Leuven in solidarity with Julian Assange

The Leuven solidarity committee does not only want to show “solidarity” with Julian Assange, but also do so in the spirit of Assange himself, honouring his ideas and those of Wikileaks.

“If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature” (Julian Assange).

Julian Assange “can” be extradited to the US after all (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-59608641). This is how we read it in our press, as if justice can finally be done. At what time during the past 10 years in which Assange has been a political prisoner in London did our media cared what happened to him? At what time journalists pointed to the danger of his persecution for the underpinnings of our rule of law liberal democracy? During the 7 years he was locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy, during which he hardly saw daylight? During which he was continuously spied on until the toilets and during which last year an assassination attempt by the CIA was exposed? Or maybe during the three years that he has already spent in abject health in London’s Belmarsh terror prison? How is it possible that a “candidate” political prisoner – Assange is being prosecuted by the US but not, officially, by the UK! – be held in “pre-trial detention” for more than three years? No mainstream newspaper has asked this question. What can still be included in the 2022 reporting: the long-debunked the accusations of “sexual assault” which he “denied” in 2010. Speaking of fact-checking in 2022…

If that is not unimaginable enough, the war in Ukraine once again shows the double standards of the Western press in reporting war crimes. We are all shocked about the war crimes in Ukraine, like the one in Bucha, and rightly so. We think it is only natural that they should be investigated and that those responsible should be brought to justice. (And we assume for the sake of convenience that these are the Russian troops, although this is far from certain).

But what merit does Wikileaks have, when it comes to revealing war crimes? The balance sheet of the wars “against terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan is a complete catastrophe across the board, with more than a million dead, millions of refugees and severe impoverishment of orphaned region. The Wikileaks reports, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, and not least the Collateralmurder execution of the Reuters journalist and other casual passers-by from a US Army helicopter, have opened the eyes of billions of people about these “humanitarian missions”.

“If wars are started with lies, maybe they can be stopped by truth” (Julian Assange)

This was Julian’s catchphrase for his burning motivation to found Wikileaks. We can assume that the (much too late) “termination” or reduction of military operations in the Middle East is also due to the revelations of Wikileaks. If public opinion undermines support for destructive military missions, they will be harder to sustain, even if they continue to be promoted under the guise of fighting terror. But we should not be naive about it either: credit Wikileaks OK, but above all the shift in US geostrategic doctrine. The sudden withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was because the “Greater Power Conflict” – confrontation of US imperialism with its direct rivals – rather than the “War On Terror” became high on the foreign policy agenda. But this underscores Assanges’ view about these military interventions, and the merit of Wikileaks in having opened our eyes about them worldwide.

“It is the rule of good journalism to take on powerful abusers” (Julian Assange)

Shouldn’t the actions of Wikileaks serve as an example in a normal democracy, instead of its initiator rotting away in prison? To ask the question is to answer it. And the press as the fourth power should not ask itself the question: “can Assange be extradited or not? But rather: “How is it possible that someone is prosecuted for acts of civil responsibility?”

In Leuven we therefore urged our elected representatives to publicly condemn the persecution and imprisonment of Assange. (See at our website: https://assange.one/e-toespraak-voor-de-gemeenteraad-op-23-november-2020/). They refused to do so, justifying it by saying they were “not competent”. To avoid having to answer our question – a question signed by 1000 voters – they even held a vote to declare themselves incompetent. We would like to invite everyone to reflect on that. Not competent for what? Not competent to say anything about the prosecution of a political prisoner? Not competent because it is not a local matter? Did our elected officials think that the people of Leuven would be inattentive enough not to be able to distinguish between being entitled to decide something and having the right to say something about a burning social issue? This is all the more ironic since Assanges’ is all about “free speech – except war crimes and corruption”.

(And for the record: The Leuven council recently expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people in an official statement. Good! But completely inconsequential with their “non-competent-to-say-something-about-Assange” – declaration.

Our citizens’ initiative and the court case we brought about it before the Council of State apparently touched a nerve. On the basis of so-called procedural errors, the arguments on the merits were never addressed, but both the Leuven city council and the Flemish government made us pay 700 euros each in legal costs.

What do we ask from you

0 I want to support the demand “Assange must be released immediately and his reputation restored”.

0 I want to be kept informed about the further initiatives of the Leuven solidarity group with Julian Assange”.

0 I want to collaborate with meetings and initiatives of the Leuven solidarity group with Julian Assange