Protesters urge new govt to offer asylum to Assange

Ljubljana – Around a hundred people gathered outside an office tower housing the UK Embassy in Ljubljana on Wednesday to support WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and protest against a UK court’s decision to allow his extradition to the US. The protesters urged Slovenia’s future government to offer Assange political asylum.

Ahead of the rally, Friday’s bicycle protesters issued a press release saying that Assange’s fate would be shared by all the journalists, publishers, editors, whistleblowers and others who in the future disclose criminal acts committed by governments.

Condemning “the persecution of investigative journalism, whistleblowing and protesting”, the protesters urged freedom those who are subject to punishment for acting against “actions that should never have happened”. They called for Assange’s immediate release.

Metka Naglič of Amnesty Slovenija said Assange’s extradition to the US would set a dangerous precedent. “If the UK government allows a foreign country to exercise extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction to prosecute a person who has published in the UK, other countries could use such legal procedures to jail journalists and silence media far from their borders,” she said.

The rally was also addressed by Slovenian PEN Centre president Tanja Tuma, who appealed to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to prevent Assange’s extradition.

The protesters noted that in a debate ahead of the 24 April general election in Slovenia the parties that responded to questions from the Voice of the People initiative answered in the affirmative when asked whether they would offer asylum to Assange, except for the SAB party, which abstained.

“We call on all those politicians to take responsibility for their pre-election statements and to appeal with the UK Embassy and their British colleagues for Assange’s immediate release from prison,” they said.

A London court in April formally approved Assange’s extradition to the US on espionage charges. Home Secretary Priti Patel will take the ultimate decision. If she confirms the extradition, Assange’s lawyers can appeal with a higher court. In March the UK supreme court refused Assange’s appeal against his extradition.