The Assange Wedding
On 23 March 2022 Stella Moris entered HMP Belmarsh in her wedding dress. There she married Julian Assange but had to leave, after a kiss, without him at her side.
Stella’s own story
Livestreams from the outside
Accounts from the inside
- Chris Hedges
- Craig Murray
- Randy Credico Assange Countdown Special podcast
- The 60 Minutes documentary
- The Evening Standard post-wedding interview
The wedding cakes
Cruelties of officialdom on the day
A song for the wedding
This series and its author
♦ Stella’s own story
Prior to the wedding, Stella Moris wrote her own commentary on her reasons for this wedding: “Today I will marry the love of my life’: Julian Assange’s fiancée”.
This was published in The Guardian on the wedding day.
“Today is my wedding day. I will marry the love of my life. My husband to be is the father of our two sons, he is a wonderful man, intelligent and funny, he has a deep-seated sense of right and wrong and he is known the world over for his work as a courageous publisher. At lunchtime today, I will go through the gates at the most oppressive high security prison in the country and be married to a political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.Stella Moris speaks movingly about her wedding to Julian today: "Today I will go through the gates at the most oppressive high security prison in the country and be married to a political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange"
Of course, this is not the wedding we should be having. Julian has spent nearly three years unjustly detained on behalf of the foreign power that plotted to kill him in the streets of London.
Today will be a private moment in which we will affirm our love for each other. The dress is designed by Julian’s friends, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler. I am honoured to be wearing their beautiful creation. It is a symbol of our love and defiance in the face of this cruel situation.
This is not a prison wedding, it is a declaration of love and resilience in spite of the prison walls, in spite of the political persecution, in spite of the arbitrary detention, in spite of the harm and harassment inflicted on Julian and our family. Their torment only makes our love grow stronger.”
♦ Livestreams from the outside
The two outlets that have religiously provided livestreams for Assange events around the world, RT and Ruptly - including the ONLY footage of his brutal 2019 arrest - had recently been banished as outcasts from the “free world”. Fortunately, others stepped up on the day: Resistance GB, Actual Coverage (video now private), Gordon Dimmack (shared with Consortium News), while EFPress (and others) published short clips.
♦ Accounts from the inside
Chris Hedges and Craig Murray, both well known journalists, were invited by Stella and Julian to be witnesses to the wedding, but the authorities refused permission for both. Nevertheless, both published their impressions of the wedding, and its meaning, from their inside knowledge of events. Many readers wept at these accounts of both the joy of the participants, and of the petty cruelties inflicted on them.
Both Chris and Craig were recorded speaking informally at the public reception [YouTube] and Chris Hedges gave a more formal speech as the crowd waited for Stella to emerge from the prison. Deepa Driver also gave a stirring speech. [YouTube]
Chris Hedges and Craig Murray’s accounts of the wedding were later followed up by a “behind the scenes” documentary from Australia’s ‘60 Minutes’, and a Randy Credico podcast featured John Shipton (who was permitted to attend the wedding itself), Chris Hedges, Craig Murray, and Roger Waters discussing the wedding.
In the end, the only people to attend the wedding were the bride and groom, their two children, Stella’s mother and brother, Julian’s father John Shipton and half-brother Gabriel Shipton, the Registrar who performed the civil ceremony and the Catholic priest who blessed them, plus a number of prison guards.
No doubt there were others who could observe via the prison surveillance cameras, but the public were not invited to share that access to the event.
☼ Chris Hedges
On 24 March 2022, Chris Hedges published “The Marriage of Julian Assange” Full article [substack]. An excerpt:
“Stella and Julian spent years trying to get married. They first asked the Ecuadorian Ambassador to marry them, but Julian was not an Ecuadorian citizen. Once Julian was granted Ecuadorian citizenship the new government in Quito had become hostile. Stella and Julian began to lobby the prison for the right to marry in 2020, but the prison authorities did not respond to their requests until they threatened a lawsuit.
Stella brings down her satin wedding dress with its three-quarter sleeves and her veil to let us examine it. The veil has embroidered into it words chosen by Julian. Free Enduring Love. Ardent. Boundless. Joyous. Resilient. Incandescent. Wild. Valiant. Resolute. Tender. Stubborn. Tumultuous. Patient. Yearning. Fearless. Eternal.” [See Stella Moris Tweet]
“On the inside flap of the dress Vivienne Westwood has written: “To me, Vivienne, Julian is a pure soul and a freedom fighter. All my love to the family, Julian, Stella, Max and Gabriel. May the holy life force bless your marriage.””
“For their love to have grown and flourished in these dire circumstances of ceaseless persecution and psychological torture,” John Shipton, Julian’s father tells me. “Love transcends the circumstances.”
He turns towards his two young grandchildren.
“You can see it produced two lovely, joyful children,” he says.
It is late. Stella cuts her wedding cake on the wooden kitchen table. The top tier is lemon. The bottom is raspberry. We eat silently.
Pray for Julian. Pray for Stella. Pray for their children. Pray for us all.”
☼ Craig Murray
The same day Craig Murray published “Free, Enduring Love” [Blog]
“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”.
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.”
☼ Randy Credico ‘Assange Countdown Special’ podcast
On 26 March 2022 Randy Credico invited Craig Murray, John Shipton, and Roger Waters to share an intimate review of the wedding, with heart rending results. I am hoping that a transcript of this podcast will eventually be available. [Tweet] [Podcast]
During the podcast Craig noted that:
"One of the great things for Julian was that he was actually allowed to hug his family ... I was only [in prison] for a few months. Julian's had years and years of it. You yearn for that human contact ...
The pain of then being separated must be immense." [Tweet]
John Shipton (Julian’s father) said:
"It was shock to see them kissing in that place.
You can't imagine anyone kissing there." [Tweet]
Speaking to Roger Waters, Craig Murray also noted (at 55:55):
"When I was in jail a man from Germany sent me a piece of paper with the word 'RESIST' on it. It had been fired into the air at a [@rogerwaters] concert. That actually helped me a lot …
The actions we take in trying to counter the would we live in can have effects we don't expect." [Tweet]
☼ The 60 Minutes documentary
60 Minutes Australia broadcast “Behind the scenes of Julian Assange's maximum-security wedding” on Sunday, 27 March 2022, which they later made available to international viewers via internet. [YouTube] [Australia link]
This documentary focused mostly on personal elements of the wedding story, and the meaning of the wedding to the Assange family, with many sweet shots of the two small boys. However it couldn’t resist inviting a “spook” to comment on the endless efforts of the US to extradite Assange (with typical results). Regardless, the documentary managed some poignant moments.
Stella Moris: [Tweet]
"We hugged, and it was like we weren't in a prison. For a moment the prison walls disappeared."
☼ The Evening Standard interview
On 28 March 2022 The Evening Standard aired a post-wedding telephone interview with Stella Moris. [Evening Standard]
“Today she feels ready to take me through some of the lesser-known details from the day: the morning she spent getting ready with a childhood friend, Sofia, at a hotel nearby (Sofia flew in from Stockholm and played Moris opera music to calm her nerves); the laughter when their four-year-old son Gabriel tried to set off the prison alarm mid-ceremony; the rings she and Assange exchanged, which were originally his grandparents’ from 1947 (they died while he was taking refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy).”
Stella also spoke about reactions to the wedding in the prison:
”Even Assange’s fellow Belmarsh residents joined in, with security guards reportedly wishing them congratulations and prisoners and their visitors cheering when the pair entered the visiting bay for 30-minutes of alone time as a newly-married couple after the ceremony. “I felt enveloped by love... we both did,” says Moris. “On a human level, we felt a lot of compassion and sympathy.”
Katie Strick, the reasonably sensitive author of this piece, even explained that “a rose was sewn into the bodice of the dress to represent her bouquet, which was not allowed inside the service.”
♦ The wedding cakes
Stella and Julian had two wedding cakes. One was shared by their supporters who gathered at the gates of the prison. This cake was provided by a supporter, and made to a vegan recipe. There are clips (somewhere) of guests attesting to its delicious taste.
The other was shared by guests at the intimate family reception after the wedding. As Chris Hedges told us (above): “The top tier is lemon. The bottom is raspberry.”
Julian Assange did not get to sample either wedding cake. I guess HMP Belmarsh has not heard of Marie Antionette’s most famous (alleged) decree.
♦ Other commentaries
Very many people have tweeted or otherwise shared their kind wishes to Julian and Stella on their wedding day, and thousands sent messages to be shouted at the prison gates and/or written on the ‘Yellow Ribbons for Assange’ that appear at all London Assange events (courtesy of dedicated supporters such as @TrumanHuman2020), and which bedecked the prison fences on this day.
Here are some of the messages:
Rebecca Vincent (RSF) [Tweet]
“Thinking of @StellaMoris1 on her wedding day, which shouldn’t be in prison. She’s so incredibly strong & resilient, fighting for her love and for her children. I admire her greatly and am proud to support the #FreeAssange campaign. Wishing them their happily ever after very soon.”
Ithaka The Movie [Tweet with image]
Congratulations to @StellaMoris1 and #JulianAssange on their upcoming nuptials today. May you both have a moment of hope and love before recommencing the fight for #HumanRights and #PressFreedom.
“For once, Belmarsh Prison authorities are right. Imagine a beautiful photo of Julian Assange and his bride @StellaMoris1 beaming at each other with love, inside that horrid hell-hole, with their loved ones around them. It would destroy the Internet. It would bring down the govt.”
Sevim Dagdelen [Tweet]
“"Congratulations @StellaMoris1 & #JulianAssange ! Your wedding ceremony is a great sign of resistance and courage & hope in the face of the threat of extradition to #USA and the 175 year prison sentence there for publishing US war crimes! #FreeAssange"
Stefania Maurizi [Tweet]
“these images will remain as the symbol of the monstrous injustice and cruelty of the treatment of Julian #Assange, @StellaMoris1, their kids,the #WikiLeaks journalists by US and UK authorities for exposing their war crimes and torture, #AssangeWedding ”
Glenn Greenwald [Tweet]
“Julian Assange is marrying his fiancee @StellaMoris1 today in a high-security prison because the US and UK - so deeply committed to democracy and press freedoms that they'll risk war to defend them -- have imprisoned him for 3 years and are working to keep imprisoned for life:”
John McDonnell MP [Tweet]
“I send my congratulations and best wishes to Julian and Stella on their wedding day today. My hope is that they will soon be reunited to live together as a family. #AssangeWedding #FreeAssangeNOW”
Defend Assange Campaign [Tweet with images]
“Julian Assange finally allowed to marry as he continues to fight extradition and a 175 year sentence simply for publishing truthful information - all major press freedom and civil liberties groups have condemned his prosecution as a grave threat to press freedom #AssangeWedding”
Code Pink [Tweet with images]
“Sending love to #JulianAssange and @StellaMoris1 on their wedding day. We must all keep fighting for an end to the US extradition attempt so that their love, and a free press, can thrive! #FreeAssangeNOW”
Matt Kennard [Tweet with image]
“Happy wedding day Stella & Julian.
Future generations won’t believe the most important journalist of his generation had to get married inside the walls of Belmarsh prison.
But - for 1 day at least - love wins. And the war criminals, arms dealers, and corrupt politicians, lose.”
Heike Hänsel [Tweet]
“Congratulations to Stella Moris and #JulianAssange who are currently saying yes in #Belmarsh maximum security prison! What a shame for the self proclaimed "value west" fighting for #Pressefreiheit that this has to take place in prison! #AssangeWedding”
John Pilger [Tweet with article] [Article]
“Please read this moving statement by Stella Moris on the eve of her wedding to Julian #Assange at Belmarsh prison. She is right. The aim of the US and UK is to 'disappear' Julian from our sight and consciousness, and we must not let them.”
Siuyan the Amyrlin [Tweet with video]
“The wedding location was never a reflection of #Assange, but rather the evil powers that be— Intent on destroying an innocent man who is brave enough to stand in their path & fight for the human rights of people worldwide. Today we celebrate Julian & @StellaMoris1 #AssangeWedding”
Jonathan Cook [Tweet with image]
“Photos of Julian Assange's wedding were banned on the risible pretext they'd endanger security at Belmarsh jail. As Craig Murray notes in his account of the day, the real goal was to avoid humanising someone the UK authorities have worked so hard to vilify”
“If we could discuss only two issues – those certain to have the most devastating implications for our future – they would be climate breakdown and the silencing of Julian Assange. And yet, meaningful coverage of both is always crowded out by more pressing 'news' [Tweet]
“If you don't understand why Assange makes that short list, it is because the media and political class have successfully obscured how his work threw open a window on corporate-military power and its destruction of our planet.
We need Assange, which is why he's being disappeared” [Tweet]
Many, many more, good wishes were sent from all over the world.
Speaking outside the prison gates, Daniel Fooks summed up how many felt about this wedding: [YouTube]
“I take courage from the courage that Stella and Julian have shown. It's a beautiful spring day and they have chosen love and life instead of darkness and
despair. I'm reminded of what the great poet Pablo Neruda1 once said:
‘They can cut the flowers but they cannot stop spring from coming.’”
♦ Cruelties of officialdom on the day
From Craig Murray: [Blog]
“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.”
Some of these cruelties included:
No photographer is permitted at the wedding itself (so no photographs of Julian) - on the grounds of “security”.
But whole documentaries have been permitted at HMP Belmarsh.Julian & not allowed a photographer nor allowed to share photos taken by prison guards of their wedding- b/c of “security” reasons. See inside prison on this mini-series (not a security threat) by Ross Kemp in 2020 youtu.be/b1VlX2BsXAI
Wedding guests (who happened to be journalists) refused permission to attend.
Again from Craig Murray: [Blog]
“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.
Permission was refused for the wedding of two practising Catholics to be held in the chapel (where Julian worships when permitted) instead of a windowless storeroom next door.
This was a serious backward step for UK “justice”. Joseph Mary Plunkett, a poet and the youngest of the patriots who signed the Irish Proclamation of Independence, was permitted to marry Grace Gifford in the prison chapel of Kilmainham Gaol before he was executed by firing squad (4 May 1916, aged 28) at the behest of the UK government. That prison wedding has long been commemorated in the song “Grace”. [YouTube]
Julian and Stella have to spend the half hour permitted to them after the wedding in the crowded and noisy visitors room.
Julian cannot attend his own wedding reception(s), and the couple get no wedding night together.
The public wedding reception outside - organised by The Committee to Defend Julian Assange (JADC) - is forced outside the gates, when a perfectly safe and suitable carpark is available inside the gates.
Police turn off the sound system before the bride emerges from the prison, so her speech cannot be heard by all those gathered, and no further music can be enjoyed.
Gordon Dimmack discusses points 6 & 7 (with video record) here [YouTube]
Chris Hedges addresses the motives for these (and other) cruelties: [substack]
“They have viciousness,” Craig says. “They have the ability to employ the violence of the state. They have arbitrary power they can use to take cruel and nasty decisions for the sake of it, just to show that they can, but we, on our side, have peace and love and truth. Those values, at the end of the day, are far more important.”
Julian is targeted because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including images seen in the Collateral Murder video of the gunning down two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians.
Chris Hedges then goes on to list many more reasons for this cruelty directed at Julian, but I won’t sully this record of a happy event any further with them. Read them in his very moving article [substack] and more about them in other parts of this series.
♦ A song for the wedding
The first time I heard this song (9 June 2018) was when David Rovics sang it, a capella, outside Julian’s window at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Perhaps he knew (or intuited) then something that was not public knowledge at the time - the love story of Julian and Stella. Ciaron O’Reilly, who introduced the first essay in this Assange / WikiLeaks series, can be seen standing to the left of David Rovics. [Tweet] [YouTube]
In the months following the wedding David Rovics wrote and recorded another song for the couple - “When Julian Met Stella” [YouTube]
♦ Closing words
Craig Murray put it well: [Blog]
“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.”
And as it was her wedding, Stella Moris gets the final word: [The Guardian]
“The urge of the authorities to silence and disappear Julian is born out of fear. We have the strength of our love and righteous conviction. Julian’s family will fight for his freedom and for his life, until he is free.
Love over fear. Join us.”
The author of this article lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As a long time supporter of Julian Assange, I have become aware that many of those new to the story of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange find it hard to get a picture of the enormity and multidimensionality of the abuse that has gone on here, and what that says about the current state of the world we live in.
This is the fifth in a series of lengthy pieces that explore this history via different themes.
The second was a chronological record of the (ongoing) attempts of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, to educate states and the wider world about the ongoing abuse of Julian Assange, and the wider significance of that abuse: “Nils Melzer on the torture of Julian Assange: A compendium”. Read it here.
The third was another compendium “The Persecution of WikiLeaks: Counting the Cost” covering a wide range of costs incurred by those associated, in almost any way, with WikiLeaks. In particular, it looks at the rollcall of the dead, and lists some of the many whistleblowers and truthtellers who have suffered under this regime of persecution. Craig Murray also figured in that list. Read it here.
The fourth was another compendium “Craig Murray on the Julian Assange Show Trial - Our Man in the Public Gallery”, allows readers to choose to go direct to the Craig Murray blog entry of interest via the index link, or to meander through the previews (and further links) which then follow. Read it here.
In this fifth entry, “The Assange Wedding”, I have collected key commentary so that readers can peruse it from one place. Personally, I found this a very moving and hopeful event.
Many of the reports in this series, while interesting to read for those new to this topic, are mainly intended as ongoing resources: documents to bookmark, dip into, refer back to, and share with those needing sources and perspective, rather than pieces to read at one sitting. The compendia are updated regularly, as new events arise.
I also recommend Gary Lord’s FREE online book: "A True History of WikiLeaks".
And of course you must order a copy of Nils Melzer’s “The Trial of Julian Assange”.
Also a compilation by Karen Sharpe “Julian Assange in his own words”. [Book review]
Deepa Driver has also made an excellent Tweet series “#WhyAssangeMatters”
You can find me on Twitter at La Fleur Productions.
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The poet Pablo Neruda died on 23 September 1973, 12 days after Pinochet's military coup (11 Sept 1973). There are theories that his death was hastened by Pinochet’s junta. Certainly many of his poems foreshadow the horror to come from that regime.
While this line is often attributed to Neruda, I (and others) have searched in vain for its source. It seems more likely it is "a saying about El Che’s legacy written on many walls throughout Latin America" of unknown origin. A connection to Che, in itself, would be relevant in this context. In a tweet (27 Oct 2019), Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador at the time Julian Assange was given asylum, stated that the killing of Che Guevara “was like the case of Julian Assange. They chase the ones who discovered the #WarCrimes but not the ones who committed them.
As I write this I look up at a photo of Pablo Neruda’s Valparaiso desk and chair (in which I sat during my visit to his house there). The photo sits above my desk. I often think of the chilling rendition of Neruda’s “I’m Explaining A Few Things” included in fellow Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter’s 2005 acceptance speech (at 35:46) - a reading that is shockingly relevant to what is going on in Yemen and Ukraine today. War, torture, and “blood in the streets” used to suppress freedom and to defeat threats to power are part of the dark truth being barely held at bay on this fine spring afternoon by the affirmation of love and courage that is present in this wedding of Stella Moris and Julian Assange. I too thank them both for the hope they share with us all.