Mexico offers political asylum to Julian Assange

·2-min read
People celebrate after a judge ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States, outside the Old Bailey in London, Britain, January 4, 2021.  (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls  )
People celebrate after a judge ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States, outside the Old Bailey in London, Britain, January 4, 2021. (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls )

Mexican President Andres Manual López Obrador has offered political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after a US extradition request was blocked by a UK court this morning.

Making the announcement during his daily press briefing, López Obrador told the Mexican press: “I will ask the secretary of Foreign Relations to make the relevant arrangements to make an offer to the United Kingdom that will ensure Mr. Assange keeps his freedom and that Mexico offers him political asylum."

Praising the decision of the UK court system to prevent the extradition of the embattled journalist, López Obrador commended what he called a “triumph of justice”.

The Mexican president also said that the conditions that Assange has been subjected to since his arrest are tantamount to “torture” and that Mexico would be happy to “give him protection” from further persecution.

“Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favour of pardoning him” said López Obrador. The offer of asylum came within hours of the decision by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to deny the request by the United States, on mental health grounds during a hearing at London’s Old Bailey.

Assange, who has been facing a string of charges since 2010, is wanted by the United States after releasing thousands of classified documents in the early part of the previous decade. The Australian had been facing the prospect of being tried for espionage after being expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had previously sought asylum after a warrant was issued for his arrest in Sweden on charges of sexual assault.

Mexico, which has enjoyed a thaw in US relations since the election of López Obrador, has stated however that those seeking asylum must undertake “the responsibility to ensure that they do not intervene or interfere in the political affairs of any nation” – a direct reference to the events that led to Assange’s arrest in 2019.

However, in spite of the misgiving that some may have about Assange’s controversial role in global politics, the Mexican government firmly believes that “as a journalist, he deserves an opportunity to be free” and that the offer of asylum was the correct course of action.

Despite his offer, López Obrador has been facing fierce criticism in Mexico for his attempts to restrict press freedoms within the country in response to unflattering media coverage.

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