Sunday, November 28

Appeal process: Assange supporters hope for a U-turn

Status: 10/27/2021 11:51 a.m.

After reports of plans to attack Wikileaks founder Assange, his supporters hope for a tailwind in the appeal process that begins today: extradition to the USA would be life-threatening for him.

By Gabi Biesinger, ARD-Studio London

Stella Moris is a petite woman – and you can tell how exhausted she is. Moris is not only the lawyer of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, but also his fiancĂ©e and mother of his two youngest sons, which she kept a secret for a long time. She cannot give up hope that Assange might even be released from the British maximum security prison Belmarsh before Christmas: “I have to hold on to this idea that he comes home. After two and a half years in prison and before that the years in the Ecuadorian embassy I want to finally take him in my arms without surveillance cameras, “she says. “We finally want privacy – just for us.”

Gabi Biesinger
ARD-Studio London

But even if the London court again rejects the US extradition request, it would still not be free: the US could appeal again. In January, a British court rejected the US extradition request with regard to Assange’s compromised mental health and the expected prison conditions in the US.

The judge had stated that Assange suffered from autism, clinical depression and had an increased risk of harming himself. It is to be expected that he could commit suicide in solitary confinement.

Assange could die, supporters warn

Stella Moris is also convinced that her partner would not survive extradition to the USA. She last saw him at the weekend and is very worried: “He looked very bad. I was shocked at how thin he has become. Belmarsh is a terrible place,” she says. “Anyone who is familiar with prisons knows how dangerous it is to get sick there. It can be catastrophic. Every day Julian has to spend in prison is a danger to his life.”

The US judiciary wants to bring the Wikileaks founder to trial on allegations of espionage and face 175 years imprisonment. Assange is accused of stealing and publishing secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with whistleblowers. He put US informants in danger.

To avoid extradition to the USA, Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and lived there for seven years before his asylum was withdrawn in 2019. Thereupon he was arrested by the British authorities, came to Belmarsh and has to wait there until his future fate is finally decided.

Supporters of Julien Assange in a London court see him as a hero – on a poster they equate him with Socrates.

Bild: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PR

Parallels to the Khashoggi case?

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, sees the endless proceedings as delaying tactics with a punitive nature. Assange’s supporters naturally see him not as a spy, but as a journalist hero who has brought war crimes to light and has therefore fallen out of favor with the US government.

Investigative journalists from “Yahoo News” reported at the end of September, citing unnamed US sources, that the US foreign intelligence service CIA wanted to kidnap or even murder Assange while he was still at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Hrafnsson draws a parallel here with the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in 2018: “Interestingly, one is not at all surprised when a plan is forged by the highest US government agency that is not very different from the plan that they have The Saudi government forged against the journalist Kashoggi in Turkey around the same time, “he says. “Except that the Khashoggi plan was carried out. The idea was the same, the victims were the same, journalists.”

With the revelation of the alleged attack plans against Assange, Moris and Assange’s supporters are now hoping for a turnaround in the process. “These criminal plans by the US against Julian remove the last remnant of a legal basis for this extradition process in which we are,” says Moris. Because Britain can hardly extradite anyone to a country that wants to kill him.

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