By Neenah Payne
Julian Assange is the Australian founder of WikiLeaks who lives in London. Although Assange has committed no crimes and is not charged with any, he has been held in London’s Belmarsh Prison since 2019 under conditions which a UN investigator described as “torture.”
What is Assange being punished for? For publishing the truth about US war crimes in the Middle East during the endless “War on Terror.” Julian’s life depends on his winning his fight against extradition to the US where he faces 175 years in jail although he is not a US citizen. Julian’s wife Stella says if Julian is placed in the isolation the US government threatens him with, he will be driven to commit suicide.
Ben & Jerry’s Founder Arrested For Supporting Assange!
In July, Ben & Jerry’s Founder Ben Cohen made a very public protest about Julian’s continuing incarceration in front of the US Department of Justice. “Julian revealed the truth, and for that, he is suffering, and that’s why we need to do whatever we can to help him and to help preserve democracy, which is based on freedom of the press.”
Fox News Digital reached out to the DHS for comment, but did not receive a response.
Cohen, an ice cream mogul turned political activist, said after being spotted at the DOJ, that his presence had nothing to do with Ben and Jerry’s recent controversies regarding Israel and the Palestinian territories nor recent statements regarding the U.S. existing on “stolen” land.
“It’s outrageous. Julian Assange is nonviolent. He is presumed innocent. And yet somehow or other, he has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for four years. That is torture. He revealed the truth, and for that, he is suffering, and that’s [why] we need to do whatever we can to help him and to help preserve democracy, which is based on freedom of the press,” Cohen said during the demonstration according to CODEPINK, a left-wing activist organization.
BEN COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM
In April, President Joe Biden stood before thousands of reporters at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and said, “Journalism is not a crime.” But Julian Assange, award-winning journalist and the publisher of WikiLeaks, has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for the last four years for revealing the truth.
The United Nations, religious leaders, and civil rights advocates all agree that solitary confinement for over two weeks is torture. Now the U.S. is trying to keep him in prison for the rest of his life. The charges against Julian Assange trample the First Amendment, sending a chilling message to reporters and publishers around the world not to seek and publish the truths that governments hide. When I met with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, I was most impressed by his intelligence, his compassion, and his belief in the power of truth. “If wars can be started by lies,” he said, “peace can be started by truth.”
Now, Assange is being prosecuted for the publication of the Afghan War Diary and the Iraq War Logs, uncovering war crimes, torture, and civilian deaths perpetrated by the United States government in our name and with our money. Assange’s award-winning publications have been cited as a crucial factor in changing public perception of these wars, which have cost trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, and displaced 37 million people.
In other words, the truth matters. The framers of the U.S. Constitution understood this. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that given the choice between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
The Obama-Biden administration defended freedom of the press. They declined to indict Assange because it would risk criminalizing routine journalistic activities that every mainstream media outlet engages in on a regular basis. They understood that prosecuting Julian Assange would destroy investigative journalism as we know it and strike at the core of the First Amendment.
But that changed in 2016. As part of a war on journalism, former President Donald Trump shattered precedent by indicting Assange for his role in revealing government misconduct to the world. They filed 18 federal charges for newsgathering and publishing material leaked by an Army whistleblower.
The indictment relies on radical legal theories that threaten any reporter or journalist—not just U.S. citizens, but citizens of any country—who publish information that the U.S. government doesn’t like. Biden’s Justice Department talks the talk on press freedom, but has failed to remedy the injustice of the Assange indictment and the degradation of press freedom. Leading press freedom and human rights groups such as the ACLU and Amnesty International have urged Biden to drop the charges.
World leaders including the prime minister of Australia, the president of Mexico, and members of the U.S. Congress have pleaded with Biden to respect the freedom of the press. And publishers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País have warned President Biden that “the indictment of Julian Assange “sets a dangerous precedent” that could chill reporting about matters of national security.”
If we want to preserve our democracy, we have to defend the freedom of the press. To quote the slogan of The Washington Post that the paper adopted in 2017: “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” We must defend the rights of journalists and publishers. President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland must stop their prosecution of Assange.
Ben Cohen is co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Stella Assange’s Private Audience With Pope Francis
At the end of June, Stella Assange and her two children were granted a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. This momentous meeting once again shows that support and concern for Julian is far reaching and from every sector of society. In case you missed it you can read here the full interview Stella gave to the Catholic Herald after meeting with Pope Francis:
The article reports that Stella said:
The Pope sent a message in March 2021 to Julian via the Catholic chaplain of the prison. It came at an especially low point, as the lower court in UK had ruled that Julian’s treatment in the US would not be humane, but the court, despite this finding, did not grant him bail. The letter was a significant event and it was very important to Julian that he received this message, which also coincided with some very difficult days – he had lost one of his close friends to suicide in the prison just a couple of months previously and it was during the Covid lockdown period, so there was much isolation.
While these communications are private, there is much significance in these gestures and Julian has found much comfort from the pastoral care of the Catholic chaplain at Belmarsh, who also blessed our wedding. It was this same chaplain who verbally read to Julian the Pope’s message through the prison door.
Watch: Video of the kids greeting the Pope before our private audience. pic.twitter.com/5M3y6jVfVc
— Stella Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@Stella_Assange) July 3, 2023
ITHAKA Film With Julian’s Father and Brother
ITHAKA had its TV premiere in the UK on May 21. “It is hugely significant that the film will be shown on terrestrial TV in the UK and I think it’s a sign of the growing concern for the continued imprisonment of Julian,” Stella Assange said.
The film tells the story of how Julian’s father, John Shipton, and now his wife Stella, join forces on an international odyssey to campaign for Julian’s freedom. As they rally a world- wide network of supporters and politicians, they cautiously step into the media’s glare — and are forced to confront the events that made Julian a global flashpoint.
Stella and Julian’s father battle the British establishment on behalf of the WikiLeaks founder who faces a 175-year prison sentence if extradited to the US. The documentary follows Julian Assange’s father on his global journey in the battle to get Julian free.
In his interview below with Del Bigtree, host of The Highwire, Julian’s father and brother pointed out that both sides of the aisle in Congress support Julian’s release now. Calls Grow To Release Julian Assange links to this U.S. letter from the members of Congress.
John and Gabriel Shipton discuss their gripping documentary, Ithaka, which chronicles the unrelenting struggle to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, their son and brother, from a high-security prison in Britain for his part in releasing classified US government files to the public.
Stella Assange’s Address To Australian Press Club
In May, Stella traveled for the first time to Australia where she addressed The National Press Club in Canberra with Jenifer Robinson, Australian Human Rights Lawyer and Barrister. Stella met with the cross-party Free Assange Parliamentary group with Julian’s brother Gabriel, father John Shipton, and Robinson to brief the politicians on Assange’s case.
Read Stella’s full speech here: https://dontextraditeassange.com/post/stella-assanges-speech-at-the-australian-national-press-club/
Watch the full press conference:
Full Address by Stella Assange this week to the Australian National Press Club on her incarcerated husband, publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange | @ABC @Stella_Assange @suigenerisjen pic.twitter.com/4MG0Fo8ENe
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 24, 2023
Plea Deal For Assange?
US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy indicated in comments to the Sydney Morning Herald that Washington might be open to a plea deal for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that could keep him from being extradited and imprisoned in the United States for exposing US war crimes.
When asked if the US and Australia could reach a diplomatic solution on Assange, Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, told the paper that it was an “ongoing case” being handled by the US Justice Department. “So it’s not really a diplomatic issue, but I think that there absolutely could be a resolution,” she said.
The comments come as the Australian government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pressed the Biden administration on Assange. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected Australia’s concerns when he recently visited the country, claiming that Assange “was charged with very serious criminal conduct in the United States in connection with his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of our country.
Kennedy pointed to Blinken’s comments but again hinted that a deal could be made. “But there is a way to resolve it,” she said. “You can read the [newspapers] just like I can.” When asked if the US could reach a deal to reduce charges against Assange, she said, “That’s up to the Justice Department.”
Gabriel Shipton, Assange’s brother, said Kennedy’s comments were a sign that the US was thinking about resolving the issue. “Caroline Kennedy wouldn’t be saying these things if they didn’t want a way out. The Americans want this off their plate,” he said.
Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if extradited to the US and convicted under the Espionage Act for publishing documents he received using standard journalistic practices. The Herald suggested a “David Hicks-style” plea bargain could be on the table, referring to an Australian who was held in the notorious US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay in the early 2000s.
Hicks was accused by the US of providing “material assistance to terrorists.” According to Consortium News, due to pressure from the Australian government, Hicks was released after agreeing to an Alford Plea, a type of plea in which the defendant pleads guilty but maintains that they’re innocent. Under such an arrangement with Assange, the US could downgrade the charges and take into account the four years he’s been locked up in London’s Belmarsh Prison, and Assange would serve his remaining sentence in Australia.
Don Rothwell, an international law expert with the Australian National University, told the Herald that Assange would likely have to travel to the US for such a plea. But Assange’s family and legal team believe he must avoid the US at all costs due to the harsh condition of American prisons and fears that he might take his own life. “Julian cannot go to the US under any circumstances,” Shipton said.
Bruce Afran, a US constitutional attorney, told Consortium News that there’s nothing technically prohibiting a plea being taken without Assange being in the country. “In a given instance, a plea could be taken internationally. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s not barred by any laws. If all parties consent to it, then the court has jurisdiction,” Afran said in May on CN Live!, Consortium News’ webcast.
Afran said a potential plea deal could involve Assange pleading guilty to “mishandling official information or even, in the worst-case scenario, conspiracy to mishandle official information, a far lesser charge.” Such an arrangement could still set a dangerous precedent for press freedom as it would criminalize the relationship between a journalist and a source.
The video below says that a deal could be stuck in October during a state visit at the White House by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Illegal Spying on Julian in Ecuadorian Embassy
Julian’s team added:
Further evidence has been uncovered in the ongoing Spanish case into the illegal spying on Mr. Assange and his lawyers. More than 250 extra gigabytes of files, previously unknown to investigators, were delivered to the presiding judge. Amongst the files a number of folders marked with the terms “CIA,” “Embassy” and “Videos,” along with other labels.
You can read a more through report from El Pais here, including background details on the massive surveillance operation mounted against Mr. Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was the recipient of political asylum for seven years:
Waiting For Court Hearing Date
The email from Julian’s team says:
“As we pass through summer 2023, this is the fifth such summer in which Julian Assange has been held at the UK’s most severe prison, HMP Belmarsh. For Julian’s family, including his wife Stella and their two young children Gabriel and Max, the wait to be re-united continues. With your support however we will continue to highlight the injustice of Mr. Assange’s imprisonment and help to keep the pressure building for his eventual release.
Public support is vital in securing Julian’s release – Julian has support from all sides of the political spectrum as well as the backing of all major free speech, human rights and press freedom organizations, but only when the political elites feel pressure from the public at large will they be forced to do the right thing in what has been a deeply political case from the very beginning.
As we continue to await the latest court hearing date, it is more vital than ever to reach out to your friends, family and others to show their support, be that with actions, or writing to your MP or the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, asking her not to allow the extradition of a publisher to the US simply for the act of publishing truthful information.
Julian Assange’s prosecution poses an “immediate jeopardy for journalists”, which would “render utterly hollow any protests raised by Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak about the treatment of journalists elsewhere in the world” according to the National Union of Journalists and IFJ’s Tim Dawson.
The support for Julian breaks through all party political boundaries. See here Peter Hitchens calling for the public to write, respectfully to the Home Secretary:
“It’s very dangerous indeed to supress freedom of speech.”
— TalkTV (@TalkTV) August 7, 2023
-The Rt Hon Suella Braverman MP, The Home Office, 2 Marsham Street,London,SW1P 4DF
Julian Assange: “Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love”
Despite serious restrictions and denial of visitations to Mr Assange, recently including representatives from Reporters Without Borders (in April), Mr. Assange was able this month to meet with the president of the International Federation of Journalists, Dominique Pradalié, who was able to visit as a ‘friend’ of Julian’s wife Stella. “Assange reports that he has a caged window in his cell, and a radio that allows him to keep up with the world outside. He does, however, request, that he be granted a typewriter, so that he may efficiently record his thoughts. He has lodged a request with the prison authorities that he be allowed one, but to date one has not been forthcoming”
You can read more here: UK: Assange says his case threatens press freedom – IFJ
Mural In Australia
Throughout the world, artists and activists continue to show their support for Julian Assange and demand an end to his unjust detention. In Julian’s home country of Australia, this striking mural was sprayed on the side of a building in the heart of Sydney. The artist responsible said “The hourglass is running out for Julian’s hope for freedom”.
Get Ready to Protest!
Julian Assange is facing his last chance to stop extradition in a UK court. The Royal Courts of Justice have not released a date yet, but we have to be ready to protest. Positive actions that draw attention to Julian’s cause are needed now more than ever.
Not everyone can paint a great mural in a high profile area, but all actions can help to bring Julian’s cause further publicity – and the more people that are aware of his outrageous treatment, the more voices there will be calling for his release.
Finally, as we await the latest court decision, please make sure to reach out to friends and family and ask them to join this historic fight for justice – Let’s Free Assange!
Place: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Time: 9am BST
Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post
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