- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Groundswell of support to free Julian Assange around February extradition hearing

Categories: Australia, United Kingdom, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Media & Journalism, Protest
Event in support of Julian Assange - Barcelona 24 February 2020 [1]

Event in support of Julian Assange (Barcelona, 24 February 2020) – Photo courtesy of Assemblea Nacional Catalana Flickr account (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange [2]’s hearing for extradition to the United States on February 24, 2020 led many people, both on the streets and online, to rally support for his release. Twitter user Bean summed up the attitude of many people across the globe:

Assange also has significant backing among mainstream journalists:

Background

It is nearly eight years since Assange sought asylum [10] in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and a year since his imprisonment in the United Kingdom’s Belmarsh Prison for breaching bail [11].

In 2006 he launched the Wikileaks [12] website, which has published leaked and classified information from the U.S. government and other sources. Major instances include the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, and Cablegate. Assange collaborated with US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning [13] on these leaks.The extradition case relates to indictments for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and espionage. Assange faces up to 175 years imprisonment if convicted of all charges. He has been accused by the American government of putting lives at risk.

Hero or villain?

Assange is a controversial figure [14] for a number of other reasons. In 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for him in relation to sexual assault allegations; the charge has now expired. In 2016, the publication of Hillary Clinton’s private email archive blotted his copybook in the eyes of many progressives, who accused him of doing Russian President Putin’s dirty work and of helping to elect Donald Trump. Assange denies these accusations.

But many netizens dismiss attacks on Assange and Wikileaks. Some believe that what is paramount are the principles involved, not Assange’s character:

Others refuse to support him for a range of reasons:

Former Australian ambassador to Israel and now government backbencher, Dave Sharma, has joined numerous politicians who have little time for Assange. Greg Barns, a human rights advocate and advisor to the Assange team, recently took Sharma to task:

There is a small group of pro-Assange members in Australia’s federal parliament. Opposition backbencher Julian Hill backed the ‘other Julian’ in a House of Representatives speech:

Campaigning to #FreeAssange

There has been a worldwide resurgence of protest meetings and demonstrations. New Zealand academic Alex Hill is an activist who coordinates Candles4Assange [28]:

Catalan separatists, Assemblea Nacional Catalana [35], posted the photo at the top of the story on Flickr. It depits a protest in Barcelona on February 24. Part of the caption reads: “L’Assange va donar suport a l’autodeterminació de Catalunya: ara som nosaltres qui li’n donem!” (“Assange supported the self-determination of Catalonia: now we give it to you!”).

Guatemalan lawyer Renata Avila (a member of the Global Voices community) reported from the fourth day of the hearing about the latest issue involving Assange’s treatment [36] in the judicial system:

This follows earlier claims by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, that Assange “has been tortured & continues to be tortured” in Belmarsh Prison.

There are numerous Facebook pages such as Free Julian Assange [38] and tens of thousands of Instagram posts [39] petitioning for his release.

Chelsea Manning attempted suicide

Meanwhile, Chelsea Manning was reported [40] to have attempted suicide in the US prison where she is being held, after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury about Assange:

In a later development, a court has ordered her release [45] as the grand jury has been disbanded. Wikileaks has responded:

Online petition

Phillip Adams from Brisbane started an online petition [49] in 2018 which has over 365,000 signatures. It calls on Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to defend Assange: ‘Julian Assange is an Australian Citizen and as such it is the fundamental responsibility of the Australian Government to protect and ensure his human rights are not violated and to this end the Australian Government has failed.’

The radio broadcaster and media personality of the same name is also in Assange’s corner urging everyone to do more:

The extradition hearing resumes in May.