Protesters, including former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, have demanded the release of Julian Assange outside London’s High Court as a preliminary hearing concerning a US appeal to extradite the WikiLeaks co-founder begins.
Scores gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London on Wednesday morning as a legal challenge made by the US government reached Britain’s top magistrates. The appeal looks to overturn a January ruling which stated that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could not be extradited to the US.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among those present outside the court. He described Assange as a “great, fearless journalist” and demanded his freedom, adding that he and the other protesters would return time and time again to continue making their calls.
Corbyn said that people should always highlight the truth and that our freedoms come from people who have done this.
While talking to RT, he claimed that internet companies are often complicit with governments, adding, “That’s power.”
I think the internet issue is not a simple one; I want the freedom to be able to communicate with people and I don’t need to be moderated by Rupert Murdoch or any other global news corporation. But I do not want it to be populated by racist, abusive people.
Speaking shortly afterwards, Assange’s partner, Stella Moris told the gathered press that she had seen her fiancé in Belmarsh Prison on Tuesday. Moris said that Assange and herself were allowed to embrace for the first time in 17 months. “Julian has been denied the love and affection of his family for so long; Julian and the kids will never get this time back.”
Protesters held signs and banners aloft reading, “Free Assange NOW” and “FBI Witnesses Lied,” referencing a report that witness Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson admitted to an Icelandic newspaper that he fabricated his testimony to gain immunity. One person, seemingly dressed as the grim reaper, repetitively took a megaphone and demanded people look up ‘Thordarson lied’.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International called on US President Joe Biden to drop the charges against Assange, labelling them “politically motivated.”
“This attempt by the US government to get the court to reverse its decision not to allow Julian Assange’s extradition on the basis of new diplomatic assurances, is a blatant legal sleight of hand,” Amnesty International Europe Director Nils Muižnieks stated.
The WikiLeaks co-founder has been imprisoned at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, a maximum-security jail in London, since April 2019. His jailing started after the Ecuadorian government discontinued its offer of asylum; Assange had been holed up in the nation’s London embassy for seven years.
Assange has remained at the maximum-security prison despite the judge’s January ruling that he could not be removed to the US to face espionage and hacking charges because of mental health concerns.