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World Socialist Website - October 14, 2019

Singer and rap artist M.I.A. visited Julian Assange at Belmarsh Prison on Saturday, calling for his freedom. The WikiLeaks publisher and journalist faces extradition to the United States under the Espionage Act, with charges that carry a 175-year prison term.

M.I.A.’s visit followed a brief court hearing Friday at Westminster Magistrates Court. Assange appeared via remote video-link to hear Judge Tam Ikram confirm his remand at the maximum-security prison while a US extradition request is heard. He will appear in court again on October 21.

Speaking at a press conference outside Belmarsh late Saturday afternoon, M.I.A.—Sri Lankan-born Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam—condemned Assange’s tormentors, indicting the US and UK governments, the courts and the corporate media. M.I.A. is a long-time friend and supporter of Assange.

Asked about Assange’s condition, she replied, “I think when you know there are people outside who are criminals, and you are inside for advocating peace, while people that profit from war are outside, and celebrated and given Nobel peace prizes, that hurts. I think that’s hard for anyone.”

Former US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel prize in 2009, as his administration escalated US military operations across the globe, including a drone assassination program he personally supervised.

M.I.A. explained that she and Julian had discussed conditions “for everyone” inside the prison “and the concept of freedom and what that really means.”

A WSWS reporter asked M.I.A. to comment on the UK government’s assertion that it “does not participate in or condone the use of torture.” The UK government last week rejected UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s findings (published May 31) that Assange is the victim of unprecedented state persecution and “psychological torture.”

She responded, “I’ve been trying to get a yoga book to him for a month now and I come here every week trying to hand it in and it’s been impossible… To me that’s a very extreme method they are using where you’re denying even reading books. I wasn’t able to take in sketchbooks where he could write thoughts or draw and I haven’t been able to take puzzles which might help stimulate the mind.

“I first thought that maybe all prisoners were treated like that, where they’re not able to have some sort of dignity and own the space between their ears and have that mental freedom… I can sympathise with people who feel that he’s been treated unfairly... I think there is an element of discrimination.” ...
Read full report, with video, at World Socialist Website