Diane Abbott sparks row after backing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over arrest

Posted On: 
11th April 2019

Diane Abbott has been criticised after defending Julian Assange following his removal from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrest.

Diane Abbott in the Commons today
Credit: 
Parliament TV

The Shadow Home Secretary said the Wikileaks founder had become a target of the authorities because he had “exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces”.

But she was condemned by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who said people would be "astounded" by her comments.

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Mr Assange sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that was later dropped

He was arrested by Metropolitan Police on Thursday morning for a breach of bail and following an extradition request by the American government and later found guilty of failing to surrender at Westminster Magistrates Court. 

District Judge Michael Snow told the court that Mr Assange had shown "the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest".

The 47-year-old Australian will appear in court via a video link on 2 May to respond to the US extradition charges, which concern the leak of 700,000 documents by ex-intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

In the Commons on Thursday, Theresa May said she believed all MPs would welcome his arrest.]

She said: "This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law."

Responding to a Commons statement on the arrest by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Ms Abbott heaped praise on the activist for exposing activities relating to “illegal war, mass murder murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale”.

“Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security, he is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces,” she insisted.

“Julian Assange is at risk of extradition to the US precisely because, on this side of the House we believe, he disclosed material which is the utmost public interest.”

But in response, Mr Javid said: "I think the whole country will be pretty astounded by the tone she has taken...

"She started talking about the reason for Mr Assange’s arrest and tried to come up with all sorts of justification herself which have nothing to do with the reason."

He added: "She is implying, actually quite clearly, that Mr Assange should be not subject to UK law. And that is something that should worry every British citizen should she ever become Home Secretary."

And he went on: "Why is it that whenever someone has a track record of undermining the UK and our allies and the values we stand for, you can almost guarantee the leadership of the party opposite will support those who intend to do us harm."

Ms Abbott later doubled down on her defence of Mr Assange, insisting that "whistle blowers do us all a service".

 

 

The US Department of Justice has said the extradition order related to federal charges to commit computer intrusion, which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Ecuador said it withdrew asylum from Mr Assange after repeated violations of international conventions.

But Wikileaks claimed the country had acted illegally, saying “powerful actors, including [the] CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him”.