Australian groups to rally around Julian Assange after court case

Thursday, May 24, 2012 – By Simon Butler

Australian supporters of WikiLeaks have announced nationwide protests after news that Britain’s supreme court will decide on Julian Assange’s final appeal against extradition to Sweden on May 30. The protest rallies will take place in most capital cities the next day, May 31.

The rallies will take place regardless of the court’s decision. Even though Assange has spent the past 534 days under house arrest without charge, protest organisers say the campaign to defend Assange and WikiLeaks is only just beginning.

Sydney rally organisers, the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC), said: “If Assange loses he will be sent to Sweden by force within 10 days. From Sweden, he could be sent immediately to the US where he faces prosecution for publishing information just like any other journalist. Even if he wins the appeal, the US will likely seek to extradite him from the UK or Australia.”

The coalition said the Sydney rally will also tell the Australian government, which has “done nothing to assist Assange”, that “we will not stand by while they sell out our fellow Australian, Julian Assange, and sell out our democracy”.

SAWC said: “Prime Minister Julia Gillard labelled Assange a criminal and her government has been quietly passing legislation which will potentially make it easier for Assange to be extradited to the US, should he ever return to Australia. They have denied all knowledge of the sealed indictment against Assange and continue to block freedom of information requests for information relating to documents relating to potential US extradition, reportedly at the behest of the US government.”

Rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide will take place outside offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). In Perth, the rally will start at the Murray St Mall. In Townsville, WikiLeaks supporters will gather outside the office of federal MP Ewen Jones. Wlcentral.org has compiled the details of these protests.

WikiLeaks supporters have also announced protests that day in Frankfurt, Edinburgh and Washington DC. Supporters will also gather in London for a vigil outside the supreme court on the morning of the judgement.

In an unusual step, the British supreme court released a statement telling court visitors of the limited space available on May 30 and warning that those with “clothing or other materials bearing messages” will be barred entry.

After news of the May 30 decision broke, WikiLeaks tweeted: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. Join Friends of WikiLeaks https://wlfriends.org/.”

WikiLeaks also urged supporters to send messages of protest to Australian, Swedish, British and EU MPs, asked for donations to the Julian Assange Defence Fund and posted a link to the Nordic News Network’s backgrounder to the Assange case in Sweden.

Despite the Australian government’s hostile stance, WikiLeaks and Assange still enjoy wide popularity in Australia for their journalistic work.

Polling company UMR Research said last week that 25% of Australian voters would vote for Assange if he stood in a Senate election. In NSW, 27% of voters polled said they would back Assange. In last year’s NSW state election, the Labor party won just 25.55% of the vote.
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