Julian Assange supporters hold vigils to mark arrest anniversary

Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent
·3-min read

Vigils have been held in cities across the world to mark the second anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being detained in prison after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Supporters demanding his release joined events on Sunday in countries including the UK, Australia, Germany and the United States.

Protests were held in London outside the Ecuadorian embassy, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and at Belmarsh prison where he is being held.

Messages saying “Bring Assange Home”, and “Journalism Is Not A Crime” were also projected onto buildings in the capital.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh high security jail since he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11 2019 by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

He had entered the embassy in 2012 after exhausting all legal avenues to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.

A bid by the United States to extradite him was rejected at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this year but Assange has remained in prison until the outcome of an appeal

He was denied bail under strict conditions for fear he could abscond and deny prosecutors the chance to appeal.

Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice (PA)

The 49-year-old is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told the PA news agency that Assange’s continued imprisonment was an “outrage and a travesty of justice”.

He said: “April 11 marks two years since one of the world’s most important journalists was silenced when Metropolitan Police officers stormed into the Ecuadorian embassy and subsequently arrested and imprisoned Julian Assange on the United States’ behalf.

“It has now been two years of incarceration, isolation and psychological torture, all for exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same journalism for which Julian has been applauded all over the world for and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stella Moris
Julian Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, has called for him to be returned to their two children (Yui Mok/PA)

“It’s long past time for this injustice to end and we continue to appeal to the United States and the Department of Justice to drop the appeal and all the charges against Julian.

“In January, a judge in London ruled that Julian should not be extradited and so we are today calling for him to be released from Belmarsh prison and be a free man to be able to spend his time with his young family.”

Mr Hrafnsson added that dozens of human rights and media organisations are supporting the case for Assange to be freed, saying: “This gross injustice must come to an end.”

It was recently revealed that Pope Francis sent a personal message to Assange, whose partner Stella Moris said: “After a hard night, Julian woke up this morning to a kind, personal message from Pope Francis @pontifex delivered to his cell door by the prison priest.”