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HUNDREDS of protesters gathered in central London at the weekend to demand the release of journalist Julian Assange before his extradition hearing this week.
Campaigners assembled on Saturday before marching to the High Court, where speakers told a rally that the upcoming decision on the Wikileaks founder’s future will represent a landmark for press freedom.
Mr Assange, who is being held at south-east London’s Belmarsh prison, will appear at the court on Wednesday and Thursday as the US government appeals against the earlier decision which blocked his removal.
If extradited and convicted in the United States, Mr Assange faces a possible prison sentence of up to 175 years.
Among those speaking at the rally were Labour MP John McDonnell, who is also secretary of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary group, as well as rapper and activist Lowkey and Mr Assange’s partner Stella Moris.
Ms Moris, who is also a member of Mr Assange’s legal team, warned that the “right to know is being criminalised,” adding: “We are all in Belmarsh prison as long as Julian is in Belmarsh prison.”
Following the rally, John Rees, a historian and Don’t Extradite Assange campaign member, told the Morning Star: “The demonstration yesterday, ahead of the US appeal in the High Court this week, demanded that the case be dropped.
“In recent weeks the key US witness has admitted he lied, the plot by the CIA to kidnap or assassinate Assange has been exposed, and a Senate investigation into that plot has been announced.
“Any other trial would have been abandoned under such circumstances. This one should be.”
Labour MP Richard Burgon was among those who gave evidence to last Friday’s Belmarsh Tribunal, which demanded Mr Assange’s release and put Western governments “on trial” for alleged war crimes as well as attempts to attack, persecute and imprison Mr Assange.
Mr Burgon said: “Julian Assange is being persecuted for, in the best traditions of journalism, revealing war crimes and human rights abuses carried out in our name, including in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
“Julian Assange is being treated in the most inhumane and appalling way in an attempt to intimidate journalists and whistleblowers from revealing the truth and holding the powerful to account.
“Everyone, regardless of their politics, who believes in free journalism should oppose his imprisonment and extradition.”
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