Torture victim and former Guantanamo concentration camp prisoner David Hicks gave a powerful and moving message of support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a Sydney rally on May 31. Hicks warns that his experience, of being forsaken by the Australian government and tortured by the US, could await Assange if we are not able to prevent the US getting their hands on him.
Supporters of WikiLeaks rallied across Australia on May 31, after Assange lost a British court case to prevent his extradition. If the WikiLeaks founder is extradited to Sweden and from there to the US, grave fears are held for his safety. US commentators have openly called for his assasination, politicians have denounced him as a "terrorist", and a secret grand jury threatens to lock him away permanently.
The sydney rally was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.
* * *
“A journalist detained and tortured” — a claim usually made against dictatorships. Unfortunately, however, I am talking about a very possible near future scenario involving the governments of Australia and the US. And as we know, it will not be the first time they have been connected to torture.
Julian Assange is a journalist, a brave and selfless journalist who is not afraid to publish information for our benefit. There should be nothing to be afraid of. Julian has done nothing more than act in the spirit of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, truth and transparency in his professional capacity as a journalist, exactly what is expected from our journalists.
And yet he has become a political prisoner.
Our media is of poor quality already. And what is being done to Julian with the acknowledgment of our government will only assure this continues, due to the message it sends to other journalists. Publish what we don't want you to, and we will destroy your life.
Julian will be extradited to the US. It is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. The Australian government has proven by past and current examples that what they have to say on the matter is meaningless. They lack credibility.
I have had first hand experience of what it is like to be an Australian citizen and a political prisoner of the US. Australian consular assistance did not protect me from treatment that amounted to torture. Instead, they allowed it to happen. They seem to be giving every indication that history is about to repeat itself.
The Australian government is once again sacrificing and devaluing Australian citizenship, to appease a foreign power. Julian Assange is part of a long line of Australian citizens neglected, if not harmed, by their own government while abroad.
Embarrassing, at the least, for Australia, and at times illegal at its worst. It appears Australian citizenship is worthless in the view of Australian governments — Liberal and Labor.
Up until now, the Australian government has been able to intervene on his behalf, and yet they have not. They will be able to intervene in the future, but based on past experience, they won't.
Among other things, for example, they should be securing assurances that Julian won't be mistreated in US custody. Instead, they just deny he will even go there.
We need to demand of our leaders the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, where awards and incentives are given to those such as Julian, not punishments. We want a dynamic and independent media that can operate without fear of reprisals, something that we currently lack. We want freedom from politically motivated detentions, freedom from physical and psychological torture.
Our leaders need to take more pride in being Australian, to safeguard its citizens abroad and give peace of mind to those travelling with Australian passports overseas. And to have the courage to say no to foreign countries that treat us as second class citizens and wish us harm.
Julian must be brought home before it is too late. My experience is a good prediction for what awaits Julian. I cannot understand why we, especially our government, have still not learned from the past.
I hope, I truly hope, that Julian is prepared for conditions that amount to torture. Because that is what awaits him once he ends up in US hands.