Skip to content Skip to footer

Jeremy Corbyn Calls for Pressuring Biden to Drop All Charges Against Assange

“All of us that believe in democracy should now be standing alongside Julian,” the former UK Labor Party leader said.

The British High Court in London has put the extradition of Julian Assange on hold until the United States provides assurances that he would get a fair trial in the U.S. without facing the death penalty. If those assurances are not met, Assange will be granted the right to a full appeal hearing. Speaking outside the court Tuesday, Stella Assange called for the Biden administration to “drop this shameful case” against her husband. “Julian should never have been imprisoned for a single day,” she said. We speak with MP Jeremy Corbyn, who led the U.K. Labour Party from 2015 to 2020 and who has been calling for all charges against Assange to be dropped. “The pressure needs to now go on to the Biden administration,” Corbyn says. “If Julian goes down for this, every serious journalist around the world is going to be slightly more cautious about exposing war crimes, about exposing corporate greed.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The High Court in London has put the extradition of Julian Assange on hold until the U.S. provides Britain with more assurances about how the WikiLeaks publisher will be treated in U.S. custody. The court asks the U.S. for assurances that Assange will be permitted to rely on the First Amendment, that he won’t face discrimination at trial because he’s Australian, and that he will not face the death penalty. The London High Court also ruled Assange may be able to file additional appeals to block the extradition, but that will depend on how the U.S. responds to the court’s request.

Julian Assange has been held in London’s Belmarsh Prison for nearly five years awaiting possible extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison for publishing classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julian Assange’s wife Stella spoke outside the courthouse just before our broadcast.

STELLA ASSANGE: Today’s decision is astounding. The courts recognize that Julian is exposed to a flagrant denial of his freedom of expression rights, that he is being discriminated against on the basis of his nationality, an Australian, and that he remains exposed to the death penalty. And yet, what the courts have done have been to invite a political intervention from the United States to send a letter saying it’s all OK. I find this astounding.

Five years into this case, the United States has managed to show the court that their case remains an attack on press freedom, an attack on Julian’s life. What the courts haven’t agreed to look at is the evidence that the United States has plotted to assassinate Julian, to kidnap him, because if it acknowledges that, then, of course, he can’t be sent to the United States.

Julian is a political prisoner. He is a journalist. And he is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives. This case is a retribution. It is a signal to all of you that if you expose the interests that are driving war, they will come after you, they will put you in prison, and they will try to kill you.

Julian is just a few days away from the fifth anniversary of his arrest and imprisonment in Belmarsh prison. He has been in Belmarsh for five years without conviction. And the charges against him are to punish him for publishing the truth, for publishing evidence of the war crimes committed by the country that is trying to extradite him.

Now the U.K. courts have invited the United States to issue assurances. The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case that should never have been brought. Julian should never have been in prison for a single day. This is a shame on every democracy. Julian is a political prisoner. He is a publisher, and he is being [punished] for expressing his political opinion, for expressing freedom of the press in its purest form.

Free Julian. I ask everyone to rally behind him and call for his freedom, call for the Biden administration to drop the case and support House Resolution 934 before the U.S. Congress to drop this case. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That was attorney Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange and mother of their two young children.

We’re joined now by British MP — that’s British member of Parliament — Jeremy Corbyn, who served as the leader of the Labour Party from 2015 to 2020. He’s standing outside the High Court.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, MP Corbyn. If you could start off by responding to the court’s decision? And if you can explain it in lay terms?

JEREMY CORBYN: Thanks, Amy. And it’s a real pleasure to be on the program with you.

And this morning there was a decision by the court, which, as Stella has pointed out, effectively invites the U.S.A. to give some assurances. But it also gives the opportunity for a further appeal by Julian against his removal to the U.S.A.

But if we can sort of unpick the whole thing, the reality is the pressure needs to now go on to the Biden administration, go on to President Biden, to say, “Look, you are trying to get somebody extradited from Britain under the Espionage Act, the same act that was used against Daniel Ellsberg, to be put into a supermax prison for the rest of his life — a death penalty. Why? Because he told the truth, about Afghanistan, about Iraq. Because he told uncomfortable truths about many other issues around the world.” And if Julian goes down for this, every serious journalist around the world is going to be slightly more cautious about exposing war crimes, exposing corporate greed and so many other things. And so, I appeal, if I may, through you and your audience, on Democracy Now!: We need the maximum pressure all across the U.S.A. on the Biden administration, on the candidates in the forthcoming election, to say, “Drop the charges against Julian Assange.”

We’ve had a big crowd outside the High Court here. And the date has been set for return here on May the 20th, and we’ll obviously be back here. But I should also say the support for Julian is growing. We’ve got good decisions out of the European Parliament. That’s the European Union Parliament. We’ve also got good decisions out of the Council of Europe, which is a parliamentary assembly — I’m a member of it — of all European countries. We’ve also got the support of a significant number of governments around the world: Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and so on, all around the world.

And so, we have got through today. We’ve got a slight move forward, but it’s no more than that. It’s now up to us, all of us, who believe in democracy, believe in freedom of speech, to put that pressure on the Biden administration, and, in the case of Britain, on my own government here, where the home secretary ultimately has the right to decide whether or not an extradition goes ahead. Whatever the courts say, ultimately, it’s a political decision by the governments of the day. And there’s a growing number of us in the U.K. Parliament that will continue putting that pressure on, as well.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jeremy Corbyn, you mentioned the support for Julian among institutions in the European Union. How likely would it be, regardless if the British authorities and the courts decide to extradite him, that the European Court of Human Rights might intervene in the case?

JEREMY CORBYN: The next stage would be to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights is not a European Union institution. It’s much older than that. It was founded in the postwar settlement when the European Convention on Human Rights was set up. And it is a court that meets in Strasbourg and has judges elected from every European country, and pretty well all of them, except Russia and Belarus, are in the European — the Council of Europe, and therefore in the European Court of Human Rights. And the case would go there under the convention rights.

And it’s significant, the numbers of members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly that have shown their support for Julian Assange. Now, obviously, that would be a political expression. This would be a judicial decision. But if it goes there, that would be, in my view, a good thing. But the much better option would be if President Biden recognized that within the terms of his job as president of the United States to defend the U.S. Constitution, does the U.S. Constitution not protect the right of free speech, the right of assembly, the right to publish? That’s really what it’s about.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And there have been some media reports that the Biden administration was considering a plea deal, which would end up with Julian pleading guilty to a lesser charge but then not having to serve any time in prison. Your reaction to — do you think this is another fallback position that the Biden administration is considering?

JEREMY CORBYN: Well, it shows — if the Biden administration is even thinking about that, that shows they are having second thoughts about their decision to pursue the Espionage Act against Julian. I don’t know what negotiations have gone on or not gone on. What I do know is that Julian has suffered unbelievably in almost five years in a supermax prison in Britain, the most maximum-security prison we’ve got in this country. The conditions there are pretty awful. And before that, he was five years, almost, in the Ecuadorian Embassy. My principle is that he is being punished for publishing extremely uncomfortable truths about Abu Ghraib, about Afghanistan and about much more else around the world. And he’s an embarrassment to governments like those that have committed war crimes around the world. Well, surely, all of us that believe in democracy should now be standing alongside Julian.

Join us in defending the truth before it’s too late

The future of independent journalism is uncertain, and the consequences of losing it are too grave to ignore. To ensure Truthout remains safe, strong, and free, we need to raise $33,000 in the next 2 days. Every dollar raised goes directly toward the costs of producing news you can trust.

Please give what you can — because by supporting us with a tax-deductible donation, you’re not just preserving a source of news, you’re helping to safeguard what’s left of our democracy.