January 4, in front of the British Central Criminal Court on Old Bailey Street in London, hundreds of loyal supporters of Julian Assange shouted slogans in front of more than a dozen international media reporters: “Freedom! Freedom!” Release Assange immediately!” From time to time, supporters held signs and posters to the entrance of the court to demonstrate, and then were dragged out of the scene one by one by the police.
This is a day that determines Assange’s fate. For the past decade, Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been subjected to judicial persecution in Sweden, the United Kingdom and other European countries.
Since June 2012, Assange first sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom. After hiding there for seven years, in April 2019, British police dragged Assange out of the embassy and sent him to Belmarsh Prison in London, where severe prisoners are held. Since then, the United States has accelerated Assange’s extradition, and the United States and Britain have cooperated on this without concealment.
Assange’s health worsened in Britain’s felon prisons, lack of sunlight and fresh air, insufficient medical treatment and medicine, lack of exercise space and nutritious food.
After more than an hour of trial on the morning of January 4, Judge Vanessa Baraitser finally refused to extradite Assange to the United States on the grounds that Assange was melancholy and desperate, and extradition might lead to his suicide. The judge cited the experience of Chelsea Manning, a co-inspect related to the Assange case, who attempted suicide in the Alexandria detention center in the United States, and worried that poor prison conditions in the United States would affect Assange’s mental health.
Outside the courtroom, some supporters were rejoiced and even shed tears when they heard the news, and such reasons did not completely close the Assange case. After the trial, Assange was sent back to prison without personal freedom.
Assange’s partner and mother of two, Stella Morrison, delivered a public speech outside the courtroom: “I thought Julian would come home today. He didn’t come back, but I believe that day will come. While Julian was still suffering in Belmars prison, we could not celebrate this day when his children had to be separated from their father. We will celebrate the day he gets home.
Christina, Assange’s mother, said on social media: “It will not be completely over until Assange can return home and all cases are withdrawn. We have had ten years of pain and I wish I would hug him as tightly as ten years ago.”
None of the members of the ruling party in Britain have come forward to speak out about the Assange case, and politicians who usually like to dict other countries on human rights issues are basically deaf and dumb. The only one who spoke out among left-wing politicians was Jeremy Corbin, the former leader of the British opposition Labour Party, who said: “The British refusal to extradite Assange to the United States is good news. The extradition is an attack on freedom of the press. We should also be wary that the judge accepted those extradition grounds put forward by the United States, which threaten our freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Assange should be released immediately.
Christine Lafson, Assange’s colleague and a famous Icelandic investigative journalist and successor to Assange as the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said outside the court: “The outcome of this trial is only Assange’s personal victory, not the victory of the journalistic industry. The U.S. government should stop the extradition appeal and release A. Sange.”
It is worth mentioning that, like Assange, what happened in Radisson’s career also explained what freedom of the press in the West is. During his time as an investigative journalist in Iceland, he discussed a corruption case of an Icelandic financial institution on live television. The live broadcast was interrupted on the spot, he was fired, and his second job was terminated.
During the decade when Assange lost his freedom, Lachson succeeded Assange as the spokesperson and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. Especially in 2015, even though Assange lost his freedom in Ecuadorian embassy, with the help of colleagues, WikiLeaks still released a private email from Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate of the United States.
On the afternoon of January 4, Mexican President López Obrador publicly promised in a televised speech that Mexico would provide Assange with political asylum. This is the strongest solidarity from the international community. Even though Assange was still trapped at that moment, the statement of the Mexican President represents a country and shows the attitude of a big North American country.
Assange’s fate remains unpredictable as the Assange case will hold a bail hearing on Wednesday (6th), and the United States will also take action on appeal over the next two weeks. As a journalist in Western society, he became one of the number one enemies of the United States when he and his “WikiLeaks” created made the war crimes of the United States and NATO allies public. Assange’s supporters said that it was those who committed war crimes most to be brought to justice, not the whistleblower who exposed it.
Assange incident timetable
In April 2010, WikiLeaks published a series of war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan; in August, the Swedish police investigated Assange in two allegations of rape and sexual harassment, and Assange denied all the charges; in November, Sweden asked for Assange to be wanted through Interpol; in December, Assange surrendered to the London Police and was released on bail.
In May 2012, the British High Court ruled that Assange should be extradited to Sweden; in June, Assange sought political asylum from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain; and in August, Ecuador agreed to provide Assange with political asylum.
In May 2016, Swedish prosecutors withdrew all charges against Assange, but the British still issued an arrest warrant against Assange for not appearing in court.
In April 2019, British police broke into the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrested Assange.
In February 2020, The Lancet published an open letter from 117 doctors demanding an end to the incarceration and medical abuse of Assange.