Mexico City, Sep 14 (EFE).- The mayor of Mexico’s capital presented the keys to the city on Wednesday to the father and brother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently jailed in London facing possible extradition to the United States on charges of violating the Espionage Act.
“It is an honor to give you the keys to the city. It is a act symbolic of what Mexico City represents: freedom of expression,” Claudia Sheinbaum said.
Mexico City is “progressive” and has always defended liberties, she said.
“And that is what Julian Assange represents: truth, freedom of expression, and that should never be persecuted anywhere in the world,” the mayor said before presenting the keys to the journalist’s father, John Shipton, and brother, Gabriel Shipton.
The support for Assange they have encountered in Mexico “moves us almost to tears,” John Shipton said, describing the municipal government’s gesture of giving them the keys to the city as “almost like how a mother hen takes her chicks under her wing to protect them.”
“The last week in Mexico has been filled with love for Julian,” Gabriel Shipton said on Twitter following the ceremony.
Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, invited the Shiptons to join him for the country’s Sept. 15-16 independence celebrations.
AMLO, as the Mexican leader is known, urged US then-President Donald Trump to pardon Assange before leaving office and has likewise raised the issue with the current occupant of the White House, Joe Biden.
The espionage case against Assange arose from WikiLeaks’ publication of secret materials provided in 2009-2010 by then-US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Besides a video and military reports pertaining to US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Manning supplied WikiLeaks with a trove of State Department cables offering a window into Washington’s relations with many countries.
Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012 after losing a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sexual misconduct that were ultimately dropped.
Quito granted Assange Ecuadorian citizenship, but a change of government in the South American nation resulted on April 11, 2019, in his expulsion from the mission, from which he was dragged by British police.
Assange, a 51-year-old Australian citizen, has spent more than three years in a maximum-security prison in the United Kingdom and the confinement under harsh conditions has taken a toll on his health.
British authorities disclosed that he suffered a mini-stroke in October 2021.
After a magistrate and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition to the US, lawyers for the publisher filed an appeal last month with the High Court of Justice in London.
If found guilty on each of the 18 counts in the US indictment, he could be sentenced to as much as 180 years in prison. EFE