The Socialist Equality Group (SEG) has called a demonstration in Wellington on Sunday, February 23 to demand the immediate and unconditional release from imprisonment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Assange’s extradition hearing begins in London on February 24. The British courts will decide whether to flagrantly disregard fundamental democratic principles and send him to his American state persecutors. The WikiLeaks founder is threatened with a show trial on charges of espionage and the prospect of life in prison for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, global diplomatic conspiracies and human rights violations. All those who defend democratic rights must build the campaign to win his freedom.
The demonstration, like others in Australia and the UK, will demand that the Australian government immediately intervene to prevent Assange’s extradition from Britain to the US and secure his right to return to Australia with full protection from prosecution. The New Zealand government must break its silence and use its diplomatic influence on Australia and Britain to gain Assange’s freedom. Speakers will include representatives from the SEG and Free Assange NZ.
Since last April, when he was illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy where he had political asylum, Assange has been subjected to the most vindictive mistreatment. He has been imprisoned in virtual solitary confinement in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, with restricted access to communication, personal visitors and his lawyers. British authorities rejected the demands by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and over 100 eminent doctors that Assange be immediately moved to a hospital. Doctors who have examined Assange warn that his health has deteriorated to the point that he may die in prison.
The threat of extradition facing Assange is the outcome of a vicious nine-year vendetta directed by successive US governments—with the full support of governments in Australia and complicit silence from NZ governments.
The treatment of Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for seven years for leaking the explosive US army documents and American diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in 2010, has been no less brutal. Manning was re-imprisoned in March last year for refusing to appear before a grand jury and retract the testimony she gave during her military trial that she acted alone, without any encouragement or direction from WikiLeaks. She has refused to participate in the attempt to frame Assange and condemn him to death in a prison cell despite being imposed with crippling fines of $1000 per day.
Assange and Manning are class war prisoners. Their persecution is the spearhead of an attempt to silence opposition to militarism and war, amid preparations by US imperialism for catastrophic conflicts against Iran and nuclear-armed powers such as China and Russia. It is aimed at criminalising any exposure of the criminality and corruption of governments, the military-intelligence apparatus and corporations, under conditions of a global resurgence of the workers’ struggles for wages, conditions, action on climate change and against war.
The support of the Australian and NZ political and media establishment for the persecution of Assange flows from their commitment to the US alliance and US imperialism’s wars and military preparations. The NZ ruling elite is pressing ahead with its own assault on democratic rights, including advocating censorship of social media, intimidating and spying on journalists, arming the police and strengthening the military and intelligence agencies.
The SEG rally is part of an international campaign by the World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International. We welcome the participation of all groups and individuals who are genuinely committed to the freedom of Assange and the defence of democratic rights.
Free Assange! Free Manning! No to extradition!