Leading journalists, lawyers and human rights activists will gather at the National Press Club in Washington DC on 9 December as the extradition case against Julian Assange, the Australian publisher who founded WikiLeaks, reaches a critical juncture.
The meeting is intended as a collective response to what many see as a crackdown on free speech by the US administration under President Joe Biden, and is being organised by the internationalist movement Progressive International.
Assange (52) faces extradition to the US over the 2010 publication of classified military records and diplomatic cables, and has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. If extradited from the UK, Assange is at risk of being sentenced to up to 175 years imprisonment. The case against Assange is the first ever prosecution of a publisher under the US Espionage Act.
The Belmarsh Tribunal, an initiative to present evidence of the systemic attack on press freedom, uses Assange’s story as a focal point. An invitation to the public to attend the event in person or virtually through the provided registration link also serves as a call to action.
Progressive International launched the inaugural Belmarsh Tribunal on 2 October 2020, with legal experts and Assange supporters holding hearings into allegations that the charges against Assange are ‘ongoing attacks on press freedom’. The tribunal has been modelled on the Russell-Sartre tribunals of 1966, which investigated the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.
The forthcoming meeting will bring together eminent figures from a range of backgrounds to draw attention to what they see as a threat to the principles of democracy, amid growing pressure for Assange’s freedom.