Assange Should be Hailed, Not Jailed, Says Corbyn at US Extradition Appeal
14:18 GMT 28.10.2021 (Updated: 14:38 GMT 28.10.2021)
Julian Assange could spend the rest of his life in jail if extradited to the US on charges related to Wikileaks' publication of evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. His barrister argues that would put him at risk of suicide.
Jeremy Corbyn has said Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be "hailed" for exposing war crimes and state snooping — not jailed in the US
The former Labour Party leader
spoke at a protest outside the High Court in London on Thursday, where Assange's legal team were opposing an appeal
by the US government against a magistrate's decision to deny his extradition to the US on espionage charges.
"He's committed no crime, and he's in a maximum security prison", Corbyn said.
"If he [was] moved to the United States, he may well, because of his mental health condition, take his own life", the veteran politician stressed.
"That is what we have done to this person who told us the truth, the truth about Afghanistan, the truth about Iraq, the truth about surveillance and revealed the incredible levels of secret power held by the United States and indeed many other governments around the world".
Assange has been held in the ultra high-security Belmarsh prison in south London, where terrorist suspects and convicts are commonly jailed, since April 2019. He appeared by a video link from the prison on the first day of the appeal hearing on Wednesday.
The journalist's fiancée and mother of his two children Stella Moris said this week she had become even more concerned about his health after visiting him in Belmarsh, where he appeared emaciated.
Assange's barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC argued that rendering him to the US would worsen his already-damaged mental health and put him at risk of suicide.
Assange was arrested on 2 April 2019 after Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno revoked the political asylum status granted to the journalist in 2012 by his predecessor Rafael Correa's government, and evicted him from its embassy in the capital's wealthy Knightsbridge.
He was convicted of breaching his bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge at the embassy while awaiting extradition to Sweden on charges of rape, which have since been dropped. Assange's lawyers argued that the Swedish request was a ruse to get him into a jurisdiction from which extradition to the US would be easier.
"In a different country he would be hailed as a whistle-blower who told the truth about the dangers we are all facing, the dangers the whole world is facing", Corbyn said.
"I think we should bear witness to Julian's bravery and his determination and demand two things: one that he's not removed under any circumstances to the United States, and secondly that he be released from Belmarsh so he can continue his life with his partner, with his children".
If extradited to the US, Assange faces trial on charges that could see him spend the rest of his life in prison. The allegations stem from Wikileaks' publication of evidence of war crimes by US forces leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning over a decade ago.
The US Department of Justice, represented at the hearing by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has offered assurances that he could serve any sentence in his native Australia.
Corbyn was suspended from his party
last year on the orders of his successor Sir Keir Starmer — a former head of the CPS — after he defended the party from anti-Semitism allegations.