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Supporters of Julian Assange rally at Justice Dept. on 4-year anniversary of detainment

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gathered at the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday to mark the four-year anniversary of his arrest in London.

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gathered at the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday to mark the four-year anniversary of the Australian journalist being detained in London over the publication of classified U.S. military documents.

Assange's case was called the "free speech trial of the 21st century" by Marty Goodman of Socialist Action and NYC Free Assange. Goodman emphasized that, despite Assange not being American, he is being "persecuted for free speech and exposing war crimes" committed by the U.S.

"He's a marvelous beacon of integrity and dedication to the truth," he said of Assange at the rally. "And I'm always inspired by Julian Assange."

Assange is facing a legal battle in which he could be extradited to the U.S. in connection with Wikileaks publishing top secret cables detailing war crimes committed by the U.S. government in the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp, Iraq and Afghanistan. The materials, which were all leaked to him, also expose instances of the CIA engaging in torture and rendition. Additionally, last week marked 13 years since Assange published a video of the U.S. military gunning down civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Iraq. 


If he is extradited to the U.S., Assange would face 17 charges for receiving, possessing and communicating classified information to the public under the espionage act and one charge alleging a conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He could be sentenced to as many as 175 years in an American maximum security prison.

Assange has been held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since he was removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, 2019, for breaching jail conditions. He had sought asylum at the embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations he raped two women. The investigations into the sexual assault allegations were eventually dropped.

"Why is Julian Assange in there? Because he dared to tell the truth about this lying country," Rev. Annie Chambers said.

The Cablegate documents Assange is facing prosecution over were leaked to WikiLeaks by then-U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who in 2013 was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses.

The Obama administration elected against indicting Assange after Wikileaks published the cables in 2010 because it would have had to do the same to journalists from major news outlets who engaged in similar actions. But former President Trump's Justice Department later moved to indict Assange under the Espionage Act.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was charged and imprisoned by the Obama administration for passing classified information to the media, spoke about the former president's decision not to prosecute Assange.

"Barack Obama, for all his faults, and believe me, there were a lot, it was Barack Obama that put me in prison, me and seven other whistleblowers," Kiriakou said. "But even Barack Obama said about Julian Assange that the Justice Department in that case had the New York Times problem. The New York Times problem being if you prosecute a publisher, or a journalist like Julian Assange, then you have to prosecute every publisher, and every journalist for doing his or her job at the Washington Post and The New York Times and every other mainstream outlet in America. And that wasn't gonna work. Donald Trump thought differently."

"But then when Joe Biden was elected, it gave him the opportunity to reverse this wrong, this stupid idea to prosecute a journalist," he continued. "And he hasn't, he hasn't. This case is no longer just about Julian Assange. This case is about the Constitution. This case is about the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of press. If Julian Assange goes to prison, then all of us are liable to be prosecuted for something."

During one speech at Tuesday's event, a man walked in front of the speaker's podium, stripped completely naked and attempted to light his clothes on fire. He was seen pouring fire accelerant on his clothes before pulling out a lighter. Several police officers and event speakers intervened to stop him. Police confirmed to Fox News Digital that he was taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Services. It is unclear what charges he will face.


The man had a "Free Assange" tattoo on his chest that appeared to be new ink, but event organizers and other rally attendees told Fox News Digital that they did not recognize him.

"April 11 marks the four-year anniversary of Julian Assange's arrest," event organizer Misty Winston told Fox News Digital after the rally. "Obviously, this is something that's been going on for far too long. Journalism is not a crime, we hear a lot of powerful people saying that recently. Clearly, they don't mean it, or Julian Assange would have never been arrested, and he certainly still wouldn't be in Belmarsh Prison. So hopefully, we can continue to keep up the pressure. We now have the Dear Colleague letter in Congress through [Rashida Tlaib]. Hopefully, we can build on that momentum and that pressure moving forward and continue to fight to get Julian Assange out of prison and fight for the future of press freedom."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is leading a congressional effort demanding the Justice Department drop the charges against the Wikileaks founder. Tlaib's letter has received signatures from multiple Democratic House members, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman, N.Y., Greg Casar, Texas, Cori Bush, Mo., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, N.Y.

"I don't trust politicians," Winston said. "But I do think [Tlaib's letter is] something that we in the Assange movement can use to garner mainstream support, to kind of push it into the mainstream narrative. Now that we have members of Congress, big names and members of Congress who are supporting it, it's something that we can use to our benefit to kind of create that momentum moving forward and getting into the mainstream." 

The four-year anniversary of Assange's detainment comes after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested last month in Russia and subsequently charged with espionage for allegedly collecting classified information on the military-industrial complex.


"It is amazing to hear people like [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer say things like ‘journalism is not a crime’ while Julian Assange is sitting in prison," Winston said, referring to a recent joint statement from Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding Gershkovich's release. "It's not surprising, it's just kind of par for the course. But hopefully, we can also use [Gershkovich's case] to continue to put pressure on members of Congress and to get it out into the mainstream narrative because a lot of people were talking about Evan Gershkovich. And if we can use that to bring eyes and attention to Julian Assange, I think we should do that."

The rally also comes shortly after classified Pentagon documents on the Russia-Ukraine war were leaked and subsequently published by major news outlets. 

Last year, the editors and publishers of U.S. and European news outlets that worked with Assange on the publication of excerpts from more than 250,000 documents he obtained in the Cablegate leak — The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País — wrote an open letter calling for the U.S. to end its prosecution of Assange.

The Justice Department declined to comment about Assange's case when contacted by Fox News Digital.

Other speakers at the rally on Tuesday included former Green Party gubernatorial candidate in Maryland Ian Schlakman, Radio host and former ACLU board member Garland Nixon, The Grayzone News editor Max Blumenthal and former CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray.

During the Trump administration, the CIA reportedly had plans to kill Assange over the publication of sensitive agency hacking tools known as "Vault 7" that the agency said represented "the largest data loss in CIA history," according to a 2021 Yahoo report. The CIA also had discussions "at the highest levels" of the administration about plans to assassinate Assange in London. Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had also instructed the agency to draw up kill "sketches" and "options."

The CIA had advanced plans to kidnap and rendition Assange and had made a political decision to charge him, according to the report.

Wikileaks' work further includes the publication of internal communications between the Democratic National Committee and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016. The communications revealed the DNC's attempts to boost Clinton in that year's Democratic primary.

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