We have been writing rigorously to our MPs lobbying in support of Julian Assange. Just like standard e-mails are being sent to them, so do MPs send standard letters as replies to us, often via their assistants. What are the Conservative Party talking points possibly issued by party whips for Conservative Members of Parliament to follow?
The replies of three Conservative Members of Parliament Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster), Grant Shapps ( Welwyn Hatfield), Stuart Anderson (Wolverhampton South West) and Maria Miller (Basingstoke) to their Constituents give us a clue:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Due to the Coronavirus outbreak the extradition hearing for this case has now been delayed.
- 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.
So how can we overcome the standard replies containing government talking points and instead engage in a real dialogue with our elected Member of Parliament in this issue? I would like to know what you think, please post your ideas below.