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Letter From Prominent Americans Urges Ecuador to Accept Assange Asylum Request

Common Dreams staff

A group of prominent Americans have signed a letter urging Ecuador to accept an asylum request from Julian Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault charges, saying that his case represents an "attack on press freedom" and that his health and well-being are at serious risk.

The letter to President Correa signed by notable figures including Michael Moore, Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, Coleen Rowley and Sibel Edmonds was hand-delivered to the Embassy of Ecuador in London on Monday by Just Foreign Policy's Policy Director Robert Naiman.

The letter states, "We believe Mr. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States."

Further, "Were he charged, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty."

The letter concludes stating that "this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public's right to know important truths about U.S. foreign policy."

* * *

June 25, 2012

Dear President Correa,

We are writing to urge you to grant political asylum to Julian Assange.

As you know, British courts recently struck down Mr. Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is not wanted on criminal charges, but merely for questioning. Mr. Assange has repeatedly made clear he is willing to answer questions relating to accusations against him, but in the United Kingdom. But the Swedish government insists that he be brought to Sweden for questioning. This by itself, as Swedish legal expert and former Chief District Prosecutor for Stockholm Sven-Erik Alhem testified, is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate.”

We believe Mr. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States.

As U.S. legal expert and commentator Glenn Greenwald recently noted, were Assange to be charged in Sweden, he would be imprisoned under “very oppressive conditions, where he could be held incommunicado,” rather than released on bail. Pre-trial hearings for such a case in Sweden are held in secret, and so the media and wider public, Greenwald notes, would not know how the judicial decisions against Mr. Assange would be made and what information would be considered.

The Washington Post has reported that the U.S. Justice Department and 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." Many fear, based on documents released by Wikileaks, that the U.S. government has already prepared an indictment and is waiting for the opportunity to extradite Assange from Sweden.

The U.S. Justice Department has compelled other members of Wikileaks to testify before a grand jury in order to determine what charges might be brought against Mr. Assange. The U.S. government has made clear its open hostility to Wikileaks, with high-level officials even referring to Mr. Assange as a “high-tech terrorist,” and seeking access to the Twitter account of Icelandic legislator Birgitta Jónsdóttir due to her past ties to Wikileaks.

Were he charged, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty.

Prior to that, the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing U.S. government documents to Wikileaks, provides an illustration of the treatment that Assange might expect while in custody. Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliating treatment such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell. These are additional reasons that your government should grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the “crime” that he has committed is that of practicing journalism. He has revealed important crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. government, most notably in releasing 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. Wikileaks’ release of thousands of U.S. State Department cables revealed important cases of U.S. officials acting to undermine democracy and human rights around the world.

Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public's right to know important truths about U.S. foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and well-being is serious, we urge you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Michael Moore, Film Director
Danny Glover, Film Director
Oliver Stone, Film Director
Bill Maher, Comedian, Television Host, Political Commentator, Author
Naomi Wolf, Author
Daniel Ellsberg, Vietnam War Whistleblower
Glenn Greenwald, Constitutional lawyer and columnist,
Noam Chomsky
Patch Adams, MD
Chris Hedges, Journalist
Jemima Khan, British Writer and Campaigner
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent & former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, one of three “whistleblowers” named Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002
Ann Wright, US Army Colonel (Retired) and former US diplomat
Ray McGovern, Former U.S. Army officer and longtime senior CIA analyst (ret.)
Thomas Drake, NSA Whistleblower, Bill of Rights Activist
Sibel Edmonds, Founder & Director- National Security Whistleblowers Coalition ( )
Linda Lewis, Board Member, Whistleblower Support Fund
Kent Spriggs, Guantanamo habeas counsel
Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights Director, Government Accountability Project
Jacob Appelbaum, Developer, The Tor Project
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, Global Exchange
Kathy Kelly, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Mark Johnson, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Annie Bird, co director, Rights Action
Denis J. Halliday, UN Assistant Secretary-General 1994-98. National of Ireland
Leslie Cagan, co-founder, United for Peace and Justice
Bill Fletcher, Jr., Co-author, "Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice"
Kevin Gosztola, writer for Firedoglake, co-author, Truth & Consequences: The US vs. Bradley Manning
Russ Wellen, Foreign Policy in Focus
James Early, Board Member, Institute for Policy Studies
Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
Sam Husseini, Director, Washington Office of the Institute for Public Accuracy
Robert Naiman, Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy

Jane Hirschmann, Jews Say No! New York, organizer, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Richard Levy, lawyer, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Kit Kittredge, Passenger, US Boat to Gaza
Erin Deramus, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Nic Abramson, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Helaine Meisler, Orton-Gillingham Learning Specialist, Helaine Meisler Learning Center, Woodstock, New York
Laurie Arbeiter, Artist/Activist, WE WILL NOT BE SILENT
Johnny Barber, Photographer/Activist
Gail Miller, Social Worker/Activist, Women of a Certain Age
Carol Murry, Doctor of Public Health, Hawaii
Libor Von Schönau, OccupyWallStreet Legal, New York
Charlotte Wiktorsson, Doctor, Sweden
David K. Schermerhorn, Deer Harbor, WA, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Hedy Epstein, St. Louis, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Paki Wieland, MA, passenger, U.S. Boat to Gaza
Felice Gelman, Wespac, New York
Linda Durham, Founder, The Wonder Institute
Winston Weeks, Policy Analyst, Citizens Education Project, Salt Lake City, UT
Ellen Barfield, Veterans For Peace
Gar W. Lipow, journalist, member of Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, author of Solving the Climate Crisis through Social Change
Stephen Sander, Lawyer, Sydney, Australia

Mayo C. Toruño, Professor and Chair, Economics Department, California State University, San Bernardino
Julio Huato, Associate Professor of Economics, St. Francis College
Michael Brun, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Illinois State University
James G. Devine, Professor of Economics, Loyola Marymount University

Michael A Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus, Economics (Canada)
Marta Harnecker, writer (Chile)
Dana Frank, Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
Adrienne Pine, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, American University
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor, Latin American History, Pomona College
Steve Ellner, Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University/Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela
Marc Becker, Professor of Latin American History, Truman State University
Dr Francisco Dominguez, Head of Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies, Middlesex University, London, UK
Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University London
Doug Hertzler, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Eastern Mennonite University
Arturo Escobar, Dept. of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Carolyn Eisenberg, Professor of US Foreign Policy, Hofstra University
Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies, Trinity College, USA
T.M. Scruggs, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa
Ellen Schrecker, Professor of History, Yeshiva University
Antonia Darder, Leavey Endowed Chair of Ethics and Moral Leadership, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
Demetra Evangelou, Professor, Purdue University
Gilbert G. Gonzalez, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine
Renate Bridenthal, Professor (retired), City University of New York
A. Belden Fields, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Illinois
C. G. Estabrook, Visiting Professor (retired), University of Illinois

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