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Belmarsh prison refuses permission for Julian Assange to participate in European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize award

PRESS RELEASE

Belmarsh prison authorities have refused permission for Julian Assange to participate via video link in meetings and press conferences taking place this week during the plenary of the European Parliament.

The events have been arranged by EU politicians from across the political spectrum to discuss his imprisonment and prosecution, following his selection as a finalist in this year’s Sakharov Prize, the European Union’s premier human rights/freedom of thought award, which goes to an individual or group who has dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights.

Julian Assange’s wife, Stella, will be attending the European Union’s Sakharov Prize ceremony on his behalf, following an invitation by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Julian Assange remains in custody at the UK’s maximum security Belmarsh prison in South London where he has been held since his arrest on April 11th, 2019. He is charged in the United States in relation to WikiLeaks’ publication of information about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and torture and rendition programs in 2010. He faces a 175-year sentence.

Belmarsh prison’s governor declined written requests from EU parliamentarians and political groups requesting Mr. Assange’s presence over video link. The governor wrote that, “having sought policy advice on the matter”, the requests for Mr. Assange’s participation had been rejected because the European Parliament and its Parliamentarians do “not fall under the list of official visitors”.

More than 40 MEPs nominated Julian Assange for this year’s Sakharov Prize, which was awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko. Last year’s prize was awarded to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Stella Assange said: “Julian’s nomination is testament to the support he has from human rights groups around the world as well as the recognition of his life’s work for peace and justice”.

Stella Assange will take part in the European Parliament plenary session’s meetings and press engagements in connection with the Sakharov Prize of 2022. She will take part in a press seminar on Tuesday 13th December Strasbourg 9.30am CET, and a further press conference at 17:00 CET, and is expected to deliver a message on behalf of Julian Assange.

At 9.30 CET on Tuesday 13th December Mrs Assange will appear on a panel alongside Vice-President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautalaa; and Francisco de Roux, who represents The Truth Commission in Colombia, also a finalist of this year’s Sakharov prize, The moderator is Raffaella De Marte, Head of the Media Services Unit in the European Parliament’s Directorate for Communication.

Web-Stream: https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/webstreaming/press-seminar-on-sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought_20221213-0930-SPECIAL-SEMINAR

There are currently 127 journalists from European media registered to attend – others are able to follow and ask questions remotely via the web-stream beginning at 9.30am CET

Last week, almost two dozen Human Rights and Free Press groups urged the end of Julian Assange’s prosecution, noting that ‘The U.S. prosecution of Assange undermines the country’s ability to defend journalists against repression by authoritarian and other rights-abusing regimes abroad’

Last month, the editors and publishers of Le Monde, El País, Der Spiegel, The New York Times and The Guardian called for his immediate release https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/nov/28/media-groups-urge-us-drop-julian-assange-charges

All major Human Rights, Media, Free Speech & Civil Liberties organizations oppose the extradition attempts against the WikiLeaks publisher who faces a 175year sentence if extradited to the US for his publishing work.

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