Trade unions must use their power to stop Assange’s extradition to the USA!

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HOME SECRETARY Patel has not been humbled in the slightest by the decision of the European Human Rights Court to consider that her attempt to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is illegal. She has arrogantly proceeded to sign an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where his life will be threatened for revealing some of the ‘dirty war’ secrets and tactics of the US ruling class internationally.

WikiLeaks called it a ‘dark day’ for press freedom and British democracy.

The Australian freedom fighter is being held at Belmarsh prison in London after mounting a lengthy battle to avoid being extradited. The Home Secretary made the decision on Friday, and Assange’s legal team will mount an appeal.

A Home Office spokesperson made it clear that: ‘Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed, after considering various aspects of the case.

‘On June 17, following consideration by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court, the extradition of Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.

‘In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.’

A WikiLeaks spokesman said: ‘This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy. Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination.

‘Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.

‘It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.

‘Foreign laws now determine the limits of press freedom in this country and the journalism that won the industry’s most prestigious prizes has been deemed an extraditable offence and worthy of a life sentence.

‘The path to Julian’s freedom is long and tortuous. Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system, the next appeal will be before the High Court.

‘We will fight louder and shout harder on the streets, we will organise and we will make Julian’s story be known to all.

‘Make no mistake, this has always been a political case. Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; tortured and rendered; bribed foreign officials; and corrupted judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.

‘Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account.

‘We will not let that happen. Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. We will fight to return Julian to his family and to regain freedom of expression for us all.’

Assange’s wife, Stella Morris, said her husband had done ‘nothing wrong’ and ‘he has committed no crime’.

‘He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.’

In May 2019, while serving a jail sentence in the UK for breaching bail, the US justice department filed 17 charges against Assange for violating the Espionage Act – alleging that material obtained by WikiLeaks endangered lives.

Assange’s legal team claimed that classified documents published by WikiLeaks, which related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, exposed US wrongdoing and were in the public interest.

The Supreme Court ruled in March that Assange’s case raised no legal questions over assurances the US had given to the UK over how he is likely to be treated.

Amnesty International said that enabling the extradition to take place ‘would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists ‘not to step out of line’.

‘Diplomatic assurances provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken on face value given previous history’, Amnesty general secretary Agnes Callamard said.

The TUC and the UK working class must stop Assange’s extradition. The trade unions must not only not allow Assange to be taken out of the country to the US, they must call all trade unions to take general strike action to gain Assange his freedom. If they do not, they will see union leaders get the Assange treatment from a British capitalist government in the near future.