Free Julian Assange! Imperialists are the real war criminals!

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JULIAN Assange’s extradition hearing resumed in London yesterday with the US government once again throwing in new charges at the last moment.

According to reports, immediately before the hearing commenced the US government withdrew its original warrant for Assange’s extradition and issued a new arrest statement at the start of the reconvened hearing.

This latest manoeuvre, doubtless aimed at flooding Assange’s lawyers with tons of legal documents in order to disrupt their planned defence, is in line with the ten-years-long hounding of Assange by US imperialism and its faithful allies.

It is easy to forget that Assange was originally arrested in Britain on an extradition warrant issued by Sweden on trumped up charges.

Everyone on the planet knew that this was a frame up designed to get him to Sweden where he would be handed over to US imperialism to face trial for his real crime as founder of WikiLeaks which published hundreds of thousands of secret US documents and videos that revealed to the world the brutality of US imperialism in its illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the videos released, titled Collateral Murder, showed innocent civilians, including two Reuters reporters, being mowed down by US helicopter gunships in a Baghdad square.

To avoid arrest on the original Swedish warrant – which the Swedish authorities withdrew last year admitting there had never been any evidence against him – Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012.

Regarding his stay as a political refugee in Ecuador’s embassy, his defence team are expected to submit detailed evidence establishing that the CIA illegally taped Assange, including intercepting legal meetings in a flagrant breach of lawyer-client privilege.

In April last year, British police stormed the Embassy and arrested Assange on the charge of skipping bail – skipping bail over an extradition warrant that the Swedish authorities had already withdrawn.

Since then, Assange has been held without bail in Belmarsh high security prison under conditions clearly designed to break him mentally and destroy him physically before handing him over to the US.

Assange has been held in virtual solitary confinement, and for six months was denied access to his legal team and legal documents. During the coronavirus pandemic he has allegedly been denied a face mask or other protective measures at a time when inmates and prison staff have contracted Covid-19.

Denial of Assange’s basic right to proper legal representation has gone hand-in-hand with a concerted campaign by the British state to inflict on him what Nils Meltzer, a United Nations expert, has condemned as ‘psychological torture’.

Meltzer said: ‘While the US government prosecutes Mr Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity.’

The Trump administration are determined to bring Assange to trial in the US on charges under the espionage act, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming that WikiLeaks and Assange acted as a ‘non-state hostile intelligence agency’.

Under these charges Assange faces 175 years in prison for the crime of exposing US imperialism’s war crimes.

What is clear is that the Tories and the courts, which have gone out of their way to deny Assange his legal rights to representation, and even denying him at earlier hearings the right to right to sit with his lawyers, are determined that Assange will be sent back to face imperialist ‘justice’.

This is the same justice that US imperialism handed out to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and carried out in the torture chambers of Guantanamo prison.

This same treatment handed out to Assange is intended to act as a warning to anyone who dares reveal the truth about imperialism’s bloody wars, executions and torture campaigns against the people of the world.

The only way to put an end to this show trial and continued torture of Assange and stop his extradition to the US, is for the working class to demand that the TUC organise massive demonstrations and a general strike to kick out the Tories, and go forward to a workers’ government that will immediately free him and bring the real war criminals to justice.