Writers and academics commemorate Assange arrest in Brussels

Writers, journalists and academics are commemorating the arrest of whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Brussels on Thursday. The Australian was arrested five years ago by British police. The US accuses him of releasing confidential military records and diplomatic messages relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Assange was arrested after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. US authorities say he put lives at risk by publishing secret military documents. They have for years been seeking his extradition on espionage charges.

To commemorate the arrest, an event is taking place in Brussels on Thursday. Under the slogan "5 hours for 5 years", passages from Kafka's novel The Trial will be read. According to the organisers, the text resonates with the tragic absurdity of Assange's situation. Some 60 writers, journalists and academics from around the world are participating in the event.

Assange has fought extradition for the last five years from London’s Belmarsh prison. If extradited to the US, he could face a prison sentence of up to 175 years. His case has sparked condemnation from free speech advocates who say that if his extradition is allowed, it will have a chilling effect on press freedoms. US president Joe Biden said on Wednesday he was considering Australia’s request to drop the espionage charges.


Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, gives an interview to the media outside Belmarsh Prison in London, 11 April © PHOTO HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

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