OVER a thousand supporters of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange rallied outside the Home Office on Monday evening to hear Roger Waters perform ‘Wish You Were Here.’
The crowd was addressed by journalist John Pilger and Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton.
Opening the rally John Pilger said: ‘As well as making brilliant music, Roger has been speaking out for the rights of men and women for many years and I thank him warmly for initiating this extraordinary event to celebrate and defend Julian Assange. Roger regards Julian as a hero and so do I.
‘And it will a pleasure to introduce Julian’s brother Gabriel, who is here from Melbourne.
‘Gabriel went with me recently to visit Julian in Belmarsh prison, and was deeply moved by the treatment of his brother.
‘Behind us here is the Home Office, the polite name for Britain’s Interior Ministry. The behaviour of the British government toward’s Julian Assange is a disgrace – a profanity on the very notion of human rights.
‘It’s no exaggeration to say that the treatment and persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictators would treat a political prisoner.
‘There is one reason for this, Julian and WikiLeaks has performed an historic public service, by giving millions of people facts, on why and how governments their governments deceive them, secretly and often illegally. Why they invade countries. Why they spy on us!
‘Julian was singled out for special treatment for one reason and one reason only. He is a “truth teller”.
‘His case is meant to send a warning, to every journalist and every publisher. The kind of warning that has no place in a democracy.
‘I spoke to Julian at the weekend. He had just been allowed to have his first exercise. He was allowed to pace up and down in a small bitumen yard.
‘However, at Belmarsh prison they have a sense of humour. On the walls facing the so-called exercise yard, are “happy clappy” words about the “blades of grass beneath your feet”. But there is no grass!
‘Julian is locked up for more than 21 hours, sometimes longer.
‘It’s four months since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, literally in brutal contravention of international law.
‘Four months, and he is still denied the documents and the basic tools to prepare his case against an outrageous demand for his extradition to the United States where he faces incarceration and almost certainly torture.
‘And yet he is not allowed today to call his American lawyers, he is not allowed access to documents, he is not allowed access to a computer. He is confined to a single cell in the hospital wing, where he is isolated most of the time from other people.
‘All this because he infringed a bail order, the merest of offices, and he sought political asylum from the threat to his life that awaited him in Trump’s America.
‘When I asked him what he would like me to say today, he was adamant. “Say it’s not just me. It’s much wider. It’s all of us. It’s all journalists and all publishers who do their job who are in danger.”
‘In other words, the dangers that Julian Assange faces can easily spread to the present and past editors of The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, El Pais in Spain, The Sydney Morning Herald, and many other newspapers and media outlets around the world that published WikiLeaks’ revelations about the lies and crimes of our government.
‘Never before in my career as a journalist have I known such an attack on our most basic freedom to publish and to know.
‘The message is loud and clear. “Be careful, or you too will end up in an American Hell Hole.”
‘Journalism is not a crime in the United States, but if Julian is extradited and convicted, it will become a crime – Journalism that does its job, and tells people what governments do behind their backs in their name.
‘Julian is not an American, he is an Australian citizen. WikiLeaks which he founded is not a US-based publication. But the meaning of his extradition could not be clearer.
‘No matter who you are, or where you are, if you expose the crimes of government, you will be hunted down, kidnapped and sent to the US as a spy.
‘Seventeen out of the 18 charges, that Julian faces in American, related to the routine work of an investigative journalist, which is protected under the First Amendment of the US constitution. The 18th charge about hacking, doesn’t even relate to him. Even the prosecution say that.
‘The whole thing is a sham. The US prosecutors know it is a sham. A Federal Judge recently declared effectively, it’s a sham. The British government know it’s a sham, the Australian government knows it’s a sham.
‘That is why Julian is locked up more than 21 hours a day in a maximum security prison and treated worse than a murderer.
‘Why is that? Why is he not protected by international law as the United Nations Working Party has demanded? He is to be an example, that’s why. What happens to Julian Assange and to Chelsea Manning is meant to intimidate us, to frighten us into silence. And the moment that we fall silent, it’s over.
‘By defending Julian Assange, we defend our most sacred freedoms. Speak up now. Or wake up one morning to the silence of a new kind of tyranny.
‘The choice is ours.
‘On the 28th of September at 2 o’clock outside Belmarsh Prison there will be a demonstration by Julian’s friends and supporters.’
Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton was warmly received when he spoke and recounted his visit to Belmarsh Prison last month.
‘I hugged him, and he told me that this place he was in, was hell.
‘Afterwards, my daughter wanted to know why her uncle was locked up. “Has he done something bad, dad?” she asked. I struggled to explain in a way a five-year-old could understand. As Julian’s brother, and on behalf of his children, other brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, mother and father, I call on the UK home secretary to block extradition to the USA.’
Roger Waters took to the stage to shouts of ‘Free, Free Julian Assange.’
He said: ‘I have not got notes and I am prepared to be emotional because Julian Assange is locked up for 23 hours a day, and when John was talking about it I was thinking what I need to do to persuade people.
‘We as individuals need to be able to put ourselves in the position of someone who is in solitary confinement.
Waters revealed he had been to similar demonstrations, though not as big, when campaigning for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo prison.
Waters said: ‘Thank goodness he was eventually released and is now back with his family’.
‘How do we put ourselves in the position of a Julian Assange or of that kid in Syria, or Palestine or Rohingya, being blown to bits by these people in this building here?’ he said, pointing to the Home Office.
Waters continued: ‘We all know they make weapons to make money, not for us but for them, and in order to sell weapons they need to encourage people to kill one another and be frightened. We all know that in this desperate situation that this fragile planet is in, we are going to have to learn to act collectively.’
Waters then introduced ‘Wish You Were Here,’ the title track from Pink Floyd’s 1975 chart-topping album, explaining the meaning of the song’s lyrics, ‘would you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?’ He replied, ‘Well, no, I wouldn’t. This is my walk-on part in this war, and I would much prefer to be here with all of you, who are also making a walk-on part in a war than accepting a lead role in a cage.’
After the rally News Line spoke to Charisma from the Julian Assange Defence Committee who said: ‘I am really pleased there has been a big turnout tonight for freedom for Julian Assange.
‘He has not been charged with any crime, but has opened the eyes of the world to government corruption.
‘We will be holding another rally this Saturday for “Free Julian Assange” outside Australia House on the Strand beginning at 10.30am’