13 December 2019

Free Julian Assange Now!

Since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London by British cops last April, he has been languishing in the maximum security Belmarsh prison, with a hearing on extradition to the U.S. scheduled for February. Both Democrats and Republicans have been screaming for his head on a spike going back to 2010 when WikiLeaks released a trove of documents provided by Chelsea Manning, then an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army. That material exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and imperialist turpitude elsewhere. The Democrats especially have it in for Assange, who they scapegoat for supposedly having cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election after WikiLeaks released a huge cache of Democratic National Committee emails. The U.S. has indicted Assange on 17 charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, each carrying a sentence of ten years. No extradition! Drop the charges! Free Assange! For unobstructed passage to any country that grants him asylum!

Assange’s health has been deteriorating rapidly, a cumulative effect of seven years of confinement to the embassy with no access to medical care, compounded by the hellish conditions of Belmarsh. Despite pleas by doctors who examined Assange over the years, the British government denied him access to proper treatment, even for a medical emergency. He continues to be denied medical care in prison. On November 22, more than 60 doctors from around the world signed an open letter to the British government expressing serious concern about Assange’s physical and mental health, warning that he “could die in prison.” In a December 4 letter, the doctors reiterated their concern that Assange “could die of deliberate medical negligence.”

Under the guise of being on “suicide watch,” Assange is kept under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance. He is only allowed limited visits by his lawyers and has been denied access to case files needed to adequately prepare his defense. A request by his lawyers to postpone the extradition hearing pending the result of an investigation of a security company in Spain was refused. The company is accused of spying at the behest of the CIA on Assange while he was in the embassy and recording conversations with his lawyers and visitors.

With Assange firmly in the clutches of the British authorities, Sweden has dropped its investigation into cooked-up “rape” charges against him. The sexual encounters, by the accounts of the two women involved, were consensual, underscoring that the charges were never anything more than a flimsy cover for handing Assange over to the vengeful U.S. rulers. Sweden’s latest move clears the path for direct extradition to the U.S.

What the American government has in mind for Assange is shown by the treatment of Chelsea Manning. Convicted under the Espionage Act, she was held in torturous prison conditions for seven years. In March, she was thrown back in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury against WikiLeaks. In a similar principled stand, “hacktivist” Jeremy Hammond—who provided WikiLeaks millions of emails from the private security firm Stratfor, detailing its spying operations on left and liberal groups—also refused to testify before the same grand jury. He, too, is locked behind bars. Free Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond now!

By exposing the crimes of the ruling class, brave truth-tellers like Assange, Manning, Edward Snowden and others have provided a valuable service to workers and the oppressed. It is in the interests of the working class to fight against all attempts to silence them.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1167, 13 December 2019)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.