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Pamela Anderson is making a last-ditch attempt to snare a presidential pardon for friend and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the eve of a turning point in his espionage case — and she wants her fellow Americans to help.
The former “Baywatch” star, 53, thinks the US is risking the most basic tenet of democracy by accusing Assange of leaking classified information about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And she is speaking out — yet again — before Britain rules Monday on whether to extradite Assange to Washington to face federal charges.
“The case is simply a criminalization of a free press,” Anderson told The Post. “Julian is being charged with journalism. Documents that have exposed war crimes and human rights abuses. Now the US wants to punish him for exposing crimes.”
Assange, 49, faces 18 criminal charges tied to the public release of hundreds of thousands of secret papers handed over by already convicted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. If found guilty, the Australian — awaiting trial in a London prison after being kicked out of his hideout of almost seven years, the Ecuadorian embassy — could spend up to 175 years behind bars.
“If this extradition is successful, it will mean that no journalist is safe from prosecution,” said Anderson, who also is an AIDS and animal-rights activist. “This will set a precedent where any US journalist can be charged and sent to any country that requests their extradition. … And don’t think ‘it won’t happen to me,’ because it absolutely could, and countries will use it to silence whatever they don’t like the sound of.”
If Assange isn’t extradited, he won’t necessarily go free, according to legal experts. He could be prosecuted by Britain under its Official Secrets Act or perhaps by another US ally.
Like Anderson, Assange insists his prosecution strikes at the heart of the First Amendment — and is political retaliation for his role as a whistleblower.
But prosecutors allege the publisher is guilty of putting countless others at risk, from service members to dissidents to reporters, with his indiscriminate hacking.
Anderson, a Canadian who is now a US citizen, has lobbied President Trump for months to pardon Assange, even though Trump’s Justice Department brought the charges. In early December, she tweeted two photos of herself holding Assange posters — one in a string bikini — and tagged Trump’s official presidential handle “@POTUS please #pardonjulianassange.”
“Everyone should be asking Mr. Trump to pardon him,” she told The Post. “Anyone with influence should speak up for his freedom because it is our freedom, too. Take to Twitter and start a storm of requests.”
Assange caught Anderson’s attention a decade ago when he posted military footage of a 2007 Apache helicopter airstrike near Baghdad that killed a dozen civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and injured two children. Today, the “Collateral Murder” video has more than 17 million views on YouTube.
“It is horrific to watch,” she said, “and then to think that this is a daily and unnecessary war-time occurrence.”
The two met in 2014 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, introduced by mutual friend and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. In March 2019, speculation swirled that the pair were romantically involved.
Anderson last saw Assange more than a year ago — before the coronavirus outbreak — at the maximum-security HM Prison Belmarsh in southeast London, where he is being held in solitary confinement.
Assange’s lawyers and doctors maintain the months of isolation have left the journalist underweight, limping and so unfocused that he can’t even assist with his defense. They’ve repeatedly requested bail because of his poor health and vulnerability to COVID-19.
“It’s madness. He is … crammed in amongst murderers in a prison that is rife with COVID,” Anderson said. “It’s the middle of winter and it’s freezing in there and his winter clothes haven’t been delivered. The whole thing is a medieval madness.”
The ex-Playboy model told The Post that she won’t stop working on Assange’s behalf until her friend is out of prison and no longer accused of wrongdoing.
“Drop the charges. Stop this persecution of a man who was brave enough to stand up for the right thing,” she said. “We can be a part of setting him free. We just need to have the courage he had and speak up.”
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