Julian Assange’s wife says ‘it is now or never’ at US extradition protest

The Wikileaks founder is wanted in on 18 charges by the US government.

Flora Bowen
Saturday 24 June 2023 20:07 BST
Stella Assange (James Manning/PA)
Stella Assange (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

The wife of Julian Assange has said “it is now or never” at a protest outside Parliament demanding his release.

Stella Assange was among many campaigners and supporters who marched through central London, as Assange faces extradition to the United States and potential life imprisonment after losing his bid to appeal against a judge’s ruling earlier this month.

Assange, 51, has been held in London’s high security Belmarsh Prison for more than four years while US authorities seek to extradite him to face trial on espionage charges linked to the publication of hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Wikileaks founder is wanted on 18 charges by the US government, which accuses him of conspiring to hack into military databases to acquire sensitive information. He denies any wrongdoing.

Mrs Assange said: “Julian could be a few weeks away from extradition. We don’t have a clear timeline, but this really is the end game.”

She added: “The stakes are very high. They’re high on all sides, not just for Julian’s life and his freedom, but all the press freedoms and the freedom of speech rights that go with him.

“There are lots of people around the world, presidents, prime ministers of Australia, of Brazil, of Mexico, and also European institutions who are speaking out and saying that Julian should be released.

“So the general consensus, of course, from the human rights groups, from the press freedom groups, is that Julian should be released, but that the case has to be dropped.”

Apsana Begum, the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, spoke at the event, with John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, also addressing the crowd.

Whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were represented by life-sized bronze sculptures alongside a figure of Assange, each standing on their own individual chair.

In front, a banner read: “Free Julian Assange. Journalism is not a crime.”

Adjacent to them was an empty chair representing the general population, with a caption which read “stand up instead of sit like the others”.

The sculpture, which was conceived by author and broadcaster Charles Glass, was brought to life by artist Davide Dormino.

Speaking of his work, entitled Anything To Say, Mr Dormino said: “As an artist, I feel I have a duty to defend freedom of speech and the right to know.

“That is why I have created an empty chair, which allows us to stand taller and raise ourselves.

“It changes our perspective and prompts us to look beyond what we are shown and what is hidden.”

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