John Shipton, father of detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, says he’ll return to the United States to ask President Joe Biden to drop legal action against his son.
The acclaimed journalist is still in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, despite British High Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruling against his extradition to the US earlier this year on grounds she considered the prisoner a suicide risk.
US lawyers said at the time of the ruling they would appeal it but Mr Shipton told supporters at a public forum in Mullumbimby last week the US had a new attorney-general under Mr Biden’s administration.
Mr Shipton said the change came alongside a number of other significant changes in terms of the powerbrokers impacting Mr Assange’s detention.
Mr Shipton is on tour down the East coast of Australia with plans to stop in Canberra and lobby federal politicians to intervene on Mr Assange’s behalf.
A letter to Assange: simple but powerful
A small but passionate crowd of supporters turned up in Byron’s Railway Park on Friday to hear Mr Shipton speak alongside Melbourne4WikiLeaks member Jacob Grech, Greens Byron Shire Councillor Sarah Ndiaye and Bay FM Community Newsroom reporter Dr John Jiggens.
The appearance happened after larger turn-outs to last week’s public forum in Mullumbimby and a packed-out crowd at Nimbin’s Town Hall during the recent MardiGrass festival.
Mullumbimby supporters heard one of the simplest yet most powerful actions they could take to help Mr Assange was to write to him in prison.
One of the speakers on the panel, long-time peace advocate Ciaron O’Reilly, had spent time in jails overseas – including in the US – and said when prisoners received mail it also sent a message to prison authorities that the person in their care wasn’t forgotten.
increased political support for Assange, says father
Supporters also heard that while Mr Assange hasn’t been allowed to see his lawyers for the past twelve months due to pandemic restrictions in Belmarsh Prison, he is no longer being kept in isolation for 23 hours per day.
Prisoners inside Belmarsh have petitioned authorities three times asking for Mr Assange to be shifted from a maximum security area to an area with provisions for Mr Assange’s health needs, Mr Shipton said.
Back in Australia, Mr Shipton said another two federal politicians had joined a Bring Julian Assange Home parliamentary group, bringing the membership tally to 26.
One of the newest members was a Liberal politician, Mr Shipton said, meaning there were three coalition representatives in the group, all of them backbenchers.
Northern Rivers’ support for Assange still strong
Speaking after the Railway Park rally on Friday, Mr Shipton thanked Northern Rivers’ supporters of his son’s release.
‘This is, of course, where Julian went to school at eleven years of age,’ he said, ‘from the border down to around Coffs Harbour, including Bellingen, the support is very strong’.
‘We hope to magnify that support throughout the balance of Australia as our tour goes on to New Castle and into Canberra,’ Mr Shipton said.
Varesha Stepanavcius was at the rally with her two young daughters, Feather and Lotus.
Ms Stepanavcius said she stood in solidarity with John Shipton and Julian Assange.
‘I’m really happy to be here today to show my children what activism looks like and for things you care about and how to stand up for them, no matter how big or small,’ Ms Stepanavcius said.