As Julian Assange fights US extradition at the Old Bailey in London, over one hundred eminent political figures, including 13 past and present heads of state, numerous ministers, members of parliament and diplomats, have today denounced the illegality of the proceedings and appealed for Assange’s immediate release.
The 165 politicians from 27 different countries and from across the political spectrum have joined 189 independent international lawyers, judges, legal academics and lawyers’ associations by endorsing their open letter to the UK Government warning that the US extradition request and extradition proceedings violate national and international law, breach fair trial rights and other human rights, and threaten press freedom and democracy.
Politicians endorsing the call to free Julian Assange include Jeremy Corbyn, former Prime Minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, several members of the European Parliament, former presidents of Brazil, Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef, and Australian parliamentarians from the cross-party parliamentary group to free Assange.
Kenneth MacAskill, Member of UK Parliament, former Justice Secretary of Scotland, and lawyer, commented, “This is a political crucifixion not legal process and is about seeking to bury truth and those exposing it.”
The unprecedented appeal to the UK government by the international political community follows concerns raised by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, The American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other rights organisations regarding the chilling effect Assange’s prosecution will have on press freedom. Amnesty International’s petition calling for the US Government to drop its charges against Assange has garnered over 400,000 signatures.
Today marks the beginning of the third week of the extradition hearings, which have drawn wide criticism for failing to uphold the principle of open justice by preventing independent observers including from Amnesty International, PEN Norway and others from monitoring the trial.
The Trump administration is seeking Mr Assange’s extradition from the UK to prosecute him under the Espionage Act for his work as a journalist and publisher. The 2010 publications, on which the US government’s attempted prosecution is based, brought to light a range of public interest information, including evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week during the hearing the court heard that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks undertook careful redaction processes to protect informants, that no informants are known to have been harmed by their publications, and that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were not responsible for publishing un-redacted cables. Nevertheless, the prosecution asserted the right of the US to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information.
Luiz InácioLula da Silva, President of Brazil (2003-2010), Honorary citizen of the City of Paris (2020), Nobel Prize Nominee (2018):“If the democrats of the planet Earth, including all journalists, all lawyers, all unionists and all politicians, have no courage to express themselves in defence of Assange, so that he is not extradited, it means we have a lot democrats out there who are liars. Assange should be perceived as a hero of democracy.He does not deserve to be punished. I hope the people of the UK, the people of France, the people of the United States will not allow this atrocity.”
Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark and Co-Chair of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group: “Julian Assange is being politically persecuted for publishing information that was in the public interest, including hard evidence of US war crimes. That the perpetrator of those war crimes, America, is now seeking to extradite Mr Assange is unjust in the extreme and arguably illegal under British law. If it goes ahead, not only would Mr Assange face 175 years in prison, but the precedent would be set for all Australians, and particularly journalists, that they are at risk of being extradited to any country they offend.”
Mikuláš Peksa, Member of European Parliament, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy: “Freedom of speech remains a crucial value in the beginning of the 21st century. Despite it sometimes revealing inconvenient truths, we shall do our best to protect it.”
Open Letter: http://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/open-letter.html
Political endorsements: http://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/endorsements.html
Legal signatories: https://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/signatories-all.html