2 May 2019 — Defend Wikileaks
Today commenced UK extradition proceedings against Julian Assange, whom the United States is attempting to prosecute for publishing documents of its war crimes and diplomatic secrets in 2010.
As the AP reports, “Assange, appearing by video link from a London prison, said he wouldn’t ‘surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.’”
The US government is attempting to frame its case against Assange as an issue of “hacking” and “computer crime,” diverting attention from its clear effort to criminalize publishing and basic journalistic activity. Major civil liberties, media freedom, and human rights groups immediately understood the initial charge against Assange as a grave threat to press freedom.
Independent journalist Kevin Gosztola explains, “What the affidavit [supporting Assange’s indictment] further confirms is the Justice Department is alleging a computer crime as a way of targeting the publication of information by an organization that should be protected under the First Amendment.”
Furthermore, observers widely agree that more — and even more dangerous — charges are sure to follow. Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale has called the indictment of Assange “a snare and a delusion”
References to a conspiracy under the Espionage Act in the Assange indictment raise the question of whether the U.S. government is going for a bait-and-switch — get Assange past the English courts and to the United States, only to charge him with espionage when he is on American soil.
The AP reports that the judge in Assange’s case has already indicated that the extradition proceedings will be a long ordeal:
Judge Michael Snow said it would likely be “many months” before a full hearing was held on the substance of the U.S. extradition case. The judge set a procedural hearing for May 30, with a substantive hearing to follow on June 12.
Assange will need our massive collective support:
“The fight has just begun. I will be a long one and a hard one,” said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, who claimed Assange was being held in “appalling” conditions at Belmarsh Prison. He said Assange was confined to his cell 23 hours a day, “what we call in general terms solitary confinement.”
— Niels Ladefoged (@NielsLadefoged) May 2, 2019
After today’s hearings, Hrafnsson and Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson spoke about the case:
Supporters demonstrated for Assange outside Westminster Magistrates Court:
— Emmy B (@greekemmy) May 2, 2019
Supporters of #WikiLeaks founder #JulianAssange protesting outside Westminster Magistrates Court at US extradition hearing: “#US, #UK – #HandsoffAssange !”
Follow our correspondent @pablo_telesur for more live updates. pic.twitter.com/7xcaGb43ML
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 2, 2019
— Emmy B (@greekemmy) May 2, 2019
Lauri Love, who successfully fended off his own US extradition request in 2018, joined the protests:
Technologist and activist Lauri Love explained to me why he attended the preliminary extradition hearing of #JulianAssange, outside Westminster Magistrates Court today.#Assange pic.twitter.com/RTYfEba7sk
— M. A. E. (@MElmaazi) May 2, 2019
“It was very scary and very worrying, anxiety causing, depressing, almost mind-boggling,” said Love [of his own extradition case, where he faced 99 years in a US prison].
At his extradition hearing, Love argued he would not survive the US prison system and should be tried in the UK. His extradition was initially approved, but last February, a British judge reversed that decision, ruling he should instead stand trial in the UK. Prosecutors in the UK have yet to file new charges against Love.
Love is urging the public to “overcome a carefully cultivated distaste for Julian as a character” and to look at the spirit of the US indictment against the Australian whistleblower, which he calls “vindictive retribution” for the WikiLeaks disclosures.
“It is a pretext to send the message that if you are going to report on things there is a line and you do not go beyond that line,” Love said. “They are making an example of him.”
Supporters in Berlin demonstrated for Assange in a rally organized by Diem25 and Demokratie in Europa
Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei, German theater director Angela Richter, Whistleblower Network chairman Annegret Falter, biologist and founder of EcoLeaks Esteban Servat, and DiEM co-founder and German MEP candidate Srecko Horvat spoke out for Assange just meters from the US and UK embassies in Berlin.
Wir sind am Brandenburger Tor, um gegen die Auslieferung von #Assange zu demonstrieren. Ein exklusives Statement von @Snowden wird vorgelesen von @AngelaRichter_ . #FreeAssange @aiww pic.twitter.com/f050CF819j
— Demokratie in Europa (@deineuropa) May 2, 2019
Richter read aloud a statement from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:
For years, Julian Assange has warned that the moment he found himself outside political asylum, the government of the United States would demand his imprisonment, warnings that in each of those years were discounted by his many critics as ridiculous, but today have been shown to be true.
By the government’s own admission, Assange has been charged for his role in bringing to light true information, information that exposed war crimes and wrongdoing perpetrated by the most powerful military in the history of the world.
The full and single charge for which Assange stands accused is trying–and only trying–to aid the source of many of the last decade’s most important stories in preventing her discovery as the only soldier in the United States military at that time brave enough to inform the public about a secret that never should have been hidden in the first place. No one today disputes that the revelations of this source, Chelsea Manning, were news of the highest order: They were immediately carried on the front pages of every newspaper in the world.
It is not just a man who stands in jeopardy, but the future of the free press.
— Srećko Horvat (@HorvatSrecko) May 2, 2019