At a recent cross party meeting in parliament, David Davis MP for Haltemprice and Howden and former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union described the treatment of journalist Julian Assange as an “atrocious breach of natural justice”. He also expressed concern over Julian having any possibility of a fair trial. He suggested the United States was guilty of extending its remit over freedom of the press in the UK and of over-reach, calling Julian’s situation “an atrocious breach of human rights.” He went on to say – of the removal of first amendment rights (which guarantee freedom of expression) from Julian – “this is borderline racist – if you’re not American, you don’t get protections.” (https://www.nuj.org.uk/resource/assange-treatment-atrocious-breach-of-natural-justice-says-david-davis.html ). The meeting also heard from Stella Assange, partner of the incarcerated WikiLeaks journalist, Julian. She stressed the urgency around Julian’s situation as she outlined how time is fast running out to prevent her husband’s extradition to the US on national security and espionage charges, facing 175 years in prison.
“Julian’s legal avenues have reduced dramatically,” explained Stella, outlining line the current state of play facing “the world’s most famous political prisoner”. An application to appeal was rejected – by a single judge in a behind closed doors written judgement (reported in Yorkshire Bylines on 12 June (https://yorkshirebylines.co.uk/news/assange-a-step-closer-to-extradition-following-appeal-rejection/)). An appeal against this decision now sits with a panel of two judges, but a positive verdict would not of itself prevent extradition, only allow Julian’s arguments to be heard at the High Court.
“It’s very disturbing that it’s been shut down like this,” said Stella. “We hope the two-judge panel will reach a different conclusion, but if they don’t that is the end of domestic remedy. We would then go to the European Court of Human Rights. But we’re concerned the government may try to seize and extradite. Hopefully that’s unlikely but nevertheless it’s a real danger.”
Those attending including the meeting’s organiser, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon MP, were keen to explore any other useful avenues to bolster support for Julian Assange. Campaigners are preparing for an online virtual rally, as well as asking supporters to be ready to join physical protests outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Uncertainty around timings for the next steps have led the protest to be called ‘Day X’ (https://dontextraditeassange.com/day-x/) with a plea for supporters to be poised ready to join protests when the hearing date is announced.
At the end of June, Pope Francis granted Stella Assange and family members a private audience at the Vatican in Rome. While the contents of the meeting are confidential, Stella said she was very happy he had allowed the meeting to be publicised and that the Pope has shown continuing support, having first sent a message to Julian in Belmarsh in 2021 (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/jun/30/pope-francis-meeting-julian-assange-wife-stella).