Biden 'considering' request to drop Assange prosecution

US President Joe Biden says he is considering an Australian request to drop the prosecution of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who released troves of confidential US classified documents and is battling extradition to the United States.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in February backed a parliamentary motion calling for the return of Assange to Australia.

"We are considering it," Biden told a reporter who asked if he had a response to Australia's request to end Assange's prosecution.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, called Biden's comments encouraging. 

Three weeks earlier, Pollack had said Assange's legal team saw no indication of resolution to US charges against him.

"It is encouraging that President Biden has confirmed that the United States is considering dropping its case against Julian Assange," Pollack said in an email.

The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden's remarks on Wednesday.

In a post on the X social media network directed at Biden and citing his comment, Assange's wife said: "Do the right thing. Drop the charges."

Stella Assange
Stella Assange has urged US President Joe Biden to have charges against her husband dropped.

Assange's extradition was put on hold in March after London's High Court said the United States must provide assurances he would not face the death penalty.

Assange, 52, is battling extradition from the United Kingdom to the US, where he is wanted on criminal charges over the release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables in 2010.

The US says the release of the documents had put lives in danger.

Assange's supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: "It is not too late for President Biden to stop Julian's extradition to the US, which was a politically motivated act by his predecessor.

"By dropping the charges against Julian he will be protecting freedom of expression and the rights of journalists and publishers globally.

"We urge him to end this legal process, to free Julian, and to recognise that journalism is not a crime."

If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum security prison. 

Multiple rights groups, media organisations and the leaders of countries like Mexico and Brazil have also urged that charges against Assange be dropped.

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