TRNN speaks from the ground with journalist Chris Hedges 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 on Saturday, Oct. 8, to demand that the United States cease its efforts to extradite him to face criminal charges for his role in the leak of a trove of top-secret U.S. intelligence documents by military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
In London, hundreds of protesters gathered in a line that 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 talk to authorities in the United States to end the extradition bid launched in 2019.
Stella Morris: The British government should talk to its counterparts in the United States to end this matter immediately. It’s been going on for three and a half years. It is a blot on the UK and a blot on the Biden government.
Jaisal Noor: In Washington, DC, dozens marched to the U.S. Department of Justice, calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop charges against Assange, including one hacking charge and 17 counts of violating the World War I Espionage Act.
Chris Heggen: Julian is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks is not a publication in the US. I don’t think it’s legal to charge him under the US Espionage Act. He is an innocent man, he has never committed a crime. The only crime he has 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 is currently the host of The Chris Hedges Report on The Real News. He fears the Assange prosecutor could criminalize the publishing of classified documents, an essential tool for holding governments accountable.
Chris Heggen: Part of the reason I’m so involved in this is because I’ve worked for The New York TimesAfter publishing classified material, if Julian is convicted, it sets a legal precedent that could criminalize anyone who owns or publishes classified material. It really is the end of any investigation into the inner workings of power.
Jaisal Noor: Assange has been imprisoned in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison since 2019, under persistent conditions that experts have condemned as torture.
Chris Heggen: The conditions of his incarceration are so cruel. I mean, he’s isolated, he’s had a minor stroke. He has lost a lot of weight. We know from the London court cases that he suffered psychological hallucinations and was found banging his head against the wall.
Jaisal Noor: Assange’s supporters say the US is targeting him for exposing US misdeeds in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the release of Collateral Murder Video showing a US Appache helicopter shooting civilians and Reuters journalists in Iraq.
Among the dozens of journalists, veterans and activists who spoke out in support of Assange was Berthony Dupont, the publisher of Haiti Libertéwho published a large number of US diplomatic telegrams obtained by Wikileaks revealing continued US interference 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 a day to $5.00 a day. How it voluntarily sent US troops to Haiti after the January 2000 earthquake. How it integrates [inaudible] soldiers in the Haiti police. How it’s a deadly attack on [inaudible]. And how it fought tooth and nail for seven years to stop [inaudible] returned to Haiti after being exiled in 2004.
Jaisal Noor: Assange’s legal team has appealed to the British Supreme Court against London’s decision to extradite him. Hedges says it is essential that Assange’s supporters continue to exert public pressure to secure his release.
Chris Heggen: I think it is crucial to get out on the streets and surround Parliament. I think there are about a dozen actions in Australia and around the world. We need to take the time and energy to come out and make our voices heard to defend Julian, that’s really important. And then the other thing is informing us about the lengthy persecution of Julian, because it won’t get in the commercial press, and the mainstream press will never tell you.