The Council of Europe's human rights chief has called on Britain not to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States due to the potential impact on press freedom.
The US indictment against Assange, 48, raised questions about the protection of people who expose human rights violations, Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said.
Assange is due to face an extradition hearing in London next week after the US accused him of conspiring with former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified material in 2010.
‘The broad and vague nature of the allegations ... are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond,’ Mijatovic said in a statement.
‘Consequently, allowing Julian Assange's extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies,’ she warned.
Citing UN rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, Mijatovic warned Assange might also risk detention conditions and sentencing contrary to European rights law.
‘In view of both the press freedom implications and the serious concerns over the treatment Julian Assange would be subjected to in the United States, my assessment as commissioner for human rights is that he should not be extradited,’ Mijatovic said.
Assange, an Australian citizen, lived inside Ecuador's embassy in London for seven years before his arrest.
The Council of Europe is separate from the European Union and Britain remains a member despite leaving the latter bloc.
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