05 October 2021
Mr. Simon Coveney TD,
An Open Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, TD
We, the undersigned, appeal to the Irish Government and, in particular to you, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, to lobby by all means necessary, including via Ireland’s current membership of the United Nations Security Council, the British and United States Governments, to release the campaigning Wikileaks editor and journalist, Julian Assange.
Julian Assange has spent ten years incarcerated, firstly in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and for the last two years in solitary confinement at Belmarsh Prison in the UK. Though a British Court refused to extradite him due to fears he would not survive the US penal system, this is now being challenged by the US Government. If the appeal succeeds, Julian Assange faces a sentence of 175 years, likely to be spent in extreme isolation.
Throughout his incarceration, visits by his family, supporters and his legal team have been, and continue to be, severely curtailed and often spied upon. He has been denied the right to a fair hearing in the UK because of the tactics of the US prosecutors, including submitting last minute fresh indictments, which were allowed by the UK judge.
There is no proven case against Julian Assange. The US admitted under oath as far back as 2013 that it had not found any evidence that anyone had come to harm as a result of WikiLeaks’ publications. A key informant for the FBI, on which the US based strong aspects of its indictment against Assange, subsequently admitted publicly that he fabricated his evidence. Recent media reports alleging that the CIA planned to kill or kidnap Assange in London raise further questions about the US Government’s vendetta against him. His trial should have long since collapsed for numerous reasons not least the ban on political extradition in the US/UK Extradition Treaty and the fact that the CIA has spied on Assange’s defence counsel.
This is clearly a politically motivated case simply because Julian Assange exposed US military and other war crimes, human rights abuses and corruption in the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The documents released by Wikileaks were published widely by mainstream media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and many others.
Julian Assange is in effect a political prisoner. His continued incarceration and threatened extradition to the US, therefore, is a threat not only to him but to all journalists, editors and publishers, to the cause of investigative journalism, to press freedom and to freedom of speech generally. It is ironic that Western countries, which claim to be defenders of freedom, are acting in this way.
Julian Assange’s treatment by the Ecuadorian Embassy and by the UK Government has been condemned as close to torture by multiple social justice and human rights groups. Since being forcibly removed by British police from the Ecuadorian Embassy over two years ago, his physical and mental condition have seriously deteriorated at the inhumane high security and Covid-ridden Belmarsh Prison. Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Rapporteur on Torture, has described how “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to persistent and progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”
We condemn the ongoing treatment of this brave journalist and the overhanging threat of extradition to the US. We add our call to multiple organisations from around the world such as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Council of Europe, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists, various medical organisations, thirty-three elected politicans on the island of Ireland and multiple others who have called for Mr. Assange’s immediate release.
We specifically call on the Irish Government to live up to its claim to be a defender of human rights and therefore to act forthrightly to intervene with President Biden to drop the US Government appeal, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to release Julian Assange immediately and with Prime Minister Morrison to meet Australia’s consular responsibilities to Julian. It would be going against everything we in Ireland claim to stand for if the Irish Government, which is familiar with miscarriages of justice in British courts, failed to speak up in defence of Julian Assange.
Julian Assange has suffered enough, simply because he exposed, through his journalism, extensive governmental deceit, corruption, war crimes, state-sponsored killings, extraordinary rendition [kidnapping], military cover-ups of unlawful killings, and ultimately the true wholescale horror of the disastrous, futile wars led by the US and British Governments. He spoke truth to power and has been vindicated. It is beyond time for him to be released and allowed to enjoy life in peace with his family. We appeal to you to do everything within your power to ensure this happens.
Jim Roche, PRO, Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM)
Máiréad Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Jenny Bassett, Free Assange Ireland (FAI)
Roger Cole, Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA)
Dette McLoughlin, Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW)
Dr. Edward Horgan, Chairperson, Veterans for Peace, Ireland Chapter
Dr. John Lannon, Shannonwatch
Frank Keoghan, Secretary, People’s Movement
Joe Murray, Director, AFRI Action from Ireland
Barry Sweeney, World Against War, Coordinator Ireland Chapter