28 June 2021
In an unprecedented move MP Richard Burgon will be handing in a cross-party letter to UK’s high-security Belmarsh prison on Tuesday 29 June to raise the prison and Justice Secretary’s ongoing refusal to allow a meeting with Julian Assange.
A large cross party group of MPs have repeatedly raised their request to be briefed by Assange with the prison governor and the Justice Secretary without success. Now they are taking the demand to the gates of the prison.
Richard Burgon MP, who coordinated the letter from 20 parliamentarians from 4 parties said:
“Julian Assange’s case has huge implications for press freedoms in the UK and for the US-UK Extradition Treaty
“It’s in the public interest that British Parliamentarians are able to discuss these issues with Julian Assange.
“That the authorities have repeatedly stopped an online meeting going ahead speaks volumes.
“The Justice Secretary and Prison Governor must now put a stop to their intransigence and allow it to go ahead without further delay”
They will meet Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, as she emerges from a social visit at 11:30am and will hand in a letter to the prison governor highlighting that COVID restrictions are eased now inside the prison.
The letter says:
We are deeply concerned by the ongoing refusal of you and the Justice Secretary to allow an online video meeting between Julian Assange and a cross-party group of British parliamentarians.
As you know Julian Assange is currently on remand in HMP Belmarsh, not for the violation of any UK law, but over extradition to the USA for his journalistic work carried out in the UK at the invitation of The Guardian and published in numerous leading newspapers worldwide.
In the US, Julian Assange faces a prison sentence of up to 175 years, meaning he could spend the rest of his life in jail.
This case has important implications for press and publishing freedoms in the UK and for the US-UK Extradition Treaty including its ban on extradition for political offences.
We, therefore, believe it is vital that parliamentarians be allowed to discuss these important issues with interested parties. We are not making this request as private citizens but as British Parliamentarians deeply concerned by the potential consequences of this high-profile case.
This could be permitted under the rules for Official Visits which state that there can be visits from “public officials whom the Governor permits to visit”.
A cross-party group of parliamentarians first requested an online meeting in December 2020. It is simply unacceptable that six months on this simple request continues to be met with such intransigence.
You have the authority to grant such a meeting and we call on you to facilitate an online meeting without further delay.
Richard Burgon MP
Diane Abbott MP
Baroness Christine Blower
Ian Byrne MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Lord Bryn Davies
Neale Hanvey MP
Lord John Hendy
Ian Lavery MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Kenny MacAskill MP
John McDonnell MP
Ian Mearns MP
Grahame Morris MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
Lord Prem Sikka
Zarah Sultana MP
Claudia Webbe MP
Mick Whitley MP