Tuesday 26 January 2021
News ID: 86271
Publish Date: 05 January 2021 - 22:00
MEXICO CITY (Dispatches) -- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a move that could anger the United States, which is seeking his extradition.
Celebrating a decision by a British judge on Monday to deny a request to extradite Assange to the United States, Lopez Obrador said he wanted his foreign minister to ask Britain if it could release Assange so Mexico could offer him asylum.
"Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance,” he said. "We’ll give him protection.”
U.S. authorities accuse Assange of offenses during the administration of former President Barack Obama relating to the release by WikiLeaks of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which they say put lives at risk.
The British judge denied the U.S. extradition request on the grounds that Assange’s mental health problems made him a suicide risk. U.S. prosecutors are set to appeal the ruling.
A leftist who took office two years ago, Lopez Obrador has long criticized ruling elites. Casting his presidency as a radical departure from establishment politics, he has previously spoken out on behalf of Assange, 49.
Last January, he urged Britain to release Assange, calling his detention "torture” and saying WikiLeaks documents had showed the world’s "authoritarian” workings.
His asylum offer sent a message that Mexico would pursue an independent foreign policy under the next U.S. government, a Mexican official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday Assange is "free to return home” to Australia once legal challenges against him are dealt with.
U.S. justice department said it would continue to seek Assange’s extradition with prosecutors set to appeal the ruling to London’s High Court.
"Well, the justice system is making its way and we’re not a party to that. And like any Australian, they’re offered consular support and should, you know, the appeal fail, obviously he would be able to return to Australia like any other Australian,” Morrison told local radio station 2GB.
"So, yes, it’s just a straightforward process of the legal system in the UK working its way through.”
Assange’s supporters see him as an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing in Afghanistan and Iraq and say his prosecution is a politically motivated assault on journalism and free speech.
WikiLeaks came to prominence when it published a U.S. military video in 2010 showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff. It then released thousands of secret classified files and diplomatic cables.

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