The American attempt to extradite Julian Assange is the “Dreyfus case of our time,” said John McDonnell after a two-hour visit to see the WikiLeaks founder in Belmarsh prison.
Last Wednesday it was stated in a London court that Donald Trump had offered forgiveness to Assange if he said that Russia was not involved in the Democratic party’s email leak.
Comparing Assange’s plight to Alfred Dreyfus, the 19th century French Jewish army officer who was tried and sentenced on charges of treason in an atmosphere of anti-Semitism, McDonnell stated that Britain’s position in the world would be seriously damaged if the extradition had gone on
“I think this is one of the most important and significant political processes of this generation,” said the shadow chancellor. “Indeed, longer. I think it’s the Dreyfus case of our time, the way a person is being persecuted for political reasons for simply revealing the truth of what has happened in relation to recent wars. “
The extraordinary request about Trump’s alleged offer of forgiveness was presented in a hearing at the Westminster magistrates’ court on Wednesday before the opening of Assange’s legal battle next week to block extradition attempts. Assange is accused in the United States of publishing compromised documents.
A former Republican deputy appointed by Assange’s legal team as a key witness denied the request for pardon.
Assange’s attorneys said that during a visit to London in August 2017, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Assange that “on instructions from the president he was offering forgiveness or another way out if Mr. Assange … had said that Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] joints “.
Rohrabacher denied the claim, claiming that he presented the proposal on his own initiative and that the White House did not endorse it.
McDonnell said he and Assange had discussed the reported forgiveness issue but hadn’t gone into detail.
“We hope that in court he will be able to defeat the extradition offer. We don’t believe that extradition should be used for political purposes and all the evidence – even the recent revelations relating to Trump’s commitment – show that it is a political process and we hope that the courts will see it that way “He said .
“If this extradition takes place, it will damage the democratic position of our country and America. We have a long tradition in this country of defending whistleblowers, journalists … if this extradition takes place I think it would damage our reputation. “
A protest in support of Assange will take place on Saturday in Trafalgar Square and will be faced by political figures and others such as music producer Brian Eno. McDonnell said that he and others were calling on people to demonstrate peacefully.
He hinted at attempts to build an alliance between the parties to fight any extradition, adding that there were Tory MPs who he believed could come on board. He also believed that there were “profound doubts” in the government, based on Boris Johnson’s comments to Jeremy Corbyn on the deranged nature of the US-UK extradition treaty
“The problems we have now is that when the hearings begin they will be prejudiced and it will be difficult to raise it in the House of Commons, but we will try to see how we can raise it as often as possible, of course within parliamentary rules, but also to build support. inter-party, and as you know people like it [the Conservative MP] David Davis raised their concerns, so this is between parts of the House of Commons, “said McDonnell.
“I hope that combination of inter-party support, what has happened in the media, the exposures that have taken place in the past few weeks, will ensure a climate of opinion in this country that prevents this extradition from taking place.”