The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei staged a silent protest in front of a London court today, September 28, in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to the United States.
Ai was part of a group of activists who protested outside of London’s Old Bailey during a hearing on Assange’s extradition to the US.
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Ai held his silent protest outside the court next to a sign that read, “Free Assange, No US Extradition.” The artist wore a pink t-shirt depicting himself and Assange, both raising their middle fingers.
“He is prepared to fight, but this is not fair to him,” Ai told reporters outside the court. “Free him, let him be a free man.”
Assange, who spent seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London before he was arrested and moved to pre-trial prison in April of 2019, is facing 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’s publication of 500,000 secret American military documents in 2010. The leaked documents detailed American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, including a video showing US pilots targeting Iraqi civilians and news reporters. If convicted, Assange could face a sentence of 175 years in prison.
The hearings in Assange’s extradition trial, which entered its fourth week, are expected to end in a few days. However, the judge in the case agreed to a request by Assange’s lawyers to issue the decision after the United States’s presidential election in November. Assange’s supporters hope that Joe Biden might drop the charges if he becomes president.
“[Assange] truly represents a core value of why we are free — because we have freedom of the press,” Ai said. “We need a lot of protesting, and it can take any form. I’m an artist, if I cannot use my art, it’s very limited, then I’d rather just be silent.”