A group of lawyers, politicians, journalists and activists known as Aotearoa 4 Assange have written to PM Jacinda Ardern asking her to ‘stand strong’ with new Aussie PM Anthony Albanese, to ‘secure the freedom’ of Australian journalist Julian Assange. According to the letter Assange’s life is in peril and so are the ‘foundations of global democracy’.
A4A spokesperson Matt Ó Branáin says ‘the election of Albanese is a seismic shift’ for the campaign to free Assange, who is currently imprisoned in the UK and fighting extradition to the US. Unlike his predecessor Scott Morrison, Albanese is a member of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group consisting of at least 30 MPs. Albanese has reportedly said ‘enough is enough…I can’t see what’s served by keeping [Assange] incarcerated’.
Green MP and Human Rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman tweeted ‘the threat to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s freedom is a threat to press freedom around the world.’
Assange has been detained in ‘solitary confinement’ for the last 3 years in the UK and a UN Special Rapporteur has said he is being ‘psychologically tortured.’ A letter from hundreds of doctors says he is likely to die soon if not freed.
The US charges ‘criminalise publishing leaked evidence of US state crimes’. International Human Rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights have said the case is a threat to global press freedom.
The letter argues that there is ‘no chance of justice’ if he is extradited to the US as Assange’s ‘legally privileged consultations with his lawyers were spied on’ and the Espionage Act ‘prohibits any public interest defence’.
Ó Branáin says ‘no one can credibly say justice has been seen in the UK extradition trial’. Amnesty International said the UK extradition trial was a ‘circus’. IBAHRI said ‘with this extradition trial, we are witnessing the serious undermining of due processes and the rule of law.’ Applications to monitor the trial from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders were declined. A4A’s letter says ‘this is a political case, and political intervention is required’.
UN Special Rapproteur on Torture Nils Melzer says if Assange is extradited to the US he would be detained in ‘conditions that amount to torture’. Ghahraman states that although the UK Magistrate Court has now ordered extradition to be signed ‘the Home Sec must decline’. ‘The UK has an obligation to avoid extradition to a place where he faces ill treatment and torture’. A4A called on Ardern to ‘make representations’ to Ms Patel not to sign the extradition order.
Rt. Hon Helen Clark said ‘you do wonder when the hatchet can be buried with Assange, and not buried in his head by the way?. . . ‘The real issue really is the activities they were exposing, not their actions of exposure.’
Ó Branáin says ‘Australia and New Zealand should call on our allies the US and UK, to end this perilous persecution of a South Pacific journalist, and bring Julian home.’