Assange Belmarsh Prison Gitmo
© Reuters/Russell Boyce /File
Julian Assange is being held at the Belmarsh Prison, London
As the cell-door slammed behind the world-renowned publisher Julian Assange, the Champagne corks were popping in some surprising salons.

Liberals across the world, forever telling us that they'd "die for our right to say it" turned out to be dying for the Trump Justice Department to get their hands on the ghost of what they used to be, or wanted us to think they were.

The commentariat plumbed to new depths of depravity in their glee at the incarceration of a damaged whistleblower, for seven years unable to leave his tiny room. How odd he looked, how unkempt, a "demented gnome" in the words of Channel 4's international editor Lindsey Hilsum. Publications throughout Europe and North America which once vied with each other to publish WikiLeaks scoops vied instead to heap ordure on the fallen hero Assange. Liberals showed they are not so much lipstick on the pig of power but a part of the pig, somewhere around its hindquarters.

Faith in the British Justice system to stand up to the US securocratic juggernaut was scarcely improved by the judge at Assange's first hearing - on the charge of skipping bail - insulting the accused as a "narcissist" in the dock. One must hope for fairer treatment further up the judicial tree and all is not lost there. Despite its upper-class character (or maybe because of it), the British judiciary is relatively speaking the last uncorrupted institution in the country, leaving a wrecked parliament, government and media sprawling in its wake.

Britain does have a long history of harboring dissidents from the wrath of other peoples regimes. Throughout the 19th century revolutionaries from Marx through Garibaldi and throughout the 20th too. I led a campaign on behalf of the then leader of the Saudi opposition, Mohammed al-Massari, who was threatened with deportation at the behest of the British arms dealers BAE and their best friends in the British Foreign Office. By the time we reached the hearing before Judge Pearl, many abandoned hope but I never did. Sure enough, the honorable judge delivered what I described as a "Judicial Caning" to the Home Secretary Michael Howard and sent the weapons merchants packing. Massari lives on in London still.

The request for extradition by the US Justice Department could scarcely be more political. It relates (for now) to a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion with Chelsea Manning, who was in the process of exposing the perfidy of War Crimes committed by the US Government's forces in Iraq. There is no charge of hacking on the part of WikiLeaks let alone the "hacking" of the Democratic Party's National Committee (in truth a leak and not a hack in any case).

Once on US soil however prosecutors would be free to add to the indictments against Assange sufficient to send him to the electric chair, or at least into the dungeons never to be seen or heard from again. This possibility of judicial creep will cast a long shadow over the British courts in the months to come - and European Courts too. The danger of Assange being punished grotesquely disproportionately for what after all turned out to be whistleblowing on actual grave crimes, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity may well influence British judges accordingly. Certainly, I would rather take my chances before a British judge than a British MP, government or newspaper editor.

Julian Assange is a friend of mine and I have stood by him through dark days and fine, and can show you my scars. But more importantly, he is a friend of the truth. Everything he published turned out to be true, so help me God. And as I said last weekend outside the grim prison walls of Belmarsh Prison (where he shares accommodation with Al Qaeda and ISIS prisoners whose terrorist offenses were begotten by the very war crimes Assange exposed) he is an honorable political prisoner with nothing to be ashamed of. If we allow him to be incarcerated for publishing the truth then we might as well check in behind those bars ourselves, for we will never be truly free again.
George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He was one of the leaders of the anti-war movement in the UK and is known worldwide for his stand against imperialism. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator. Follow George Galloway on Patreon.com