“Free Assange!” Protests against the arrest of the Wikileaks founder continued

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More than 900 kilometers lie between Julian Assange in his London prison and the supporters who gathered with umbrellas on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz on Sunday. And yet the demonstrators have a short line to the Wikileaks founder: Stella Morris, Assange’s partner and mother of his children, waves from a screen. She is connected from England.

“In a democracy it shouldn’t happen that a journalist is in jail,” says Morris. Loud cheers among the protesters in Stuttgart – the case moves people all over the world.

It is less than a month before the British judiciary is ready to announce how things will go with Assange. The 49-year-old has been in London’s maximum security prison at Belmarsh for around a year and a half. The Old Bailey Court has been negotiating for months whether he can be extradited to the United States.

The US government accuses Assange of helping whistleblower Chelsea Manning to publish classified material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wikileaks revelations led to the exposure of war crimes by US soldiers. Assange is strongly opposed to his extradition, as do many of his supporters in England who persistently protest in front of the court. January 4th is the day of the decision.

“I call on the British government to enter into dialogue with the USA and Australia and to find a solution,” said Morris in the video link on Sunday. An extradition and conviction of the Wikileaks founder could mean “serious consequences for the work of journalists all over the world”.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden called on US President Donald Trump a few days ago to pardon the Wikileaks founder shortly before the end of his term in office. “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of grace during your term of office: Please give Julian Assange back his freedom,” wrote the former CIA employee, who is now in exile in Russia, on Twitter.

Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 for fear of extradition to the USA. At that time there was a European arrest warrant against him on charges of rape in Sweden. The investigation has since been discontinued. The British police arrested him in April 2019 for violating bail conditions by escaping to the embassy. He was sentenced to just under a year in prison. Actually, the time has long passed – but the process has been delayed again and again.

The process aroused a lot of criticism not only because of its duration: Quite a number of representatives from non-governmental organizations and many press representatives were not allowed into the courtroom, officially due to Corona. A video transmission set up instead was not available to everyone or only transmitted the events in fragments.

If convicted on all counts, there is a risk of up to 175 years in prison. Several lawyers recently issued an open letter to the UK government warning that Assange was not facing a fair trial in the US. After a conviction in the USA, the country wanted to lock him up under special conditions – without any contact with the outside world, warned Morris. They wanted to “bury their children’s father alive” with it.


(jk)

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