Free, Enduring Love 63


UPDATE: Julian Assange – Looking through my photos, I just came across this one of Stella showing the panel on which Vivienne Westwood embroidered her personal wedding message to the couple. I thought you might like to see it.

It was a cheap, white, trestle table, its thin top slightly bowed down in the middle, of the type made of a weetabix of sawdust and glue with a sheet of plastic glued on top and plastic strips glued to the sides, held up on four narrow, tubular, black metal legs. On it was a register. In front of it stood Stella Moris, looking beautiful and serene with delight. She wore a stunning gown in a light lilac, designed for her by Vivienne Westwood. It had a mild satin shimmer, and appeared both sumptuous and tightly tailored, with an expansively lapeled jacket section diving in to a wasp waist, that the apparently soft billows never intruded upon, no matter how she moved.

Close up, the details on the dress were extraordinary. The cloisonne buttons were uniquely designed and commissioned by Vivienne for this gown, and she had herself embroidered a message of solidarity, love and support on one panel. The long veil was hand embroidered, with bright multicoloured words striding across the gauze. These were words chosen by Julian as descriptive of the Power of Love, and they were in the handwriting of close friends and family who were not able to be inside the jail, including Stella’s 91 year old father. I am proud to say one of those handwritings was mine, with the word “inexorable”. It really was embroidered on looking exactly as I wrote it, as witness the fact nobody could tell what it said. Julian’s chosen motif for the wedding was “free, enduring love”.

Stella in the dress, with Julian’s dad John in the background. Photo: Isabell Jezek

By Stella’s side stood Julian Assange, whom she described to me as “simply the love of my life”, outfitted in a kilt, shirt, tie, and waistcoat, again specially designed by Vivienne Westwood in a purple based tartan, and featuring hand embroidery, lacing and cloisonne buttons. Unlike Stella’s dress, which she later showed us in detail, I have not seen the kilt but am told the design is relatively traditional.

There was a two minute delay at the start of the ceremony as Julian had no sporran, and his brother Gabriel, resplendent in full highland dress for the first time, removed his own sporran and put it on Julian. Both Julian and Gabriel are proud of their Scottish heritage, in each case through their respective mothers.

The British authorities had done everything they could firstly to prevent, and then to mess up, this wedding. Permission to marry had first been formally requested of the prison service in 2020, and in the end was only granted by involving lawyers and threatening legal action. There followed a whole list of antagonisms on which I shall not dwell, one minor example of which was banning me from the wedding and then lying about it.

But now, on the wedding day, the ordinary, working staff of the prison were delighted to be hosting such a happy event. The searches of the bride were distinctly token and friendly. At the security checks, Julian and Stella’s three year old son Max managed to tangle himself so comprehensively around the legs of one guard that he fell over, and the large guard and small boy then had a hilarious mock wrestle on the floor. The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.

Gates and steel doors opened before the procession and were locked again behind them, until deep in the bowels of this maximum security prison they arrived in a banal room, oppressive and completely windowless, with plain magnolia emulsioned walls. It was about twenty feet by fifteen feet, and is used as a store room for the adjoining Chaplaincy. At the back of the room were piles of Muslim prayer mats, boxes of red-jacketed Christian hymnals, stacks of cheap chairs and folded trestles.

From which that one cheap trestle had been set up, and a single row of eight chairs in front of it. Present were Julian and Stella, and their permitted limit of six invited guests. These were Stella’s mother Teresa and brother Adrian, Julian’s father John, brother Gabriel, and Julian and Stella’s two children, Gabriel (4) and Max (3). One of the torments had been that the UK Ministry of Justice insisted that the two tots counted against the six person limit, contrary to the prison’s original advice.

A very unglamorous photo of the veil I took in Stella’s kitchen, with my illegible “inexorable” in the middle!

Also in the room were the registrar who conducted the civil wedding, the Catholic chaplain and two prison guards, one for each door. Julian was able to hug and hold each of his family as they arrived, even though that was very much against the rules. That kind of physical comfort is something he will have been craving for years, and all eyes were full of tears. Julian’s father John was alarmed by his appearance. Julian was a stooped figure, and worryingly thin, even though obviously very happy in the moment.

The service went ahead as such services do, transcending the grim environment. Light relief was provided by little Gabriel running around and threatening to push each in turn of the room’s two alarm buttons, forcing the guards to chase him around, but in a playful manner. Max, who was disappointed by the slowness in appearance of the promised cake, had fallen asleep bent over at the waist, with his feet on the floor and his head on the chair, as only small children can.

Each person at the wedding was allowed by the registrar to stand up and say a few words about the event and the couple, who having exchanged vows and being pronounced wed, Julian was then invited to kiss the bride, which was perhaps done with more gusto than is usual on these occasions; to the extent that Julian’s brother Gabriel jokingly proffered the bride some tissues!

The legal part of the wedding being over, the couple now received a blessing from the Catholic priest, whose friendship and spiritual and emotional support has been invaluable to Julian during the ordeal of the last few years. The priest had brought a tablecloth and candles, and suddenly the nasty trestle was transformed into an altar. The priest was particularly careful to provide the couple with several more opportunities to kiss during the short ceremony. Then suddenly it was finished.

The authorities had insisted that no wedding photos could be taken, but had eventually agreed that a prison guard could take photos using the prison’s own camera. The prison will eventually give one or two prints of photos of their choosing to Julian, on the condition that they must never be published or made public.

According to the authorities this repression is because photos “could endanger the security of the prison”. Plainly this is a nonsense. How could a picture of the bride and groom, standing in a plain storage room that has no windows, endanger the security of the prison?

Belmarsh prison was comprehensively pictured, including drone footage of the entire jail and lengthy interiors of every part, including the most secure units, in several documentaries including by right wing populist Ross Kemp, in which the Ministry of Justice fully cooperated. The dishonesty of complaining that wedding photos would be a security risk, is a callous and arrogant act by authorities who expect that they can never be held to account.

The truth is that the Establishment has put in years of consistent effort to dehumanise Julian in the public mind. That includes false allegations, ridiculous media stories about him not flushing the toilet, and fake claims that his journalism endangered lives. They simply wish to avoid any public exposure of Julian, the real man, that may challenge their drive to demonise. Wedding photos would never be a danger to the prison, but would be a danger to the state narrative.

This is of course the same reason that Pullitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges and I were vetoed by the Ministry of Justice from the original guest list. They did not want words or pictures to convey the love of the occasion or the joy of the family. They could not, however, prevent me from speaking to Stella and to all the guests who were there, and giving you this portrait in words.

After the wedding Julian and Stella were allowed time together – which meant that they were taken to the normal prison visiting room, where they could talk for half an hour amidst the other prisoners who were receiving their visitors, and back with the normal surveillance and restrictions of no touching. This must have been a terrible jolt, preparatory to the still worse jolt of being torn away from the one you love immediately after marrying.

I just cannot imagine how that feels; I suspect few people can.

Stella and Julian’s marriage is indeed a testimony to the power of love, and to the power of hope and human resilience. Just the preceding week their hopes were bruised for the umpteenth time as the Supreme Court refused to hear Julian’s case against the High Court’s agreement with the US appeal on his extradition. Julian faces a possible 175 years in jail under the US Espionage Act, for revealing the war crimes of the very state which is trying to extradite him. As Stella said, to marry in the face of this is both an act of resistance and an assertion of love.

The legal battle goes on, and we shall eventually win.

Those of us who value peace and love and freedom do not often get to feel that we are winning. But we do get days when we can triumph in the affirmation of our values. That Stella and Julian have done. That plain white table witnessed something more romantic than all the tosh of royal weddings and high altars. In Julian’s words, “free, enduring, love”.

They cannot stop that with their steel doors and iron bars.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. This article, as with all the content of my blog, is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation.

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63 thoughts on “Free, Enduring Love

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  • Dr Owen Plunkett

    That is a very moving account of a very unusual and special occasion. You have described it perfectly.
    I am deeply angered by the atrocious way that Julian has been treated. So much for the democracy that our so called PM talks about!
    I would have known nothing about this if I hadn’t chanced upon your blog.
    I am disappointed that even the Guardian has failed to report it.

  • Tom Kane

    Thanks Craig. It was a privilege to read that.

    Love … and humanity… and celebrants. Even in the face of such injustice.

    A little bit humbling too, reminding us of the scope of what it is to be human. Which is utterly breathtaking.

    Best wishes, love, peace and humanity to Julian and Stella and their family…

    And respect, Craig.

  • dgp

    As one scans the various information sources now available, I can’t avoid the thought that we are cursed by ability to read or express thoughts. Last night I read a piece about the evils of wheat. The article proposed that wheat had subverted the course of human history. It also recommended that pastoralism would be a much more desirable system of agriculture. I sense that the article is a covert right-wing view trying to promote a reactionary perspective to the common narrative we are now exposed to – that animal husbandry is a major cause of climate change – apparently the demand for meat drives a relentless plunder of natural world resources (water, soil nutrients, and the deforestation of land to accommodate the grazing needs).
    The pastoralism narrative is more nuanced however – it cites the involvement of Monsanto in the use of herbicide in the production of wheat.
    The underlying message is that Humanity has lost its way or moved off its true spiritual path when it adopted wheat and bread as a staple component of our diet. The article is this

    https://unherd.com/2022/03/wheat-has-corrupted-humanity/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups%5B0%5D=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=582275a11e&mc_eid=a3eb3f2227

    Sorry if the link does not work but it is on a forum called ‘unherd’ by an author called John Lewis Stempel
    I suppose I am making the point that all information mow seems to be corrupted. I strongly suspect there is very right wing ‘libertarian’ view here masquerading as an informed rebuttal of current green thinking. However as a punter in a house (as opposed to a university Library), I do not have the capacity or means to mount a counter argument.
    There are similar problems here – today Nick Cohen of the Observer launches an attack on Craig Murray as some kind of stooge for Putin’s Russia. Anyone associated with RT is a conspiracy stooge – some kind of quisling.
    The boundaries between fact and opinion and conjecture are utterly corrupted. All human discourse seems to be malicious. We are here (the blog) trying to escape this endless malice, in sympathy with principles that contradict what we see – the persecution of a person who published information in a way that suggests openness and truth, and he (Julian) is subjected to inhuman treatment because his actions run counter to the interests of state power invested in secrecy and covert pursuit of only partially stated (or even not understood) interests.
    My essential point here is that we are engaged (when we read about Julian and Stella’s marriage) in an existential crisis or struggle which will define the quality and future of human life on this planet.

  • Polona

    I just bawled my eyes out reading this. Thank you, Craig. This description is more vivid than any photo that may have been taken. I can see John, I can see Stella, I can see the two little ones, I can feel the hugs, the brother offering the tissue and most importantly I can see Julian’s happiness in the moment. A million times thank you also to the kind guards who treated Stella with joy and respect and most of all thank you to the priest. Everyone involved achieved a magnificent victory against oppression on this day. No victory is absolute. But neither is defeat. While we are all losing our freedom and our dignity in the increasingly oppressive and unhinged regimes of our countries, these are the kinds of victories we should still strive for.
    Much love to you all.

  • Cubby

    Craig, I have read a lot of your articles and this is truly the best I have read. A very moving account.

    You stand head and shoulders above the wee people who attack you on twitter and other blogs.

    My fervent hope is for justice for both you and Julian Assange.

  • Royd

    A beautifully written piece. It was written with love, about love.

    Thankyou for writing it and thankyou for sharing it with us.

  • Ewan

    What more can we do? My MP was very keen to sign an open letter to the Home Secretary urging him to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden (anything less, apparently, would be an insult to women). Despite concern that the justice system would not deliver the correct outcome with regard to Sweden, he insisted that we must trust its due process with regard to extradition to the US. He has since kept a resolute silence, both in public and when asked in private to intervene. Of course my MP is Ian Murray, who is, frankly, not too bright. But what can we do to support the campaign to get Mr Assange freed?

  • Jeremy Wickins

    Beautiful! Probably not best read in a hospital waiting room, though – I’m not sure I kept all the tears behind my eyelids.

  • Mary Cuthbertson

    Thank you. It’s a source of despair to me that we live in such an inhumane and corrupt world. I meditate on the prospect of Mr Assange’s freedom every day. I trust his wife and children will remain safe. I hope that things will change soon.

  • fredi

    Here’s wishing the best of fortune to the couple. Justice will only happen when Julian is finally freed.

    The imminent inflationary death spiral of the monetary system may speed this process up as the present regime will quickly become very unpopular, and more sensible leaders may take their place (not Starmer)

  • John Gilberts

    Here in Canada, where media and ‘progressive left’ never paid much attention to Julian Assange, except to echo the official smear and disinformation campaign. The wedding was briefly reported by CBC in phony tones of dulcet warmth as a pleasant affair suggestive of the essential humanity of the British justice system. It was appalling. Thanks for putting it right here.

  • Yuri K

    Here is a report on weddings in Russian jails: https://ria.ru/20180627/1523397137.html The weddings are allowed to be photographed and/or videotaped. See this one, for example: https://youtu.be/wILffM_LJTc about a woman serving life sentence for a double homicide gets married. The law limits the number of guests to 2 from each bride and groom. In some cases even a small tea party is allowed. The wedding rings are used but must be taken out of jail after the wedding.

    Looks pretty liberal to me as compared to how Assange and his bride were treated.

  • Tricia Lawlor

    Thank you for this lovely report. The establishment and the judicial system in the UK are a disgrace and JA should have been free a long time ago.

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