Featured Press Release

Germany: Letter of 120 politicians, artists and journalists, calling for the freedom of Julian Assange

“It is now up to Joe Biden to end the judicial process against Julian Assange begun by his predecessor and drop the charges against him”

12 July 2021

Dear Madam Chancellor,

We are extremely concerned about the health and life of the journalist Julian Assange, and are writing to you in advance of your planned visit to US President Joe Biden in Washington this month.

For eleven years now, Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing platform Wikileaks, has been deprived of his liberty. Since April 2019, he has been in detention at Belmarsh high-security prison in London, where he must await the decision on whether he is to be extradited from the United Kingdom to the USA. There, he faces the threat of a 175-year prison sentence for his work as a journalist, including his exposure of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like many well-known human-rights organisations and journalists’ organisations, we view the persecution of Julian Assange as an attack on press freedom and freedom of speech, which must be decisively rejected. Anybody committed to human rights and democracy must work to achieve Julian Assange’s freedom.

Madam Chancellor, we request your assistance in ensuring that Julian Assange does not have to remain in detention, where his health is being systematically destroyed through continued isolation. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, has been warning for some time that Julian Assange shows signs of exposure to psychological torture and that he must be immediately released. His fiancée, Stella Morris, reported after her last visit to Belmarsh that his imprisonment was driving him into a “deep depression and despair”, after she and their two young children had previously been refused any direct contact for eight months.

Julian Assange’s poor state of health was the main argument made in the ruling by a British judge on 4 January 2021, disallowing his extradition to serve a lengthy prison sentence of unknown duration in the US. Against this background, the fact that the journalist is still imprisoned in Belmarsh under extremely harsh conditions is even more incomprehensible. Julian Assange is still being deprived of his freedom in the UK, for the sole reason that the US government has appealed against the ruling for political reasons, and is still insisting on Assange’s extradition, which would be life-threatening for him.

The treatment of Julian Assange contradicts principles of the rule of law; the harsh conditions of his detention constitute a humanitarian scandal. In view of his critical state of health, urgent action must be taken.

It is now up to Joe Biden to end the judicial process against Julian Assange begun by his predecessor in office and drop the charges against him. A new turn of events may be brought about by the most recent revelations of the key US prosecution witness, Icelander Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, who admitted in an in-depth interview with the international press having lied in his accusations incriminating Julian Assange and that he was paid for doing so. We ask you to take into account these exonerating statements.

Madam Chancellor, we urgently appeal to you to build bridges in the case of Julian Assange. Please make clear in your discussions with US President Joe Biden in Washington how important the dropping of the charges against the Wikileaks founder is in terms of defending press freedom – in order for him to return to good health in liberty in the company of his family.

We know what great hopes are resting on you – on the part of Julian Assange’s family, as well as numerous international supporters of the journalist. We ask you to find a humanitarian solution for Julian Assange which is also face-saving for the US President.

This would be a striking and enduring humanitarian gesture at the end of your time in office and would after all offer Joe Biden and opportunity to now break with the era of Donald Trump in defending press freedom and freedom of expression.

We hope for your support.

Yours sincerely,

Günter Wallraff

Further signatories:

Jakob Augstein (journalist, publisher), Berivan Aymaz (Member of the North-Rhine Westphalian Landtag), Dietmar Bartsch (Member of the Bundestag, chairman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Gerhart Baum (former Federal Minister of the Interior), Canan Bayram (Member of the Bundestag), Markus Beckedahl (journalist), Rolf Becker (actor), Konrad Beikircher (satirist), Sibylle Berg (author), Roswitha and Erich Bethe (Bethe Foundation), Paul Böhm (architect), Nora Bossong (author), Micha Brumlik (writer), Anke Brunn (former State Minister of Science for North-Rhine Westphalia), Frank Castorf (theatre director), Sevim Dagdelen (Member of the Bundestag), Herta Däubler-Gmelin (former Federal Minister of Justice), Fabio de Masi (Member of the Bundestag), Hans Demmel (media manager), Bijan Djir-Sarai (Member of the Bundestag), Petra Erler (former Head of Cabinet at the EU Commission), Lisa Fitz (satirist), Sigmar Gabriel (former Federal Foreign Minister), Kerstin Gleba (publisher), John Goetz (journalist), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group), Anselm Grün (Benedictine monk, author), Serap Güler (State Secretary for Integration), Gregor Gysi (Member of the Bundestag), Hektor Haarkötter (media scientist), Robert Habeck (chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens), Lutz Hachmeister (film producer), Heike Hänsel (Member of the Bundestag), Frank Heinrich (Member of the Bundestag), Monique Hofmann (General Secretary of the German Journalists’ Union), Elfriede Jelinek (author, Nobel Laureate in Literature), Hans Jessen (journalist), Tilo Jung (journalist, Jung & Naiv), Barbara Junge (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Markus J. Karsten (publisher), Navid Kermani (author), Markus Kompa (lawyer), Reiner Kröhnert (satirist), Gabriele Krone-Schmalz (writer), Sebastian Krumbiegel (musician), Wolfgang Kubicki (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Friedrich Küppersbusch (television producer), Oskar Lafontaine (former Federal Minister of Finance), Karl Lauterbach (Member of the Bundestag), Klaus Lederer (Deputy Governing Mayor and State Senator for Culture and Europe for Berlin), Hans Leyendecker (journalist), Volker Lösch (theatre director), Albrecht von Lucke (writer), Markus Meckel (theologian), Jeanine Meerapfel (President of the Akademie der Künste), Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), Eva Menasse (author), Franz Meurer (Catholic priest), Robert Misik (author), Amira Mohamed Ali (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Hans Mörtter (Protestant pastor), Andy Müller-Maguhn (IT expert), Albrecht Müller (writer), Linus Neumann (Chaos Computer Club spokesperson), Wolfgang Niedecken (musician), Bahman Nirumand (author), Max-Jacob Ost (journalist, podcaster), Cem Özdemir (Member of the Bundestag), Osman Okkan (filmmaker), Pagonis Pagonikas (filmmaker), Claus Peymann (theatre director), Fritz Pleitgen (journalist, former WDR Director-General), Dagmar Ploetz (translator), Emitis Pohl (entrepreneur), Sabine Poschmann (Member of the Bundestag), Christine Prayon (actor, satirist), Anja Reschke (journalist, editor and host of Panorama), Georg Restle (journalist, ARD Monitor), Rezo (Youtuber), Moritz Rinke (author), Claudia Roth (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Eugen Ruge (author), Susana Santina (journalist), Joachim Sartorius (former Director of the Berliner Festspiele), Frank Schätzing (author), Volker Schlöndorff (film director), Gerhard Schmidt (President of the German Televison Academy), Renate Schmidt (former Federal Minister of Health), Wolfgang M. Schmitt (film critic), Wolfgang Schorlau (author), Matthias Schreiber (pastor), Ingo Schulze (author), Frank Schwabe (Member of the Bundestag), Gesine Schwan (political scientist), Alice Schwarzer (writer, editor of “Emma” magazine), Winfried Seibert (lawyer), Martin Sonneborn (Member of the European Parliament), Michael Sontheimer (journalist), Klaus Staeck (poster artist), Bernd Stegemann (dramaturge), Uli Stoll (author), Hans-Christian Ströbele (former Member of the Bundestag), Margit Stumpp (Member of the Bundestag), Wolfgang Thierse (former President of the Bundestag), Valentin Thurn (filmmaker), Uwe Timm (author), Ilija Trojanow (author), Georg Stefan Troller (author), Max Uthoff (satirist), Günter Verheugen (former Minister of State, former Vice-President of the European Commission), Antje Vollmer (former Vice-President of the Bundestag), Sahra Wagenknecht (Member of the Bundestag), Jörg Wagner (media journalist), Norbert Walter-Borjans (chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany), Harald Welzer (sociologist), Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (former Federal Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation), Ulrike Winkelmann (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Ranga Yogeshwar (physicist, scientific journalist)

German version