Five of the Western world’s leading newspapers issued a joint call Monday for the United States to drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Australian publisher remains in custody in Britain pending a US extradition request to face trial for divulging US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Publishing is not a crime,” argued the editors and publishers of The Guardian, Le Monde, The New York Times, El País and Der Spiegel in an open letter to the US government. The letter marked the 12th anniversary of the newspapers collaborating with Assange to release excerpts from more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables that had been obtained by WikiLeaks. A year later, Assange published unredacted excerpts of some of the cables. The five newspapers criticised him then for potentially endangering the lives of US intelligence sources. “But we come together now to express our grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials,” the letter said. It noted that when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden his vice president, the US administration had held off on indicting Assange, as journalists involved could also have had to face prosecution. That changed under Donald Trump, when the US justice department charged Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, “which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster”.