By Terina Hine
Reprinted from the British-based online publication, Counterfire.
[Editor’s note: Assangedefense.org, the U.S.-based national Julian Assange defense committee organized a series of 17 meetings throughout the month of June in cities across the U.S. The meetings featured Julian Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton. Entitled “Home Run for Julian,” tour demands included, Free Julian Assange!, Free speech!, Free journalists!, Stop the extradition! and Drop the charges! Indoor and outdoor rallies, media conferences, fundraising receptions and media interviews brought Assange’s freedom struggle to the attention of thousands of activists. Assangedefense.org is co-chaired by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, Pentagon Papers defendant/whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and renown linguist, author, Noam Chomsky. The tour events were live-streamed. See assangedefense.org. Highlights of the tour included a June 26 Oakland,CA rally at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California attended by 200 activists. The event and the reception the evening before raised $9,000 for Assange’s legal defense. Keynote speakers included Alice Walker, John and Gabriel Shipton, Nozomi Hayache, author WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History is Happening; Jeff Mackler, National Steering Committee member, assangedefense.org. and Code Pink’s Cynthia Papermaster. Thirty organizations co-sponsored the Oakland events, the first large indoor Bay Area event in the COVID era. Video greetings were presented by Noam Chomsky, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Daniel Ellsberg. The NYC meeting featured the Shipton’s, media critic, Randy Credico, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Chris Hedges and Aaron Maté. 200 attended.]
As Julian Assange spends another birthday behind bars, relentless campaigning and new revelations from a major witness are undermining the case against him, reports Terina Hine.
On Saturday it will be Julian Assange’s 50th birthday. For over a decade he has spent every birthday in captivity, and his fiftieth will be no different. He will be spending the day behind the bars of Belmarsh maximum security prison for the third year running.
He is there because he dared to reveal the truth – the truth about US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and for releasing US diplomatic cables which provided evidence of US torture and rendition. There is no doubt that he is a political prisoner.
To highlight the injustice of the case and Julian Assange’s continued incarceration, the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign organised Assange Week which culminates on Saturday, July 3, with a birthday picnic in Parliament Square. [July 3 demonstrations in solidarity with Assange were organized around the world. Editor]
The week has included a number of events: a delegation of MPs visited HMP Belmarsh on Tuesday to request parliamentarian access to Julian, which has been denied all year; on Thursday a Thames riverboat protest ensured the Free Assange message was heard up and down the river as the Free Assange boat sailed passed the Houses of Parliament, MI6 and the US embassy; and on Saturday there will be a celebratory picnic at Parliament Square, conveying the message Assange is a political prisoner and must be set free.
As the week began the Icelandic press reported a dramatic development in the case: that a major witness for the United States’ government admitted to fabricating key accusations. The Icelandic news outlet Stundin reported the witness had been promised immunity from prosecution by the US Department of Justice and FBI for helping build the case against Julian. He has now admitted the story he told was based on lies.
On hearing this latest twist in the case Edward Snowdon, the famous NSA whistleblower, tweeted, “This is the end of the case against Assange.”
Although this latest development undermines the evidence on which the US’s case is based, you would be forgiven for not having heard about it before now – the silence from the British media has been deafening.
The lack of coverage of Assange’s case in the British media is astonishing. It was at the request of The Guardian, who profited handsomely from WikiLeaks, that he came to the UK in the first place. Given the implications for press freedom if the US’ appeal is successful, this lack of coverage is even more shocking.
So Julian Assange remains banged-up in Belmarsh. Despite the UK court ruling against his extradition six months ago he is set to spend another birthday, and many more days, weeks and months in a prison designed for the most serious violent offenders.
While he waits to hear whether the UK will grant the US the right to appeal, while he waits for the appeal date to be set, Assange has been denied bail and is being increasingly silenced. He is unable to make public statements, is hidden away from sight and is even refused access to official visits by UK parliamentarians.
Since December MPs have been trying to speak to Julian to be briefed about his case. Their request is for a virtual meeting, respecting the prison’s Covid concerns, has been thwarted at every turn.
So in this birthday week Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon joined Julian’s partner and youngest son delivered a letter, signed by a group of 20 cross-party MPs, directly to the prison governor demanding access be granted. Handing over the letter to the Deputy Governor they committed to continue their campaign until they are granted the access that is their right.
It is clear that Julian Assange should be a free man, and as the US case against him collapses, as the evidence of CIA, FBI and US Department of Justice entrapment grows, the case is looking flimsier than ever.
Constant public campaigning helped to produce the verdict against the extradition in January and we must continue to pile on the pressure for his release – the UK High Court must deny the appeal, and the US and President Biden must drop all charges. Join the picnic on Saturday and show your support.