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WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange, jailed in Britain, has been granted honorary citizenship by the city council of Lucera in the Italian province of Foggia, the first municipality to do so.
It was agreed by 11 votes in favour with five abstentions from so-called left councillors during a session on Tuesday evening.
David Colucci, who presented the motion, apologised to Mr Assange as he described the actions of the elected representatives as “one of the most shameful pages in the history of Lucera” in recent years.
“Abstaining from [the vote giving] honorary citizenship to Julian Assange without expressing their own legitimate motivation has left me without words. I am in shock,” he said.
“At least in theory they should represent the left and therefore they should have welcomed the proposal more than a few centre-right councillors who voted in favour instead,” Mr Colucci said.
Lucera is the first municipality to officially grant citizenship to Mr Assange; his supporters hope that more will be inspired to follow suit.
The move was welcomed by the Communist Party, which has long campaigned for his freedom and was behind Tuesday’s motion.
Party leader Marco Rizzo condemned the recent decision by the British government to approve the United States’s request for Mr Assange’s extradition to face charges under the draconian Espionage Act.
He hit out at the hypocricy of those countries that claim to be democracies for failing to side with “this information hero” and denounced the credence given to “phantom persecutions” of Cuban, Russian and Chinese dissidents “that nobody knows in these countries and who are artificial creators of Western propaganda.”
Mr Assange was given two weeks to appeal against the decision by Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel and both WikiLeaks and his legal team have said they intend to do so; the deadline is tomorrow.
He faces 175 years behind bars in the US for revealing war crimes committed by Washington in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The legal process could take months and even years, during which time Mr Assange will remain locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison in conditions described by UN special rapporteur Nils Melzer as torture.
His lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who was spied on by the British government, has called on US President Joe Biden to drop the charges against Mr Assange.
“This case is, and always has been political … he should not be in prison,” she said in an interview with Australia’s The Sunday Project.
Protests will take place in London tomorrow, with campaigners set to gather from 11am outside the Home Office.
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