- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2019

WikiLeaks reacted to Boris Johnson becoming British prime minister Wednesday by pouncing on recent comments he made relevant to the website’s jailed publisher, Julian Assange.

Citing remarks Mr. Johnson made days earlier about press freedom, WikiLeaks said on Twitter that “it should be unthinkable for the new PM to support the extradition of Assange,” who is wanted by the U.S. and currently imprisoned in the U.K.

The former mayor of London, Mr. Johnson had recently denounced the city’s Metropolitan Police Service for threatening criminal charges against media outlets that publish leaked documents belonging to Kim Darroch, the outgoing British ambassador to the U.S.

“A prosecution on this basis would amount to an infringement on press freedom and have a chilling effect on public debate,” Mr. Johnson said on July 13. “It cannot conceivably be right that newspapers or any other media organization publishing such material face prosecution.”

“The US government is trying to prosecute Assange for publishing leaked diplomatic cables. UK courts have stated that WikiLeaks is a media organisation. Will @BorisJohnson agree to extradite Assange even though doing so would enable prosecutions that infringe upon press freedom?” WikiLeaks tweeted Wednesday.

Representatives of the prime minister’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Assange, 48, has been charged in the U.S. with crimes related to obtaining and releasing classified material through WikiLeaks, including diplomatic cables similar to Mr. Darroch’s and a trove of documents detailing American foreign policy and military operations.

He had been under house arrest while under investigation for unrelated charges when he sought asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. He ultimately lived on the property for roughly seven years before being ejected in April and promptly arrested for having breached the terms of his bail by having entered the building.

“It’s only right that Julian Assange finally faces justice,” Mr. Johnson tweeted shortly after Mr. Assange was arrested.

Mr. Assange was subsequently sentenced to spend nearly a year behind bars for having jumped bail and is currently incarcerated at London’s Belmarsh prison.

He has since been charged by the U.S. with multiple crimes related to the acquisition and publication of classified material released online by WikiLeaks dating back to 2010, putting him at risk of spending the remainder of his life in prison if extradited and found guilty.

The ambassador to the U.S. since 2016, Mr. Darroch offered his resignation after British media published leaked cables this month in which he spoke critically of President Trump and his administration. Scotland Yard has since warned that publishing additional documents belonging to the diplomat may constitute a criminal offense under the U.K. Official Secrets Act.

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