VBefore the expected verdict in the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange at the central criminal court “Old Bailey” in London, members of the Bundestag from various parties have appealed to the British government. An extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, where he was not facing a fair trial and up to 175 years in prison, would endanger his life and would also set a precedent for journalists and whistleblowers around the world, said the Bundestag working group “Freedom for Julian Assange” on Sunday in Berlin.
The court is due to decide on Monday whether Great Britain should accept the Americans’ extradition request. “Should the extradition be legally decided, we call on the British government to protect against persecution of unpleasant journalists not to extradite Julian Assange to the USA and to prevent the Wikileaks founder from being transferred to Washington,” said MP Sevim Dagdelen (left), Bijan Djir-Sarai (FDP), Frank Heinrich (CDU), Frank Schwabe (SPD) and Margit Stumpp (Greens).
The organization “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) filed a petition against the threat of extradition of the Wikileaks founder to the British government. The list includes more than 108,000 signatures, as the organization announced on Friday in Berlin. RSF called for Assange to be released immediately and no longer prosecuted for his contributions to journalistic coverage. The Americans’ indictment against Assange was clearly politically motivated, said RSF managing director Christian Mihr. The United States wanted “to set an example and have a deterrent effect on media professionals around the world.”
“A kind of life-long death penalty”
There was also criticism of the process in London – for example the lack of access by supporting organizations and journalists. Assange himself is currently in London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison. Most recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, had described Assange’s imprisonment as questionable.
Assange’s partner Stella Moris also warned urgently against extradition. “There is terrible vegetation waiting there, a kind of life-long death penalty that Julian would not survive long,” wrote Moris in a guest post for the “Mail on Sunday”. “In America Julian would be buried alive.”
Moris and Assange became a couple during his time at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and they have two young sons together. The lawyer accuses Great Britain of disregarding the rule of law. “Julian’s defense has been seriously hampered,” said Moris. He has not seen any of his lawyers personally in prison since March.
The extradition proceedings in London started in February 2020 and continued in September. Both sides are expected to appeal should the decision not be in their favor on Monday. According to expert assessments, a final decision can take at least until the second half of 2021.
Assange has been in custody in the British capital since April 2019. The American judiciary accuses the native Australian Assange of stealing and publishing secret material from American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with the whistleblower Chelsea Manning – then Bradley Manning. The 49-year-old Assange put the lives of American informants at risk, so the allegation. His supporters, however, see him as an investigative journalist who has brought war crimes to light.
“Tomorrow’s verdict comes just four days after Brexit,” said Assange’s partner on Sunday. “It could serve as a metaphor for Brexit: will British values assert themselves against outside interference? Or is Britain and its people being pushed around by others? “