On Thursday 13th December, 2012, I visited Julian Assange, Editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy, Knightsbridge, London. It is six months now since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy and was given political asylum. He entered the embassy after the British Courts shamefully refused his appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning accused of sexual molestation (no criminal charges have been made against him).
Julian Assange has said, he is willing to answer questions in the UK relating to accusations against him, or alternatively to go to Sweden provided the Swedish government guarantee he will not be extradited to the US where plans are ready for him to be tried for conspiracy to commit espionage. The Swedish Government refuse to give such assurance. Mr. Assange is right to be concerned about the dangers of extradition to USA. American media has reported that the US Justice Department and the Pentagon have been conducting a criminal investigation into ‘whether wikileaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the groups release of government documents including possible charges under the espionage act’.
Mr. Assange’s only crime is that he embarrassed the USA and powerful governments with Wikileaks release of thousands of US state department cables and of the 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, revealing USA’s Crimes against humanity. For this truth telling he has inherited the wrath of the US government, and has been targeted in a most vindictive way – as has American soldier, pt. Bradley Manning, currently undergoing a military Court hearing for allegedly leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. Pt. Bradley Manning has been subjected, according to formal UN investigation, to ‘cruel and inhuman’ treatment whilst held in solitary confinement in US prison for nine months. The American government has admitted to the torture of Pt. Bradley Manning, one of their own soldiers.
However, even if the charges are dropped against Assange by the Swedish authorities, the USA will probably demand that the British government extradite Assange from Britain to the USA, to face a US Grand Jury indictment. (The US Grand Jury has been sitting for 16 months and it is believed to have reached a verdict to indict Julian Assange and has a sealed indictment ready to unseal at the most beneficial time to the US. The grand Jury is a flawed, unjust legal process, consisting of four Prosecutors but no defence evidence is allowed. There is no judge and a jury pool is drawn from Alexandria, Virginia, which has the highest percentage of military contractor families in the US.)
On meeting with Julian Assange I was struck by his intelligent, bright and compassionate mind, and glad to see that in spite of all the abuse of his human rights and persecution he is in good spirits and good health. In spite of the fact that for six months he has been confined indoors with no possibility of even 5 minutes in the fresh air, a basic right for all political prisoners, as if he tries to go outside he will be immediately arrested by the police outside the embassy, and be extradited to Sweden or USA. Unlike most political prisoners he has no idea how long his virtual imprisonment in the embassy, will last, 6 more months or 6 years, whilst this diplomatic standoff continues. This is indeed cruel, inhumane and mental torture, of a man, whose only crime was to tell the truth and bring transparency to the illegal acts of the US Government and its allies around the world. (the cost to police this man of peace is £11,000 per day).
I believe the UK/Swedish/USA governments are all complicit in this mental torture of Julian Assange, and I appeal to the Australian government, Human rights defenders, brave media, and people who love freedom and truth to break the ‘silence ‘ and stand up for the rights of Julian Assange to assurance he will get the change to answer all accusations against him in uk or Sweden and the assurance he will not be extradited to USA where he could meet the same ‘cruel and inhuman’ treatment as pt. Bradley Manning. The least we can do is raise our voices to protect Julian Assange (and Bradley Manning) who made such brave attempts, at the cost of their own freedom, to try to protect all our freedoms and democracy.
Mairead Maguire was awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her actions to help end the deep ethnic/political conflict in her native Northern Ireland.
Since receiving the award, Mairead has dedicated her life to promoting peace, both in Northern Ireland and around the world.
A graduate from Irish School of Ecumenics, Maguire works with inter-church and interfaith organizations and is a councilor with the International Peace Council. She is a Patron of the Methodist Theological College, and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education. She is also the author of The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland.