Pressure mounts on US justice department to drop Wikileaks investigation

Human rights organisations claim investigation could put all journalists at risk of prosecution

Julian Assange

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has come under pressure from a slew of human rights groups to drop its four-year investigation into Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

The DoJ began its investigation into the website in November 2010 after more than 200 confidential American diplomatic cables were posted on Wikileaks, which is famed for providing sources with a means of leaking information anonymously.

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Shortly afterwards, cloud giant Amazon stopped hosting the site on its web servers, while PayPal seized processing payments used to support the site's operations.

A prosecution of WikiLeaks or Mr. Assange for publishing classified material could criminalise the news-gathering process and put all editors and journalists at risk.

Four years on, 52 press freedom and human rights organisations have called on the US Attorney General Eric Holder to close the investigation into Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

The latter has spent the past two years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and faces the risk of extradition to Sweden should he leave, where he is wanted over allegations of sexual misconduct.

The letter calls on the DoJ to stop the "harassment" and "persecution" of Wikileaks, given that Holder is reportedly to have vowed in a recent media briefing that "as long as I am attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail."

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The group claim this statement is at odds with the DoJ's decision to pursue the criminal investigation into Wikileaks and its editor-in-chief Assange.

"Well-respected legal scholars across the political spectrum have stated that a prosecution of WikiLeaks or Mr. Assange for publishing classified material or interacting with sources could criminalise the news-gathering process and put all editors and journalists at risk of prosecution," the letter states.

It then closes by claiming that taking action against Wikileaks would "undermine the commitment of the US Government to freedom of speech."

Time will tell if the group's missive has any impact on the DoJ's ongoing investigation into Wikileaks and Assange.

Meanwhile, in a news conference yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the start of his stay in the embassy, Assange claimed to have a stash of documents primed for release on Wikileaks pertaining to 50 countries and their "international negotiations."

He also said his legal team will contest the Swedish extradition case against him next week, in the light of new, undisclosed evidence, coming to light.

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