- Assange’s extradition hearing will end this week.
- Ai Weiwei held a silent protest outside the Old Bailey Court in London against his extradition to the United States.
- Assange, 49, was charged by US prosecutors with 17 counts of espionage and one count of abusing computers to monitor secret intelligence of the US military.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei held a silent protest outside the Old Bailey Court in London on Monday against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. Assange was charged by the American authorities with a series of crimes, including espionage.
Assange’s extradition hearing will end this week. In the past two years, Ai Weiwei visited Assange regularly. First at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom until Assange was expelled; then at Belmarsh, the London high-security prison where Assange was held.
Ai Weiwei said that the authorities must protect freedom of the press. “He is prepared to fight, but this is not fair to him,” he said. “Free him, let him be a free man.”
Julian Assange, 49, was charged by US prosecutors with 17 counts of espionage and one count of abusing computers to monitor secret intelligence of the US military more than a decade ago. If he is convicted of these charges, Assange will face up to 175 years in prison.
Assange’s defense team said that he is a journalist, protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and has the right to supervise the wrongdoing of the U.S. military in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He truly represents a core value of why we are free — because we have freedom of the press,” Ai said. “We need a lot of protesting, and it can take any form. I’m an artist, if I cannot use my art, it’s very limited, then I’d rather just be silent.”
Assange’s father, John Shipton, also participated in the protest outside the court in London. He said, “Ai Weiwei is a world-renowned artist. He and Julian fought side by side, giving this battle a worldwide meaning.”
Ai Weiwei, 63, is one of the most successful contemporary artists. His bicycle installations and sunflower installations are all over the world. In China, he has received encouragement, tolerance, harassment, detention, and long-term prohibition of going abroad.
In 2011, after the Jasmine Revolution broke out of the Arab World, the Chinese government launched a broad crackdown on dissidents. In April of that year, Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport and was subsequently detained for 81 days. Currently, he lives in Germany and the United Kingdom.
Assange has many supporters, including some well-known personalities, such as fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actor Pamela Denise Anderson, and rapper MIA.
Assange’s extradition hearing was originally planned to be held in May this year, but because of the new coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed to early September. The hearing is scheduled to end within this week.
Imprisoned in a High-Security Prison in London
In 2012, Assange fled into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for fear of being extradited to the United States. At that time, because someone in Sweden filed a rape charge against him, Europol issued a warrant for him. However, related investigations in Sweden were later terminated.
In April 2019, the British police arrested Assange on the grounds that his escape into a foreign embassy violated the bail regulations. He was sentenced to nearly one year in prison. For nearly a year, the Australian native was imprisoned in Belmarsh, a high-security prison in London.