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British veterans urge government to ‘respect the rights of journalists and whistleblowers’

Veterans For Peace says it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States

BRITISH veterans urged the government today to “respect the rights of journalists and whistleblowers” by blocking Julian Assange’s extradition to the US over hacking allegations.

Mr Assange faces extradition on charges of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break into a classified Pentagon computer.

In a statement, Veterans For Peace said: “We oppose the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States.

“We are deeply concerned that journalism and whistleblowing is being criminalised by the US and [this is] actively supported by British authorities.

“The indefinite detention of Chelsea Manning and the persecution of Reality Winner and John Kiriakou have demonstrated that a whistleblower will not receive a fair trial in the US court system.

“We believe the authorities are seeking a show trial for the purpose of revenge and to intimidate journalists.”

The group, made up of former military personnel who have served in conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan, argue that WikiLeaks acted in the public interest by releasing documents that detail the human cost of wars in the Middle East.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also called on the government to oppose Mr Assange’s extradition.

He tweeted: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.”

The WikiLeaks co-founder was dramatically arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he had been holed up for almost seven years.

The 47-year-old faces up to 12 months in a British prison after he was found guilty of breaching his bail conditions.

His US charge could attract a maximum jail sentence of five years according to the US Department of Justice.

But WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said he fears more charges will be added, meaning Assange could face decades in a US prison.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt all said Mr Assange’s arrest yesterday showed that no-one is “above the law.”

Mr Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, also took to Twitter to defend her son who she said was “sick and in pain from prolonged detention and torture.”

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