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Assange to request leave from prison to attend Westwood’s funeral

Julian Assange has been ‘trapped’ says Vivienne Westwood

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Julian Assange will ask for leave from jail to attend his friend Dame Vivienne Westwood’s burial in London, his wife Stella Assange said. The WikiLeaks founder, who is fighting against his extradition to the US from London’s Belmarsh prison, is reportedly seeking a way to pay his respect to Dame Vivienne, a decade-long friend, who died aged 81 on Thursday. 

Speaking of the funeral, his wife Stella Assange told Australia’s Nine Media: “Julian’s going to put in a request to be able to attend.”

The designer’s death prompted Mr Assange to issue his very first statement since going to prison in 2019. 

In a comment released by Mrs Assange, he said: “Vivienne was a Dame and a pillar of the anti-establishment. Bold, creative, thoughtful and a good friend. The best of Britain. She will be missed terribly by me and many others.”

Dame Vivienne was a staunch supporter of Mr Assange throughout his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy and prison.

In July 2020, she went so far as to dress as a canary and hang herself inside a sizable birdcage outside The Old Bailey to oppose his possible extradition.

Mrs Assange, who wore a dress designed by Dame Vivienne and her husband Andreas Kronthaler when she married the 51-year-old at the prison in a small ceremony in March, also put out a statement following her death. 

She said: “Vivienne was a rebel at heart. Julian and I loved her company. Her gift to us took our wedding to the next level so there was a lot of attention and she just had this incredible talent for visuals and for messaging.

“Our wonderful friend Vivienne Westwood has left us. A fierce campaigner and a true altruist, she fought to #FreeAssange and for humanity’s future. Vivienne, you remain an inspiration. Your greatness will live on.”

Having founded her own eponymous luxury fashion house in 2001, Mrs Assange added: “I cannot believe I am writing this… Today, we lost one of the most rare British icons of fashion ever.

“Vivienne Westwood inspired my career as a designer with bravery and bollocks. She invented punk.”

Dame Vivienne, born in Cheshire in 1941, is widely acknowledged for her unique designs that helped bring punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream.

High-profile people frequently wore her creations, like Princess Eugenie, who wore three Westwood designs for different parts of the then-Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding, and Dita Von Teese, who married Marilyn Manson in a purple Westwood wedding gown.

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It remains unclear whether Julian Assange’s request to leave his cell in London’s Belmarsh prison will be accepted.

The 51-year-old whistleblower is facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act for putting out classified information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, American diplomacy and internal Democratic politics before the 2016 presidential election. 

Joe Biden’s administration is now facing calls to drop charges against Mr Assange who could be charged with up to 170 years in prison under American law. 

Five major news organisations that relied on his trove of government secrets, including the Guardian and the New York Times, released an open letter earlier this month saying that his indictment “sets a dangerous precedent” and threatens to undermine the first amendment – which protect freedom of the press. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met American counterparts to appeal for his release in November. In Brazil, President-elect Luis Inácio Lula da Silva called for an end to what he called the “unjust imprisonment” of Mr Assange.

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