The new book, In Defense of Julian Assange, was launched in the UK and details the story of the publisher and journalist who co-founded the transparency organisation WikiLeaks. Julian Assange currently faces extradition to the US for his role in publishing the Iraq War logs and Afghan War Diary which exposed alleged war crimes committed by US and UK forces.
John Pilger, one of the speakers at the event, says that Assange and WikiLeaks’s work represents:
“All the people whose lives were devastated in Iraq, the people whose lives were devastated in Afghanistan, and Yemen, all over the world, that WikiLeaks had told us so much about”.
He said that Assange’s case “is about understanding freedom” because it is “is a very vivid example" of what happens when the state robs people of their freedom. Assange faces a total of 175 years in prison for charges filed under the 1917 US Espionage Act, despite Assange not being a US citizen nor being based in the US.
“If they can come for Julian they can come for the rest of us, unless we stand up, speak, make sure our voices are heard,” Pilger says.
Meanwhile, according to the UN torture expert, Nils Melzer, Assange shows symptoms of “psychological torture”, and in an open letter signed by over[pdf, p1, 7] 60 medical professionals expressed grave concerns over his treatment by UK authorities and said that they feared for his life should authorities not immediately transfer him to a medical facility.
John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, told an attentive audience, that Assange had a ‘total invasion of privacy’ while in the Ecuadorian embassy (after the change of government in Ecuador). So much so that by the end even the women’s toilets were bugged because Assange and his lawyers would go there to speak in private.
Book is an ‘Attempt to Reach a Wider Audience’
Tariq Ali, historian and co-editor of the book, says the it is, “an attempt to reach a wider audience and convince them that you shouldn’t give up on Julian Assange”. He says the book breaks down the entire case involving Assange. He explained that the case was “much more important” than people realise and isn’t simply about “a single individual”. Ali said that Assange’s case reveals how the UK system is “beginning to function.”
He reveals that the last time he met Julian, right before he was transferred to Belmarsh prison, Assange said he had no hope in the judicial System and that his only chance was for UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to win the upcoming general election.
‘Public Opinion on Julian Assange ‘Went to Sleep’ Due to Media Reporting
During his speech Tariq Ali blasted the ‘liberal media’. He said that , “having used WikiLeaks and its revelations to boost their flagging circulations” by publishing “huge extracts from WikiLeaks” the refused to defend Assange. With the “honourable exception” of the Spanish publication El País.
He explained that this was a very important reason why, “as far as Julian Assange was concerned, public opinion went to sleep.”
The event ended with a ‘call to arms’ to “fight” and “resist” the extradition of Assange to the US.
The Swedish Preliminary Rape Investigation Was ‘Corrupted From the Beginning’
Lisa Longstaff, a spokesperson for Women Against Rape, also spoke at the book launch. She told attendees that both the female accusers and Assange, in the preliminary investigation for rape and sexual assault in Sweden, had been failed by British and Swedish authorities. Longstaff pointed out the UK had an “appalling” record of charging men for reported rape with the number dropping to “2.5% in the last four years”. “As early as 2010 we pointed out the unusual zeal with which Julian's assault was being pursued,” she said. “It's unlike any other rape investigation we've seen anywhere.”
She called the judicial process “corrupted from the beginning” and ended by calling for Assange to be freed.
A Single, Simple Message: ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’
Historian John Reese, of the Stop the War Coalition and the Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign, was in the audience. During the Q&A he told a packed audience that people concerned about Assange’s case need to think about how they can persuade others to join a campaign to stop his extradition. He suggested people think about how they “can persuade other people in our families, in our communities, in our trade unions, in our churches, in our mosques that they should be part of this campaign.”
Reese, who pointed out that Assange’s main extradition hearing begins at the end of February, said people should focus on the “single, simple message” which is “don’t extradite Assange.”
In Defense of Juian Assange is published by OR books.