EXCLUSIVE: Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are making a final appeal to the outgoing President Trump to show his commitment to free speech by granting a full pardon to the jailed publisher.
Former actress Pamela Anderson, who has been a longtime supporter of Assange, exclusively told Fox News that it would be a “bold move on the part of President Trump” to grant a pardon.
“This is an urgent matter to many people in the world who care about the freedom of speech,” she said. “Despite all the negative things, Trump has been a game-changer and broken the mold. This pardon would be a shining light on what freedom should be; it would encourage a whole generation of activists to continue to do important work and not be silenced.”
Anderson’s voice was amplified over the weekend with the enlistment of foreign-focused lobbyist Robert Stryk, founder of Stryk Global Diplomacy, who said he took on the case pro bono and lodged a pardon petition with the Executive Branch.
TULSI GABBARD URGES TRUMP TO GRANT CLEMENCY TO ASSANGE, SNOWDEN
The former “Baywatch” star said Assange’s case is not only about media freedom but also about an innocent human life. Over the years, she has formed a particularly close bond with the imprisoned Assange and she described him as both mild-mannered and nerdy, as well as courageous, deeply curious, and a “strong hugger.”
“Every time you see him, there is the kind of feeling that might not see him again,” Anderson lamented, noting that in their last prison meeting – after she was put through multiple layers of security – she was cautioned by a warden after Assange swept her off her feet in an excited greeting. “He said, ‘Pamela, save my life.'”
Anderson said she saw the full toll the years had taken on her companion.
“Julian was in sweatpants and wore two shirts; he was trying to show me that he was okay, but there was no doubt he was very thin, disorientated,” she continued.
Experts have long cautioned that Assange’s mental and physical health is fading fast, and rights groups have contended that an extradition and possible trial on U.S. soil could push Assange to the brink.
As it stands, the 49-year-old is behind bars in London’s notorious maximum-security Belmarsh prison in Thamesmead, spending most hours in solitary confinement.
Last week, his supporters clocked a small victory after a British judge rejected the Justice Department’s request to deport Assange, contending that he is at high risk of suicide if sent abroad to face espionage charges, and calling such an ask “oppressive” given Assange’s mental state. However, he has again been denied bail.
The DOJ remains adamant that it will appeal the decision to London’s high court, maintaining that Assange should face the U.S. court of law on 18 charges, put forth by the Obama administration in 2010, centered on conspiring to breach government computers and violate the Espionage Act. The charges carry a maximum of 175 years in prison.
HOW PRESIDENTIAL PARDONS REALLY WORK: AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE FACTORS THAT GO INTO IT
Assange and his WikiLeaks website rose to prominence more than a decade ago when it released a swath of diplomatic cables and confidential military records, exposing what his backers vow amounted to war crimes taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. He illicitly obtained the documents by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The DOJ alleges that Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Manning.
While many perceive those actions as critical to transparency and press freedoms, the DOJ and Assange detractors argue that the cables put scores of American lives at risk, gravely harmed international relations, and dangerously disrupted and compromised key intelligence sources and methods.
Yet Anderson, echoing the argument put forward by Assange’s attorneys, believes the focus on Assange is a politically galvanized, and one that stems from Obama-era “embarrassment.”
“WikiLeaks has exposed things about a lot of different countries, and Julian is not an enemy of America. He is a champion of knowledge and truth,” she conjectured. “He exposed war criminals, but he was only the messenger – and yet he is the one punished.”
For more than 10 years, Assange – an Australian citizen – has been embroiled in a legal quagmire.
Assange was first arrested in London in 2010 at the request of Sweden concerning rape and sexual assault allegations. His backers asserted it was a sly scapegoating to eventually see him moved to the United States.
To circumvent extradition to Sweden, Assange sought protection inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. After years of living in the small diplomatic quarters, Ecuador rescinded its asylum, and he was arrested by British authorities in April 2019. Sweden has since dropped its charges, citing the statute of limitations, while the U.S. has remained fervent on its end.
For Anderson, who has made several in-person visits to Assange both at the embassy and in prison before the coronavirus pandemic began, it has been a gut-wrenching process – and one she hopes can come to an end in the coming days.
She said he has been isolated from even his closest friends and family – including his children – and deprived of information and news from the outside world. Although her contact with Assange has also been severed, she maintains contact with his mother and works consistently behind-the-scenes to secure his release.
“I didn’t want to just be the poster child for his case, so there is a lot I do beyond just bringing awareness to his plight,” she said. “It kills me to know he is in prison. The best thing that can happen is for Trump to pardon him. There are a lot of people that have fallen for the smear campaign.”
PAMELA ANDERSON REACTS TO JULIAN ASSANGE EXTRADITION REJECTION WITH MESSAGE OF HOPE: ‘THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER’
The Assange pardon petition to Trump also underscores that Manning was granted clemency by Obama as he was departing office four years ago.
“I have chosen to stand in solidarity with Julian Assange; freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of our democracy,” Stryk – who says he identifies neither as a Republican nor Democrat, but as a devout capitalist – told Fox News. “And for capitalism to survive, it must be built on transparency. It’s our duty and responsibility to export it, which is why I am advocating a full presidential pardon for Julian Assange.”
From his lens, it would show leaders spanning the global stage that media freedom is a paramount priority.
“I find it disgusting that we would grant clemency to Manning, but Julian Assange sits in jail for the rest of his life,” Stryk said. “What benefit does that bring to U.S. taxpayers to imprison someone – who isn’t an American citizen – until they die?”
Yet if Assange’s petition is unsuccessful in Trump’s twilight hours in office, it remains to be seen what tack the incoming administration will take.
As vice president, Joe Biden deemed Assange a “high-tech terrorist,” and Assange’s support also withered among Hilary Clinton supporters who saw the WikiLeaks dump as a factor in her losing the 2016 presidential bid.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP
Regardless, Anderson said their fight would not end.
“Julian rubbed a lot of people the wrong way – I think [officials] were hoping he would just die in jail or go away. But I know he has no regrets,” Anderson added. “We need Julian to continue and we need WikiLeaks to continue. We need people to continue to speak truth to power.”