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Fired-up Gun backs campaign to free Assange

31 October, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Julian Assange

KATHARINE Gun, whose exposure of a dirty Iraq War secret the government tried to hide is sticking her neck out – again!

In the Hollywood film version of Gun’s life Official Secrets – she is played by Keira Knightly – she is seen working for GCHQ when she stumbles on a CIA email trying to blackmail UN Security Council members and leaks it to the press.

Now she is daring to publicly support the campaign to free Julian Assange who appears to be Britain’s No 1 pariah. She has allowed her photograph and statement backing him to appear on a leaflet distributed by his few supporters.

Assange has served his time for breach of bail but the establishment is keeping him in custody in the tightest security jail in the UK, Belmarsh, south London.

He should be on bail awaiting an extradition hearing next February to the US but, punitively, Westminster Magistrates’ Court maintain he is a flight risk and should remain in jail. He is kept 23 hours in solitary and only allowed out of his cell for a short period – on his own. He is not allowed to mix with other prisoners.

But decency, which boils down to a moral judgment, is clearly lacking in this case.

Katharine Gun on the leaflet with her statement in support of Julian Assange

The fact is Assange has been abandoned by both the mainstream media as well as liberal opinion and Labour and Left protesters.

A protest outside the BBC in Langham Place, West End, on Saturday gathered just a 100 or so protesters – mainly middle aged and elderly women and men and a sprinkling of a youngsters. But where was the so-called Left that are often accused of taking over public protest gatherings? I didn’t see a single face of any Camden Labour or Lib Dem member. I didn’t see any poster from the Labour Party or the Lib Dems.

And there certainly weren’t any posters from far-left groups.

Why? Because he is not a particularly well-liked person – he was alleged to have committed acts of sexual assault in Sweden and fled to the UK, then he is believed to have lost a great deal of money friends had offered up as a bail surety before he sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Moral judgments do not appear to play the part they should have in public dissent. The moment public dissenters think you are not a nice sort of person they are likely to walk by when you need them most.

Conditions in Belmarsh are notoriously bad. Even convicted criminals should not be kept in those conditions. Conditions in British prisons have never been as bad as they are today, mainly because of cuts in staffing and resources, something the Prison Justice ministry admit.

But, it is clear, the Home Office is determined to keep him inside a jail, whatever the conventions of the law. Is that to appease the US government who want him for trial in the US?

Who is Julian Assange? He is an Australian, a publisher and a journalist.

He helped to leak documents that exposed secrets the US wanted to keep from the public. For that he is paying a terrible price. In the past few years a strong authoritarian streak has begun to run through various governments.

You’d think newspapers and independent TV channels, like Channel 4, would take up his cause. Even if they didn’t feel it breached the hallowed canons of press freedom there is the moral issue – a man being kept of solitary confinement. Perhaps, all they can see is the original allegations of sexual assault, and that, to them, is enough to justify his incarceration.

It all comes down to moral judgments. Libertarians and lefty protesters are quick to rush to the barricades on big sweeping issues – the Iraq war, Brexit – but they often flounder on moral issues.The only “public figure” who dared to attend the protest was Ken Livingstone but then, condemned by more than 100 Labour MPs as “anti-semitic”, he is used to being treated as a pariah.

He made a very short speech, mainly against the machinations of US policy, and left. “I have to go to look after the kids,” he apologised. He is 74, and in quite good shape though suffering a bit from arthritis.

The next protest by the small band of brethren who feel Assange is getting a raw deal will be held outside the Home Office on November 5.

Then another at St Pancras Church on November 28 where journalist John Pilger, academics and artists will appear.

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