No Extradition: Julian Assange and his father’s fight for freedom

No Extradition: Julian Assange’s Father & The Struggle for His Son’s Freedom
Featuring John Shipton plus Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), M.I.A, John Pilger, Lowkey, Lisa Longstaff (Women Against Rape) and others.
Directed by Pablo Navarrete
Alborada Films, 35 mins

The extradition trial of the world’s most famous whistleblower, Julian Assange, is set to recommence in London next month.

After being holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy for seven years and spending a year and a half largely in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison, Assange confronts the prospect of being sent to the United States.

If extradited, the WikiLeaks co-founder will face 18 charges and potentially 176 years in jail for the “crime” of publishing leaked classified documents that lifted the lid on war crimes carried out by powerful states.

Throughout his ordeal, Assange has counted on the support of millions of people around the world. Few, however, have been as passionate in campaigning for his freedom as John Shipton, Assange’s father.

In his latest film, No Extradition: Julian Assange’s Father & The Struggle for His Son’s Freedom, British-Chilean director Pablo Navarrete documents Shipton’s fight. Navarrete provides a campaign diary of Shipton’s various trips from Australia to visit his son in Britain and the protests and public forums to demand his freedom.

Shipton speaks to journalist Mohamed Elmaazi about his visits to Belmarsh prison, Assange’s state and the solidarity he has received from other prisoners. What comes through is his strong conviction to continue until he frees his son.

We also get a sense of the many varied faces of Assange’s supporters.

Among them is former British Labour MP Chris Williamson, who denounces the fact that while freedom of speech is under attack everywhere, “the biggest advocate of freedom of speech is languishing in Belmarsh prison…”

“[Assange’s] only crime is to expose war crimes by the US and the abuse of state power. Here we have a situation where somebody we should be venerating … is being forced to endure solitary confinement that is tantamount to torture on British soil.”

The injustice of Assange’s case is a common thread in the various voices we hear throughout the film.

Rapper Lowkey points out: “Assange is not being punished for anything he has done wrong. He is being punished for everything he has done right.”

Women Against Rape spokesperson Lisa Longstaff also speaks during the film. She notes how, since 2010, her organisation has observed with interest the “unusual zeal with which Assange was being pursued; it’s unlike any rape allegation we have seen anywhere.”

According to Longstaff, in Assange’s case “rape and other sexual allegations have been used to pursue a political agenda from the start, intent on actually hiding rape, hiding torture and hiding murder…

“The pursuit of Julian Assange is not about rape. It’s the US government weaponising and distorting rape in order to punish him for the Wikileaks exposés on war crimes, rape and torture.”

Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson lays out what is at stake in her client’s case. “This is not about hacking … it is about activities journalists engage in all the time … and any prosecution and extradition [of Assange] … will place a massive chill on investigative journalism the world over.”

The stakes are clearly very high — for freedom of speech and democracy, as well as for Assange.

Despite this, Shipton’s optimism shines through. On several occasions, he tells Assange’s supporters “not only can we win; we are winning”, adding “I believe that with your help, we will win.”

In this sense, No Extradition is an important contribution to helping this vital campaign win.

[Green Left will host an online screening of No Extradition, followed by a Q&A with director, Pablo Navarrete and journalist Mohamed Elmaazi, on September 5 at 7pm (AEST). Book tickets at bit.ly/NoExtraditionFilm.]