BRITISH police entered the Ecuadorian embassy in central London on Thursday, which is technically Ecuadorian territory, arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Australian who had held Ecuadorian citizenship for the last seven years and was under that country’s protection, and dragged him out of the embassy, bundling him into a police vehicle and driving off.
The Ecuadorian president had removed his citizenship last Wednesday to allow the British police state to do its work.
The US has charged Assange with ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’, over the 2010 publication of classified US documents provided to WikiLeaks by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. As soon as Assange was arrested, the US demanded that he be extradited to the US to face charges that could lock him away for decades, or even cost him his life.
Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago after being offered protection by the Ecuadorian ambassador. With a new right-wing president in Ecuador, everything changed. Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and actually invited the Met police in to arrest Assange.
After his brutal arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.
Assange’s WikiLeaks exposed the true horror of US and UK imperialism and their bloody actions during the invasion and occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan. In one famous example, amongst the thousands of documents that Wikileaks made public, a US helicopter gunship openly fired on civilians.
In 2010, when WikiLeaks released classified US military footage, entitled ‘Collateral Murder’, a US Apache helicopter gunship is seen opening fire on a number of people, killing 12, including two Reuters staff, and injuring two children.
On hearing the news of Assange’s arrest, Tory PM May announced to the House of Commons: ‘I’m sure that the whole House will welcome the news this morning that the Metropolitan Police have arrested Julian Assange.’ Hundreds of Tory MPs erupted into cheers!
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defended Assange. He said yesterday that the UK government should not be extradited ‘for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan’.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told the Today programme that ‘this is all about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public’.
US President Trump, when asked about the arrest, claimed: ‘I do not know much about WikiLeaks.’ This is not the truth. During his election campaign, he referenced Wikileaks 145 times, congratulating it for exposing the Hillary Clinton email scandals. Trump is on record as saying: ‘I love you WikiLeaks.’
Now as president he will ruthlessly prosecute Assange and his supporters on behalf of US imperialism! The issue is not ‘just’ long jail sentences – Assange’s life is now in danger!
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood said yesterday: ‘The issue is that Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange released American war crimes. Chelsea the whistleblower, Julian the publisher – and that’s what this is about.’ Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: ‘The UK should not be acting on behalf of the Trump administration in this case. The NUJ recognises the inherent link between and importance of leaked confidential documents and journalism reporting in the public interest.
‘It should be remembered that in April 2010 WikiLeaks released Collateral Murder, a video showing a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack upon individuals in Baghdad. More than 23 people were killed including two Reuters journalists. The manner in which Assange is treated will be of great significance to the practice of journalism.’
Assange and Manning are not criminals, they are anti-imperialist heroes. The Labour Party and the TUC must follow Corbyn’s lead and demand that Assange be freed at once. They must organise political strikes by the trade unions and a national demonstration to demand that he be freed. They must bring down the Tory government on this issue of basic democratic rights if May will not free Assange!