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‘This is an attack on journalism’

Assange supporters gather outside Royal Courts of Justice as trial begins

JULIAN ASSANGE supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice today as the Wikileaks founder made a last-ditch attempt to halt his extradition to the United States.

If extradited and convicted, he faces up to 175 years in jail under the WWI-era Espionage Act, which was initially used to prosecute spies.

Chants of “UK, US shame on you” rang out from protesters as Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse Apsana Begum addressed the crowd outside the court.

“This case is about people and their power, versus the state and its imperialism,” she said. “Ultimately it is about seeking justice in an all-too-often unjust world.”

Labour MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana said: “We know Julian is being targeted for exposing US war crimes. This isn’t just an attack on Julian, this is an attack on journalism, on the free press.

“Everyone who cares about free speech should care about this case, should care about the persecution of Julian, should care about the charges being dropped.”

Hundreds of ribbons with the words “Free Julian Assange now!” were tied to the main fence outside the court and the surrounding gates.

Protesters held placards saying “Free Julian Assange” and “drop the charges,” and chanted: “There is only one decision: no extradition.”

Reporters Without Borders director of campaigns Rebecca Vincent said the extradition would set an alarming precedent that could be applied to “anyone who works with stories based on leaked classified information, which is of course a normal journalistic process.

“So when we say that it’s the future of journalism at stake, that is what we mean,” she said.

Stella Assange, Mr Assange’s wife, thanked protesters, telling them: “Please keep on showing up, be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free. We have two big days ahead, We don’t know what to expect, but you’re here because the world is watching.

“Julian needs his freedom and we all need the truth.”

Protesters will be outside the Royal Courts of Justice again from 8.30am today and will march to Downing Street after the hearing.

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