Why the World Needs Julian Assange’s Freedom

By Alejandra Garcia on February 20, 2024

Stella Assange calling for her husband’s freedom outside the High Court in London. photo: EPA

Australian journalist Julian Assange is living a decisive week in the United Kingdom as legal efforts are being exhausted to avoid his extradition to the United States, where he could face life imprisonment. The health of the Wikileaks founder, responsible for publishing war crimes perpetuated by Washington in Iraq and Afghanistan, has deteriorated to the extreme. At the same time, he suffers from a constant routine of psychological and physical mistreatment, and his extradition would be potentially lethal.

His appearance is that of a deteriorating older person and not a 52-year-old man, and is the consequence of more than two decades of political persecution and brutal prison conditions. His frail physical and mental health did not allow him to attend the High Court in London, which began a two-day hearing to give the final word on his case. Although Assange will not appear in court in person, he is expected to do so via video call live from Belmarsh Prison.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Adam Johnson will review the extradition ruling at the request of the journalist’s defense, and it is possible they may decide immediately or postpone their decision which would be a continuation of the cruelty. Let’s recall that Sharp was the same judge who ruled in favor of Assange in a lengthy opinion that stopped his extradition to the United States on health grounds and risk of suicide in 2021.

The circumstances have not changed. “If Julian is extradited to the United States, he will die,” Assange’s activist wife and defense lawyer, Stella Assange, asserted during a press conference in London with current WikiLeaks director Kristinn Hrafnsson. “This is Julian’s final appeal. If he loses this round, it will be the end the road in the UK courts. There is no possibility of appeal. He will try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), but the British government will try to extradite him,” she said.

Assange’s family and colleagues are not alone. Dozens of protesters have gathered outside London’s Royal Courts of Justice for the opening debate of his two-day legal battle. The group, who had gathered in the area, turned out with megaphones and banners reading “Freedom For Assange” early Tuesday morning. “We needed to be here today, it’s not only important for journalists but for everyone globally. The world needs Julian Assange free,” Sadia Kokni, a protester, told local media.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted in the U.S. over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In July 2010, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 military documents, making it the largest leak ever to shake the U.S. military. The secret papers revealed the military strategies of the war in Afghanistan and the number of civilian casualties it caused.

“The indictment is politically motivated. Assange exposed serious criminality. He is being prosecuted for engaging in the ordinary journalistic practice of obtaining and publishing classified information that is both true and of obvious and of significant public interest,” Assange’s lawyer, Ed Fitzgerald said.

This case represents one of the greatest dangers to investigative journalism and press freedom around the world today. Assange’s freedom would vindicate the rights he has been denied and remind us how much the world needs WikiLeaks. His freedom would vindicate freedom of information and communication in a permanently surveilled world. Really what Assange is guilty of is telling the truth and ripping the mask off of US imperialism brutality in in order to maintain its hegemony in the Middle East by any means necessary.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English