Tuesday 29 December 2020
Judgment on January 4th
Assange’s fate is in Biden’s hands
A decision on the extradition of the Wikileaks founder to the USA is expected in early January. Members of the Bundestag demand Assange’s release. His father is hoping for a pardon from the newly elected US president. Not only does he see Biden as the last chance.
The father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is hoping for a pardon for his son by future US President Joe Biden. That said John Shipton of the German press agency. On January 4, a court in London is due to rule on the US extradition request for Assange. Assange is in prison in the UK.
The 76-year-old Shipton is convinced that his son’s defense lawyers have the better arguments, but he still fears defeat in court. The reason for this is above all the “arbitrary and malicious” treatment of his son in the proceedings. For example, he did not have sufficient opportunity to communicate with his lawyers during the negotiations.
During hearings in court, Assange had to sit in a glass case, he could only speak to his lawyers through a narrow crack. However, the judge rejected an application to have him sit down next to his defense lawyers in the courtroom. Before he was brought into the courtroom, he was also subjected to humiliating body searches.
Shipton has been traveling tirelessly around the world for years to campaign for the release of his son – including Germany. He actually wanted to fly to the USA at the beginning of January to contact the team of the future US President Biden. But the coronavirus pandemic thwarted his plans. He cannot leave Australia at the moment.
Fate in Biden’s hands
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, Assange’s fate could be in Biden’s hands. He expected that the first instance would grant the extradition request, unless the future US president signaled that he wanted a different outcome, Melzer told Deutsche Welle. The UN expert does not see a fair trial in the process in London. “What we see is that the British are systematically depriving Julian Assange of his basic rights to prepare his defense, to have access to his lawyers and to legal documents,” said the Swiss.
At least, said Shipton, his son can now call his partner regularly, even if only ten minutes per call. Assange has been in a relationship with lawyer Stella Morris since 2015, with whom he has two children. The relationship, which developed during a stay of more than six years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, remained hidden from the public for a long time.
After the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Morris went public about fear for Assange’s life in prison. Dozens of prisoners are said to be infected there. Assange had saved himself in 2012 for fear of extradition to Sweden and on to the Ecuadorian diplomatic mission and stayed there until his arrest in spring 2019. Investigations in Sweden into rape allegations were later closed. UN expert Melzer had described it as “constructed”.
“Extradition to the USA must absolutely be prevented”
In Germany, members of the Bundestag from all parliamentary groups apart from the AfD have founded a joint working group for the release of Assange. “As a joint initiative by members of all democratic parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag, we would like to send a clear signal for the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which is endangered by the threatened extradition of Julian Assange,” said a statement by MP Sevim Dagdelen, Bijan Djir-Sarai, Frank Heinrich, Frank Schwabe and Margit Stumpp.
Extradition to the United States must absolutely be prevented, said Dagdelen of the Left in the joint statement. “The extradition process sets a precedent for journalists around the world – Julian Assange’s defense of freedom is the defense of freedom itself.” Regardless of how you feel about Assange’s political views, it must be a matter of course to advocate a fair trial and the defense of his civil rights, said the CDU MP Heinrich. The FDP politician Djir-Sarai described Assange’s state of health as “extremely precarious”. He had to be released from prison for medical reasons alone.
The US judiciary has accused the native Australian Assange of stealing and publishing secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning – then Bradley Manning. The 49-year-old put the lives of US informants at risk, the allegation. His supporters, however, see him as an investigative journalist who has brought war crimes to light. For years Assange had evaded arrest by escaping to the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In America, if convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years.