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‘Freedom for Assange and Journalism Are at Stake’: Belmarsh Tribunal Comes to DC – Original

Posted by M. C. on January 24, 2023

“As long as the Biden administration continues to deploy tools like the Espionage Act to imprison those who dare to expose war crimes, no publisher and no journalist will be safe,” said one of the tribunal’s co-chairs.

by Brett Wilkins

As Julian Assange awaits the final appeal of his looming extradition to the United States while languishing behind bars in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, leading left luminaries and free press advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the fourth sitting of the Belmarsh Tribunal, where they called on U.S. President Joe Biden to drop all charges against the WikiLeaks publisher.

“From Ankara to Manila to Budapest to right here in the United States, state actors are cracking down on journalists, their sources, and their publishers in a globally coordinated campaign to disrupt the public’s access to information,” co-chair and Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman said during her opening remarks at the National Press Club.

“The Belmarsh Tribunal… pursues justice for journalists who are imprisoned or persecuted [and] publishers and whistleblowers who dare to reveal the crimes of our governments,” she continued.

“Assange’s case is the first time in history that a publisher has been indicted under the Espionage Act,” Goodman added. “Recently, it was revealed that the CIA had been spying illegally on Julian, his lawyers, and some members of this very tribunal. The CIA even plotted his assassination at the Ecuadorean Embassy under [former US President Donald] Trump.”

Assange – who suffers from physical and mental health problems including heart and respiratory issues – could be imprisoned for 175 years if fully convicted of Espionage Act violations. Among the classified materials published by WikiLeaks – many provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning – are the infamous “Collateral Murder” video showing a US Army helicopter crew killing a group of Iraqi civilians, the Afghan War Diary, and the Iraq War Logs, which revealed American and allied war crimes.

According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Assange has been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom since he was arrested on December 7, 2010. Since then he has been held under house arrest, confined for seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London while he was protected by the administration of former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, and jailed in Belmarsh Prison, for which the tribunal is named.

Human rights, journalistic, peace, and other groups have condemned Assange’s impending extradition and the US government’s targeting of a journalist who exposed American war crimes.

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