24 Mar, 2020 by https://www.rt.com/
By Chris Sweeney, author who has written for various UK magazines and newspapers, including The Times, The Sun and The Daily Record.
At a time when even the likes of Iran are letting thousands of non-violent offenders out of jail, the UK’s refusal to budge on one journalist is indefensible and surrenders the moral high ground it never had to begin with.
Julian Assange has been at the heart of, or connected to, almost every major political event of the past decade. And unwittingly, he’s now set to take centre-stage in the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
On Wednesday, his legal team will apply for him to be unshackled and let out of London’s Belmarsh Prison on bail. Their argument is that because of overcrowding, the WikiLeaks founder is at very high risk of contracting the virus – and should be set free.
The claim is given even more heft by over 100 doctors confirming in medical journal the Lancet that even without the threat of the virus, he’s in a “dire state of health,” which makes him even more susceptible.
For me, that simple logic is enough and if it were my call, I’d throw the keys through the cell bars and let Julian do the rest. But sadly, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Earlier this month, a Prison Services spokesman said: “We are not planning to release any prisoners as a result of Covid-19.”
Once again, Britain has placed itself on the wrong side of a moral debate.
Assange hasn’t committed any crime under British law as it stands – back in September, he completed a 50-week sentence after hiding out in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid being sent to Sweden.
He is now solely being held whilst the courts decide whether to extradite him to the US.
This is the same US that told the grieving family of 19-year-old Harry Dunn to get stuffed and to not dare mention the ‘E’ word, when the English teenager was tragically killed by Anne Sacoolas. She’s the idiotic wife of an American intelligence officer who forgot what country she was in, drove head-on into Harry on the wrong side of the road and then fled back home across the Atlantic.
Assange hasn’t killed anyone; his alleged crimes are espionage and publishing classified documents. Well, thank Christ he did, as those papers finally shed a light on a whole host of indiscretions and sordid abuse that the American military was responsible for in Iraq and Afghanistan.They have been subsequently reported widely by news organisations all across the globe.
But for this, the US thinks that Assange deserves 175 years in the slammer if found guilty.
Sadly for Assange, the man at the top of the British pyramid is a wimp, in the shape of Boris Johnson.
He and Trump were said to be close friends, but according to reports, relations have cooled of late due to Britain agreeing to be supplied by Chinese tech firm Huawei. Either way, Johnson – who was actually born in New York – is renowned for bending his moral code with the breeze.
He and his government have stuck their heads in the sand over Assange, hoping the problem would disappear for fear of having to confront Trump and the White House.
Maybe the shocking state of Britain’s dilapidated jails might do the job for them. Over 300 new inmates arrive in Belmarsh every month, and the Prisoners’ Advice System – an independent charity representing inmates – has called for all low-risk prisoners to be released.
Professor Richard Coker, an expert on infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has warned that a coronavirus outbreak may affect 60 percent of all prisoners – and Andrea Butt, the president of the British Prison Governors’ Association, has voiced the opinion that there will be deaths in custody.
As if this wasn’t enough to force Johnson’s hand, we’ve got the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
She’s a joint British-Iranian national who was sentenced to five years by a court in Tehran for attempting to overthrow the government.
During his time as foreign secretary, blundering Johnson spoke out on her case and incredibly made incriminating claims that she had been in Iran teaching journalism classes, when the woman herself had vehemently denied anything of the sort – and implored that she had only been on a trip to visit family.
Anyway, Nazanin has been allowed out on bail.
Oh, and so have 84,999 others in Iran – which operates under a regime not exactly renowned for its compassion.
Even their authorities have realised that risking lives is not above altering a legal system’s protocols.
Local jails in the US, including places like Chicago, Louisville, Austin, Virginia Beach, and Omaha, have also begun releasing nonviolent offenders due to Covid-19 fears. The Canadian province of Saskatchewan let out two men on bail for the same reason, even though both were charged with manslaughter relating to fentanyl laced with cocaine.
Still, the British government, which is helmed by the so-called brilliant minds formerly of hallowed universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, is hunkering down to buck that trend.
What sort of state would keep a journalist locked up and simultaneously endanger his or her life?
It’s the same sort of state that seemingly wants to lecture other nations on what is correct and then sticks its nose into all sorts of things, because of its perceived status as a fair, just and respected country.
Well Britain could, and likely will, be left with blood on its hands on Wednesday. And you know what? It won’t wash off.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.