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Brazil’s president says Julian Assange can’t be punished for ‘informing society’ in a ‘transparent’ way

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said at the United Nations in New York City on Tuesday that it is “essential” to preserve the freedom of the press and that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should not be prosecuted for informing the public.

“It is essential to preserve the freedom of the press. A journalist like Julian Assange cannot be punished for informing society in a transparent and legitimate way,” Lula said.

The president’s comments come a day before a cross-party delegation of Australian politicians meet in Washington, D.C., with U.S. officials, members of Congress and civil rights groups. The group is bringing a letter signed by more than 60 members of parliament calling on the U.S. to drop the prosecution against Assange, who is fighting against extradition to the U.S., where could be sentenced to as many as 175 years in an American maximum security prison.

U.S. President Joe Biden will host Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in late October. Albanese has repeatedly called on the U.S. in recent months to end the prosecution of the Australian journalist.

“I think there must be a movement of world press in his defense. Not in regard to his person, but to defend the right to denounce,” Lula told reporters in May. “The guy didn’t denounce anything vulgar. He denounced that a state was spying on others, and that became a crime against the journalist. The press, which defends freedom of the press, does nothing to free this citizen. It’s sad, but it’s true.”

Last year, the editors and publishers of U.S. and European news outlets that worked with Assange on the publication of excerpts from more than 250,000 documents he obtained in the Cablegate leak — The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País  — wrote an open letter calling for the U.S. to drop the charges against Assange.

And in April, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., led a letter to the Justice Department signed by some of her congressional colleagues demanding Assange’s freedom.

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