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Bring Julian Assange Home-An open letter to Foreign Minister Marise Payne

On the 5th April, John Shipton (Julian Assange's Dad) issued this statement via Change.org:

"Dear Friends, I have just returned from London where I witnessed Stella and Julian somehow transcend the nightmarish conditions of HMP Belmarsh to celebrate their love for one another and our love for them.

Time is running out for Julian, his physical condition is shocking. Years of psychological torture and arbitrary detention demand their bitter toll. He has been denied his final appeal and is now awaiting a US extradition order expected to be handed down on 20 April.

On this third anniversary of the incarceration of Julian Assange we will deliver this open letter to Foreign Minister Sen. Marise Payne.

Dear Minister Payne,

PEN Australia’s Melbourne, Sydney and Perth centres are among the 150 PEN International centres around the world dedicated to freedom of expression and the release of unjustly imprisoned writers.

 PEN Australia, in conjunction with PEN International, are calling for justice for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, on this third anniversary of his detention in Belmarsh Prison.  We are appealing to you as a representative of the Australian people to assert the rights of an Australian citizen by taking up his case with your counterparts in the United Kingdom government.  It is the responsibility of Australian government representatives to advocate for Australian citizens.

 The decision to extradite him to the United States for trial currently sits with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. This was after the UK Supreme Court in March refused to consider Mr Assange’s appeal against the High Court decision, which overturned the District Court ruling barring his extradition to the US on mental health grounds. We urge you to use the considerable diplomatic influence you undoubtedly have to strongly request of Secretary Patel that the request for his extradition to the US be rejected immediately and that he be brought home to Australia. 

 In the US, Mr Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years. He is highly likely to be detained there in conditions of isolation or solitary confinement, despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide. 

 Further, Mr Assange would be unable to adequately defend himself in the US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defence. His prosecution would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.

 Julian Assange has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, by German politician Martin Sonneborn (MEP). This nomination reflects not only the esteem in which Assange is held but also the fact that his extradition to the US is seen as a blow to media freedom, with far reaching implications for investigative journalism worldwide.

 Aside from these significant concerns, the health and welfare, perhaps the life of an Australian citizen is at stake. The harmful and detrimental conditions under which Julian Assange is currently detained in Belmarsh prison have been described as torture by the UN special rapporteur Nils Melzer.

 Currently in Australia 28 of the 226 Senators and Members of Parliament support actions to bring Julian Assange home, including the Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon Barnaby Joyce.  A petition, tabled in Parliament, is still growing strongly with over 700,000 signatures.  It is now one of the largest petitions to ever be tabled.

 We look forward to your urgent action for Mr Assange.

 Yours Sincerely,

 Zoe Rodriguez - PEN Sydney Joint President

Sandy Symons – PEN Sydney Joint President

Carol Dettmann OAM – Publisher

Linda Jaivin – Writer

Anwen Crawford – Writer

Evelyn Juers – Writer

Christos Tsiolkas – Writer

Lisa Walker – Writer

Miro Bilbrough – Writer/Filmmaker

Stephen Edgar – Poet

Judith Beveridge – Poet

Mireille Juchau – Writer and academic

Nicholas Jose – Writer

Debra Adelaide – Writer

Daniel Rowland – Academic

Mark Isaacs – Writer

Dragana Zivancevic – Translator

Nina Burridge – Academic

Claudia Taranto – journalist

Mansour Razaghi – journalist

Nicole Steinke – podcast producer

Chris McKenzie – President PEN Melbourne

Con Pakavakis – PEN Melbourne

Krishna Sen – PEN Perth


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