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Foreigners and US Presidential Pardons: Julian Assange Could be the Latest in a Distinguished Line

© Photo : Mohamed ElmaaziAssange with US flag covering his mouth outside Old Bailey on 29 September 2020
Assange with US flag covering his mouth outside Old Bailey on 29 September 2020 - Sputnik International
Australian MP George Christensen is seeking clemency for Julian Assange who has been charged for publishing classified material and faces a prison sentence of nearly 175 years. Assange is currently detained in the UK's Belmarsh Prison, awaiting a final decision on his extradition to the United States.

Rumours are circulating online that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could receive a presidential pardon, after Pastor Mark Burns, a televangelist and early Trump supporter tweeted on Monday afternoon that the move was almost a done deal.

Burns later walked back his claim, citing a 'faulty source', and it is still far from clear whether Assange will ultimately make Trump’s final clemency list, but calls for the Australian's pardon are gaining momentum, according to the International Business Times.

If Assange does receive a presidential pardon he would be in illustrious company, as one of the few foreigners to have been so honored.

Here are some others:

  • The French pirate. Jean Lafitte, along with several other pirates, was charged and convicted of piracy, but was pardoned by James Madison due to his service during the War of 1812, when Lafitte and his fleet helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans as British forces sought access to the Mississippi River. Lafitte was a French citizen at the time.
  • The rebel Brit. William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scottish-born journalist and British citizen, led a revolt in Upper Canada in 1837, violating American neutrality laws; he was pardoned by Martin Van Buren in 1840.
  • The German spy. Lothar Witzke was a naval officer and a German spy during World War One. Sentenced to death, he was pardoned by Woodrow Wilson after the war, partly due to his bravery in saving lives after a boiler explosion in a prison, and was deported to Germany in 1923 where he was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class.
  • The Romanian thespian. Duncan Renaldo was a Romanian-born screen actor who was imprisoned and fined $2000 for falsely claiming US citizenship and falsifying a passport. He was later pardoned by Franklin Roosevelt and returned to acting, reprising his title role in the Western tv series The Cisco Kid.
  • The Filipino General. Servillano Acquino organized the Filipino revolutionary forces against the United States during the the Philippine-American War (1899–1902). He was sentenced to death but was pardoned by Teddy Roosevelt after spending two years in jail. He is the great-grandfather of Benigno Aquino III, who was president of the Philippines from 2010-2016.

We will discover in the coming weeks whether Julian Assange's name can be added to the list, up to the inauguration of presumed President-elect Joe Biden, slated for 20 January, 2021.

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