Monday, April 13, 2020

Stop persecuting Julian Assange

Saturday, Oscar Grenfell (WSWS) noted, "Today marks 12 months since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British police and security officers after being illegally expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he had lived and worked as a political refugee for seven years."  Julian remains behind bars.  Why?

Because he's being persecuted.  He's not behind bars for any crime.  He's not behind bars for skipping bail.  He's behind bars because the UK government is persecuting him.  He's in Belmarsh prison currently -- where the coronavirus is sweeping through.  Is this an attempt by the UK government to kill him?

Is that what they really want? To murder him?

Grenfell notes, "In a phone call to his friend Vaughan Smith on Thursday night, Assange said he is held in his cell 23-and-a-half hours a day. His half hour of exercise is in a yard crowded with other prisoners. At least 150 prison staff members have either been infected with COVID-19 or are self-isolating. Assange revealed that there have been more deaths of inmates than the one admitted by prison authorities. He said the virus was 'ripping through the prison."

Again, is the UK government trying to murder Julian?

Binoy Kampmark (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

Prisons, featuring high concentrations of people, have become fertile grounds for spreading COVID-19.  The March 17 report by Richard Coker, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, cautioned on how the transmission of the virus in “congregate settings” typified by “poor sanitation, poor ventilation, and overcrowding” could lead to overwhelming “a population, particularly a population with co-morbidities or that is elderly.”  Coker was unequivocal in recommending that unnecessary detention regimes should be eased.  “This should be done before the virus has chance to enter a detention centre.”
Representatives of the UK penal system have shown varying degrees of concern.  There have even been calls for early release or means by which prison is avoided as a form of punishment altogether.  The UK Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene executively to reduce numbers.  The head of the Prison Governors Association Andrea Albutt has warned about the dangers posed by current detention arrangements.  “We’ve lots of prisoners, two people in a cell built for one”, citing Swansea as an example where 80 percent of prisoners were doubled up.  “We have that all across the country.”  Far better, she suggested, to reduce the population.  Such a measure “helps stabilise prisons”, “calm prisoners”, and reduce the staff to prisoner ratio. “If we have less prisoners doubled [up in cells], it will be easier to isolate those who’ve been confirmed as having the virus or have the symptoms so we can delay the spread.”
Those standing by current UK prison guidelines remain defiantly confident that enough is being done.  The Ministry of Justice is convinced that “robust contingency plans” have been put in place prioritising “the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors.”  Procedures dealing with managing “the outbreak of infectious diseases and prisons” were already in place, and were being used to identify COVID-19 cases.  Sanitising facilities such as hand washing “are available to prisoners, staff and visitors and we have worked closely with suppliers to ensure the supply of soap and cleaning materials.”
The ministry remains unclear on how the principle of social distancing, one seemingly anathema to the penal system, has been applied.  For her part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, considers such measures in crowded, unhygienic facilities “practically impossible”.  Undeterred by such observations, the MOJ merely refers to a temporary suspension of “the usual regime”, meaning that “prisoners can no longer take part in usual recreational activities such as using the gym, going to worship or visiting the library.”  Nor can prisoners receive visits.  Such measures are bound to cause ripples of dissatisfaction.
Not much of this impressed the judicial consciousness.  Assange’s legal team were valiant in their efforts to state the obvious.  These were proceedings taking place on the third day of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.  Edward Fitzgerald QC, sporting a facemask, insisted that, “These [medical] experts consider that he is particularly at risk of developing coronavirus and, if he does, that it develops into very severe complications for him…  If he does develop critical symptoms it would be very doubtful that Belmarsh would be able to cope with his condition.”  Prisons were “epidemiological pumps”, fertile grounds for the transmission of disease, and Assange’s continued detention posed endangering circumstances “from which he cannot escape.”

Julian is being held for no legal reason.  This is persecution and the British government gets away with it.  We shouldn't let them.  They need to be mocked, they need to be called out and we all need to make clear that they do not practice justice in the United Kingdom.

This is about Julian's life.  Kevin Gosztola (SHADOW PROOF) notes:

Assange’s legal team have feared for his survival ever since he was confined at Belmarsh, but the coronavirus represents a new threat to his life.
More than 60 medical doctors have condemned the “torture and medical neglect of Assange” and urged the Australian government to intervene in order to protect the health of one of their citizens.
Over 1200 journalists from 98 countries have united to protest the “gross miscarriage of justice” that is unfolding. 
Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who was targeted by the CIA-backed espionage operation, believes only public pressure will save Assange.
“What I have seen in this case is completely unacceptable, completely incompatible with freedom of the press in our democratic societies,” Maurizi declared.
Maurizi contends if the U.S. succeeds in putting Assange on trial, the “whole WikiLeaks team of journalists,” including Sarah Harrison, who helped Snowden get asylum in Russia, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, and Joseph Farrell, a WikiLeaks ambassador, will be next.

Christine Assange, Julian's mother, asks people to contact their government representatives:

Please help save my sons life.. Julian Assange *Journalist * Chronic Lung Condition *In UK #COVID19 infected prison Please phone/email YOUR UK/OZ/US MP/Congress Rep Release him to home detention NOW! Many thanks/Please share widely

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