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Brazil's Greenwald Prosecution Evokes Assange's Continued Imprisonment in UK, Say Advocates

"Shame on everyone including many journalists and Trump supporters who tried to defend the indictment of Assange."

Julian Assange supporters demonstrate outside of the Westminster Magistrates Court on November 18, 2019 in London.

Julian Assange supporters demonstrate outside of the Westminster Magistrates Court on November 18, 2019 in London. (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

As journalists and rights advocates around the world rallied to support The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald in the face of his charging of cybercrime by the government of Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, a number of observers noted the similarity to the U.S. prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and called for both men to receive solidarity from their peers and supporters. 

"Those who looked the other way because they personally disliked Julian Assange when the DOJ indicted him under a legal theory that merely publishing clear, public-interest journalism could constitute multiple Espionage Act violations should reconsider where that road leads," tweeted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on Tuesday.

Greenwald was charged with hacking cellphones of government officials involved with "Operation Car Wash," a scheme by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro to entrap members of the left-wing Workers Party, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The allegations charge that Greenwald's involvement in the hack went far beyond simply receiving the information—echoing U.S. charges against Assange. 

"Prosecutors allege Greenwald working sources to find information and protect themselves went beyond normal reporting techniques and is a crime," VICE News reporter David Uberti tweeted. "That's similar in some ways to the DOJ indictment of Julian Assange."

As the Columbia Journalism Review explained Wednesday:

The case against Greenwald happens to be almost a carbon copy of the Justice Department's argument in the affidavit it filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year, which contains more than a dozen charges under the Espionage Act. Just like the Brazilian government, U.S. prosecutors try to make the case that Assange didn't just receive leaked diplomatic cables and other information from former Army staffer Chelsea Manning, but that he actively participated in the hack and leaks, and therefore doesn't deserve the protection of the First Amendment.

Assange has been held for months in U.K. custody in conditions that a group of doctors compared to torture, as Common Dreams reported in November.

"Everyone congratulating themselves for their liberal-minded support for Greenwald's right to not be jailed for speech in spite of their disagreements with him should apply the same thought to the USA vs. Assange," Defense Priorities policy director Ben Friedman said on Twitter. "The 1st amendment is for assholes, as J.S. Mill said, more or less."

In a statement Tuesday, Greenwald promised the prosecution would not stop him from reporting on the Bolsonaro government. 

"We will not be intimidated by these tyrannical attempts to silence journalists," said Greenwald. "I am working right now on new reporting and will continue to do so."

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