The call for letting Julian Assange walk free gained momentum on June 19 when intellectuals from around the world came together for a week-long event with the slogan #FreeAssange.
American philosopher Noam Chomsky, Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and American singer-songwriter Patti Smith are the few big names who have joined hands across ten cities of the world calling for the release of the Wikileaks founder who has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 19, 2012.
Assange (44) was forced to seek asylum in Ecuador following UK’s bid to extradite him to Sweden where he is wanted in an alleged rape case which he denies. Assange fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, he’ll then be taken to the United States for his perceived role in publication of some 5,00,000 secret American documents – the largest trove of leaks in world’s history.
Among those calling for the release of Assange are Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, American filmmakers Oliver Stone and Michael Moore.
All of them spoke in favour of Assange at the start of the events dubbed “First they came for Assange”, a title inspired by the famous Martin Niemöller poem. The events will be held at Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Milano, Montevideo, Naples, New York, Quito, Paris and Sarajevo. Assange will join the event live from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. “We are gathering all around the world…to speak out for Julian, because he has spoken out for all of us, we are speaking out before there is no one left to speak out,” said Srećko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher and founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25), one of the organisers of the events.
The calls for Assange’s freedom are significant because even UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) remarked in February that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
In its ruling the WGAD said that the WikiLeaks founder “is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation”.
Based on the ruling, Assange’s lawyers called for the lifting of the arrest warrant in Sweden. The request was turned down by Stockholm and London last month.
Assange addressing reporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy on Feb 5, 2016. Toby Melville / Reuters
Assange lives in a 4.6 by 4 metre room in the embassy. The room is divided into an office and a living area, and contains necessary things like a treadmill, shower, microwave, a sun lamp and a computer.