By Eddie McCabe
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can now, and likely will, be extradited to the US following a High Court ruling in the UK last week. If Assange loses his appeal his fate will rest with Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel, which essentially means his extradition is assured.
Ironically, this judgment, which relates to a case that has profound implications for freedom of the press globally, was announced on International Human Rights Day. The High Court ruling overturned a magistrates’ court decision from January 2021 which denied the US demand for extradition due to concerns over Assange’s mental wellbeing and suicide risk.
Facing a possible 175-year sentence in the US for charges of conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, charges which are both outrageous and baseless, could make anyone a suicide risk. For someone who spent seven years in tiny confines in the Ecuadorian embassy before being detained in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison – without having been convicted of anything – this is already a reality for Assange.
A death sentence
Despite all this, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: “That [suicide] risk is in our judgment excluded by the assurances which are offered [by the US].”
These assurances were described by Assange’s lawyers as “vague” and “meaningless”. According to Amnesty International, they amount to saying:
“We guarantee that he won’t be held in a maximum security facility and he will not be subjected to Special Administrative Measures and he will get healthcare. But if he does something that we don’t like, we reserve the right to not guarantee him, we reserve the right to put him in a maximum security facility, we reserve the right to offer him Special Administrative Measures. Those are not assurances at all.”
More to the point they come from a US state which has pursued a vicious political vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks since its 2010 publication of hundreds of thousands of documents exposing war crimes by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As recently as September 2021, a major Yahoo News investigation uncovered that “discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred ‘at the highest levels’”, with senior CIA and Trump administration officials “going so far as to request ‘sketches’ or ‘options’ for how to assassinate him.” Of course none of this documented evidence was considered by the High Court judges, whose ruling in reality amounts to a death sentence, one way or another.
The threat to Assange’s health and indeed his life is indisputable, and in that sense the High Court ruling is a travesty. However, the truth is that Assange should be released regardless of this threat, but rather because the crimes he is accused of by the US are a dangerous attack on democratic rights and journalistic freedom.
The hypocrisy of US imperialism (whether headed by a Trump or a Biden), which shamelessly promotes itself as a defender of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, is on full display in this case. Likewise for its British and Australian counterparts – all allies in the new Cold War with Chinese imperialism – which are prepared to suppress the right to a free press to assist the US in its persecution of WikiLeaks, and its warmongering generally.
Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning did a valuable service for the working class and oppressed of the world by leaking documents that laid bare the murderous savagery of the US war machine. This, and any work WikiLeaks continues to do that unveils the criminal activity of powerful states and institutions should be supported.
Let him go!
Assange himself has a murky past, including allegations of rape and sexual assault by two women in Sweden, the criminal cases for which have been dropped due to the time that has elapsed. Those women have been denied justice, unable to pursue their cases against Assange which he should have faced. He also has extremely dodgy politics, e.g. indicating support for Putin and Trump at different points and meeting with the far-right populist Nigel Farage.
It’s not for the above that he is being targeted by the US state, however, but the threat that WikiLeaks poses to the secrecy that surrounds its imperialist ventures. Assange is no socialist, but we defend him against these attacks because they affect all those who oppose capitalist corruption and war. The charges against Assange should be dropped and he should be let go at once.