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World-Wide Backing as Parliament Encircled for Assange

Protests around the world supported the human chain that formed around the British parliament in support of an imprisoned publisher, reports Mohamed Elmaazi

By Mohamed Elmaazi, in London, Consortium News, 10 Oct 22,

Thousands of supporters of Julian Assange descended upon London’s Palace of Westminster to form a human chain around the Houses of Parliament in support of the embattled WikiLeaks publisher on Saturday. 

Meanwhile, the London action was backed up by rallies in Melbourne, Australia, Washington D.C., San Francisco and other locales.

In the British capital, men and women from a myriad of backgrounds attended the demonstration from across the U..K, and beyond, including from France, Germany and the United States. It was the first known human chain to surround the Houses of Parliament.

Stella Assange, wife of the imprisoned publisher, said around 5,000 people showed up to form the chain despite a nation-wide strike announced by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transportation Workers (RMT). Other estimates put the crowd as high as 7,000.

The chain extended over Westminster Bridge to Lambeth on the other side of the River Thames and then along the south bank and over Lambeth Bridge, through Victoria Tower Gardens to the front of Parliament, a distance of about 2.5 kilometers. Hundreds of other supporters also attended the demonstration, albeit without joining the human chain.

“The Human chain is self-proving” Stella Assange said. “Julian has enormous support and much more. He has millions of people around the world who are disgusted by the injustice that is unfolding.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour Party leader, British actor Russell Brand, Iraqi-British hip hop artist Lowkey, former counsel to the Ecuadorian Embassy Fidel Narvaez, Craig Murray, the former British diplomat and WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnnson were among those who formed part of the chain. Members of France’s Yellow Vest movement also took part.

Corbyn said: 

“Julian Assange is a journalist who told the uncomfortable truth all around the world of what happened in Iraq, what happened in Afghanistan, what happened in Syria, Libya, environmental destruction, the power and interface of big business and arms companies with governments.  That truth made a lot of very powerful people very uncomfortable so the U.S. has tried to charge him under the Espionage Act.

If we believe in free speech, if we believe in independent, democratic journalism, then Julian Assange should be freed from Belmarsh and not removed to the United States. Today we’ve shown the levels of public support for Julian by having this huge human chain all around Parliament despite the obvious transport difficulties today because of the rail strike. Internationally there is huge support for Julian Assange. … So my message to journalists around the world is, take up your chosen profession to take on a responsibility to tell the truth without fear nor favor. Tell the truth about Julian and say to the British government, refuse the extradition.”  

…………………………………………………………………………………. Radio Silence

The mainstream British media ignored or underreported the extraordinary event. The Independent said only “hundreds” of people showed up, as did The Daily MailThe Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times had no report at all. The BBC hasn’t had a story about Assange since July 1.

Overcoming the Strike

The event was organized by WikiLeaks’ official Don’t Extradite Assange (DEA) campaign with the support of the NUJ as well as the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The IFJ, along with the EFJ and NUJ, represents “600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries”, its website says……………

The cancellation of trains across England likely reduced the overall attendance figures in the end, with people noting their desire to attend on social media but also  the difficulty of getting there and back.

The event was publicized via social media, adverts in widely read newspapers like The GuardianEvening Standard and Camden News Journal and as well as via volunteers leafleting across the U.K.

Actions Around the World

There were at least 21 other solidarity events held in cities across the world including in Washington D.C.; Ontario, Canada; Rio de Janero, Brazil; Hamburg, Germany; Paris, France; Pretoria, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia and Wellington New Zealand.

In solidarity with the London events, about 5,000 people crowded across Prince’s Bridge in the central business district of Melbourne, where they heard Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton, address supporters. In San Francisco Assange defenders crowded Harry Bridges Plaza to hear speakers support Assange.

In Washington about 300 protestors with a 240-foot yellow ribbon walked around the Department of Justice building, inside of which the prosecution of Assange is being managed.

Speaking at the ensuing rally in front of the DOJ’s doors on Pennsylvania Avenue, former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, said:

“The more you look at this case, the more you become traumatized. This is an assault not only on freedom of the press, it makes a complete mockery of our judicial system, it’s an attack on human rights, it is absolutely unacceptable.”

Ben Cohen, a founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, said: “According to the U.S. government, publishing the truth has become a crime. They are literally killing the messenger.”

Scott Ritter, military analyst, asked: “What has Julian Assange given us?” He has “defined the facts, reported the facts, turned them over to the people so they can judge the facts and hold people accountable for the facts.”

Comic, activist and radio host Randy Credico said, “This is going to be a very tough road to hoe going forward, because there is a lot of apathy and a lot of antipathy towards Julian Assange here in D.C. We are up against a mammoth force. People gotta know how important this is.”

C.I.A. whistleblower John Kiriakou called on the crowd to be outside the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia every day, should Assange be extradited there.

Where the Case Stands

On Aug. 26 Assange’s lawyers filed Perfected Grounds of Appeal with the High Court and are currently waiting to hear whether they will be permitted to present their arguments that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser erred when ruling against all but one of his grounds opposing extradition to the U.S.

Among the grounds for appeal argued is that Assange is being prosecuted for speech protected under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, that he is being punished for his political views and opinions, that the US government has “misrepresented the core facts” of the case to the UK courts and that the request itself is an “abuse of process.”

The appeal also challenges then-Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision to grant extradition on the basis that it violates Article 4 of the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty which prohibits extradition where the prosecution is “politically motivated” or where the alleged crime in question is a “political offense.”

If extradited to the U.S., Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for his role in receiving and publishing government documents without authorization, an act which journalists and publishers around the world engage in on a daily basis.

Joe Lauria in Washington and Cathy Vogan in London contributed to this report.  https://consortiumnews.com/2022/10/09/world-wide-backing-as-parliament-encircled-for-assange/

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October 11, 2022 - Posted by | civil liberties, media

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