Jeremy Corbyn and former heads of state demand freedom for Julian Assange

Julian Assange
John McEvoy

A number of former presidents, as well as former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have urged the UK government to grant WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange “his long overdue freedom”.

The list of signatories includes Argentinian president Alberto Fernández, former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and former Bolivian president Evo Morales.

It also includes former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, whose government granted Assange asylum in the country’s embassy in London in 2012.

Julian Assange

Assange is currently being held in the UK’s Belmarsh Prison, as extradition proceedings to the US continue this week.

The extradition case centres around the publishing of classified US cables a decade ago, including evidence of war crimes. If extradited, he faces up to 175 years in prison.

According to the UN expert on torture Nils Melzer, the persecution of Assange by the US, the UK, Sweden and Ecuador over the past decade has amounted to “psychological torture”.

Melzer told The Canary in June 2019 that:

The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange’s fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation.

Former presidents

On 14 September, a group of former presidents, politicians and international lawyers wrote to the UK government “about the violations of Mr Julian Assange’s fundamental human, civil and political rights”. The letter was released on 21 September.

The group added that:

We write to you as legal practitioners and legal academics to express our collective concerns about the violations of Mr. Julian Assange’s fundamental human, civil and political rights and the precedent his persecution is setting.

We call on you to act in accordance with national and international law, human rights and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr. Assange his long overdue freedom – freedom from torture, arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty, and political persecution.

Specifically, the group raised concerns about Assange’s right to a fair trial, the politicisation of proceedings, risk of torture, as well as violations of the freedom of the press.

In a separate comment, Lula added:

As was the knee of a policeman killing a black man, this will be the knees of millions of governors from around the world suffocating Assange so that he dies. And we do not have the right to allow that.

As extradition proceedings continue in London, international support for Assange grows.

Featured image via screengrab/60 minutes

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