worrying report of UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer after visiting Assange in prison. Melzer found that Assange had been deliberately exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment that could be described as psychological torture.

The UK and US are respectively ranked 33rd and 48th out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Press contact: Rebecca Vincent, [email protected] or +44 7583 137751.