More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on February 17 for a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”. The forum was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.
Speakers at the forum included socialist historian Humphrey McQueen, Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, London-based human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Christine Assange, the mother of Julian Assange. Veteran journalist and broadcaster Mary Kostakidis chaired the forum.
The transcript of Christine Assange’s address to the meeting, in conversation with Mary Kostakidis, is below.
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Mary Kostakidis: Christine, why don’t you begin with telling us just a little bit about your journey, what it’s been like.
Christine Assange: Initially, Julian and I were talking about the world, as we would, and what would change. What would it take to change the world? And Julian said to me I think there are only two things that will change the world, the way that it’s going, the way the power imbalance is and the suffering of people. Either a huge accident of some kind, a meteorite or another catastrophe, or technology.
And the technology was the dropbox for WikiLeaks. Initially, it was supposed to help the Third World. That was why it was set up, to help the Third World, to expose the dictatorships. But he had no idea he’d get a drop from America. That came as a complete surprise.
The time that everything really changed for me was August 21, 2010. I was sitting in bed watching a movie and the phone rang. At the end of the phone was a foreign voice. He said how do you feel about the fact that Julian has been charged with rape?
And my instinctive reaction was he wouldn’t do it. My second reaction was he’s been set up. That’s an instinctive reaction.
But for me to help Julian there had to be more than just a mother's instinct that he was set up. I knew I wouldn’t get the truth in the mainstream media. As others have pointed out, it's all Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton [laughter].
And then I did what any journalist should be doing: I dug around. And it was like slipping through a wormhole — I think you’ve all seen Dr Who or Star Trek, I’m not quite sure where that’s from — but going through from one reality that I believed was this, through into a shadow reality of the corruption of power. It is a very frightening journey and I can understand why people don’t want to look at it. It’s akin to the abyss.
But WikiLeaks took the mask off power. And power is very, very angry.
But I think what’s happened is the reaction of power has exposed them more than even the cables. WikiLeaks has shone the light on these sorts of cockroaches. [applause]
So I thought, well I didn’t know some of the facts. And at that stage I thought: maybe the politicians don’t. I know what I’ll do. I’ll write a letter and I’ll write a letter to Kevin Rudd because he was not as bad as Gillard. [laughter]
And this is me at the beginning of the journey. Kevin says it’s the Americans' problem. John Howard says it’s a bit of frank commentary, I don’t expect a journalist to hold back on that.
So [I thought] that’s what I’ll do, I’ll be a citizen and write to my government and I’ll tell them what’s going on and they will do something. So I wrote my eight-page letter and sent it on the 9th of February and on the 10th DFAT [the department of foreign affairs and trade] quickly rang. I was going to be standing outside of Kevin Rudd’s office on the 11th and very quickly a letter went off to [Beatrice Ask], the Minister for Justice in the Swedish Government that the government of Australia expected all due process, before, of course, the press conference had been announced.
Nothing happened, apart from that. So I though, hmmm, well what I’ll do is fax the letter, which had a lot of facts that I had found about the Swedish case, and I’ll tell you a little bit about that because the reason I’m coming out is that the mainstream media will not print the facts. They just point-blank refuse. I’ve approached them and they will not report the facts.
And many of these facts subsequently came from my request to [Jennifer Robinson] to write to the Australian parliament.
But these are the facts. Both women involved in this “sex scandal” never alleged rape, but insisted that the sex was consensual and not violent. Woman SW has actually complained about being railroaded and was so upset that Julian was charged with rape that she refused to sign her statement.
Woman AA, who took a condom to the police saying that Julian had deliberately torn a condom during sex, went for an examination that proved there was not DNA from either her or Julian in it.
Interestingly, there is a domestic political agenda involved in Sweden. When the rape allegations were made on August the 20th, in one month’s time there was to be local and general elections in Sweden. And, “coincidentally”, woman AA, the police officer that interrogated woman SW, and both the lawyers in the law firm that picked up the case against Julian after it was dropped by the chief prosecutor, were all running for the same party, in the same elections, on the same platform of widening the definition of rape within consensual sex.
So there is the domestic agenda. Then of course we’ve got other things going on. The two laywers involved, Claus Borgstrom and Thomas Bodstrom, have previously been in the Swedish government.
Claus Borgstrom knew AA. And they all know Marianne Ny, who is the Swedish prosecutor, because they all worked together on widening the sex offences for the last 10 years.
Thomas Bodstrom, the partner of the woman’s lawyer, had in 2001 signed off on CIA torture flights for two Egyptian refugees who were tortured in Egypt and subsequently found to be innocent and in 2003 Sweden had to pay up compensation.
So some of the facts that were not [reported] right were that Julian offered himself for interview numerous times in Sweden and was knocked back by prosecutor Ny with various excuses. The particular chosen officer, the only one in Sweden, was sick, or was away. He offered to fly back in — no that couldn’t be done either.
He was granted permission to leave on the 15th of September and he left. And this was all around the time of Cablegate coming out. The US knew that this was happening because Julian had contacted them and asked them to help with the redaction and they refused. So they knew it was coming up.
Collateral Murder was out on the 4th of April. The Gillard coup was the 26th of June. The Afghan War Diaries was the 25th [of July] and the sex allegations were on the 20th of [August]. So it is all working quite nicely for them isn’t it?
So these are some of the things that I’ve found out. If you look at the timelines and you have to say no more, look at that timeline.
[Livestream recording briefly interrupted]
So when Mary asks me what’s this journey been [like], it’s been a journey of a mother, up and down emotionally. But it’s also been the journey of a citizen, an Australian citizen and a world citizen. And the eyes get bigger and bigger every day. But you know I’m not finding it in the mainstream media. I’m finding it down the rabbit holes in the internet.
When I sent that letter to Rudd with all the information, including the information that Julian was awarded the Sam Adams award in 2010. Does anyone know what that is? No, that’s because the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know what it is.
The Sam Adams award is an award given by retired US senior military and intelligence officers and Julian won it in 2010. Ann Wright from Stars and Stripes, the main military magazine in America, has come out and said we in the US military know what’s going on in the war … what should be investigated is what WikiLeaks is raising. So he actually has the backing of the US military that are retired.
So it’s the journey of a citizen that is becoming more and more alarmed for her country and democracy, and alarmed as a mother. And alarmed at the mainstream media that I contact, which refuse point blank to bring these facts to the Australian public. So this is why I’m here.
Mary Kostakidis: Christine, do you speak to Julian regularly and to your knowledge has he received any assistance from the Australian government?
Christine Assange: I do speak to him, but I can’t talk openly because our phones are monitored. So all the things a mother would normally talk to her son about, how are you feeling etc. I’m living under another name in a secret location as are some members of my family. I’ve had to give up the job that I’ve had.
Julian can’t express to me how he feels so I write poetry to him. I write him poems. [applause]
[The Australian] government have offered him absolutely nothing. He has been given a little bit of consular assistance — the equivalent of Tim Tams. [laughter] But they have passed the “WikiLeaks amendment” to make sure they can spy on me as well as him now, and all WikiLeaks people that are trying to help.
So going back to the letter, I thought, OK, nothing’s happened. I know what I’ll do. It’s full of all this information. I’ll send it to every member of parliament and someone will do something.
So off it went to every member of parliament: all the Senators, all the MPs. And I actually did get a bite. The Greens, straight away, were right there with [me] and they have been standing up all along [applause]. And not just Scott [Ludlum], all of them.
And I thought there might be some hope because initially in December  there was what was termed a “backbench revolt” going on against Gillard’s comments. And a number of quite senior Senator and ALP members had spoken up and said WikiLeaks should be defended as a democratic issue.
But I thought, once I [send] the fax then they’ll do something. This is the story of everybody, isn’t it? Once they go higher and higher up someone will do something.
So Andrew Laming, a Liberal MP, got back to me and said, look I’m really concerned, on the face of this something’s not right here, I’d like to convene a meeting in Canberra. And I thought great, someone’s going to do something.
So then Jen[nifer Robinson] prepared something for Canberra, a legal brief that would outline all the facts in a very simple way — it's only seven pages long and I’d really encourage you all to read it and I will give you the link in a minute, it's in a nutshell, easy to read because it's concise and short.
Then I asked some other lawyers, [such as] Peter Kemp. You’d all be aware of Peter Kemp? He wrote to the prime minister. And Greg Barnes, head of the lawyers alliance, and Tony Kevin, the ex-DFAT ambassador.
They all went and provided a legal and diplomatic brief to parliament, a crossbench meeting, quite a few turned up. And I thought, OK, it’s in parliament. They’ve got the facts. They can see. They’re going to act — nothing.
Now they know what’s going on. So I thought, OK, I’ll get all the briefings and I’ll email them back out again to all the MPs so all the MPs can read all the briefings and all the Senators can read all the briefings, and then they’ll do something — nothing.
Mary Kostakidis: Christine, if I could interrupt you, what would you like Gillard and Rudd to do? What do you think they should do?
Christine Assange: I would like them to act upon those briefings. And those briefings were that Julian was in clear and present danger, that, on the facts proven in the briefings, it was a political case, and that they should immediately — and this was back in March 2011 — state that the Australian government would not extradite Julian because it is a political case, and provide written humanitarian guarantees that Sweden and the UK say that they would not comply with a US extradition, that they would insist on an open court in the sex allegation case in Sweden, and that Julian be returned home as soon as possible.
Mary Kostakidis: And what would you like the Australian people to do?
Christine Assange: I think it was mentioned earlier, but we can’t rely on our mainstream media, that’s why I’m here. So we have to be the media. We have to inform Australia about what is going on. So I would ask you firstly to get informed about the facts.
People are very angry about what is happening to Julian but being angry and insulting other people is not the way that it is going to be won. We have to win it like a courtroom, we have to win it with facts. The facts speak for themselves. The facts are enough.
So first of all get the facts. If you want more you can go to http://wlcentral.org/node/1418. With those facts start the conversation in your community and among your friends and your family and your work colleagues.
Just mention one fact, put it into the conversation — you will turn them off if you go bashing them over the head. Just one fact that’s eye-opening from the ones that I’ve told you. You can do it at the pub or the water cooler. Ring talkback radio. Ring in about the smear about Julian. Counter it with facts. Watch what the media is doing. If they are pushing articles that smear, post a comment.
Write articles to the local media. Sometimes the regional papers are more likely to print than the big papers, that’s what I’ve found. You can buy WikiLeaks T-shirts. You can put your facts out wherever you can, or join a support group to help, and to lobby your MPs.
At this point, I can only count on self-interest. Apart from the Greens, I can only count on self-interest. Your MP really, really wants your vote. He wants your vote more than he wants his own party to get back in.
So this is what I’m asking you, I’m putting it forcibly, but I’m asking you to request a meeting — demand a meeting, you are a constituent and you’ve got every right to meet with your elected representative — armed with the facts that you have from Jennifer’s submission. Write a letter and make two copies. Take one letter to that meeting, and, depending on the strength of your feelings I would ask you to say that democracy and freedom are more important than a new plasma TV, and I want to leave my children a legacy of freedom.
So either you stand up for Julian Assange, which is the same as standing up for the free press, and you start representing Australian people, or you are not getting my vote next election. In fact, I’m going to vote Green, or I’m going to vote independent, or I’m going to actually stand for election. Thank you.