On Thursday June 19, 2014, supporters of Julian Assange held a vigil outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge in London (just behind Harrods), which I attended and photographed.
Supporters of the WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief have been holding vigils almost every day since he walked into the embassy seeking political asylum on June 19, 2012. He feared that he would end up being extradited to the US from Sweden, where he is accused of sexual offences (claims which he denies), and his asylum claim was accepted by the government of Ecuador on August 16, 2012.
WikiLeaks’ work, exposing US crimes through documents released by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning — including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files — has, of course, been enormously influential, and I am pleased to have worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of the classified military files from Guantánamo in April 2011. For further information, see my ongoing project to analyze all the files.
To mark the anniversary, Julian Assange released the following statement (I have added the links at the end):
It is great to see people out to mark the 2nd year of all this.
The last 730 days have been intense, and the knowledge of your support — the daily vigils and the big rallies — have been really heartening to me. Thank you!
Truth has a habit of reasserting itself. It asserts itself in our resolve and our commitment. It may have been possible at one time to ignore the truth about why I am unable to leave this embassy.
We will see an end to this siege. But we will only see it when the US government, the UK government and the Swedish government, and other governments around the world follow Ecuador’s brave lead and commit to protecting WikiLeaks, its staff, and its sources, from unacceptable transgressions against freedom of expression.
I want to express my warm thanks to the government of Ecuador.
And now let’s take a moment to remember absent friends, and allies who are suffering for their beliefs and actions.
Remember their courage and conviction — not just this day, but every day.
Two years since Assange’s arrival at the embassy, there may finally be progress on his case. As the Guardian reported the day before the anniversary, Jen Robinson, his lawyer in the UK, “told reporters that the legal challenge, which is due to be lodged with Swedish courts next Tuesday, was based on ‘new information gathered in Sweden.'” However, she “declined to give any further details until the filing had been made.”
The WISE Up Action website explained that “UK law regarding extradition has changed since UK courts ruled that Julian must be extradited,” adding that “if Sweden’s extradition request was before a UK court now, he could only be extradited if charged” — which he has not been.
As the Guardian also noted, “Assange and his legal advisers have always protested that were he to cooperate with the British and Swedish authorities, he would expose himself to an ongoing criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice. The DoJ is known to have opened a grand jury investigation” into WikiLeaks’ release of the documents.
The day before the anniversary, Assange called on Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, to drop the investigation. “It is against the stated principles of the US, and, I believe, the values supported by its people to have a four-year criminal investigation against a publisher,” he said, adding, “The on-going existence of that investigation produces a chilling effect not just to internet-based publishers but to all publishers.”
See below for Jen Robinson talking about Assange’s case on Australia’s ABC News:
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
On Facebook, Bennett Hall wrote:
Reflecting on Gerry Conlon’s (RIP) recent passing at 60, and how egregiously long it took Britain to recognize this injustice, for which they finally apologized, I wonder how long it will take…
Thanks, Bennett, for the reminder about Gerry Conlon. I had seen the news about his death, but it is good to be reminded again. I recall that Moazzam Begg – now deprived of his liberty for the second time – spoke warmly to me about meeting Gerry. Here’s an interview Yvonne Ridley did with him for Cageprisoners in 2010:
Eric Schwing wrote:
End the Fascist Western War against the truth, whistleblowers, journalists, who expose these criminals, Fascist thugs, Fascist appeasers!!!
Thanks for the stirring words, Eric!
You may have seen that Julian Assange’s case is in the news again. Swedish prosecutors have changed their position as to whether they needed to have him extradited to Sweden for an interview. They announced today they are prepared to travel to the UK to interview him in the embassy.
I was just thinking of Mr Assange yesterday, after reading about a surprising verdict from a Swedish court. In that surprising verdict a 28 year old man who had sexual relations with a thirteen year old was acquitted when the man’s Defence convinced the court she looked older than thirteen. The age of consent in Sweden is fifteen.
I was struck by how backward this verdict seemed, when compared to the allegations against Mr Assange. A decade or two from now I think public sentiment will have changed so that what Mr Assange is accused of doing will be a crime in the UK, and the rest of the EU, and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
If I understand what he is alleged to have done is to have deceived two Swedish lovers — both of whom agreed to have sexual relations with him, but both of whom thought they were his only current lover. When these women met, and realized they both thought he had no other lovers, they were upset. They were worried there might have been other lovers. They went to the Police to inquire as to whether he could be compelled to submit to a test for venereal disease.
I think I agree with the sentiment behind the Swedish law, over the importance of truly informed consent. I think Mr Assange should have informed himself more fully of the different interpretations of what was and wasn’t legal in Sweden, and should have complied with Swedish law.
I wish the press reporting on Mr Assange didn’t conflate what he is alleged to have done with rape or with what counts as sexual assault in countries where lying about being unfaithful is not a crime.
Anyhow, the CBC implied Sweden may drop the extradition request. They might drop the extradition request because they are satisfied with the answers he gives Swedish prosecutors in the embassy. They might drop the extradition request because there is a time limit of sometime this summer on how long they can wait on a charge.
The CBC report said that posting police officers outside the embassy, to arrest Assange has been extremely expensive. The figure of 20 million was mentioned. But I don’t recall if that was 20 million pounds or 20 million dollars. And I don’t recall if that was per year, or cumulative.
I am sure it will be a relief for embassy staff. The embassy that is hosting him is merely an apartment sized suite in a much larger embassy of another South American country. So, even if that embassy had less than half a dozen staff members, hosting him must have resulted in considerable inconvenience.
Thanks for your thoughts. I think it can only be good for justice for Swedish investigators to come to the Embassy in London to interview Julian. It has always seemed feasible to me that he would be extradited to the US if he was sent to Sweden, which doesn’t seem appropriate. However, if there are genuine charges to be answered to with regard to his activities in Sweden, then that must also take place. Perhaps this is a good compromise.
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