Rapper MIA supports Julian Assange at court

Julian Assange
Ed Sykes

Rapper and singer MIA has supported Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder appeared in court on Monday. She joined dozens of Assange supporters as he attended a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Fellow rapper Lowkey has also supported Assange, and recently spoke to The Canary about the importance of whistleblowers and media freedom.

Assange, 48, is currently being held in HMP Belmarsh, awaiting the outcome of an extradition request by the US, where he faces 18 charges, including conspiring to commit computer intrusion.

A statement from Veterans for Peace UK (VfP UK) in 2019 explained how the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Diaries from WikiLeaks had:

revealed the true human cost of our wars in the Middle East. Wikileaks acted in the public interest by releasing these documents and Julian Assange, as a journalist, was right to publish in association with newspapers including The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel.

Over 60 doctors previously wrote to the British government in late 2019 to outline serious concerns about Assange’s health. Critics of Assange’s potential extradition, meanwhile, highlighted reasons for dismissing the US request.

Assange is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Speaking outside court, MIA told the PA news agency that “to give somebody an hour to put their case together is not right”.

During the 12-minute hearing on Monday, Assange’s lawyers complained they had not been granted sufficient contact time with him.

Gareth Peirce told the court there had been a lack of contact time to speak with her client at high-security Belmarsh, something which threatened to delay the serving of evidence ahead of the trial.

She said: “We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed to adjourn the hearing until the end of the day, in order to allow Assange and Ms Peirce a chance to sign off papers and go over their case together at court, rather than have Assange sent back to prison.

Assange spoke only to confirm his name, his date of birth, and to briefly state he did not understand an element of proceedings.

Such was the clamour for a seat in court that supporters queued for 30 minutes to get into the building, then filed in a line outside the first floor court number one, long before the case opened.

MIA was among more than 40 people who were allowed inside the packed public gallery, who were required to show security they had switched their phones off before entering.

Julian Assange extradition
Protesters outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Assange briefly re-appeared in courtroom one later on Monday afternoon, after spending an hour discussing his case with his lawyer.

Before proceedings were adjourned for the day, a case management hearing date was confirmed for January 23 at the same court, with Assange due to appear via videolink.

Australian Assange was jailed for 50 weeks in May last year for breaching his bail conditions after seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He had been dramatically removed from the embassy building in April.

Assange’s full extradition hearing is scheduled for February 24 at Woolwich Crown Court.

Featured image via Cancillería del Ecuador/Flickr, with additional content via Press Association

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