Ciaron writes about recent solidarity actions for Julian Assange in Brisbane and Sydney
15 JUNE: VIGIL IN BRISBANE
On Friday evening, 15 June, at the conclusion of a circle of reflection and solidarity outside the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in Brisbane, former prisoner of the U.S. government Ciaron O’Reilly burned a U.S. dollar.
The solidarity vigil was called in response to the British Supreme Court rejection of the defence submission to reopen the extradition case against Julian Assange. Activists believe that British, Australian and Swedish governments are acting under the direction of the U.S. state department in the persecution of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.
O’Reilly served 13 months in U.S. prisons for his participation in the ANZUS Plowshares disarmament of a fully armed “ready to go” B52 Bomber at Griffis Air Force Base, Rome New York on New Year’s Day 1991. The nonviolent direct action happened 15 days before the U.S. launched its Gulf War on Iraq with B52 fired air launched cruise missiles. B52s dropped 30% of all U.S. munitions in the 7 week killing spree.
Vigil organiser Ciaron O’Reilly, an Australian citizen based at the Catholic Worker in London and presently back in his native Brisbane, stated:
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has been bought off. It has abandoned its stated duty to defend the rights of Australian citizens abroad. We burn this dollar as a symbol that the U.S. hasn’t bought us and we remain on the streets, acting up and speaking out for Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
Julian Assange is a target of the U.S. government for exposing the war crimes of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are illegal U.S. invasions that the Gillard government has continued to service with Australian soldiers from Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks, hi-tech targeting from U.S. N.S.A. base at Pine Gap and harassment of Australian nonviolent anti-war activists at home and abroad.
Gillard has co-operated with the U.S. strategy to isolate and pursue Australian citizen Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. The Labor Party line struts a cultivated “we know nothing” ignorance. Earlier this week on the ABC’s “Q & A” TV program, the Prime Minster stated “We have got no advice from the U.S. government seeking the extradition of Mr. Assange from Australia”. This statement is a distraction, such U.S. “advice” and subsequent Australian compliance would be immediate should Julian Assange be in Australia.
The Prime Minister also stated “and things are at an early stage”, when she must be fully aware that a secret U.S. Grand Jury Indictment in the United States, revealed by WikiLeaks, has been in existence for over 12 months.
The Prime Minister continued: “We have provided him with full consular assistance. He’s got exactly the same assistance that any other Australian faced with legal difficulties would get.”
The quality of such assistance is something of which I have personal experience from my dealings with U.S. courts and the Australian Embassy during my arrest, trial and sentencing in the U.S. during the first Gulf War. At my sentencing the Australian embassy staff did not introduce themselves to me or make their presence known to me; they spent their entire time with the F.B.I. They were there not to protect my rights as an Australian citizen – they were there to service the U.S. government in imprisoning me as a nonviolent anti-war dissident. This is the process Julian is presently experiencing. It may be of better quality if you are caught with drugs in Bali, but there is a different standard applied if you are seen as a political problem for the United States. In such cases the Australian government has one approach in relation to its citizens and the expressed desires of the U.S. government: “We deliver!”
ABC Radio interview (4mins 50secs) with Ciaron: The Present Persecution of Julian Assange. For further interviews, contact Ciaron O’Reilly: 04211 536 45 (from outside Australia: +61 4211 536 45)
31 MAY: DAVID HICKS SPEAKS IN SYDNEY
Torture victim and former Guantanamo concentration camp prisoner David Hicks gave a powerful and moving message of support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a Sydney rally on May 31. Hicks warns that his experience, of being forsaken by the Australian government and tortured by the US, could await Assange if we are not able to prevent the US getting their hands on him.
Supporters of WikiLeaks rallied across Australia on May 31, after Assange lost a British court case to prevent his extradition. If the WikiLeaks founder is extradited to Sweden and from there to the US, grave fears are held for his safety. U.S. commentators have openly called for his assassination, politicians have denounced him as a “terrorist”, and a secret grand jury threatens to lock him away permanently.
The Sydney rally was organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.
Address by David Hicks:
“A journalist detained and tortured” — a claim usually made against dictatorships. Unfortunately, however, I am talking about a very possible near future scenario involving the governments of Australia and the U.S. And as we know, it will not be the first time they have been connected to torture.
Julian Assange is a journalist, a brave and selfless journalist who is not afraid to publish information for our benefit. There should be nothing to be afraid of. Julian has done nothing more than act in the spirit of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, truth and transparency in his professional capacity as a journalist, exactly what is expected from our journalists.
And yet he has become a political prisoner.
Our media is of poor quality already. And what is being done to Julian with the acknowledgement of our government will only assure this continues, due to the message it sends to other journalists. Publish what we don’t want you to, and we will destroy your life.
Julian will be extradited to the U.S. It is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. The Australian government has proven by past and current examples that what they have to say on the matter is meaningless. They lack credibility.
I have had first hand experience of what it is like to be an Australian citizen and a political prisoner of the U.S. Australian consular assistance did not protect me from treatment that amounted to torture. Instead, they allowed it to happen. They seem to be giving every indication that history is about to repeat itself.
The Australian government is once again sacrificing and devaluing Australian citizenship, to appease a foreign power. Julian Assange is part of a long line of Australian citizens neglected, if not harmed, by their own government while abroad.
Embarrassing, at the least, for Australia, and at times illegal at its worst. It appears Australian citizenship is worthless in the view of Australian governments — Liberal and Labor.
Up until now, the Australian government has been able to intervene on his behalf, and yet they have not. They will be able to intervene in the future, but based on past experience, they won’t.
Among other things, for example, they should be securing assurances that Julian won’t be mistreated in US custody. Instead, they just deny he will even go there.
We need to demand of our leaders the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, where awards and incentives are given to those such as Julian, not punishments. We want a dynamic and independent media that can operate without fear of reprisals, something that we currently lack. We want freedom from politically motivated detentions, freedom from physical and psychological torture.
Our leaders need to take more pride in being Australian, to safeguard its citizens abroad and give peace of mind to those travelling with Australian passports overseas. And to have the courage to say no to foreign countries that treat us as second class citizens and wish us harm.
Julian must be brought home before it is too late. My experience is a good prediction for what awaits Julian. I cannot understand why we, especially our government, have still not learned from the past.
I hope, I truly hope, that Julian is prepared for conditions that amount to torture. Because that is what awaits him once he ends up in US hands.