Julian Assange trends as Navalny death highlights another jailed journalist

Julian Assange trends as Navalny death highlights another jailed journalist

Related video: 'Bring Assange Home' - Australia calls for return not extradition

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After staunch Putin critic Alexei Navalny was reported dead by Russia’s federal prison service on Friday (16 February), attention has now turned to another high-profile individual persecuted for holding the government to account: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Navalny produced a number of films alleging corruption in Russia’s political establishment before he was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in 2020 (an act he claimed was carried out on behalf of the government) and then sentenced to a lengthy term in prison.

He died there after he “felt unwell”, and “almost immediately lost consciousness” with medical staff unable to resuscitate him. A cause of death is being established.

Assange, meanwhile, attracted heat from the US government after he published thousands of leaked, classified documents pertaining to the country’s activities in Iraq. The Guardian reported on the logs, detailing how American authorities allegedly failing to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.

In 2012, he walked into the Ecuadorean embassy in London and was granted political asylum there, as he faced sexual assault allegations made in Sweden (which he repeatedly denies, and which were later dropped by prosecutors), and feared an extradition to the Scandinavian country would result in a further extradition to the US concerning espionage charges.

After living there for seven years, he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police for failing to surrender to Westminster Magistrates’ Court all those years ago, when the embassy withdrew his asylum due to “discourteous and aggressive behaviour”.

He was arrested again in custody on behalf of the US authorities, who sought his extradition based on allegations he knowingly and intentionally accessed a computer “without authorisation and exceeding authorised access” to obtain and communicate classified information.

Assange denies any wrongdoing.

Since he was apprehended by the police in 2019, Assange has been in London’s Belmarsh prison, and next week, his High Court appeal over whether he can contest being extradited to the US will be heard by the court.

His supporters fear he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison if extradited, while his wife Stella Assange said her husband “will die” if it happens.

She also said Assange would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights for a Rule 39 order – that’s the same intervention which stopped the first Rwanda flight, by the way – if he is unsuccessful in stopping the extradition.

And against the backdrop of Navalny’s death – confirmed by his spokesperson on SaturdayTwitter/X users have questioned politicians for commenting on the Russian activist, while not mentioning Assange:

A Change.org petition calling on James Cleverly, the home secretary, to intervene in the case to stop the US extradition has more than 95,000 signatures at the time of writing.

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