Journalists in Cyprus have spoken out in favor of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is getting closer to the possibility of being extradited to the United States following an order by a London court.
A media event jointly organized by the Cypriot Initiative for Julian Assange and the Union of Cyprus Journalists was held in Nicosia on Monday in support of Assange, with panelists saying the WikiLeaks founder ought not to be extradited to the United States.
UCJ president Giorgos Frangos spoke against Assange’s extradition, the approval of which has been left to the judgment of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The Home Secretary is being called upon to make the decision after the UK Supreme Court last month refused Assange permission to appeal against a lower court’s ruling that he could be extradited.
'Assange must be set free just as information must be free about everything that is of global interest, about everything that stems from interests that affect the whole planet, all of humanity'
"Assange must be set free just as information must be free about everything that is of global interest, about everything that stems from interests that affect the whole planet, all of humanity,” Frangos said.
Other panelists raised concerns over what they called “infringement upon the freedom of the press” and described Assanges’ detention conditions as “inhumane and humiliating.”
A political scientist on the panel, Stavros Tombazos, pointed out that Assange published information that everyone had suspected.
“When you torture you are punished with imprisonment for a few months, but when you reveal the torture you risk 175 years in prison,” Tombazos said.
American prosecutors allege Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that later appeared published on WikiLeaks.
A British judge initially rejected a US extradition request on suicide concerns for Assang, who would face up to 175 years in jail if convicted across the Atlantic.
But last December the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision after US authorities provided assurances that Assange “would not face severe treatment” that his lawyers might argue would put his physical and mental health at risk.
Supporters for Assange say the case is politically motivated while his lawyers argue the journalist is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veteran journalist Soula Hadjikyriakou, who coordinated the panel in Nicosia, called for transparency in the media and warned that “abuses of power” can prevent citizens from being properly informed.
Legal experts say Assange’s legal options have not yet been exhausted.