United States: Prominent WikiLeaks supporters write to Ecuador to support Assange
The letter published below was circulated by the United States-based Just Foreign Policy. It was signed by more than 100 prominent people, mostly from the US. Signatories include film directors Michal Moore and Oliver Stone, authors Noam Chomsky and Naomi Wolf, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges, and Vietnam War-era whistleblower Daniel Elsberg. See here for the full list.
The letter was hand-delivered to the Embassy of Ecuador in London by Just Foreign Policy's policy director Robert Naiman on June 25. The group also delivered the online petition it had circulated in support of Assange's asylum bid that had been signed by more than 4000 people. You can still sign the petition at the group's site.
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Dear President Correa,
We are writing to urge you to grant political asylum to Julian Assange.
As you know, British courts recently struck down Mr. Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is not wanted on criminal charges, but merely for questioning. Mr. Assange has repeatedly made clear he is willing to answer questions relating to accusations against him, but in the United Kingdom.
But the Swedish government insists that he be brought to Sweden for questioning. This by itself, as Swedish legal expert and former Chief District Prosecutor for Stockholm Sven-Erik Alhem testified, is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate.”
We believe Mr. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States.
As US legal expert and commentator Glenn Greenwald recently noted, were Assange to be charged in Sweden, he would be imprisoned under “very oppressive conditions, where he could be held incommunicado”, rather than released on bail.
Pre-trial hearings for such a case in Sweden are held in secret, and so the media and wider public, Greenwald notes, would not know how the judicial decisions against Mr. Assange would be made and what information would be considered.
The Washington Post has reported that the US Justice Department and Pentagon conducted a criminal investigation into "whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group's release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act".
Many fear, based on documents released by WikiLeaks, that the US government has already prepared an indictment and is waiting for the opportunity to extradite Assange from Sweden.
The US Justice Department has compelled other members of WikiLeaks to testify before a grand jury in order to determine what charges might be brought against Mr. Assange.
The US government has made clear its open hostility to WikiLeaks, with high-level officials even referring to Mr. Assange as a “high-tech terrorist”, and seeking access to the Twitter account of Icelandic legislator Birgitta Jonsdottir due to her past ties to WikiLeaks.
Were he charged, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty.
Prior to that, the case of Private Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of providing US government documents to WikiLeaks, provides an illustration of the treatment that Assange might expect while in custody.
Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliating treatment such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell. These are additional reasons that your government should grant Mr. Assange political asylum.
We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the “crime” that he has committed is that of practicing journalism. He has revealed important crimes against humanity committed by the US government, most notably in releasing video footage from an Apache helicopter of a 2007 incident in which the US military appears to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees.
WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of US State Department cables revealed important cases of US officials acting to undermine democracy and human rights around the world.
Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public's right to know important truths about US foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and wellbeing is serious, we urge you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.