The Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy screened Ithaka, a film about Julian Assange, with his father John Shipton a keynote speaker on May 4.
Maitland attorney Kellie Tranter opened the evening, describing how over a decade ago the Assange family had asked the federal government to help, but with no result.
She said the government is aware Assange has been tortured and his family has been spied on. It is aware that legally privileged material and conversations have been given to the United States government, that the CIA planned to kidnap and execute him and that he is at risk of suicide if extradited to the US. Through its silence and inaction, Tranter said, it is complicit.
Ithaka follows Shipton and Assange’s partner Stella Moris as they struggle for justice in the lead up to the extradition hearing. It is peppered with Shipton’s aphorisms, such as “the truth is very vexatious”.
Assange faces a 175-year prison sentence if extradited, tried and found guilty in the US.
Shipton said he warned director Ben Lawrence against taking the easy path of making a narrative rather than trying to understand the destiny his son is facing. He said it’s tempting to offer a Hollywood story but that life “is not like that”.
He told a packed audience after the film was screened that Assange is caught in a “plague of malice”, and listed how the Swedish and British governments have conspired in illegalities. Shipton said that more than 30 CIA officers admitted that every moment of the last two years in the Ecuadorian embassy were filmed.
He listed as crimes the abrogation of non-derogable rights, the crushing of asylum conventions, procedural irregularities and distortion of due process, the threats of murder and a “cold-hearted determination to destroy an Australian citizen, Julian Assange”. He said Assange’s physical and mental health had deteriorated.
Commenting on Wikileaks, Shipton referred to the poem Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysse Shelley that argues knowledge brings freedom. That “knowledge is being forbidden to us”, Shipton said.
Global support for Assange has grown from an initial Australia cross-party group, begun by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, to cross-party groups in parliaments across Europe and South America. Thirty out of the 90 members of the Greek parliament are part of such a group. The UN group on Arbitrary Detention and Torture ruled in 2017 that Assange was arbitrarily detained by the British and Swedish governments and must be freed and compensated. The Council of Europe, with 44 nations, has declared Assange is a protected journalist and must be freed.