Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to oppose the extradition of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange to the US.
The Labour leader suggested that Assange – who faces charges of conspiring to break into a classified government computer – could be sent to the US for “exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
“The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.”
His comments come after Diane Abbott sparked outrage in the Commons on Thursday by defending Assange, who was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in this London this morning after spending almost seven years there to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case which has since been dropped.
The shadow home secretary said Assange was being pursued by the United States because “he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces”.
She told MPs his case was being debated in parliament “entirely” because of his whistleblowing activities – “even though the only charge he may face in this country is in relation to his bail hearings”.
“It is this whistleblowing activity into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration,” Abbott said.
She later added: “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.”
Labour believes he is at risk of being extradited because “he has disclosed material that is in the utmost public interest”,” Abbott told the Commons. There are legal protections in the UK for whistleblowers who reveal information in the public interest, she said.
Corbyn later shared a video of the Labour frontbencher’s speech on Twitter.
Her comments sparked anger from home secretary Sajid Javid, who said the country would be “pretty astounded” by Abbot’s tone.
“The reason Mr Assange has been arrested is because he failed to surrender to a UK court,” he said. “That’s why he’s been arrested.”
“There is no-one in this country that is above the law. The right honourable lady – who we should remember wants to be home secretary – is suggesting we should not apply the rule of law to an individual,” Javid continued, while Abbot shook her head.
“That is something that should worry every British citizen should she ever become home secretary.”
The Tory frontbencher added: “The only person responsible for Mr Assange’s detention is himself – it was entirely self-inflicted.”
Meanwhile, Abbott’s comments were add odds with those of her fellow Labour MPs.
While Diana Johnson said she was “really concerned” that a man accused of rape was able to avoid justice for several years, Eltham MP Clive Efford said it was “extraordinary” that the “rich and powerful” could avoid such allegations.