‘free assange’ meeting in london

Hundreds attend London meeting to demand freedom for Julian Assange
WSWS, Nov 30 2019


Hundreds packed the St Pancras New Church in Euston Thursday night for a meeting demanding freedom for imprisoned WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange. The largest meeting held in London to date reflects growing opposition to plans by the US government to extradite and imprison Assange for exposing war crimes, illegal mass surveillance and state corruption. Headlined “Free the Truth,” speakers included UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, former UK ambassador Craig Murray and veteran investigative journalist John Pilger. An accompanying art exhibition featured paintings, drawings and sculpture, while the meeting opened with a piano recital of “Waltzing Matilda,”a favourite of Assange. The meeting was organised by academics Deepa Driver and Iain Munro, with the support of the Julian Assange Defence Committee.

Rap artist Lowkey began by quoting the words of jailed Chartist leader Ernest Jones:

“Because I tried to extend your liberties, mine were curtailed. Because I tried to rear the temple of freedom for you all, I was thrown into the cell of a felon’s jail … Because I tried to give voice to truth, I was condemned to silence.” These words were taken from an article by Karl Marx written in 1852 for the New York Herald Tribune. Karl Marx was then a political refugee in London … Julian Assange is not being punished for anything he has done wrong. He is being punished for everything he has done right. His treatment is a slow-motion crucifixion … What they are trying to crucify is the truth. The journalists are just stenographers. Those who have joined in this demonization of Julian Assange are like turkeys voting for Christmas. How much profit did you generate off of Julian’s three million cables that WikiLeaks revealed? … Today Julian Assange, tomorrow you!

Fidel Narvaez, former Ecuadorian counsel at the Ecuadorian Embassy, said:

The allegations against him in Sweden were never credible. The investigation was opened and shut more times than a fridge door. Julian Assange is being denied the chance to adequately prepare his defence against the fiercest persecution of a journalist so far this century, which is a powerful reason to demand due process for him. Julian’s case is also a precedent for the institution of political asylum because, along with Edward Snowden, he is the most important political asylee in the world. His treatment is an attack on the small country of Ecuador by some of the most powerful nations in the world. Ecuador had every sovereign right to determine whether Julian Assange was being politically persecuted in 2012., in order to protect him from the odious persecution of a Grand Jury that can open a secret investigation against you and indict you on secret charges that will only be revealed once you are arrested. That is what happened to Julian Assange this April. This Grand Jury wants to sentence a journalist to 175 years in prison for publishing truthful information about war crimes. For years, the world’s media ridiculed warnings from Julian Assange about the existence of a Grand Jury as paranoia … an excuse to hide from Swedish justice. The UN has ruled that Assange is subject to arbitrary detention and the UK should free him and provide compensation. Lenin Moreno’s government committed the crime of delivering a political refugee to those who persecuted him, breaching the sacred principle of asylum.

Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape told the meeting:

The pursuit of Julian Assange is not about rape. It’s the Pindo government weaponising and distorting rape in order to punish him for the WikiLeaks exposés of war crimes, rape and torture. In 2010 and 2012, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange was being pursued. It’s unlike any other rape investigation we’ve seen anywhere … In his case, the judicial process was corrupted from the beginning. Evidence emerged that the UK ordered Sweden not to drop the case sooner, so it’s clearly politically motivated. Rape and sexual allegations have been used to pursue a political agenda from the start, intent on actually hiding rape, hiding torture and hiding murder committed by the state. They are the rapists! They are the racists! They are the murderers!

Professor Nils Melzer was given a prolonged standing ovation. He explained that his mandate as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was to report to states when their actions contravened international law. He had assumed that signatories to international law would “act in good faith.” He explained:

In my investigation I found that this isn’t about the law … because if it was about the law, then Julian Assange would not be sitting in extradition detention, accused of espionage for having exposed serious misconduct on the part of states, including war crimes. Assange would not have been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation for seeking and receiving political asylum, or had his asylum terminated and his citizenship withdrawn by Ecuador without explanation, or been portrayed as a suspected rapist by Sweden for more than nine years with no charges ever brought. He would have been granted the right to prepare his defence and would not be detained in a high security prison, under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, facing extradition for a political offence in contravention of UK law, to a country where he will be exposed to a politicised trial, with secret evidence, behind closed doors, facing draconian punishments that is unlawful under Pindo law and the First Amendment and sentencing to a supermax prison for the rest of his life. Assange’s persecution is about setting an example, about scaring other journalists away, of instilling fear, preventing others from following the example of Julian Assange and of WikiLeaks, and to show to the world what happens when you expose the misconduct of the power of a state. During my May 9 visit I found typical evidence of someone who has been exposed to a prolonged period of psychological torture. Psychological torture is not ‘torture lite.’ Psychological torture aims to wreck and destroy the person’s personality and identity…to make them break. We were able during our medical examination to confirm that this ill treatment had already had neurological consequences. If that is not stopped, it can end up having irreversible consequences on the cardiovascular system and the neurological system. This is extremely serious… Today I am extremely concerned for his life I have written to the UK, Sweden, Pindostan and Ecuador to present these conclusions and ask them to take urgent measures to alleviate the pressure on Julian Assange and protect his human rights. All refused to do so. If they no longer engage with the institutions that they have created to report their compliance with human rights, then I only see a very dark future for us and our human rights and for the rights of our children.

Clinical psychologist Lissa Johnson spoke on behalf of more than 60 medical doctors who have issued an open letter calling for Assange’s urgent transfer from Belmarsh Prison to a tertiary care hospital:

If the UK government fails to heed their advice there will be very serious consequences, including that Julian Assange may die in prison. Julian does show signs typical for someone exposed for a prolonged time to psychological torture The doctors know that is very serious physically for Julian’s life and survival. There’s a lot more public support for Julian than the media’s censorship and antagonism toward him suggests. “While institutions are failing us, while authorities are failing us, while the courts are failing us, here’s a group of people who took a matter of weeks to get this letter together. I think that’s where the pressure and the change is going to come.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray began his remarks by pointing to the meeting’s magnificent venue. At the rear of the church were monuments erected to honour those families, the Burnleys of Barbados, the Beale family of Canton, the Page family of Bombay, who gave funds to build the church and who were doubtless involved in the slavery and opium trade. He said:

This building is like the British Establishment itself: on the surface it is beautiful, solid and harmonious, but inside it is rotten and corrupt to the core. We are seeing illegality in the treatment of Julian Assange. The abuses of process by the British justice system throughout the last decade have been absolutely astonishing. There is no legality. There is no justice. It is not only that he is the victim of torture. It’s not only that his life is at stake. It is not only that we need to save him from this dreadful injustice. We also want to save him because the world needs Julian Assange as a symbol of resistance!

Historian, author and journalist Mark Curtis told the audience:

Julian has support all over the world. Obviously there’s no point in relying on the establishment media, not unless you want to brainwash yourself.

Curtis attacked the “propaganda tropes” employed by the media against Assange, that he is a “rapist,” a “Russian asset,” a “supporter of Trump,” singling out the Guardian ’s Nov 2018 fabrication that Trump’s lawyer Paul Manafort had met Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. He called for mass pressure on human rights organisations to actively defend Assange, pointing to Amnesty International’s refusal to designate Assange a “prisoner of conscience,” and called on MPs to follow the lead of former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who has campaigned publicly in Assange’s defence. The audience gave a loud ovation for the twice-suspended Labour MP, who was present, and who quit the party this month after it refused to endorse him as candidate for Derby North. Curtis explained that just four MPs had signed an early day motion moved by Williamson in defence of Assange. Neither Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn nor Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott signed that motion. Curtis said:

These are the people who are meant to represent us and hold the executive to account. I know I’m confusing the UK with a democracy … In our system, which we clearly see in this case, the law has been stitched up, the media is a platform for the elite, and the political class is an appendage of the executive. That’s why we as ordinary people need to take action on these issues.

He urged the audience to become involved in grassroots organisations such as the Julian Assange Defence Committee and to take part in events being organised in the weeks ahead, “culminating in a global day of protest in February when the extradition hearing will be held.” The final speaker, Australian journalist John Pilger, told the audience he had visited Assange in Belmarsh Prison earlier that day. He described his visit with Julian and the draconian security regime inside the prison for visitors and inmates. A transcript of Pilger’s report is posted below.

Pilger visits Assange in Belmarsh: “Look how you frighten them!”
WSWS, Nov 30 2019

The following speech was delivered by John Pilger to a public meeting in London on Nov 28 at St Pancras New Church.

Thank you for organizing this extremely important event. I spent two hours with Julian today in Belmarsh Prison, and I would like to give you a glimpse of what that experience was like, and what Julian has to endure. You arrive very early in the morning at what is called a visitors’ centre. Here you give up your passport, your wallet, credit cards, medical cards, phone, keys, pen and paper, everything. I need two pairs of glasses. I had to choose which pair stayed behind. I left my reading glasses. From here on, I couldn’t read, just as Julian couldn’t read for the first few weeks of his incarceration. His glasses were sent to him, but inexplicably took months to arrive. There are large TV screens in the visitors centre. The TV is always on, it seems, and the volume turned up. Game shows, commercials for cars and pizzas and funeral packages, even TED talks, they seem perfect for a prison: like visual Valium. I joined a queue of sad, anxious people, mostly poor women and children, and grandmothers. At the first desk, I was fingerprinted, if that is still the word for biometric testing. “Both hands, press down!” I was told. A file on me appeared on the screen. I could now cross to the main gate, which is set in the walls of the prison. The last time I was at Belmarsh to see Julian, it was raining hard. My umbrella wasn’t allowed beyond the visitors’ centre. I had the choice of getting drenched or running like hell. Grandmothers have the same choice. At the second desk, an official behind the wire said “What’s that?” I replied guiltily “My watch.” She said “Take it back.” I ran back through the rain, returning just in time to be biometrically tested again. This was followed by a full body scan and a full body search. Soles of feet, mouth open. At each stop, our silent, obedient group shuffled into what is known as a sealed space, squeezed behind a yellow line. Pity the claustrophobic; one woman squeezed her eyes shut.

We were then ordered into another holding area, again with iron doors shutting loudly in front of us and behind us. “Stand behind the yellow line!” said a disembodied voice. Another electronic door slid partly open. We hesitated, wisely. It shuddered and shut, then opened again. Another holding area, another desk, another chorus of “Show your finger!” Then we were in a long room with squares on the floor where we were told to stand, one at a time. Two men with sniffer dogs arrived and worked us, front and back. The dogs sniffed our arses and slobbered on my hand. Then more doors opened, with a new order to “hold out your wrist!” A laser branding was our ticket into a large room, where the prisoners sat waiting in silence, opposite empty chairs. On the far side of the room was Julian, wearing a yellow arm band over his prison clothes. As a remand prisoner, he is entitled to wear his own clothes, but when the thugs dragged him out of the Ecuadorean embassy last April, they prevented him bringing a small bag of belongings. His clothes would follow, they said, but like his reading glasses, they were mysteriously lost. For 22 hours a day, Julian is confined in “healthcare.” It’s not really a prison hospital, but a place where he can be isolated, medicated and spied on. They spy on him every 30 minutes: eyes through the door. They would call this “suicide watch.” In the adjoining cells are convicted murderers, and further along is a mentally ill man who screams through the night. “This is my One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest ,” he said. “Therapy” is an occasional game of Monopoly. His one assured social gathering is the weekly service in the chapel. The priest, a kind man, has become a friend. The other day, a prisoner was attacked in the chapel. A fist smashed his head from behind while hymns were being sung. When we greet each other, I can feel his ribs. His arm has no muscle. He has lost perhaps 10 to 15 kilos since April. When I first saw him here in May, what was most shocking was how much older he looked. he said then:

I think I’m going out of my mind!

I said to him:

No, you’re not! Look how you frighten them, how powerful you are!

Julian’s intellect, resilience and wicked sense of humour—all unknown to the low life who defame him—are, I believe, protecting him. He is wounded badly, but he is not going out of his mind. We chat with his hand over his mouth so as not to be overheard. There are cameras above us. In the Ecuadorian embassy, we used to chat by writing notes to each other and shielding them from the cameras above us. Wherever Big Brother is, he is clearly frightened. On the walls are happy-clappy slogans exhorting the prisoners to “keep on keeping on” and “be happy, be hopeful and laugh often.” The only exercise he has is on a small bitumen patch, overlooked by high walls with more happy-clappy advice to enjoy “the blades of grass beneath your feet.” There is no grass. He is still denied a laptop and software with which to prepare his case against extradition. He still cannot call his American lawyer, or his family in Australia. The incessant pettiness of Belmarsh sticks to you like sweat. If you lean too close to the prisoner, a guard tells you to sit back. If you take the lid off your coffee cup, a guard orders you to replace it. You are allowed to bring in £10 to spend at a small café run by volunteers. Julian, who devoured a sandwich, remarking:

I’d like something healthy!

Across the room, a prisoner and a woman visiting him were having a row: what might be called a “domestic”. A guard intervened and the prisoner told him to “fuck off.” This was the signal for a posse of guards, mostly large, overweight men and women eager to pounce on him and hold him to the floor, then frog march him out. A sense of violent satisfaction hung in the stale air. Now the guards shouted at the rest of us that it was time to go. With the women and children and grandmothers, I began the long journey through the maze of sealed areas and yellow lines and biometric stops to the main gate. As I left the visitors’ room, I looked back, as I always do. Julian sat alone, his fist clenched and held high. On Dec 12, there will be an election for a new government in Britain. There has been no mention during the campaign of the journalist and publisher who sat in Belmarsh prison, who is Britain’s political prisoner. I do not use that expression lightly. I don’t use it as agitprop, it is a fact. The extradition treaty between Britain and Pindostan includes one vital section; it says, and I’ll paraphrase it:

No one shall be extradited if the offence that he/she is said to have committed is in any way political.

Seventeen charges concocted against Julian Assange by Pindostan are based on the 1917 Espionage act, which was and remains a political law enacted to chase up conscientious objectors during WW1. That’s not in dispute. It is an explicitly political law and it’s here used against a journalist and a publisher, not only to silence him but to intimidate the media and all truth tellers right across the world. The indictment against Julian refers to co-conspirators. Well, the Guardian is a co-conspirator. The Daily Telegraph is a co-conspirator. The NYT is a co-conspirator. El País in Spain is a co-conspirator. Der Spiegel in Germany is a co-conspirator. The SMH in Australia is a co-conspirator. All of them and many others published the leaked evidence of Pindo war crimes of which WikiLeaks was the source. Pindostan may have come for only one of them, Julian Assange, but the warning could not be clearer. They can come for the rest if free journalists, free people and, I dare say, free governments allow this outrage to continue against justice and democracy. If Labour should win the election, or form a coalition based on a hung parliament, the new government can act decisively. When the extradition trial is over, Diane Abbott if she is to be home secretary, or whoever is the Labour home secretary, will have the power to grant asylum to Julian Assange and this she must do and this Jeremy Corbyn must do in the name of justice, of free speech, of free journalism and freedom itself.

Free the Truth – A Short Speech
Craig Murray, Nov 30 2019

I have had a fascinating few days catching up on many people. It is an interesting fact that one of the suite of rooms where the great ones gather for their sparkling wine and snacks before and after the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday is literally my old office, from when I was Deputy Head of the Africa Dept of the FCO. It has always interested me that the grand people of British society, particularly those born to it, overlook the “little people” and forget they have agency. People like Boris Johnson do not see janitors, cleaners, cooks, drivers and waiting staff as anything but cyphers. They however see him, and I can tell you with certainty that the reason he messed up the Cenotaph ceremony, starting backwards and forward at the wrong time, laying the wreath upside down and generally stumbling around looking like an unmade bed, is that he was drunk. You could smell it off him. He arrived in that condition.

Groundswell of support for Julian Assange
Oscar Grenfell, WSWS, Nov 30 2019

Over the past week, a growing groundswell of opposition to the US-led persecution of Julian Assange has come to the surface of political life internationally. Prominent public figures in Britain, Europe and Australia including doctors, journalists, politicians and UN representatives have condemned the WikiLeaks founder’s imprisonment in the UK’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. They have demanded an end to the attempt to extradite him to Pindostan, where he faces charges of espionage and life imprisonment for publishing the truth. Their statements, and a number of significant events in Assange’s defence, are a welcome blow to the conspiracy of silence that has surrounded his persecution, enforced by governments, official political parties around the world and the corporate media. The expressions of hostility to the Pindo-led vendetta against Assange come in the lead-up to extradition hearings next February in the UK. British authorities have trampled on Assange’s legal and democratic rights, including his ability to prepare a defence, and have dismissed warnings from medical experts that his health has deteriorated to the extent that he could die in prison. The surge of support for Assange also follows the ignominious collapse of the attempts to frame him as a “rapist,” with Swedish prosecutors last week finally abandoning a nine-year “preliminary investigation” into sexual misconduct allegations. The bogus Swedish investigation, characterised by a litany of procedural abuses and violations of due process, played a central role in undermining the mass support that Assange enjoyed in 2010. It was invoked by innumerable pseudo-left organisations, media pundits and self-styled civil liberties organisations to join the attacks on Assange or justify their refusal to defend him. Now, however, it is clear to millions that Assange is and always has been a political prisoner. His “crime,” according to Pindostan & its vassals, was to publish documents of historic significance revealing their war crimes, global diplomatic conspiracies and surveillance operations affecting billions of people. The Pindo attempt to prosecute him has opened the floodgates for an assault on press freedom and free speech, with the “Assange precedent” spurring government attacks on journalists in France, Australia and Pindostan. These factors have contributed to the following significant developments:

  • Last weekend, more than 60 eminent medical doctors issued an open letter to the British home secretary, warning that, unless urgent action is taken, Assange may die in Belmarsh Prison. The doctors condemned Britain’s denial of adequate medical care to Assange and called for him to be immediately moved to a university teaching hospital. Their initiative was reported in dozens of publications around the world.
  • On Monday, the inaugural meeting of a cross-parliamentary group of nine Australian federal parliamentarians unanimously resolved to lobby for the US extradition request to be dropped and for Assange “to be allowed to return to Australia.” The statement breached years of silence on Assange by all of the official Australian political parties, including those represented within the grouping. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also warned that a US extradition of Assange would be “unacceptable.”
  • On Wednesday, the French journalists’ union published an appeal for the government of Emmanuel Macron to oppose Assange’s persecution.
  • On the same day, statues were unveiled outside Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate of Assange and the courageous whistle-blowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer described them as “our dissidents,” whose cases were “the most significant test of our time for the credibility of Western rule of law and democracy.” Melzer, along with Assange’s father John Shipton and WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson, spoke at an event in the German Bundestag, where they were warmly received by a number of parliamentarians.
  • On Thursday, an overflow crowd attended a public meeting in London rallying support for Assange. It was addressed by renowned investigative journalist John Pilger, former British diplomat Craig Murray, and other defenders of Assange, including the popular rapper Lowkey.
  • That evening, the prominent Australian journalist Kerry O’Brien spoke strongly on the need to defend Assange in his keynote address to the Walkley Awards, Australia’s preeminent media event. O’Brien warned of the turn toward “fascism” revealed in attacks on press freedom. He told the audience:

    As we sit here tonight, Julian Assange is mouldering in a British prison awaiting extradition to Pindostan. This government could demonstrate its commitment to a free press by using its significant influence with its closest ally to gain his return to Australia.

    In an implicit condemnation of those media organisations that had turned on the WikiLeaks founder, O’Brien recalled that Assange received the 2011 Gold Walkley Award for the very publications over which Pindostan is seeking to prosecute him. Paul Murphy, head of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which has failed to date to mount any significant campaign in defence of their member Assange, also condemned the threatened extradition.

Underlying these significant statements is the broad support for Assange among ordinary people and widespread popular anger and concern over the threatened extradition, revealed in the fact that petitions demanding his freedom have been signed by hundreds of thousands of people. The political parties in a position to intervene to secure Assange’s release, however, have either remained silent or rejected calls that they defend him. This includes the British Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn, which has not even mentioned the WikiLeaks founder amid a general election campaign, and the Australian government, which is participating in the campaign against Assange despite the fact that he is an Australian citizen. For their part, the pseudo-left organisations, taking their lead from the state authorities and representing the most affluent layers of the upper-middle class, have said nothing. Behind the scenes, the intelligence agencies and governments that have spearheaded the campaign against Assange are doing everything they can to ensure that nothing disrupts his extradition and show trial. For the ruling elites, the attack on Assange is viewed as a crucial precedent for silencing government critics, suppressing anti-war sentiment and intimidating mass social and political opposition.

Over the past 18 months, we have intensified our decade-long campaign in defence of Assange. The developments of the past week have substantiated the key political foundations of this struggle. They have demonstrated that the fight to defend Assange, whose persecution is the spearhead of an international drive to authoritarianism, must be global in scope. It requires the mobilisation of principled defenders of democratic rights, including journalists, doctors, artists and intellectuals. Above all, the campaign must be based on the international working class, the overwhelming majority of the population and the most powerful social force, whose interests are inseparable from the most determined offensive to defend all social and democratic rights. Only through the activation of the mass support for Assange will the authorities in Britain and Australia be forced to uphold his democratic rights, block the Pindo extradition and grant his freedom. It is crucial that this fight be intensified in the lead-up to the extradition trial in February. We appeal to all workers and defenders of democratic rights to hold meetings in your workplace, college, university or school to discuss the imminent threat to Assange’s life and the dangers this poses to the democratic rights of the entire working class, pass resolutions demanding his immediate freedom and the blocking of his extradition to Pindostan, and organise delegations for the global demonstrations that have been called in February. Make a special appeal to those sections of workers now in struggle, including rail and postal workers in the UK, autoworkers in Pindostan, Germany and elsewhere, and the millions of others entering into class battles internationally. Contact us today to take part in this crucial fight to defend Julian Assange and all democratic rights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.