TRNN speaks with journalist Chris Hedges from the ground during the international protests to free Assange, which were held in Washington, DC, and in London.
Studio/Post-Production: Jaisal Noor
Crowd: [chanting] Free Julian Assange!
Jaisal Noor: Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange held an international day of action Saturday, October 8 to demand the United States halt its efforts to have him extradited to face criminal charges for his role in leaking a trove of highly classified US intelligence documents by Army Whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
In London, Hundreds of protesters gathered in a line which stretched from the British parliament to the other side of the River Thames. Stella Moris, who is married to the Australian-born activist and publisher, said the British government should speak to authorities in the United States to end the extradition bid which was launched in 2019.
Stella Moris: The British government should be speaking to its counterparts in the United States to bring this matter to an end immediately. It’s already gone on for three-and-a-half years. It is a stain on the United Kingdom and is a stain on the Biden administration.
Jaisal Noor: In Washington, DC, dozens marched on the US Department of Justice, calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop charges against Assange, which include one charge of hacking and 17 counts of violating the World War I era Espionage Act
Chris Hedges: Julian is not a US citizen. WikiLeaks is not a US-based publication. It is not legally, I think, justifiable to charge him under the US Espionage Act. He’s an innocent man, he’s never committed a crime. The only crime he committed is telling the truth.
Jaisal Noor: Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and former New York Times Middle East bureau chief. He’s currently the host of The Chris Hedges Report on The Real News. He says fears the Assange prosecution could criminalize the publishing of classified documents, a vital tool for holding governments accountable.
Chris Hedges: Part of the reason that I’m so involved in this is because, having worked for The New York Times, having published classified material, if Julian is sentenced, it sets a legal precedent which allows anyone who possesses classified material or publishes them to be criminalized. It’s really the end of any investigation into the inner workings of power.
Jaisal Noor: Assange has been jailed in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison Since 2019, enduring conditions that experts have condemned as torture.
Chris Hedges: The conditions of his incarceration are so brutal. I mean, he’s isolated, he has suffered a minor stroke. He’s lost a lot of weight. We know from the trials in London that psychologically he’s had hallucinations, and was found banging his head against the wall.
Jaisal Noor: Assange’s supporters say the US is targeting him for exposing US wrongdoing in Afghanistan and Iraq, including releasing Collateral Murder Video which shows a US Appache Helicopter gunning down civilians and Reuters journalists in Iraq.
Among the dozen journalists, veterans, and activists speaking out in support of Assange was Berthony Dupont, the publisher of Haiti Liberte, which has published troves of US diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks that reveal ongoing US meddling in Haiti
Berthony Dupont: We published an article about the US trying to sabotage [inaudible] known as [inaudible]. How it fought to raise the minimum wage from $1.75 per day to $5.00 per day. How it voluntarily deployed US troops into Haiti after the January 2000 earthquake. How it integrates [inaudible] soldiers into Haiti’s police force. How it approved of deadly assault on [inaudible]. And how it fought tooth and nail for seven years to stop [inaudible] return to Haiti after he was exiled in 2004.
Jaisal Noor: Assange’s legal team has lodged an appeal at Britain’s High Court against London’s decision to extradite him. Hedges says it will be essential for Assange’s supporters to keep up public pressure to secure his release.
Chris Hedges: I think that getting out in the street is key, and surrounding the Parliament. I think there are about a dozen actions in Australia and all over the world. We have to take the time and the energy to get out and make our voices heard to defend Julian, that is really key. And then the other thing is informing ourselves about the long persecution of Julian, because it’s not going to get out in the commercial press, and the establishment press is never going to tell you.
Jaisal Noor: For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor reporting from Washington.