U.S. government officials beginning with President Barack Obama have branded Assange a criminal for overseeing the unlawful theft and publishing of secret U.S. government documents. Government officials said airing the documents put countless undercover intelligence and military personnel at risk, and hampered the government's efforts to capture or kill terrorists and foil plots in the making.
Stein, who is presently polling in the low single digits as leader of the liberal Greens, said Assange deserves to be celebrated for "shining a light" on government programs that have resulted in civilian deaths, mass intelligence dragnets and electoral corruption.
"WikiLeaks courageously published the infamous 'Collateral Murder' video showing an American helicopter gunning down Iraqi civilians. Viewed over 15 million times on Youtube alone, it revealed just one of the many shocking war crimes whitewashed as 'collateral damage' by the U.S. government," she wrote for The Hill.
"WikiLeaks' stunning revelations of how top Democratic National Committee officials conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, in collusion with the media, shattered the illusion of a fair electoral process and confirmed what millions Americans already knew in their gut: we live under a rigged political system.
"What WikiLeaks actually does -- to political parties, the military, and other powerful entities -- is pull back the curtain of censorship, spin, and deception to show the public what's really going on."
Assange, an Australian computer programmer who founded WikiLeaks in 2006, is wanted for questioning in Sweden for an alleged rape, which he denies. Having exhausted his visa and denied requests for asylum in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Assange has taken refuge in the London embassy of the Central American nation Ecuador, where he has lived since 2012.
Stein said the U.S. government and its allies should drop their prosecution of Assange and let him go free.
"The economic and political elite have targeted Assange not because his hands are dirty, but because he's given us a glimpse of how dirty their own hands are. WikiLeaks' revelations are inspiring countless people to mobilize against corruption and wrongdoing at the highest levels, and for that, Julian Assange is a hero in my book," she wrote.