Assange Approaches Five Years Of Incarceration Without Trial

(People’s Dispatch) Famed publisher and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is approaching five years of imprisonment without conviction for his role in exposing information regarding war crimes committed by the United States government. Currently held in a small cell within London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison—once referred to by the BBC as the British Guantanamo Bay—Assange and his supporters are endlessly fighting the British courts’ decision to allow his extradition to the United States.

Assange has endured years of legal battles and back-and-forth across the globe after being accused of espionage by the US government in 2019 and 2020, for his role in the creation of WikiLeaks. The journalist received asylum in Ecuador between 2012 and 2019 on the grounds of political persecution. But in April 2019, Assange’s sentence in Belmarsh began, where he has since sat confined without trial.

In early May of this year, Assange wrote a letter to the then-incoming King Charles ahead of his coronation, pleading with the king to visit and experience the horrors of Belmarsh, where inspectors have noted that many inmates spend up to 22 hours per day in confinement. In addition to the high-security prison’s poor conditions, calls for Assange’s freedom have been compounded by concerns over the aging journalist’s physical and mental health. Leaders of both major competing political parties in his home country of Australia came together this year to publicly back a diplomatic intervention to end the sentence, arguing that “[t]here is nothing to be served by his ongoing incarceration.”

Supporters, press freedom advocates, and human rights groups around the world have rallied against Assange’s extradition to the United States for similar reasons, contending that the even worse conditions in US prisons would certainly put the journalist at high risk of suicide or other bodily harm. His defense team continues to argue that extradition to the US would guarantee his imprisonment within dangerous conditions. Assange would face a highly politically charged trial, including 17 charges under the notorious US Espionage Act that could land him a 175-year prison sentence.

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The defense team has also noted several key issues, corroborating that this is a case of political persecution: that Assange’s alleged “espionage” actually constitutes legally protected speech, that the United States has misrepresented many facts of the case since the push for extradition began, and finally, that this politically-motivated trial that Assange will surely face in the US is a violation of the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.

On June 6th, a judge on Britain’s High Court rejected Assange’s request to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court before his extradition begins. According to Julian’s wife, Stella, this move “means that the British appeal court will not have the opportunity to argue why he should not be extradited to the senior judiciary of the UK, and if that decision is confirmed in coming weeks or months by a panel of two separate High Court judges, Julian will not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court either and the Home Office will initiate his extradition.”

The British Courts still possess the power to reverse this decision and protect Assange from further political persecution in the United States that could cost him his life. Assange and his supporters have a final avenue of recourse, unless the Courts reverse their decision: appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. But Stella notes that this approach “is neither automatic nor assured.”

Protests and petitioning to block the extradition are set to continue in the UK until Assange’s public hearing, and these mobilizations are backed by global support. The movement for Assange’s freedom seeks to secure the safety of not only Assange himself, but also the wider global journalist community. Assange’s heroic journalism has elevated him to a symbol of press freedom and government accountability. Because of this position, the existing powers in the United States and Britain have tried to make an example out of him in order to threaten and deter journalists everywhere against publishing unpalatable truths about these governments.

The date of Assange’s final hearing in London to block his extradition to the United States is still yet to be announced.

Sourced from The Free Thought Project

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