Assange extradition: “something you might expect from a totalitarian regime”

Sep 29, 2023
Stella Assange, Christine Ann Assange, John Shipton, Julian Assange's wife, father and mother during the Fete de l'Humanite 2023 in Plessis-Pate, Bretigny-Sur-Orge, France on September 16, 2023. Image: AAP/Nasser Berzane/ABACAPRESS.COM.

Julian Assange may be only weeks away from being extradited to the US where he will face prosecution under the US Espionage Act that could see him imprisoned for 175 years, even though he is an Australian citizen, not a US citizen! With extradition so near, the campaign to save Assange has reached its highest pitch.

While the US empire seems determined to destroy Assange because he exposed their war crimes, the burden of his defence falls heavily on his family members: his wife, Stella Assange, who has to care for two young children, his father, John Shipton, an old age pensioner, and his brother, Gabriel Shipton, a film producer. Despite the enormous disparity in the correlation of forces between Julian’s family and the world-spanning US empire, the trio travel the world, building a campaign to save their son, husband and brother.

While Stella Assange and Gabriel Shipton were in the US, helping the Australian parliamentary delegation, Julian’s father, John Shipton, was rallying support in France and Switzerland, attending a Human Rights Festival, sponsored by L’Humanité, and speaking at showings of the film, Ithaka, about the family’s fight to save Julian. Before he left Australia for his European visit, I spoke with John Shipton about his recent visit to Brazil, and the state of the world-wide campaign to save Julian Assange.

“The reception in Brazil was wonderful,” John Shipton declared. Although President Lula, a powerful advocate for Assange, was away attending the BRICS summit in South Africa, John Shipton met with the communication minister and the Minister for Human Rights. The film, Ithaka, about the family’s endeavours to build a world-wide alliance, was shown in five cities, followed by a Q&A. The response was overwhelming, John Shipton said, with the theatres overflowing, and people having to be turned away.

The previous year, John and Gabriel Shipton were invited to Mexico to receive the keys to Mexico City on behalf of Julian, and Mexican President Obrador invited them to be guests of honour for Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations as a high-level display of Assange support in the Western hemisphere. In the Americas, Assange is regarded as a great liberator, on a par with Che Guevera, because he exposed the reality of US regime change wars.

“The majority of Latin America is committed to Julian,” John Shipton said, reeling off the names of leaders and countries who have called for the Assange prosecution to be dropped: “Bolivia, Ecuador will change with the new government, Petra from Columbia, Berwick from Chile, Fernandez and Kirchner from Argentina and Lula from Brazil and Obrador from Mexico. The support in Latin America is really extraordinary, an outreach of passion and determination to do what they can to free Julian Assange.”

The day before the Australian parliament delegation arrived in Washington, Brazil’s President Luiz Lula da Silva underlined Brazil’s strong support for Assange when he addressed the United Nations in New York:

“It is essential to preserve the freedom of the press,” Lula declared.

“A journalist like Julian Assange cannot be punished for informing society in a transparent and legitimate way.” It was essential for freedom of the press that the Wikileaks founder should not be prosecuted for informing the public,” the Brazilian President told the United Nations.

Since the US treats the appeals of presidents of major countries like Mexico and Brazil as if they hardly matter, Julian Assange’s freedom depends on whether the Biden administration will listen to Australian representatives. Prime Minister Albanese has said he wants the matter brought to an end, and enough is enough. Albanese will meet Biden in October, and he is facing pressure to go beyond these platitudes, and press more forcefully for the charges against Assange to be dropped.

To prepare the way for Prime Minister Albanese and to encourage Biden to drop the prosecution, a delegation of Australian politicians from across the political spectrum, consisting of Monique Ryan (Independent), former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (Nationals). Tony Zappia (ALP), Senator David Shoebridge (Greens), Senator Antic (Liberal), and Senator Peter Whish-Wilson (Greens) arrived in Washington last week to plead the case for the US to end the pursuit of Assange.

All are members of the Parliamentary Group to Bring Julian Assange Home, which was founded by Peter Whish-Wilson and his fellow Tasmanian, Andrew Wilkie, in 2011. It now has 70 members, and has been very active this year, sending a delegation to US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in May, saying the mistreatment of Assange, an Australian citizen, was putting the US-Australia alliance under considerable strain, and are behind the recent Washington delegation. A grateful John Shipton praised the parliamentary team. About Peter Whish-Wilson he said:

“When Julian had reached the nadir of his popularity and the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia and the United States turned against him to destroy his character and capacity to gather an audience and to put him in gaol, Peter Whish-Wilson was a solitary voice, along with Andrew Wilkie.”

Speaking on Democracy Now, Peter Whish-Wilson outlined the purpose of the Australian Parliamentary delegation.

“We’ve got a number of meetings with US lawmakers, including Congress and the Senate. We’ll also be meeting with the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Australian Consulate and Ambassador and other stakeholders and doing media like I am doing now.

“The primary aim for our delegation – and it is cross-party – is to let Americans know, particularly those in power, that Australians feel strongly about this issue. We feel that Julian Assange has suffered enough. He has been incarcerated now, in one form or the other, for almost a decade for publishing the truth.

“He is an Australian citizen. He won the highest award for journalism in our country. A number of Australian media outlets, as well as key US media outlets, have published articles around the WikiLeaks disclosures.

“We feel his extradition process that is under way is a very dangerous global precedent for press freedoms. It is extraterritorial overreach on a massive scale by the US government It’s not what you would expect from the beacon of global democracy. With all respect to your listeners, it is something you might expect from a totalitarian regime.”

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