Julian Assange still awaits his legal appeal against extradition to the United States to face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. He has already spent nearly four years languishing in London’s high security Belmarsh Prison. Meanwhile, leading free press and human rights advocates gathered in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Friday 20 January for the fourth sitting of the Belmarsh Tribunal, where they called on U.S. President Joe Biden to drop all charges against the WikiLeaks publisher, see: https://consortiumnews.com/2023/01/20/watch-belmarsh-tribunal-on-assange/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=13fbd786-ba3c-4e4a-ba7f-1d641cc57ba0
Tribunal participants were meeting in the National Press Club, where in 2010 Assange exposed leaked secret military documents as well as the “collateral murder” video showing US aircrew killing unarmed Iraqi civilians including two Reuters news staff in 2007: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-usa-journalists-idUSTRE6344FW20100406. Speakers included Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, U.S. academic Noam Chomsky, former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, former Assange lawyer Renata Ávila, human rights attorney Steven Donziger, Julian’s father John Shipton, and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.
“One of the foundation stones of our form of government here in the United States… is our First Amendment to the Constitution,” Ellsberg said in a recorded message.
“Up until Assange’s indictment, the [Espionage] Act had never been used… against a journalist like Assange,” Ellsberg added. “If you’re going to use the Act against a journalist in a blatant violation of the First Amendment… the First Amendment is essentially gone.”
Independent MP Jeremy Corbyn told the tribunal that the continued prosecution of Julian Assange would make all journalists afraid to reveal secrets. He gave a stark warming: “If Julian Assange ends up in a maximum security prison in the United States for the rest of his life, every other journalist around the world will think, ‘Should I really report this information I’ve been given? Should I really speak out about this denial of human rights or miscarriage of justice in any country?’”
John Shipton condemned his son’s “ceaseless malicious abuse”, including the conditions in which he is held in Belmarsh Prison. He said the UK’s handling of the case was “an embarrassment” that damaged the country’s claim to stand for free speech and the rule of law.
Inspired by the Russell-Sartre Tribunals of the Vietnam War, the Belmarsh Tribunal brings together a range of expert witnesses — from constitutional lawyers, to acclaimed journalists and human rights defenders — to present evidence of this attack on the freedom of the press and to seek justice for the crimes they expose, see: https://jacobin.com/2014/08/anatomy-of-a-war .