More than seven thousand people joined hands to form a human chain around the Palace of Westminster on Saturday to protest against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and demand his freedom. They linked arms outside parliament along Westminster Bridge over the River Thames and along the South Bank to Lambeth Bridge and back to the houses of parliament. The event was organised by the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign and was the biggest event of its kind in support of the WikiLeaks founder, who has won support from human rights organisations, journalist groups and others across the world.
Stella Assange, Julian’s wife told protestors, “Julian is suffering and part of the point of making this human chain was to show that what is happening here is not a legal process, it’s not a legitimate process. It is the instrumentalisation of the law in order to persecute a person, a journalist, in order to keep him in prison indefinitely. People around the world are witnessing this atrocity and that is what compels them to come here to show their solidarity, to show that they care about Julian. That they believe in justice, that they see what is happening here is a state that has committed crimes against innocent that is now committing crimes against a journalist who exposed those crimes they committed…”
Among the international protestors was International Federation of Journalists President Dominque Pradalié who joined NUJ members on the protest. Formerly the general secretary of France’s Syndicat National des Journalistes, Pradalié had travelled from Paris to join the demonstration and spoke of her fears for journalism if Assange was deported: https://www.nuj.org.uk/resource/ifj-president-joins-human-chain-for-assange.html
Comedian and actor Russell Brand and former Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremey Corbyn joined the protest along with fellow MPs Claudia Webbe (Leicester East) and John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) together with retired Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey.
Assange continues to held in Belmarsh maximum security prison in south east London where he has spent the last three years. The United States government is seeking his extradition under the 1917 Espionage Act for exposing the war crimes and human rights abuses. If convicted in the US he could face a possible prison sentence of 175 years.
In August Assange’s legal team launched an appeal against his extradition and the grounds on which the original case against his extradition were denied. The High Court must agree to hear Assange’s appeal before it can proceed. If this is rejected his legal team intends to pursue the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
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.
Just two days later the Press Association (PA) reported that Stella Assange reported that her husband has tested positive for Covid and faced days of isolation in his prison cell, She told the PA news agency she is concerned for his health, which has deteriorated since he was sent to Belmarsh prison three years ago after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London see: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/julian-assange-covid-positive-belmarsh-wikileaks-stella-wife-b1031460.html