The High Court in London on Friday 10th December 2021 allowed the United States appeal to reverse an order not to extradite imprisoned Australian publisher, journalist and co-founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
The matter is now in the hands of the Justice Secretary but Mr Assange is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. Assuming he loses there (and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales was one of the judges who heard the appeal in the High Court albeit they made their decision on one ground only) the case will presumably go to the European Court of Human Rights unless Mr Assange dies in the meantime. (Assange had a minor stroke in Belmarsh Prison on 27th October.)
There are those, like me, who admire Julian Assange and the work of Wikileaks and those, including people on the left or who are part of the anti-war movement, globally, who don’t either because they just don’t like Assange or because they blame Wikileaks for releasing information that they claim damaged Hilary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 US Presidential election. The issue, however, is not about Assange’s likeability or whether he helped Trump win in 2016 but about justice and freedom of the press.
Everyone is entitled to justice and, until recently, most people living in the Western democracies felt that the latter respected freedom of the press. Not in Britain or the US though or in Australia either, whose Government has refused to intervene to end this immense scandal. That is frustrating for Assange’s supporters because the Australian PM, Scott Morrison, has the key to Assange’s jail cell in his pocket. One phone call from Morrison to President Biden and Assange’s nightmare would be over.
Pressure is mounting in Australia for the Government there to intervene. No less a person than the Australian Foreign Minister, who says he is no fan of Assange, several members of the Australian Parliament and the former Director of Military Prosecutions in Australia, who, likewise, says he is no fan of Assange, have called for Assange’s release.
If he is not released, the prospects for his health are not great but they would be grim if he was sent to the US.
The future of press freedom would also be greatly undermined if the US and the UK were successful (with the silent connivance of Australia) in punishing a journalist for exposing illegal and criminal acts committed by the US and allied countries in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. It is essential that the media comes out in force in support of Assange.
Sadly, the media in the Republic (despite its liberal protestations) has not done so.
Michael Clarke, Free Assange Ireland, Dublin
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