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13 former and present world leaders make urgent call to halt Assange's ‘illegal’ trial

Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva among 165 others urging the British government to free the Wikileaks founder

THIRTEEN former and present world leaders have made an urgent call to the British government to halt Julian Assange’s “illegal” trial on extradition to the US. 

Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva is among 165 politicians across 27 countries joining the call to demand the freedom of the Wikileaks founder, currently fighting extradition at the Old Bailey in London. 

Endorsing an open letter to PM Boris Johnson, signed by 189 lawyers, Lula said today: “Assange should be perceived as a hero of democracy. He does not deserve to be punished. 

“I hope the people of the UK, the people of France, the people of the United States will not allow this atrocity.”

The letter, penned by Lawyers for Assange, claims that the extradition proceedings and request “violate national and international law, breach fair trial rights and other human rights, and threaten press freedom and democracy.”

It alleges that Mr Assange could be at risk of torture in the US, making extradition to the country illegal. 

Signatories also include Argentinian President Alberto Angel Fernandez, former Spanish PM Luis Zapatero and Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff. 

The extradition proceedings, which entered their third week on Monday, have been widely criticised for preventing legal observers from entering the court.

Amnesty International today described the judge’s refusal to grant special provision to fair trial monitors as “disturbing.” 

“Amnesty International have monitored trials from Guantanamo Bay to Bahrain, Ecuador to Turkey. For our observer to be denied access profoundly undermines open justice,” Amnesty researcher Stefan Simanowitz said. 

Mr Assange faces up to 175 years in prison on espionage charges over the release of classified documents in 2010 and 2011, which exposed US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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