16.06.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

Freedom for Assange!


When US vice president Kamala Harris visited Mexico, a demonstration took place in the Mexican capital on June 8 in front of the National Palace. During the protest, representatives of the #24F Coalición Vida y Libertad Julian Assange movement demanded the release of the journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and spoke against his extradition to the United States and the police harassment against him. “Secrets, censorship and fear are tools used by tyrannies to control us because a well-informed population cannot be controlled. We are gathered here today to send our thoughts to the vice-president Kamala Harris and that she deliver these thoughts to US president Joe Biden. This country calls itself a defender of democracy but we now see this country attacking the principle of freedom of speech in their fight against Julian Assange,” said the demonstrators as quoted by the Mexican news channel La Jornada.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Julian Assange’s fianceé Stella Morris claimed that the global reputation of the United Kingdom is being damaged as long as he remains locked up in a maximum security prison. She also expressed hope that continuing pressure from human rights organizations could cause the Biden administration to change its policy towards Julian Assange. The publication reiterates that the British judge rejected the arguments put by Assangeʼs lawyers about freedom of the press and also refused bail.

The French newspaper Le Monde published an article by Assange’s lawyer Eva Joly called “Julian Assange will die in prison for exposing war crimes”. In the article she comments on the lack of interest in Assange from the mainstream media and his deteriorating health as a result of being incarcerated. Assange, whom Le Monde in 2010 named ‘Person of the year’, remains in isolation in Britain’s high security Belmarsh prison, which is home to some of the worst criminals and terrorists and is often referred to as Britain’s Guantanamo. An international group of six dozen doctors have tried to draw attention to the deteriorating physical and mental health of Julian Assange while he remains in prison. They genuinely believe that he may “die in prison”. Despite all of this the silence from the world press on this matter continues, even though the very same global media wrote countless articles about the war crimes committed by the Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the documents provided by Assange and his team.

Le Monde points out that after the revelations from WikiLeaks, Assangeʼs life  turned on its head. The Swedish prosecutor general launched an investigation on rape charges (which he categorically denied), while the United States launched an espionage case against him and continues to push its allies to condemn Assange as criminally liable. That is why Assange initially decided to seek refuge from extradition to America disguised as a Swedish arrest warrant, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. Later, Assange had his refugee status revoked by the Ecuador government and he was detained at the embassy in London, despite the fact that the Swedish authorities had dropped all rape charges against him. According to Assange’s lawyer the democratic system must now prove that it is capable of protecting human rights and the rights of one individual in this case. “Our media and the general public cannot continue to turn a blind eye: A man is dying in Belmarsh prison. And along with him also our honor,” said Eva Joly.

On January 4 at the Old Bailey in London judge Vanessa Baraitser refused to extradite Julian Assange to the United States. However, it was reported in The New York Times that the Biden administration will continue to push for his extradition to the United States from Britain. In early February more than 20 American organizations called on the US department of justice to end the persecution of Assange. According to them, the charges against him threaten the freedom of the press because most of the actions he is charged with in the indictment are routine practices for journalists. This appeal was signed by Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In January of this year, French MP Sereine Mauborgne proposed the idea of giving medical assistance and political asylum to Julian Assange, by sending a request to the Minister of justice of France Eric Dupont-Moretti. The current situation in which Assange find himself is a cause of great concern to human rights organizations as well as French citizens, said Mauborgne.

Mexico is also ready and willing to grant Assange with political asylum, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in January.

In March of this year Assange received a personal message of support from Pope Francis.

OSCE representatives on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir urged the British authorities not to extradite Assange to the United States, where he would face a prison sentence of up to 175 years.

The Russian foreign ministry and general public slammed the condemnation against Assange as totally shambolic.

The author of this article simply cannot comprehend the obvious disconnect between this passivity in relation to Assange and the usual rhetoric of most politicians in Europe and the US presenting themselves as ‘fighters for democracy’, freedom of the press and human rights. At the same time they have actively fanned the flames regarding the legal detention in Russia of Alexei Navalny on large scale embezzlement charges, which is punishable under part 3 of Article 33 and part 4 of Article 160 of the Russian criminal code. Or for the detention in Belarus of the creator of the Telegram channel NEXTA  Roman Protasevich, who partook in armed clashes in the Donbass on the side of Kiev as part of a neo-Nazi “Azov’ battalion, while using his social media platform to work against the government. If similar offenses had been committed in the West, would they not have been similarly charged and prosecuted? What is the difference between the actions by Protasevich and those who organized the storming of the Capitol on January 6 who are on trial in Washington today?

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.