UK Should Be 'Scared to Death' of Assange Extradition Over Public Backlash - Politician

© REUTERS / Charles PlatiauProtesters hold signs demanding freedom for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in front of the Opera Garnier in Paris, France, 17 February 2020.
Protesters hold signs demanding freedom for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in front of the Opera Garnier in Paris, France, 17 February 2020. - Sputnik International
LONDON (Sputnik) - The UK government should be "scared to death" of a popular uproar over its treatment of the imprisoned founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, especially in the event of him being extradited to face espionage charges in the United States, Chris Marsden, the national secretary of the UK Socialist Equality Party, said.

The remarks come amid Assange's extradition hearing that started on Monday at Woolwich Crown Court in the UK capital of London. Earlier in the day, dozens of WikiLeaks supporters gathered outside the court, carrying banners with messages such as "Don’t Extradite Assange" and "The Truth Will Win."

According to Marsden, the accusations against Assange were effectively a "frame up" arguably motivated by Washington's desire to punish the whistleblower for his role in the publishing of materials implicating US forces in possible war crimes.

"This is the trial of the century. It's an attempt to rail-road into prison a heroic figure who has exposed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and is now being framed up on espionage charges which will ensure he never sees the light of day again ... They should be scared to death of sending him to America because of the ferocity of the public response," the politician said during a protest outside Woolwich Magistrates Court.

According to Marsden, everyone knows that it is a show trial, but the intent of those protesting near the court is to put maximum pressure on the state apparatus to ensure Assange's freedom.

"Now the issue is going to be fought out in court, the eye's of the world are on these proceedings, and the more the truth comes out the more opinion will be polarized and the greater the possibility of a mass mobilization in defense of Julian Assange," he added.

Woolwich Magistrates Court was otherwise sealed off to members of the public, with protesters confined to a demonstration at the gates close to Belmarsh prison, where Assange has been incarcerated since last September. Several activists had also pitched tents and camped out during the night, being later joined by political activists from multiple countries, including members of the yellow vest movement in France.

Joe Brack of the Julian Assange Defense Committee said that he had decided to make camp outside of court precisely due to such "occupations" being an effective method of protest following similar actions during last summer's sizable demonstrations from the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion.

Brack also argued that the Assange case had likely become a source of stress for the UK government, especially given that it may potentially involve a situation where Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have to balance the opinion of the UK public with the demands of the US government.

"This has gone totally global and it's a disgrace for any justice system to be involved in this kind of process for the US. I know for a fact that in the Home Office there's a lot of panic, their reputation is being trashed by the business of this extradition," he said.

Jim Curran, chairman of the Irish Civil Rights Association, said outside of court that the amount of attention now being given to Assange's situation was proving a headache for both the UK and US governments, especially within the context of respecting both freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.

Woolwich Crown Court/ Belmarsh Magistrates' Court  Assange Hearing 24 February 2020 - Sputnik International
Assange Hearing: Prosecution Claims WikiLeaks Publisher Isn't Wanted for Revealing War Crimes

Assange is currently being sought by the United States for extradition to face multiple charges of espionage following the 2010 leak of classified materials relating to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If convicted in the United States, Assange could face a prison term of up to 170 years. The ongoing initial court hearing will likely continue for the rest of the week, with a second hearing set for May.

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