Voices grow louder: ‘Free Julian Assange!’

By Otis Grotewohl
October 5, 2023

Australian journalist Julian Assange continues to face threats of extradition from U.S. officials, as he languishes inside the walls of the Belmarsh Prison in London. He has been confined there since 2019 and is facing charges under the Espionage Act.

From a 2022 protest in London.

As founder of Wikileaks, Assange helped expose U.S. war crimes in 2010 by releasing classified documents pertaining to the imperialist invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that major corporate news media published, including the New York Times. The leaks specified certain offenses, such as those involving torture, and they also uncovered covert operations the imperialist powers did not want revealed. Especially damning was a video of a U.S. helicopter attack that killed a dozen civilians in New Baghdad, Iraq.

The Swedish government issued a warrant for Assange’s arrest shortly after the documents were published, and the U.S. had a vicious vendetta against him.

Despite the continuous bullying, harassment and intimidation of the last three U.S. White House administrations, there is a massive international campaign demanding his release. Individuals and organizations of different political backgrounds from all over the world have called for Assange’s freedom.

Among Assange’s diverse crowd of defenders are Amnesty International, Pope Francis and representatives of the People’s Republic of China. At a daily press conference in Beijing in 2022, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson publicly stated that Assange should not “stand trial for telling people the truth.” (The Guardian, Sept. 5) Julian’s spouse Stella Moris Assange and his father John Shipton have also been actively lobbying for his release.

During the events at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York in September, Presidents Luiz Ignacio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil and Xiomara Castro of Honduras spoke out for Assange, calling on the U.S. and the West to stop the persecution of Assange and permit him to get back to his family, which includes two sons he has been unable to help bring up.

U.S. seeks revenge

A British high court judge denied Julian Assange’s permission to appeal the imperialists’ pursuit of extradition this past June. If extradited and convicted, Assange faces a 175-year sentence as a result of the 18-count indictment from the U.S. (BBC, Dec. 10, 2021)

Australian government officials of all political parties have come to Assange’s defense. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pushed back against U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments about the case during his visit to Australia in late July.

During a meeting with Australian lawmakers, Blinken boldly stated that Assange was accused of “very serious criminal conduct.” Albanese responded by stating, “This has gone on for too long. Enough is enough . . . We remain very firm in our view and our representations to the American government, and we will continue to do so.” (AP, Aug. 1)

On Sept. 20, a cross-party delegation of Australian lawmakers traveled to the United States to urge the Biden administration to drop charges against Assange. Earlier that month, 63 members of Australia’s House of Representatives and Senate signed a letter insisting the U.S. drop charges. (The Guardian, Sept. 13)

Assange’s courageous journalism is an embarrassment to U.S. imperialist leaders, especially President Joe Biden. As Delaware’s senior senator in the early 2000s, Biden was an enthusiastic proponent of the criminal 2001 and 2003 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Biden voted to give the George W. Bush administration free reign to wreak havoc and commit war crimes in those two countries.

There are a handful of Democratic representatives who have spoken out in Assange’s defense — Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Cori Bush (Missouri), Greg Casar (Texas), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts).

Despite the threats on Assange’s life, there is support from all around the world, and that brings his family some hope and optimism. People who defend Assange for leaking facts about U.S. war crimes outnumber the U.S. ruling class. History will show that those who support Assange are on the side of truth, peace and social justice.