British judges are not known for their liberality and our courts are generally not sympathetic to those who jump bail. Nevertheless, the sentencing of Julian Assange to 50 weeks in jail – just two weeks shy of the 12-month maximum for this offence, smacks of the vindictiveness that the bourgeoisie reserve for those who politically offend them.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail by a London court this week for skipping bail to enter the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was holed up for almost seven years until police dragged him out last month. His sentence, for seeking and receiving asylum, is twice as much as the sentencing guidelines. The so-called ‘speedboat killer’, jailed for six years for the manslaughter for the death of his girl-friend in a crash on the Thames, only got six months extra for failing to appear in court. His supporters now, quite rightly, doubt whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing when it comes up this week.
The persecution of Assange is part of a world-wide imperialist campaign to suppress anything that challenges the lie-machines that exist to justify bourgeois rule. In the past they masqueraded as champions of “democracy” and “human rights” to justify the Cold War and neo-colonialism in the Third World. The ‘New Media Age’, with independent global TV networks and a world-wide internet network than cannot easily be controlled, has broken the bourgeois media monopoly and now the ruling class are resorting to fascist methods of censorship and persecution in a new drive to stifle anything that challenges aggression, oppression and exploitation.
Assange’s ‘crime’ was his refusal to play the bogus ‘human rights’ game and turn a blind eye to the crimes of imperialism. He worked together with former US soldier and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning to expose war-crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the notorious ‘Collateral Murder’ video that shows American helicopter gun-ships mowing down innocent civilians in Baghdad in 2007 during the American occupation of Iraq.
Manning spent around seven years in prison for exposing war-crimes. She’s now back in jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Assange faces even worse retribution if he falls into American hands.
The Americans want to criminalise long-established source protection practices and journalists working with whistle-blowers who disclose classified information for the public interest. Scores of media freedom campaigns, news outlets, United Nations representatives, politicians and public figures are opposed to Assange’s extradition to the USA and they have warned of its worrying implications.
Jeremy Corbyn has called on the May government to oppose any American request to send the 47-year-old WikiLeaks founder for trial in America for obtaining classified information from former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Corbyn said: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government” and Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, likened the case to that of computer hacker Gary McKinnon, whose US extradition was blocked by the Tory government in 2012 when Mrs May was home secretary.
If Assange is extradited to the USA he will face charges that could lead to a long stretch in prison. This must not happen.