Assange’s Wife Expresses Cautious Hope as Biden Suggests U.S. Might Drop Case

Five years after Julian Assange, theWikiLeaks founder, was first imprisoned in a high-security facility in Britain while fighting a United States extradition request, the Biden administration has given the clearest signal to date that it might drop its prosecution of him.

But Mr. Assange’s wife said on Thursday that her hopes were tempered by the reality that his extradition case had reached a critical moment.

“It’s been five years, and he’s at the closest he’s ever been to extradition now,” his wife, Stella Assange, said in an interview, adding, “Obviously with a comment like this from the president, it’s a good sign and we receive it with hope. But, you know, that doesn’t stop us from dreading the worst.”

President Biden, when asked by a reporter on Wednesday about a request from Australia, Mr. Assange’s home country, that he be allowed to return there, replied, “We’re considering it.” Those three words offered the suggestion that the United States might no longer pursue Mr. Assange on charges under the Espionage Act over WikiLeaks’ publishing of tens of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents more than a decade ago.

Ms. Assange said that the timing of the president’s statement was notable coming just days before a deadline in the British court hearings on her husband’s extradition. When a British high court ruled last month that Mr. Assange could not be immediately extradited until the United States met certain conditions, the judges gave American prosecutors until April 16 to offer assurances on issues regarding his potential treatment in the United States.

If Washington does provide the assurances, including over his First Amendment rights and protection from the death penalty, a further hearing is scheduled in London for May 20 to decide Mr. Assange’s fate.

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