Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
I would like to add my voice to those of many people of conscience, around the world, in urging President Correa of Ecuador to grant political asylum to Julian Assange. The editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks is currently inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The British courts shamefully refused Mr. Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in response to accusations of sexual molestation (no criminal charges have been made against him). Mr. Assange has said he is willing to answer questions relating to accusations against him, but to do so in the UK. He has good reason not to want to be extradited to Sweden, as he could find himself imprisoned in solitary confinement, and then very likely extradited to an American prison.
The American media has reported that the U.S. Justice Department and the Pentagon conducted a criminal investigation into “whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group’s release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act.” Mr. Assange’s only crime is he cared enough about people to respect their right to the truth, and he had the courage and bravery to print the truth, and in the process he embarrassed powerful governments.
The WikiLeaks release of thousands of State Department cables, and of the video footage from an Apache helicopter of a 2007 incident in which the U.S. military appears to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees, revealed crimes against humanity. For this “truth telling,” he has incurred the wrath of the U.S. government, and has been targeted in a most vindictive way (as has Private Bradley Manning). (I support WikiLeaks right to publish leaked information, as it is in the interest of the public and their right to know. WikiLeaks were not the leakers or whistleblowers but an on-line news media).
Many believe there are those in high places who not only wish to punish Assange for outing them, but want to make an example of him so others will remain silent. They will not rest until Assange is behind bars in the USA and there are even some American politicians who have put Assange’s life in grave danger by calling for him to be assassinated.
It is ironic that Assange’s basic human rights have been breached since he is a journalist working for people’s rights to a free press and the freedom of speech.
The Australian, Swedish and UK governments have a responsibility to see that this man of courage be treated fairly and with justice. He ought to be allowed to tell his story in the UK when he can prove whether the incompetent and contradictory accusations against him are true or false.
It must also be remembered if Assange ends up in an American prison for a long time, in grave danger to his life, and maybe even face the death penalty, we all have to ask, “Who next?” and “Where goes freedom, human rights, and justice?”
We, as world citizens, need to support Julian Assange, who tried to protect the innocent by outing the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is they who should, one day, be made accountable for their crimes.
Mairead Maguire (www.peacepeople.com) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.