Sydney Peace Prize recipients urge support for Julian Assange

Protesters in Sydney in April. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Council for Peace with Justice (CPJ) University of Sydney released the following statement on May 26.

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As Julian Assange faces US Espionage Act charges, which carry 175 years prison, high profile recipients of Australia’s prestigious international Peace Prize are calling on the Australian government to “protect the human rights of this distinguished Australian citizen”.

Professor Noam Chomsky; Dr. Vandana Shiva; artist George Gittoes; Julian Burnside QC; journalist and film maker John Pilger; and Senator Sekai Holland, have joined former Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Mary Kostakidis and Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Professor Stuart Rees AM in this call.

“We insist that under no circumstances should journalist and publisher Julian Assange be extradited from the UK to the United States.

“Julian’s ‘crime’ is courageous, truthful journalism. In response to WikiLeaks’ revelations about murderous wars and US spying to promote the economic dominance of US companies, the Trump administration clearly seeks revenge.

“The newly concocted espionage charges claim conspiracy between Assange and Chelsea Manning to obtain and disclose classified defence documents, including reports on Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These US warrants falsely claim a legal basis for their actions and reflect the naked political motives of a great power.

“Rapacious state powers remain strong if they stay in the dark but exposed to sunlight begin to evaporate. In common with other advocates of freedom of speech and of the press, Assange has exposed power to sunlight, for all the world to see. By revealing truths about violence and deceit so central to US foreign policy, he has performed an historic public service.”

Regarding the Swedish decision to reopen the case of sexual assault against Assange, Professor Rees reminded Australian, British and Swedish authorities that the former Head of the Swedish Bar Association, Ms Anne Ramberg condemned the handling of the Assange case in Sweden and Britain as deplorable. Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny closed the investigation in 2017.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hraffnson said political pressures in Britain and the US forced Sweden to re-open their investigation. Professor Rees said: “These actions are the continuation of US efforts to discredit and silence the WikiLeaks founder and to seek revenge against him.”

The Peace Prize recipients’ statement concluded: “Break the official Australian silence. Stop Julian Assange’s extradition to almost certain long-term imprisonment. Secure his rightful freedom. The Australian government must intervene now.

“We call on the civilized world to uphold the true values of peace with justice and to stand up for Julian Assange.”

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