20. 08. 2020
Assange faces 175 years in prison for “crime of journalism”
The partner of Julian Assange has today launched an appeal to crowdfund his fight against the US Government’s bid to extradite him over WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes and human rights abuses.
WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange has been held at HMP Belmarsh Prison for the past 16 months, ahead of his extradition hearing in September. He faces 175 years in a US prison if extradited.
Launching the appeal to fund his defence via the Crowdjustice platform, his partner Stella Moris, the mother of their two young children, said: “Julian is being targeted by the United States administration for the crime of journalism. He helped expose war crimes and human rights abuses which the US would have preferred to keep hidden from public view. He revealed the killing of unarmed civilians and the torture of innocent people. No-one has been held responsible for the serious crimes Julian has exposed. This extradition aims to entomb and silence him forever.
“This is a monumental legal case which is an attack on everyone’s right to know about scandals which politicians and governments want buried. If the US government is successful, the ramifications are unthinkable.
“It is a battle of David v Goliath and we can’t do this alone. We are calling on people everywhere to join us in this fight.
“All of Julian’s supporters recognise the responsibility placed upon us, and what is at stake. We are grateful to anyone who feels able to contribute. Even small amounts which might not feel significant from an individual will make a huge difference collectively.”
The US Government has conceded in court that no one was put at risk by any of WikiLeaks’ releases. Nonetheless, Mr Assange was charged by the Trump administration following the 2017 Presidential elections. The Obama administration maintained a long-held stance not to prosecute as it would lead to the prosecution of other newspapers and publications.
Mr. Assange has been accused under US laws which date back 100 years – during which time they have never previously been used to prosecute a publisher or journalist. The US legislation does not allow for a public interest defence.
Stella Moris added: “Julian is confined to his cell at least 23 hours a day. He has had no visitors since March. I cannot see him and nor can his two sons. It is very difficult for us as a family.
“His targeting by the US is about politics. It is a case brought by an administration that refers to the press and whistleblowers as the “enemy” and important news as ‘fake’.”
In April last year, Julian was charged with 18 counts relating to receiving and publishing government documents, for which he faces a sentence of 175 years. A few weeks ago, just as his lawyers were consolidating preparation for a three-week hearing of defence evidence in September, the prosecution announced it was changing the indictment, hoping to double the reach of its claims, though the charges remained the same.
Baltasar Garzon, who leads Mr. Assange’s international defence, said: “This is an unprecedented legal battle and so much is at stake.
“Despite the clear weakness of the core allegations, it triggers lots of important legal issues. Doing justice to Mr Assange’s defence, which on its factual and legal merits ought without question to succeed, is a vast undertaking.
“The legal team is having to do this with Julian, the most able person to contribute, locked away in prison.”
The full extradition hearing is due to begin on the 7th September 2020 at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) in London.
Mr Assange is represented by Gareth Peirce of Birnberg Peirce.
Supporters can donate via Crowdjustice here:
Julian Assange is charged by the US administration for publications exposing war crimes and human rights abuses for which he faces a 175 years sentence.
Julian Assange’s lawyers have experienced a considerable difficulty communicating with their client. Speaking at a recent hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said ‘We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him.’ Mr Fitzgerald continued: ‘We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.’
The UN working group on arbitrary detention issued a statement saying that “the right of Mr. Assange to personal liberty should be restored”.
Massimo Moratti of Amnesty International has publicly stated on their website that, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch published an article saying, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.