“The US case against Julian effectively redefines investigative journalism as espionage,” journalist Mary Kostakidis told a forum recently. “Extradition will cost Assange his freedom indefinitely and quite likely his life as well.”
“Saving Julian Assange: It’s now or never” was the theme of a special Politics in the Pub on January 29 at the Harold Park Hotel in Sydney.
Professor Stuart Rees spoke alongside journalist and former SBS news presenter Kostakidis, NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge, former surgeon and NSW MP Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans and Joe Lauria from Consortium News.
Kostakidis outlined the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He faces his final British Supreme Court appeal hearing before a possible extradition to the United States to face “espionage charges” over WikiLeaks’ revelation of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange has been held in solitary confinement in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison for almost five years.
Kostakidis said the US government’s “assurances” that Assange’s health would be looked after in the US were “not worth the paper they’re written on”.
His health has deteriorated, including having suffered a possible minor stroke.
Shoebridge said the prospect of Assange being held in indefinite detention in Britain and the US is “chilling”.
“The lesson is that US law will persecute you and hunt you down for the ‘crime’ of telling the truth about the real war crimes of the US military.”
Shoebridge said the cross-party delegation of MPs who visited the US Congress at the end of last year had received a positive reception from both major parties.
He also noted the recent letter by Australian politicians to the British Home Secretary calling for the release of Assange, with a sharp focus on his declining health.
Chesterfield-Evans explained Assange’s medical challenges in the context of the enormous stress from his indefinite imprisonment and the threat of extradition.
Lauria spoke about the turbulent global political situation, suggesting that President Joe Biden may find that “leniency to Assange could win back come credence to the US in the midst of a world highly critical of the US’ international role”.
A moving tribute to Assange by recently deceased journalist John Pilger was also played.
[For further information on Politics in the Pub events visit its website.]