Hundreds of protesters gathered in central London at the weekend to demand the release of journalist Julian Assange. It was held before his extradition hearing this week.
- Campaigners assembled before marching to the High Court. Their speakers told a rally that the upcoming decision on the Wikileaks founder’s future will represent a landmark for press freedom.
- Assange is held at south-east London’s Belmarsh prison. He will appear at the court on Wednesday and Thursday as the US government appeals against the earlier decision which blocked his removal. If extradited and convicted in the United States, Assange faces a possible prison sentence of up to 175 years.
- Among those speaking at the rally were Labour MP John McDonnell, who is also secretary of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary group, as well as rapper and activist Lowkey and Assange’s partner Stella Moris.
- Moris, a member of Assange’s legal team, warned that the “right to know is being criminalized,” adding: “We are all in Belmarsh prison as long as Julian is in Belmarsh prison.”
- Labour MP Richard Burgon was among those who gave evidence to last Friday’s Belmarsh Tribunal, which demanded Assange’s release and put Western governments “on trial” for alleged war crimes as well as attempts to attack, persecute and imprison Assange.
- Burgon said: “Julian Assange is being persecuted for, in the best traditions of journalism, revealing war crimes and human rights abuses carried out in our name, including in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Julian Assange is being treated in the most inhumane and appalling way in an attempt to intimidate journalists and whistleblowers from revealing the truth and holding the powerful to account.”
- “Everyone regardless of their politics, who believe in free journalism should oppose his imprisonment and extradition,” he added.
However, a Swedish prosecutor issued a European arrest warrant for Assange on charges of sexual assault involving two women in November. Though he denies the claims, saying they had consensual sex. But he is arrested in London in December and released on bail a week later.