Read the latest update posted by Stella Moris, Julian Assange's partner
Jun 15, 2021 —
Six months have passed since an English court refused my partner Julian’s extradition to the United States – ruling that sending him to America would be so oppressive it would drive him to suicide.
Here is an update on the legal case and other activity.
President Biden in Europe as politicians urge him to drop Julian’s extradition
Joe Biden arrived in Europe for several important engagements: the G7 in the UK, a NATO Summit and EU trade meeting in Brussels, and a further summit in Geneva.
Coinciding with his presence in the UK, members of the UK Parliament from all major political parties wrote a letter to President Biden noting that the United Kingdom is “increasingly confronted with the contradiction of advocating for press freedom abroad while holding Mr. Assange for years in the UK's most notorious prison at the request of the US government”, and that “We appeal to you to drop this prosecution, an act that would be a clarion call for freedom that would echo around the globe.” (https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/1403361729329967105)
On the day President Biden arrived in the UK, the House of Commons held a debate about the Safety of Journalists. John McDonnell MP said that: “It is a continuing stain on the reputation of this country that Julian Assange remains in Belmarsh prison. There are no justifiable grounds for keeping imprisoned a journalist who had the courage to expose war crimes and abuse of human rights." (https://twitter.com/DEAcampaign/status/1403038506021265415)
Richard Burgon MP made a powerful speech in the Commons urging Biden to drop the appeal against Julian. (https://twitter.com/DEAcampaign/status/1403026231415742465)
Our family is campaigning for Julian’s freedom on both sides of the Atlantic
Julian’s father John Shipton and brother Gabriel are currently in the United States travelling from city to city to raise awareness about Julian’s case and what’s at stake: both Julian’s life and the future of the First Amendment (Tour Itinerary: https://assangedefense.org/tour/). Earlier this week, John and Gabriel collected the 2021 Sacco and Vanzetti Award on Julian’s behalf in Boston. The award is named after one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in US history.
Earlier this month, I was in Switzerland where the Geneva Press Club organised the city of Geneva’s call for Julian’s freedom (https://twitter.com/DEAcampaign/status/1402949743744106497). There was massive media interest, given partly that President Biden’s visit to the city is just days away. The mayor of Geneva, Frédérique Perler, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, and Geneva Councilor of States, Carlo Sommaruga took part, while approximately forty media organisations attended a press conference. A statue of Julian, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning by Italian sculptor Davide Dormino sits on the Bains de Paquis pier in the heart of Geneva as Biden will be visiting the city.
It was the same story in Paris a week earlier where there was overwhelming media interest in Julian’s case and strong support for our campaign. I met with politicians, gave numerous interviews (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKlzHq7E2iM), and had a Q&A session with law and politics students (https://www.facebook.com/canalnetworkassas/videos/305802761024086/).
Our family is continuing to call on the Biden administration – which has declared itself to be a champion of free speech – to drop the extradition of Julian. We are urging the governments involved to get behind our call to President Biden to drop the charges and allow Julian to be reunited with his family.
The legal state of play
Blocking the extradition was the result we wanted. However, the US is trying to appeal that decision and the UK’s High Court is yet to announce whether it will grant permission for the appeal to be heard.
Shortly after making the decision to block extradition in January the same court also refused Julian bail. This means that, despite being an innocent man, convicted of nothing, Julian has remained behind bars in the UK’s most notorious prison for more than two years, facing an indictment brought by the Trump administration for exposing Bush-era war crimes, with restricted access to his lawyers and rarely able to see his family in person.
We have not been in the same room since he was in court in January and Julian has not been able to see our two sons since last October. Only in the last couple of weeks have I been able to apply for a prison visit, which will hopefully take place later in June.
Julian has now been in continuous incarceration for over a decade. I know that he is suffering and the longer this goes on the harder it becomes. The passing of time only reinforces the evidence given by experts at Julian’s extradition hearing - that being in prison, as someone with Asperger’s and long-term depression, takes a huge toll on his well-being and is life-threatening.
Our dearest wish is that he will be able to come home in time to celebrate his 50th birthday on July 3 with his family. But the system continues to move slowly.
The High Court’s decision could come any day – and, if permission to appeal is granted, it will mean several more months of incarceration for Julian while we wait for another hearing and prepare our defence.
The uncertainty is very tough, but your support keeps us going. Thankfully, there is an ever-growing number of media organisations, free speech campaigners and international politicians joining our campaign to free Julian.
In Geneva I invited everyone to join my fight to free Julian. We need to break the deadlock. That involves recognising that this is primarily a political case, not a legal one. It is a policy choice by the Biden administration to continue to prosecute publishers, which is not consistent with their other policy position on press freedom. Bringing these two positions into alignment necessitates the Biden administration dropping the case and Julian’s freedom.
It is a policy decision by the US government to go after foreign publishers working abroad. The extraterritorial application of US criminal laws on foreign publishers’ activities encroaches on the sovereignty of other countries, the sovereignty of allied countries, and it limits the scope of their civil liberties and press freedoms.
That is why insisting President Biden end this extradition is not just about the humanitarian considerations or the gross injustice of this case, but is also in the UK’s own interest, in Europe’s own interest, and in the interests of those who cherish the political openness enshrined in the US First Amendment.
This is not simply a legal matter. It is a politically motivated case and journalism is on trial as well as Julian. If the court’s decision to block extradition is reversed as a result of the US appeal, then all journalists could face the same fate. Politicians have a responsibility to recognize this, and the power to end this.
Please continue to raise awareness of this case and donate what you can to help us defend Julian – and, from both of us, thank you for your support.
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