Contributed by Joe Montero
The persecution of WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange has been going on for a long time – for fourteen years. He has endured these years in isolation, and the last four and half of them at the notorious Belmarsh prison in London, where Twenty-three hours a day are spent in solitary confinement inside a small cell. Along the way, he has been the victim of concerted smear campaigns labelling a sexual predator, mentally unstable, and more.
Nearly one and a half decades of imprisonment without charge or conviction is extraordinary, and as to grow around the world.
WikiLeaks exposures of the truth led to the persecution of Julian Assange
Nowhere has this been more evident than it has in Australia. As it stands, polls are saying that the support for him is at a near a record 80 percent. This is unheard of. Successive governments had refused to listen to this growing tide of public opinion. This is now changing. Both prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton are saying “enough is enough.” Despite its ambiguity and fence sitting nature, this remains a kind of recognition of public opinion, a shift at the highest echelons of parliamentary politics, and the fact that the issue can no longer be ignored.
Time saw the rise of a major support group of parliamentarians from all parties and the independents, and the unlikely allies have been getting bolder. They call themselves the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group. Its conveners are independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the Labor MP Josh Wilson, the Liberal MP Bridget Archer, and the Greens senator David Shoebridge.
Now 63 of them have come out publicly and put their names to a public letter to say that this persecution is “unjust,” and if extradition of Assange to the United States goes ahead as planned, it will lead to an “outcry” in Australia.
A representative group of 6 will arrive in Washington by 20 October, carrying the backing of Australia and their colleagues to try and convince members of the Congress and Justice Department officials, to stop the pursuit of the highly awarded Australian journalist, editor, and publisher. The team will be made up of former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, Liberal Senator Alex Antic, Labor MP Tony Zappia, Independent MP Monique Ryan and Greens Senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson.
Australian MPs To Urge Release Of Julian Assange During U.S Visit
Video from NEWS9 Live
Their timing is excellent. Anthony Albanese is due to meet President Joe Biden there on 25 October, and a considerable number of Congress and Senate members there are already on side. The Biden administration is finding it increasingly difficult to justify the continuation of its efforts to press on with the extradition and looking for a way out.
A few weeks ago, suggestions were made through media about Assange pleading guilty in exchange for going soft on him. This didn’t go down well. It left the way open to realise Washington’s persistent ambition to record a conviction as a precedent destroy Julian Assange’s credibility along the way, for no more than a vague promise.
But the fact that the Biden administration has gone down this road is testimony to its growing weakness. The Assange case is damaging its reputation and political standing across the world. The United States claim to be a defender of democracy and human rights are taking a battering.
Other than the question of justice, the Assange case will set a terrible precedent if the persecution succeeds. It will open the door to hunt down journalists the world over, simply because what they say is inconvenient. The fact that the intention is to charge Assange with being a traitor to the United States and seek 175 years imprisonment, when the Australian defendant isn’t a citizen of that country, and the process through which the persecution is being carried through, makes a mockery of both international and national law.
In London, where the legal process is taking place tight now. It is happening under a British government zealous in its compliance to Washington’s wishes. Julian has routinely been denied normal legal rights, like the ability to be present at his own case, proper legal representation, the right to cross examine hostile witnesses, to be deemed innocent until proven guilty, and subjected to the refusal of judges to hear appeals. He has been kept in solitary confinement isolation and limited human contact, which, over an extended period amounts to torture.
Similar treatment is waiting in the United States. The trail is fixed to take place in a special court in Virginia, where ethe restrictions experienced in London will continue before a tribunal made up of selected military, intelligence, and government officials. This is the form of the precedent that is being set.
The world is realising the enormity of what is at stake. There is a major and growing movement of active Assange supporters, in every nation. From heads of state and politicians at one end, to ordinary citizens at the other. They are all doing their part making a huge difference.