Berlin (dpa) – About 120 politicians, artists and journalists have called on Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) to campaign for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during her visit by US President Joe Biden this week.
“We sincerely ask you to help build bridges in the Julian Assange case,” said a joint letter to Merkel at the German news agency in Berlin. The chancellor is scheduled to meet with Biden this Thursday on what will likely be her last visit to the US before leaving office after the general election in Washington.
Writing between parties
Signatories to the letter to Merkel initiated by investigative journalist and writer Günter Wallraff include cross-party MPs from CDU, SPD, FDP, Left and Greens, several ex-ministers such as Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), Gerhart Baum (FDP), Oskar Lafontaine (left), the writer Elfriede Jelinek and the editor of the women’s magazine “Emma”, Alice Schwarzer. Assange recently celebrated his 50th birthday at HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison in London.
The US judiciary accuses Assange, along with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, of stealing classified material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of a large number of diplomatic telegrams and publishing them on the Internet platform Wikileaks. This put the lives of American informants in danger in many countries. To the American investigators, Assange is a spy, they demand his extradition. However, his supporters see him as an investigative journalist.
Merkel must defend press freedom
In the letter, the signatories ask Merkel to clarify in her talks with Biden, “how important it is in the interests of the defense of press freedom to drop the lawsuit against the Wikileaks founder so he can recover sanely in the company.” of his family.” The chancellor is also being asked to find “a humanitarian solution for Assange and a face-saving solution for the US president”. “It would be a strong, lasting humanitarian gesture at the end of your term and for President Joe Biden, at last, a chance to leave the Donald Trump era completely behind, also in the interest of protecting press freedom and the freedom of expression.”
Dealing with Assange is “incompatible with the rule of law, the appalling conditions in the prison are a humanitarian scandal,” the letter to the chancellor said. Given Assange’s threatening health condition, urgent action is needed. It is in the hands of Biden to end the legal process his predecessor started against Assange and drop the lawsuit.
Extradition request rejected so far
Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 before being extradited. There he was granted asylum – until the wind turned in the South American country. In 2019, the whole world could watch as Assange was dragged out of the embassy despite fierce resistance.
A court in London rejected the US extradition request in January due to Assange’s ill mental health and expected prison conditions in the United States. Assange was not released as the US appealed. Now he has to wait for the outcome of this procedure. According to his fiancée Stella Morris, the Australian is still being threatened with extradition to the United States and sentenced to 175 years in prison. Morris is betting that the new US administration under Biden will drop charges against her partner.