On the 4th of July, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that, if Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange is convicted in the United States, the Statue of Liberty should be dismantled.
Assange is currently imprisoned by the United Kingdom pending an extradition to the United States on charges under the U.S. Espionage Act. Those charges spring from his receipt and publishing of vast troves of classified American government documents. Among many other embarrassing disclosures, the files revealed previously undisclosed civilian casualties of the war in Iraq.
On Friday, Assange appealed the UK government’s extradition decision to the High Court. PEN International, a global association of writers, condemned the U.S government’s conduct in the case:
“Julian Assange’s prosecution raises profound concerns about freedom of the press. Invoking the Espionage Act for practices that include receiving and publishing classified information sends a dangerous signal to journalists and publishers worldwide.”
Speaking at a press conference at the National Palace, López Obrador called for the “most important press in the world”—including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Mexico’s El Pais—to “convene a meeting…to exhort, request, call, so that a pardon be granted to Assange.”
“If they don’t do it, they will be tarnished and we will have to start the campaign that, if they take him to the US, and sentence him to the maximum sentence [to] die in prison, they will have to dismantle the Statue of Liberty that the French delivered…because it is no longer a symbol of freedom.”
López Obrador pledged to make his own personal appeal. “I want to state that I am going to ask President Biden to address this matter. I am aware that it goes against the severe hardliners that exist in the United States as in all countries, but humanism must also prevail,” he said.
He has previously indicated his willingness to grant Assange humanitarian asylum and Mexican citizenship.