Assange: Extradition hearings, freedom and democracy

The proposed extradition of Julian Assange
The extradition hearing for Julian Assange continues in London. Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh Prison, a category A jail on the outskirts of London, where men convicted of terrorism offences are held. He has limited access to his legal counsel, relegated to sit behind a glass window in the dock. For Assange and his family, the situation is dire. 


You can follow the hearing extradition updates, through the writings of Historian, Former Ambassador and Human Rights Activist, Craig Murray, 'Your Man in the Public Gallery', HERE.

Murray feels that the only possible conclusion from recent testimony (on 22nd September), is that 'the performance of the representative of the United States Government was, in and of itself, full and sufficient evidence that there is no possibility that Julian Assange will receive fair consideration and treatment of his mental health issues within the United States system. The US government has just demonstrated that to us, in open court, to perfection.'

Public support for Assange
Every week day at Sydney's Town Hall from 4-6pm, Assange supporters hold a vigil/demonstration calling to "Free Julian Assange". For the past 43 weeks, supporters have gathered every Friday, but as momentum builds at the Old Bailey, so too supporters have ramped up their vigil to every weekday until the extradition trial ends in the UK. NSWCCL members/supporters have been invited to take part to show solidarity.

Numerous online petitions are circulating to Free Assange, Stop the Extradition and Bring Assange Home. A petition started by Brisbane resident Philip Adams in 2019, now has almost 525,000 signatures. 

A great number of notable journalists have spoken in support of Assange and confirmed what is at stake for free speech and for journalists across the world. Quentin Dempster notes;

'All the issues that so concern us about our democratic freedoms in this the age of pandemic, terror and mass cyber surveillance, and now,  additionally with a heightened fear of war: with China, with North Korea, with Iran, with Russia, are being tested through the extradition proceedings against Julian Paul Assange... And if at the Old Bailey, Julian Assange is extradited to the United States to be jailed for life for informing us about war crimes, misjudgements, incompetence and atrocities, we democracies will be destroying our own professed values.'

Bringing allies from across the spectrum together, the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group is chaired by Andrew Wilkie MP and George Christensen MP. Andrew Wilke states, "If we want to guarantee every Australian the right to a fair trial, and every journalist the right to report official misconduct, we must oppose this extradition and allow Assange to return to Australia." The Australian Assange campaign has a tool to help you write to your Federal Member to request their support for this Parliamentary group. 

NSWCCL advocacy for Assange
As we noted in April 2019, after Assange was arrested, the prosecution of Assange poses a threat to other journalists who encourage sources to leak information, and then help them protect their anonymity. In addition to the life of an Australian journalist, there is a great deal at stake.

In March this year, NSWCCL wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a public letter copied to all Members of Parliament.

NSWCCL calls on the Australian Government to intervene to protect the rights of Julian Assange who is facing the increasingly likely prospect of his extradition to the USA to face trial on 17 offences under the Espionage Act 1917 and one ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’ charge and almost certain incarceration in a high security prison for the rest of his life.

Assange’s current position is desperate and dangerous. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised. He is imprisoned in a high security London gaol with limited capacity to communicate with his legal team. His extradition proceedings in London give the appearance of bias and an almost certainly predetermined outcome. It appears that he has been, and will continue to be, unfairly treated within UK courts. If he is extradited to the USA, he will face charges which will cumulatively expose him to 175 years’ imprisonment.

The treatment of Assange by the US and the UK governments since 2010 has been unjust, cruel and clearly politically motivated. 

We also attended the Free Assange Rally in Sydney in February 2020, where Dr Lesley Lynch, Convenor of our National Security and Counter-Terrorism Action Group, spoke alongside journalists, activists and supporting organisations calling for an end to Assange's detainment and his return to Australia. 

Dr Lynch pointed out that in 2013, at the NSWCCL AGM, we formally recognised Assange (and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden) as "courageous, global champions of democracy who have made, at great personal cost, extraordinary contributions to civil society by challenging the excessive secrecy of the state".

We condemned 'the unprecedented and ferocious attack on and relentless pursuit by the USA and other states of Assange and Manning and Snowdon as traitors and spies'. We noted: 'These attacks pose a global threat to the capacity of a free press to inform the people - and to the citizens’ right to know what governments are doing in their name.'

*In June 2017, Australian citizen James Ricketson, was sentenced to six years in prison in Cambodia for espionage. The Australian government intervened in Ricketson's case when it became clear, on the basis of evidence presented in court, that Ricketson was not a spy, but a filmmaker and journalist.

James has himself written to the 'Members of the Australian Parliament' urging them to speak out in support of Assange - 'If you believe that Assange is not a spy, will you speak out, as some of your fellow parliamentarians have?'