Designer Vivienne Westwood leads protest supporting Assange


LONDON (AP) – Veteran fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood posed in a giant bird cage in London Tuesday to show her support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and call for his extradition to the U.S. to be stopped.

Dressed in a canary yellow outfit, the 79-year-old designer led protesters who chanted “Free Julian Assange” outside London’s Central Criminal Court.

Assange is due to appear for an extradition hearing on Sept. 7. If extradited to the U.S., he will face charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Prosecutors say he damaged national security by publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.

The 49-year-old is currently being held in a high-security prison in London.

Westwood told The Associated Press after her protest that freeing Assange would mean that “journalists can continue to tell the truth, rather than repeating the spin that’s dealt to them by the government.”

The designer has turned to activism in recent years, leading campaigns in support of Assange and drawing attention to climate change at her fashion shows.

Assange was arrested last year after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up for years.

He maintains he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection. His lawyers have argued the U.S. charges of espionage and computer misuse were politically motivated and an abuse of power.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood stands in a giant bird cage in protest against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S., outside the Old Bailey court, in London, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Assange is in London’s Belmarsh Prison awaiting a full extradition hearing, which has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally due to begin in May, it is now scheduled to start on Sept. 7 at the Old Bailey. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)