Supporters of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have criticized outgoing US President Donald Trump for failing to forgive the WikiLeaks founder and NSA whistleblower before stepping down, calling the surveillance “disappointing.”
In the final hours of his presidency, Trump on Wednesday pardoned 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others.
Steve Bannon and major Republican Party fundraiser Elliott Broidy were included on the diverse roster, along with figures with little apparent connection to the Trump administration, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.
But calls for Trump to forgive Assange – who risks possible extradition to the United States from the United Kingdom on charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables ten years ago, are fell on deaf ears.
The omission angered his supporters, many of whom took to social media to express their anger.
Christine Assange, the mother of the founder of Wikileaks, said she was “not shocked, just disappointed” by Trump’s decision.
“My private prediction was correct,” she tweeted. “Courage is not always contagious.”
I am not shocked.
Just disappointed that my private prediction was right
Courage is not always contagious
– hChristine Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@MrsC_Assange) January 20, 2021
Others pointed to the contrast between Trump’s decision to forgive the American Blackwater Military Contractors convicted of killing civilians in Iraq and “shady political agents”, but not Assange and Snowden, whom many observers consider to be icons of press freedom.
Snowden, 37, fled the United States after leaking secret National Security Agency files in 2013 and was granted asylum in Russia. In November, he announced that he would apply for Russian citizenship with his wife for the sake of their family; the couple are expecting a baby.
US officials have wanted Snowden to return for years to face a criminal espionage trial.
Investigative reporter Stefania Maurizi, who works for the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano and has worked on all of WikiLeaks’ secret documents, including the 2010 documents for which Assange has been accused, said she expected to decision.
“I find no satisfaction in saying: I told you. President Trump pardoned the #WarCriminals of # Blackwater, and did NOT pardon a reporter who spoke out against #WarCrimes and #torture, Julian #Assange, and a whistleblower who spoke out against state crime, Edward # Snowden. That’s who they are, ”she tweeted.
I find no satisfaction in saying: I told you. President Trump pardoned the #Black waterof #WarCriminals, and did NOT pardon a journalist who exposed #War crimes and #torture,Julian #Assange, and a whistleblower who spoke out on state crime, Edward #Snowden.
This is who they are
– Stefania Maurizi (@SMaurizi) January 20, 2021
Paul Bernal, professor of media law at the British University of East Anglia and author of Internet Privacy Rights: Rights to Protect Autonomy, also said he did not expect Assange to be pardoned.
Of course, he forgave Bannon. Of course, he did not forgive either Snowden or Assange. Anyone expecting something different was a pipe dream.
– Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) January 20, 2021
Randy Quaid, an American actor, said he was “deeply disturbed” that Trump was not forgiving Assange.
Mr. President, you said in 2016 that you “love Wikileaks”. You must now show that love by forgiving Assange. This man has suffered enough. If you’re influenced by Mitch McConnell, he’s not your friend. Democracy needs transparency to survive. @POTUS
– Randy Quaid (@RandyRRQuaid) January 20, 2021
Internet entrepreneur and Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who also faces possible extradition to the United States from New Zealand for copyright, called on Assange supporters to “stay strong.”
“To all #Assange supporters. It is disappointing that Trump has not forgiven Julian. But our number has increased. Many respected people are joining our movement to free Julian every day, ”he said in a message on Twitter. “Our voices can no longer be ignored. Let’s fight for Julian’s release this year. Stay strong.”
To all #Assange supporters there. It is disappointing that Trump has not forgiven Julian. But our number has increased. Many respected people are joining our movement to free Julian every day. Our voices can no longer be ignored. Let’s fight for Julian’s release this year. Stay strong. pic.twitter.com/CykUGC2yXQ
– Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) January 20, 2021
In the days before the pardon list was released, many, including Snowden himself, had called on Trump to include Assange.
Snowden said Trump’s inability to forgive Assange would mean he “would remain in jail indefinitely while the DOJ [Department of Justice] incessantly files baseless appeals out of spite.
The aftermath of Assange’s failed forgiveness means he will remain in jail indefinitely while the DOJ keeps filing baseless appeals out of spite. https://t.co/zIAx96ab9c
– Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 19, 2021
A Twitter user joked that if Snowden and Assange had released a rap record, they might have received a grace.
Edward Snowden and Julian Assange should have dropped a fiery mixtape so maybe they would have gotten a pardon.
– An0maly (@LegendaryEnergy) January 20, 2021
Assange back in prison
A British judge ruled two weeks ago that Assange should not be extradited to the United States, saying his mental health issues meant he was at risk of suicide.
Assange, an Australian citizen, suffers from depression and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
US government lawyers have appealed the decision blocking Assange’s extradition.
U.S. officials say that by disclosing certain documents, some of which revealed wrongdoing in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Assange put lives at risk.
– Angela Richter 🐘 (@AngelaRichter_) January 20, 2021
Assange’s legal team says he acted legally and contends the case against him has been politicized.
The charges against Assange – 17 counts of espionage and one of computer misuse – carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
He is currently being held at Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, having been returned there after the British judge who blocked his extradition later denied him his release on bail.