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Campaigners call for Assange's release on 1,000th day of his imprisonment

CAMPAIGNERS calling for the release of Julian Assange will stage events on Wednesday to mark the 1,000 days that the WikiLeaks founder has spent in prison.

His supporters will gather outside Belmarsh prison in south-east London, where he is being held as the United States continues to attempt to extradite him.

His fiancee Stella Moris renewed her call for his release, noting that he has spent longer in Belmarsh than many prisoners sentenced for violent crimes.

She said: “His young children, aged two and four, have no memory of their father outside the highest security prison of the UK.

“The US government is trying to put an Australian publisher on trial in a US national security court, where he faces a 175-year sentence and imprisonment in conditions of torture and total isolation, simply because he was doing his job.

“Because he received true information about the victims and the crimes committed by US operations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq from Chelsea Manning and he published it.”

Ms Moris said that as long as he remained in prison, Mr Assange would be a political prisoner, warning that his “indefinite incarceration” would kill him unless it was brought to an end.

“In those 1,000 days, Julian has been held in extraordinary isolation for part of the time, faced two Covid shutdowns and, in October, he suffered a stress-induced stroke during his latest hearing,” she said.

“His lawyers have complained about the limited access they have to their client, which has undermined his defence.

“His requests to attend his own hearings have been refused and when he has been permitted to attend, his requests to sit next to his lawyers have also been refused.”

John Rees of Don’t Extradite Assange told the Morning Star: “He has not been convicted of any crime. He is simply held at the request of the US government while they try to prove to UK courts that he should be extradited to face charges in America for revealing the truth about the Afghan and Iraq wars.

“Every major civil liberties organisation, the National Union of Journalists, and MPs from every party have called for his freedom. It is long, long overdue that their voices were listened to.”

National Union of Journalists assistant secretary Seamus Dooley called Mr Assange’s continued incarceration “a stain on the history of the UK. 

“The fact that Assange remains in prison under threat of extradition to the United States because of his role as a whistleblower is a cause of grave to all who cherish the right to freedom of expression. 

“Whistleblowers perform a vital role in society and are deserving of protection, not oppression or criminalisation. Assange, through his journalistic work, belongs to a proud tradition of those unafraid to expose the naked truth and to shine a light in the darkest corners. He has suffered not only loss of liberty but severe damage to his physical and mental health. This is a grim landmark and one which should not go unmarked.”

The 50-year-old is wanted in the US over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, disclosing war crimes.

US authorities brought a High Court challenge against a January ruling by then district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Mr Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide. After a two-day hearing in October, the High Court ruled in favour of the US government on December 10.

Mr Assange’s lawyers are fighting to overturn that decision and have applied to take his case to the Supreme Court.

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