It is extremely important to keep writing to our MPs educating them on the Julian Assange case and sharing our concerns over his fate and wellbeing today, next month, and the month after that and so on and so forth. He embodies Press Freedom and the public’s right to read publications in the public interest, however they are obtained. He defends Press Freedom with his body, enduring imprisonment behind the cruel walls of HMP Belmarsh. From the comfort of our homes, with no cost to our health and well-being, we are seeing the WikiLeaks publisher in bonds of unfreedom, the least we can do is express our feelings, ideas and concern with our elected representatives drawing the line to where we think society should stand on press freedom. It is, and must be a continuous dialogue. Here is another reply:
Reply to Constituent on behalf of Julia Lopez MP of Upminster and Hornchurch
Firstly, may I apologise for the time it has taken to respond to you. We have been receiving a significant volume of correspondence at this time and we have had to prioritise those most urgent cases related primarily to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. I also note your request for Julia to sign EDM 719. I should advise that Julia is unable to sign EDMs as a government minister as this would likely break the ministerial code.
The government was encouraged to see the situation in the Ecuadorean embassy finally come to an end. Ecuador’s actions recognise that the UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his legitimate interests will be protected.
As you will know, in May 2019, as a result of Mr Assange’s failure to surrender in relation to his extradition proceedings, he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison.
You may also be aware that the then Home Secretary signed an extradition warrant, following a request by the US Department of Justice. In making this decision, the then Home Secretary had limitations on what could be considered, in line with the Crime and Courts Act 2013; judgments on human rights or health issues can only be made in court.
I understand due to the Coronavirus outbreak the extradition hearing for this case has now been delayed. I can assure you that I will closely follow any new developments as they occur. Julian Assange is currently held on remand and under these circumstances, it is for the courts to determine whether an individual should be granted bail or remain in custody.
Journalists play a vital role in our society and must be free at all times to do their jobs without fear. The Minister for Media and Data made this clear recently when he signed the public statement issued by the National Union of Journalists, calling for the freedom of the press to be respected and protected. As he said, “Journalism is a bedrock of democracy and those who are keeping our communities informed and holding the powerful to account must not be intimidated or threatened as they carry out their work. We stand with journalists and will do all we can to support them in doing their jobs without fear or favour.”
Julian Assange health in prison – Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service is responsible for ensuring those detained in prison have access to the NHS. As with all NHS patients it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the personal health of an individual prisoner. However, we are confident that Julian Assange’s Prison Governor continues to work closely with the NHS to support the health and wellbeing of Mr Assange and other prisoners alike.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact Julia. I hope this has clarified the government’s position in this area.