Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has made a high-profile plea to halt Julian Assange’s possible extradition to the US by suspending herself in a giant birdcage outside Britain’s central criminal court Tuesday.
Fitted out in a yellow pantsuit and laced-up platform boots, the outspoken 79-year-old addressed fellow protesters and onlookers through a megaphone, comparing the Wikileaks founder to a canary in a coal mine.
The protest took place outside London’s Old Bailey, where Assange’s extradition hearing is set to go ahead in September. If sent to the US, he faces 18 federal charges, including computer hacking and soliciting classified information, after Wikileaks published cables and military documents relating to American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a video posted to the Vivienne Westwood Foundation’s official YouTube account, the designer is seen saying that “it is not a crime to publish the truth” before comparing Assange’s work to that of a journalist. She also described Wikileaks’ decision to publish a video showing an attack by a US helicopter gunship in Baghdad in 2007 as being “in the public interest.”
“I am Julian Assange,” Westwood told media and protesters outside the court. “I am the canary in the cage. If I die down the coal mine from poisonous gas, that’s the signal for all the miners to leave. But I am half-poisoned already from government corruption of law and gaming of the legal system by government.”
“Don’t extradite Assange,” she continued. “It’s a stitch-up.”
The Wikileaks founder, who is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison, faces up to 175 years in jail in the US. Assange has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, with his lawyers claiming that his actions helped expose war crimes and that the charges are politically motivated.
Westwood is among of a number of high-profile figures, including artist Ai Weiwei, actor Pamela Anderson and singer M.I.A., to have visited Assange in Belmarsh prison since May 2019.
Known for her punk aesthetic, statement fashion and activism on issues around free speech, climate change and animal rights, the designer has long called for Assange’s release. She is understood to have visited him at Ecuador’s London embassy, where he spent seven years claiming asylum, and she has previously designed T-shirts reading “I am Julian Assange” and “I fought the law” in support of his plight.
Westwood has also used appearances at London Fashion Week to champion her friend’s cause. In February of this year, the veteran designer spoke out about Assange’s extradition, using her show notes to encourage guests to attend a rally that month. She herself then joined the protesters as they marched through London.
Vivienne Westwood has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.