Contributed by Joe Montero
Hours before supporters of 51-year-old journalist and publisher Julian Assange formed a chain of linked hands around the British parliament, thousands joined hands in At Melbourne’s Princes Bridge and marched through the city streets on Saturday 8 October. A vigil was held in Bendigo a provincial Victorian city. Other actions took place in capital and regional cities around Australia.
These launched an International Day of Action, organised by the campaigners across a range of countries.
In addition to London, supporters came together in Washington and linked hands outside the headquarters of the Justice Department. Others shows of support took place in other countries. But it is Great Britain, the United States, and Australia that have been directly involved in the persecution in the founder of WikiLeaks, and where the campaign for his freedom is spearheaded.
Supporters called for Assange’s freedom and for a stop to the persecution of the press.
The persecution has involved a relentless pursuit, a barrage of mudslinging, cruel treatment, and aa willingness by these governments to ignore proper legal process and even break international and their own national laws to get their man.
Julian Assange has been locked in virtual solitary confinement for nearly a decade and a half. For the last two and a half years, this has been at the maximum security Hindmarsh prison in London, confined alone in a cell for 23 hours a day.
His hearings over Washington’s attempts for extradition have been a lesson in themselves. Assange has been denied the right to be present at his own case, access to his defence team restricted, and not allowed to properly cross-examine hostile witnesses. Aggregations have not had to be proved to be submitted as evidence. Written statements handed in and not questioned have accepted as evidence.
Through all this, Assange has not been charged with a single crime.
Washington has sought his extradition on 17 counts of being a traitor to the United States for publishing leaked information about wrongdoing by those with power in the economy and government. He is not even a citizen of that country.
A law that came into existence in 1917 during the First World War, but used to persecute what Washington considers leftist agitators, is being used. An example was Socialist Party leader Eugene B Debs, imprisoned for 10 years over a speech against war.
On top of this, Washington says it aims to charge Assange for espionage, by accusing him of helping Chelsea Manning acquire codes to the Pentagon computer system, despite the fact, that as an analyst on this system, Manning already had access to the codes.
The treason charges carry up to 170 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for espionage in the United States is the death penalty.
Those who have investigated the case know about these and other aspects of the war declared against Assange and WikiLeaks. Many other don’t, and years of lies, innuendos, and censorship of key information has had an effect.
Some have been led to accept falsehoods and to choose to ignore the injustice. Thanks to the courage and persistence of Assange, his wife and family, plus the ongoing effort of the army of supporters. This has been turned around for the most part. According to polls, public support for Assange is there in the three countries, and this extends across the planet.
On 8 October, thousands came out onto the streets, to mark the rising movement. They called for freedom for Julian Assange.
In Melbourne, Julian’s brother Gabriel said,
“There’s an expectation in the electorate that the prime minister and this government is going to get Julian out of jail.
“The prime minister’s statements before the election – enough is enough, he doesn’t see what purpose is served by Julian being kept in prison – those were seen as a commitment.
“It’s been so many days of this government and Julian is still rotting in that prison.
“They can pick up the phone, call Joe Biden and say, hasn’t Julian suffered enough? Drop the charges and extradition.
“Julian would walk free.”
In London, Assange’s wife Stella said the British government should speak to authorities in the United States to end the extradition bid.
“It’s already gone on for three-and-a-half years. It is a stain on the United Kingdom and is a stain on the Biden administration,” she said.