Julian Assange’s rights as a political prisoner were gravely violated when he
A joint display of support for Julian Assange
The origin of this appeal can be traced to 11 April 2019, when Julian Assange was torn from his asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy and removed to a British prison. With that, there arose a risk that Assange would be extradited to Sweden and from there to the United States.
That risk led the renowned whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to draft an appeal which called upon the Swedish government to resist all eventual pressure from the U.S. to turn over Assange. Ellsberg is an old friend of Sweden whose most recent visit was in January of this year to accept the Olof Palme Prize for 2018.
The idea was to publish the appeal, endorsed by a respectable number of Swedish citizens, in one or more Swedish newspapers. To deal with the practical aspects, Ellsberg contacted the well-known journalist and film-maker John Pilger, who is based in London and has long worked closely with Assange and WikiLeaks. He is one of the few who are allowed to visit Assange in prison and has discussed the appeal with him.
Pilger in turn asked Al Burke to co-ordinate the collection of endorsements. Burke immigrated to Sweden in 1988 from the United States and has monitored the Assange case since it was contrived in 2010.
The quest for signatories began on 22 May via personal contacts, and it turned out that there was widespread support for Assange. Soon over 100 endorsements were collected and everything was set for the appeal to be published with full-page advertisements in two prominent Swedish newspapers. WikiLeaks was to stand for placing and financing the ads.
New plan, new text
At the last moment, however, the WikiLeaks leadership decided to delay publication. There was no clear explanation, nor any decision on when or even if the ads would be published. Meanwhile, more and more signatories were demanding to know when their desire to support Assange would be put to use.
Therefore, Al Burke proposed an alternative plan of action in the event that WikiLeaks’ leadership remained undecided. It involved starting a website and then, to the extent of available resources, publish the appeal in newspaper ads, etc. The proposal was well-received and the first step was taken on 23 June with the launching of this website.
In the meantime, however, developments had rendered the original text obsolete. Among other things, the risk of Assange being extradited to Sweden had declined, while the risk of extradition directly from Britain to the U.S. had increased substantially. Also, U.N. rapporteur Nils Melzer had delivered the devastating judgement which is quoted in the current appeal.
For those and other reasons, Al Burke proposed a new text that was discussed via the Internet with all interested signatories. Of those who participated in the discussion, 15 approved the draft text and 6 offered various critical viewpoints, with the emphasis on ”various”. The critical viewpoints differed not only from the majority, but also from each other — which of course is entirely normal in such contexts.
Accordingly, there is little difference between the draft and the final version. As an expected consequence, some who endorsed the first version have not endorsed the second — not yet in any event. But only a week has passed and it is thus too early to state how large the reduction will turn out to be, or how many additional endorsements will be added.
This is a brief summary of developments to date. A more detailed account, mainly in Swedish, is provided in the document Historik.pdf; see References below.
Thus far, the project has not had any definite structure. It began when an old friend and associate of Julian Assange in London asked Al Burke to co-ordinate the collection of endorsements of an appeal to be published in Sweden. At that point, it was not certain that it would be possible to gather a sufficient number to make an appeal worthwhile.
When it turned out that there appeared to be widespread support for Assange in Sweden, WikiLeaks’ leadership decided to support the initiative. As noted above, however, that support became unclear and indecisive. Meanwhile, there was growing pressure from the signatories to take action. The result was this website, which is likely to develop and may possibly give rise to related activities.
Thus, to the question of ”who stands behind this initiative”, the answer is: the signatories. As individuals they have shown their support for Julian Assange by endorsing the appeal. No organisation has taken responsibility for what, after a somewhat vague beginning in London, has become an entirely Swedish initiative.
But now that things are starting to happen, it looks like time to establish some sort of organisation that can take charge of further developments. Everyone is welcome to offer viewpoints and suggestions concerning what form it should take, via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, additional endorsements of the appeal are most welcome.
30 June 2019
Resources on the Assange case
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