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Supporters held solidarity vigils in support of the imprisoned private Bradley Manning and the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, outside the U.S and Ecuador embassy in London on Monday, 16th July 2012. Organized by Veterans for peace in UK, rally started from Bond Street at 3pm and ended at Knightsbridge in front of Ecuadoran embassy at 4:30pm. From Australia to Germany to USA, these rallies have become sufficiently well organized and have given the Manning and Assange movement some momentum.
The message to the American government was clear and reinforced in blunt precision as protesters gathered outside the U.S embassy in Bond street to observe the silent vigil for Manning.
Former American soldier, 24 year old Bradley Manning appeared in US court in Ft. Meade, Maryland this week. Manning was arrested in Baghdad on 29th May 2010, for providing whistle blowing website Wikileaks with classified secret documents on US government. For the past two years, human rights organizations have been highlighting the plight of Manning in U.S. cells. UN Torture Chief Juan Mendez’s investigating report for UN special rapporteur on torture states that “I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico.”
According to Manning’s Defense Lawyer David Coombs ‘aiding the enemy’ charge is stricter against US soldiers than it would be against terrorists. According to Coombs: “It defies all logic to think that a terrorist would fare better in an American court for aiding the enemy than a US soldier would.”
The peaceful protesters made their way across to Knightsbridge to the Ecuadorian Embassy, encouraging others to join in.
Born in Queensland, Australia, Assange has been at the centre of media firestorm for past several months now. Since last year, London has become a central hub for Assange campaigns and this movement has grown into an unstoppable force. Assange faces threat of extradition to the U.S. on the charges of espionage for publishing 250,000 classified diplomatic documents. After losing an appeal for asylum in UK Supreme Court, Assange has sought political asylum in an Ecuadoran embassy in London. Other problems also persist for Assange, Swedish authorities want him in Swedish court over sexual molestation and rape charges.
In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald the head of the US Senate’s intelligence oversight committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said, “I believe that Julian Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States … He has caused serious harm to US national security and should be prosecuted accordingly.”
Former SAS soldier Ben Griffin spoke exclusively to The Toonari Post about 16th July rally outside the Ecuadoran embassy.
Toonari Post (TP): What is the political and social message of today’s rally?
Ben Griffin (BG): So today, private Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking, and the information to wikileaks that reveals war crimes committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, today he is facing a pre motion hearing in the United States and every time that Manning has been taken before the court, we have held a silent vigil outside the U.S. embassy and in the meantime Julliane Assange has sought the asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy and we have been holding a daily vigil outside this embassy in support of the Ecuadorian people in the hope that they will grant him asylum and so today we combined the two things to have our silent vigil outside the embassy and a protest down here to also support Julliane Assange.
TP: Please tell us more about Veteran for Peace’s role in the mobilization process and the composition of today’s protest?
BG: well what we have here is a group of people who are all concerned about Bradley Manning and Julliane Assange and we have all come from different organizations. There are many other organizations represented here and it just so happens that on this specific occasion I have taken the lead through veterans for peace in organizing this but as i say we have Italian friends of Bradley manning, we have got the London Catholic worker, and we have got UK friends of wikileaks, so there is lots of other organization, so it just happens that veterans for peace just took the lead on this occasion, but it is a multi organization event.
TP: What message of support do you have for supporters and activists of Manning and Assange across the world?
BG: Right, I mean it is important that, even in the case of Manning its important, even though, he is being held in the United States, and we all can do small things in our country to get the awareness of his issue out in the public domain. So whether you are in London, in Australia, in Russia, in Africa, we can all go out on the streets, in solidarity for Manning on the days he’s in court in America. And as far as Assange is concerned, we could do similar things, we may not be able to go out on streets, there may not be something happening in your areas, but you can either go on internet, and spread information on internet, and so what we are looking for is people to do what they can, you may not be able to go out on streets, but you can do something on the internet.
TP: What is the current update on Assange?
BG: So Julianne Assange is still in the Ecuador embassy. He is still putting his application forward for asylum. He faces very serious threats to his life in the United States, there are numerous American politicians who are calling for his assassination, and execution, this process could take a long time and here is no rush and the Assange has got to put his case forward and Ecuadoran government has to decide whether it’s a case for asylum or not. In the meantime, we all will continue to come here and support Assange and Ecuadoran people.
Toonari post would like to thank Ben Griffin and Steve from Veterans for Peace for their cooperation.