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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/17/18

Bringing Julian Assange home

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This is not easy; the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers. Assange's crime is to have broken a silence.

No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of "unworthy" lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.

When Harold Pinter accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, he referred to "a vast tapestry of lies upon which we feed." He asked why "the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought" of the Soviet Union were well known in the West while America's imperial crimes "never happened ... even while [they] were happening, they never happened."

In its revelations of fraudulent wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the bald-faced lies of governments (the Chagos Islands), WikiLeaks has allowed us to glimpse how the imperial game is played in the 21st century. That is why Assange is in mortal danger.

Seven years ago, in Sydney, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal Member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull.

I wanted to ask him to deliver a letter from Gareth Peirce, Assange's lawyer, to the government. We talked about his famous victory -- in the 1980s when, as a young barrister, he had fought the British Government's attempts to suppress free speech and prevent the publication of the book Spycatcher -- in its way, a WikiLeaks of the time, for it revealed the crimes of state power.

The prime minister of Australia was then Julia Gillard, a Labor Party politician who had declared WikiLeaks "illegal" and wanted to cancel Assange's passport -- until she was told she could not do this: that Assange had committed no crime: that WikiLeaks was a publisher, whose work was protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia was one of the original signatories.

In abandoning Assange, an Australian citizen, and colluding in his persecution, Prime Minister Gillard's outrageous behavior forced the issue of his recognition, under international law, as a political refugee whose life was at risk. Ecuador invoked the 1951 Convention and granted Assange refuge in its embassy in London.

Gillard has recently been appearing in a gig with Hillary Clinton; they are billed as pioneering feminists.

If there is anything to remember Gillard by, it a warmongering, sycophantic, embarrassing speech she made to the US Congress soon after she demanded the illegal cancellation of Julian's passport.

Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia. Julian Assange's father has written to Turnbull. It is a moving letter, in which he has appealed to the prime minister to bring his son home. He refers to the real possibility of a tragedy.

I have watched Assange's health deteriorate in his years of confinement without sunlight. He has had a relentless cough, but is not even allowed safe passage to and from a hospital for an X-ray.

Malcolm Turnbull can remain silent. Or he can seize this opportunity and use his government's diplomatic influence to defend the life of an Australian citizen, whose courageous public service is recognized by countless people across the world. He can bring Julian Assange home.
_______________

This is an abridged version of an address by John Pilger to a rally in Sydney, Australia, to mark Julian Assange's six years' confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

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John Pilger grew up in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, author and documentary film-maker. He is one of only two to win British journalism's highest award twice, for his work all over the world. On 1 November, he was awarded (more...)
 
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