three stories for julian assange

French Yellow Vests rally for Julian Assange outside Belmarsh Prison
WSWS, Jan 27 2020

More than 100 yellow vest protesters travelled from France on Saturday, joining a demonstration outside Belmarsh Prison in defence of imprisoned Julian Assange. The participation of yellow vests in Saturday’s event testified to the global scope of support for Assange, with solidarity events held in ANZ, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland and Germany ahead of Pindo extradition hearings which open in London on Feb 24.

Yellow Vests gather outside the prison (Photo: Lionel Simon)

Assange has been held inside the maximum-security prison since April 2019. If extradited, he faces Espionage Act charges and the prospect of life imprisonment, or even the death penalty, for exposing Pindo war crimes and global diplomatic intrigue. Two coaches filled with “yellow vests” arrived outside Belmarsh at 9 am. They included workers and young people from Paris, Lille, Marseilles, Nice and other cities and towns across France, swelling the size of the protest to over 200. The yellow vest contingent travelled from France amid mass strikes and demonstrations against the austerity agenda of Emmanuel Macron. The French ruling elite has responded to the protracted Yellow Vest protests and strikes with police violence and repression. Corinne, one of the “yellow vests” who helped organize Saturday’s protest, told the WSWS:

We wanted Julian Assange to hear that we were there. We started an impromptu demonstration and the prisoners were able to partially open their windows so that the sound could come through. We tried to push our way into the car park and we were pushed back. But a security guard came over to tell us that Julian had heard us, which was really great. Another guard said that Julian is very interested in the television and the newspapers and is the prisoner who receives the most post. He didn’t have access to information before.

Demonstrators march around the perimeter of Belmarsh Prison (Photo: Lionel Simon)

French film director Laurent Bouhnik was also part of the “yellow vest” contingent, telling French journalist Fabien Rives:

There are three directors here today and as for me, I’m shocked. I am really shocked by what is taking place here. And it’s not ignorance. It is simply a form of class contempt. It is making a mockery of someone who had voluntarily revealed a truth that the powerful didn’t want us to hear. As an artist, I am incredibly concerned. I wouldn’t be able to make films anymore if I wasn’t out here with my friends. Politically it would just be impossible. What is happening to Julian is inconceivable. And nobody is doing anything, or at least, too few. All across the world we are starting to struggle and it is not for nothing and Julian Assange is the symbol of all of that.

The rally spanned the entire day, beginning at 8 am and ending late at night. Demonstrators chanted slogans in French and English, demanding Assange’s freedom and denouncing the war criminals who have spearheaded his persecution. Throughout the day, they won support from passing motorists who honked their horns, waved and stopped to take leaflets. Unlike previous protests, police confronted demonstrators and blocked them from gaining access to the prison’s foreground, but demonstrators made their presence felt by marching around the perimeter of the prison. Maxine Walker of the Julian Assange Defence Committee told us:

The yellow vests displayed a great deal of international solidarity with Julian. I think they would have heard it inside the prison, because it was very noisy, so there’s a fair chance that lots of prisoners heard it, including Julian. He would have been cheered. The media in Britain have largely ignored the protests that have been going on in France. Very few people have been able to see those protests in a proper form. The presence of the yellow vests always inspires, because people who support Julian Assange are well aware of the repression that has been meted out to protesters in France, and know that despite the government and police attacks they have continued with great determination. They provide an example for people in other countries. He is seen in many many countries as a symbol of the struggle for free speech, for truthful journalism. It is recognised that he carried out an act of immense bravery in developing a new form of journalism. In oppressed countries, particularly where imperialist wars have been waged, there is a great appreciation of his role. I was not surprised that there was a demonstration in Kabul when he was arrested.

Banner signed by Yellow Vest protesters (Photo: Lionel Simon)

Walker contrasted the support for Assange among ordinary people with the role of the British political establishment, noting:

Almost all politicians have been too cowardly to speak out or agree with the persecution of him.

Belmarsh Prison is notorious for its brutal and repressive conditions. Throughout most of his time there Assange has been held in conditions of virtual solitary confinement, denied access to legal documents and other material crucial to preparing his defence, conditions that have been condemned by his legal team, by campaign groups and by the UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. In a statement on Friday, WikiLeaks ambassador and section editor Joseph Farrell announced that prison authorities had been forced to move Assange from solitary confinement.

Authorities at Belmarsh Prison have moved Julian Assange from solitary confinement in the medical wing and relocated him to area with other inmates. This decision is a dramatic climbdown by prison officials, made only after a campaign by his lawyers as well as supporters outside and inside the prison. A group of prisoners petitioned the prison governor on three occasions, insisting that the treatment of Assange was unjust and unfair. This contributed to the transfer, which was a victory for his legal team, campaigners and the prison population. There remain serious concerns about his treatment in Belmarsh. He is still being denied adequate access to his lawyers, as even the judge recognised at a case management hearing in Westminster Magistrates Court. Campaigners continue to insist that he should not be in jail at all, least of all in Belmarsh high security prison.

An interview with a yellow vest protester on the fight to free Julian Assange
Alice Summer, WSWS, Jan 27 2020

Corinne

Corinne was one of around 100 yellow vests who came from France to take part in Saturday’s rally in support of Julian Assange outside Belmarsh prison. The WSWS asked her about her experiences on the day and the reason why the French yellow vests have placed such great emphasis on the fight to free Assange and prevent his extradition to Pindostan on espionage charges. The following is Corinne’s response.

Saturday’s rally was an action first suggested the last time we came here on Oct 20 to protest outside Westminster Magistrates Court. We really wanted to continue putting on the pressure before the hearings begin in February, so we thought that a month before the first hearing was a good time for a big protest. We organised in our group to rally the troops and made a national appeal to all those that wanted to come or could come to support Julian. When we demonstrated in front of the prison at Belmarsh, there were people from all over France, from Nice, Marseille, Montpellier, from the coast near Nantes and from near Nancy, Paris and Lille. We even had some Belgians who responded to our appeal and who came by their own means of transport, as well as Germans who came to join us. We put on two coaches from Paris for the French. We came on the ferry, not the Channel Tunnel, so we travelled during the night and arrived in the early hours of the morning, as the English participants were arriving at 8:30 am. We had a relaxed breakfast, then we joined them in front of the prison. We stayed and protested until around 7:30 pm. There were two film directors there with us as well as a writer called Philipe Pascot. There was another writer who knew the Assange case very well, Viktor Dedaj. There were people there from all walks of life: workers, people who were facing unemployment, artists, a variety of different jobs. There were some Italians who joined us as well. In total there were around 94 French people with us on the two buses, and a few people that arrived by air and by train, as well as some French people who are currently living in England. There were a couple of Brazilians there too who live in England.

Many people drove past the prison, so we did some leafleting at the traffic lights. Many of the yellow vests stood in front of the vehicles with large banners to draw their attention. A lot of motorists stopped to take our leaflets and a lot of them tooted their horns when they saw the yellow vests and the Assange banners. I think among us yellow vests, we have really understood the importance of what’s happening. It goes far beyond even the life of Julian Assange and freedom of the press. If they extradite him it will have enormous consequences. But if we manage to free him it will be a really amazing thing. The effect of WikiLeaks having revealed all that it has to the general public was enormous because people were able to become aware of all the state lies, all the wars that were provoked out of self-interest, the atrocities, the corruption. People are waking up bit by bit and if we yellow vests succeed and if Julian Assange gets out, something huge will have happened which could stop and prevent many wars. I think that the only way is to mobilise citizens, because the problem is that governments are under the yoke of Pindostan. In the UK we can see very well what is happening on a judicial level. It seems there is no longer any real justice, and if there is no justice, how could he be saved by the law? The only solution is to come out onto the streets and protest. It is the only way, and so we need to bring together different groups. One of our big problems is that sites like yours and other independent sites write about Julian Assange, but in the MSM there is near-total silence. There are people who don’t know anything at all about Assange, who don’t even know WikiLeaks. There are people who are somewhat aware of the Assange case, but they don’t know that he is imprisoned in Belmarsh, a maximum security prison. He is a journalist who was venerated but now everyone has abandoned him. It is unthinkable. We are supposed to live in a democracy but this is absolutely not a democracy.

Canada’s complicity in the persecution of Julian Assange
Roger Jordan, WSWS, Jan 27 2020

The British government is conspiring with the Trump administration to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Pindostan to face bogus Espionage Act charges and a possible 175-year prison term. The Australian-born journalist and publisher has been the target of a 9-year legal vendetta, mounted by British and Pindo boxtops and supported by the Canadian political establishment, because he sought to inform working people around the world of the crimes carried out by Pindo imperialism and its vassals. The prosecution of Assange is a legal travesty being used to gut basic democratic rights including the rights of free speech and freedom of the press and the right to due process. UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has repeatedly denounced the treatment of Assange by British authorities, including his seven years of effective detention in the Ecuadorean Embassy and his current incarceration in virtual solitary confinement, at the hellish maximum security Bellmarsh Prison, as psychological torture. Scores of doctors have warned that this torture has placed Assange’s life in grave danger. The CIA has spied on Assange’s interactions with his lawyers. Chelsea Manning has also been detained since last March because she refused to testify against Assange in a rigged Pindo Grand Jury proceeding. Assange has been subjected to this horrific treatment by some of the world’s most powerful governments for the “crime” of informing the public about the war crimes and diplomatic skullduggery of their governments. These include the massacre of civilians in Iraq by Pindo troops, the mistreatment of prisoners of war in Afghanistan, and Faschingstein’s bullying of governments around the world. Even leading bourgeois newspapers, like the NYT, that have published scurrilous attacks on Assange have been forced to concede that his successful prosecution would represent a threat to journalists and the freedom of the press the world over.

The Cando political establishment has maintained a deafening and complicit silence about the prosecution and persecution of Assange throughout the past nine years. This is true of PM Trudeau and his Liberals, but also of all the other parties that posture as “progressive,” from the New Demagogs & Greens to the Bloc Quebecois and the pseudo-left Quebec Solidaire. The reason for this deafening silence is not hard to find. The Cando capitalist elite, which is more reliant than ever on its military-strategic partnership with Pindo imperialism to advance its own predatory interests on the global stage, fears the impact of WikiLeaks’ exposures,ande is anxious that Assange be subjected to exemplary punishment so as to intimidate all those who seek to lay bare the crimes and machinations of the western imperialist powers. Whilst the Trudeau government is not directly involved in Assange’s prosecution, it has provided crucial political support for it. Last July, then Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland co-hosted a Global Media Freedom Conference in London with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, just weeks after Hunt had presided over the British government’s illegal seizure of Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy. Freeland’s office declared in a truly Orwellian statement:

Candostan and Blighty are working together to defend media freedom and improve the safety of journalists who report across the world.

Needless to say, neither Freeland nor Hunt mentioned the fate of Assange at the meeting. The refusal of any section of Candostan’s political establishment to criticize the persecution of Assange, let alone to mobilize popular opposition to it, is a damning exposure of their oft-repeated claims to stand for human rights and democracy on the world stage. The reality is that, like Faschingstein, Ottawa cynically and hypocritically invokes human rights as a cover for the rapacious pursuit of their imperialist interests. The two imperialist powers denounce both real and fabricated violations of human rights committed by governments they view as obstacles to their interests while covering up and excusing state repression, torture and war crimes carried out by their client regimes, allies, and last but not least their own military and security intelligence apparati. Since 1999, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have participated in Pindo-led wars and “regime change” military interventions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, Syria and Iraq that have left entire societies in ruins. Trudeau’s Liberals have further integrated Candostan into Pindo military strategic offensives around the world. This includes participating in Faschingstein’s war preparations against Russia and China, but also its regime-change intrigues in Venezuela.

Candostan’s ruling elite has also moved to criminalize dissent and workers’ struggles at home and to build up the repressive powers of the state with the aim of suppressing popular opposition to austerity, social inequality, and war. Candostan is a key partner in the global NSA-led “Five Eyes” spying network. Under the phony pretext of the GWOT, successive governments have dramatically expanded the powers of the intelligence services. CSIS has been empowered to break virtually any law in “disrupting” activities deemed to pose a threat to “public security” or Candostan’s “territorial integrity.” The work of whistleblowers like Assange and Snowden has been invaluable in bringing to light some of the crimes of Cando imperialism as it pursues aggression abroad and attacks democratic rights at home. It was a Pindo State Dept memo released by WikiLeaks that informed the Cando population that while the Liberal government of Jean Chretien publicly posed as an opponent of Bush 43’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was reassuring Faschingstein behind the scenes that it would provide “discreet” support for it. The memo described a meeting between top Pindo & Cando foreign ministry boxtops on Mar 17 2003. It stated:

Following the meeting, political director Jim Wright emphasized that despite public statements, the Cando assets in the Straits of Hormuz will remain in the region exclusively to support Enduring Freedom. They will also be available to provide escort services in the Straits, and will otherwise be discreetly useful to the military effort. The two ships in the Straits now are being augmented by two more en route, and there are patrol and supply aircraft in the UAE which are also prepared to be useful.

Snowden’s disclosures in 2013 revealed that the Cando Security Establishment, Candostan’s sigint agency, acts as a veritable arm of the NSA. Documents leaked by Snowden showed that the CSE helps develop NSA spying operations and techniques, provides information on countries that Pindo citizens have difficulty accessing, and conducts economic spying for Canadian corporations around the world. The Cando ruling elite was outraged by these exposures. In 2013, Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird declared that Snowden should hand himself over to the Pindo authorities, effectively condemning him to a death sentence. Three years later Michael Doucet, the government’s top “watchdog” for the country’s intelligence agencies, blurted out the true feelings of the ruling elite towards whistleblowers like Snowden and Assange. Asked his opinion on how Snowden would have been treated had he been an employee of CSIS, the country’s domestic security agency, Doucet responded:

If Edward Snowden had worked for CSIS and did what he did, he should be shot.

Underscoring the fact that Doucet’s remark reflected broader sentiments in ruling circles, the Trudeau government took no action against him for this outrageous comment. The complicit silence of Candostan’s political elite on Assange’s torture, persecution and imminent extradition underscores that his freedom can be won only through the mobilization of the working class, the basic constituency for the defence of democratic rights around the world. Workers and young people who want to oppose Cando imperialist aggression and war overseas and attacks on democratic rights at home should join the global struggle for the freedom of Assange and Manning, which has already won important and growing support in UK, ANZ, France, South Asia and countries around the world. This struggle must be made the spearhead of the fight to oppose the imperialist powers’ drive to war and the gutting of democratic rights. The Socialist Equality Party is holding a public meeting in Montreal on Sunday Feb 2 at 1:30 pm, in Room 201 of the Centre St-Pierre, 1212 Rue Panet, near the Beaudry Métro station on the Green Line, to initiate steps to develop a cross-Canada campaign to win Assange’s freedom, defend democratic rights, and oppose Cando imperialism and war. We strongly urge those living in western Quebec and eastern Ontario to make plans to attend. No to war and the assault on democratic rights! Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning must be defended!

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