The original (in French) appears on the website Justice for Assange here. It was published in Le Monde on 3rd July 2015.
Julian Assange: “By welcoming me, France would be making a humanitarian gesture”
From Julian Assange
Mr. President, I have the honour of writing to you and of speaking to the French people through you.
My name is Julian Paul Assange. I was born on July 3, 1971 in Townsville, Australia. I am a journalist prosecuted and threatened with death by the US authorities because of my professional activities. I have never been formally charged with an offence or a common law crime, anywhere in the world, including Sweden and the UK.
I am the founder of WikiLeaks.
In April 2010, I decided to publish a video called “Collateral Murder.” This shows the killing of several civilians, including two Reuters employees, and several children being seriously injured by US soldiers in Iraq. The images, filmed from a helicopter, are difficult to countenance. They are accompanied by laughter and the sarcastic comments of those who are committing these crimes. These images went all around the world revealing the brutal inhumanity of a war which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.
The very next day, through specific targeted death threats, political persecution of an unprecedented magnitude was launched against me and key employees of WikiLeaks.
Since that day this has continued. Listing the measures taken against my organisation, myself and my nearest and dearest cannot convey the full extent of the onslaught, but it may give some idea: calls from senior political and administrative officials in the United States for my execution, to have me abducted and for me to be imprisoned for espionage; the theft of goods, documents and information; repeated computer attacks; successive infiltrations; illegal bans from all-payment platforms enabling donations to the organisation; permanent monitoring of my every move and electronic communications; reckless lawsuits extended over five years without any possibility of defending myself; smear campaigns; repeated physical threats and searches, and the harassment of my lawyers etc.
Two other cases: Jérémie Zimmermann and Jacob Appelbaum
WikiLeaks, which I founded in 2006, has revealed many major scandals of corruption, human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. For this we received an award, notably, from Amnesty International, as well as dozens of further awards for journalism from other prestigious organisations, including five successive nominations for the Nobel peace prize and, more recently, five nominations at the United Nations (UN) Mandela awards, created this year.
Yet this video marked a watershed, not only in my life, but also in that of all those who got involved. This includes a French citizen, Jérémie Zimmermann, mentioned in the credits of the video, who was threatened by two FBI agents demanding that he turn informant, and who can never return to the US despite the need to do so for his work. This also went for other journalists who, despite their US citizenship, have never been able to return to their own countries to be with their loved ones, and have themselves been the subject of prosecution for espionage. Jacob Appelbaum, for revealing himself as a supporter of Wikileaks, has been the subject of a series of threats involving violence and intimidation, notably in his own home.
At the peak of the campaign more than 120 employees were responsible, within the so-called “WikiLeaks War Room” of the US Pentagon, for coordinating the offensive against me and my organization. It has since been proven that a secret grand jury was convened in 2010 to bring charges of espionage against me, and this has been active ever since.
The magnitude of this operation could scarcely be imagined by a paranoid mind. A dozen United States agencies are officially involved, including the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the FBI, the US National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Justice and the State Department. Others participate more secretly, as was recently revealed following a parliamentary inquiry in Iceland. These persecutions are nevertheless all too real. They have been documented by countless organizations, been the subject of international reports and judicial decisions, and are substantially acknowledged by the relevant authorities, who, indeed, have often claimed responsibility for them. Taken up as policy by the US government, they have since expanded beyond my case and WikiLeaks: the Obama administration has prosecuted more journalists and sources in his two successive mandates than all previous United States governments put together.
Threat of prosecution has not stopped me
For the simple fact of having published public interest information that unnamed sources had passed to WikiLeaks, I am personally to be prosecuted for espionage, conspiracy to spy, theft or compromise of US government property, violation of the law concerning computer fraud, and general conspiracy; risking for that life imprisonment or worse. The US has since expanded their investigation to include the assistance that I gave Mr. Snowden to save his life and obtain asylum, and, according to several news sources, the same goes for those publications – FranceLeaks – regarding the surveillance which has affected you, Mr President.
These proceedings have been, and continue to be, pursued against me because one day I decided to break silence and to reveal evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They did not stop me, and, amongst many other publications, I then published the Iraq War Logs which precisely document the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. One particular incident I revealed through the publication of a United States diplomatic cable was how an Iraqi family had been executed at close range by a US patrol during a routine check, before this crime against humanity was then deliberately “erased” by an air strike. According to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, it was this case that led him to demand the lifting of immunity for US troops, which was refused, ultimately causing the departure of the soldiers.
Since 2006, WikiLeaks’ publications have been the subject of countless reports and decisions made by international and nongovernmental organizations, from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to special rapporteurs of the United Nations, including many independent working groups. They have helped to uncover thousands of crimes and practices that would otherwise have remained hidden. Which would otherwise have remained unpunished.
Five and a half square meters
The persecution that ensued forced me to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012, to avoid the extradition to the United States that was becoming more likely every hour. After two months of comprehensive investigation, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister considered that the persecution conducted against me because of my beliefs and my political activities was real, and that the risks of extradition to the US and the abuse that would follow were serious. I have since received informal confirmation that the proceedings conducted in the United States are active and have led to a formal indictment, kept sealed to date.
Denied the consular assistance and protection which I should get from my home country, Australia – where the government, following its attempt to withdraw my passport in 2010, has been subject to criticism on such an unprecedented scale that they were forced to backtrack and defend their decision – I have now been living for three years and ten days in the embassy.
I have five and a half square meters for my private use. I am forbidden access to the open air and the sun by the United Kingdom authorities and denied any possibility of going to a hospital. On three separate occasions only, since taking refuge here, I have been able to use the ground floor balcony of the apartment at my own risk, and I have never been allowed out for exercise.
Ecuador, whose generosity and courage I salute and which have probably saved my life, has for its embassy only an apartment and this is used by a dozen diplomats and support staff all of whom need to continue working in the building. Far from the luxury image generally associated with diplomatic compounds, it is a small area that was never intended to be a living space. It has not been possible for me to maintain any family or personal life for three years. This space is continuously monitored by dozens of uniformed British police officers, who regularly check the identities of my visitors, as well as by an unknown number of plainclothes officers and intelligence agents in adjacent buildings. Expenditure on the civilian surveillance which I have been subjected to has exceeded, officially, fifteen million Euros. This sum does not include the secret services.
Because of this situation my family, including my children, have been unable to visit me since it began.
The UK refuses to recognize my asylum and guarantee my non-extradition to the United States, violating the 1951 Convention, and furthermore refuses to confirm or deny receiving an extradition request from the United States of America. The same goes for the Swedish government who, at the UN, refused to guarantee my non-extradition should I voluntarily go to Sweden. Both Sweden and the UK have repeatedly stated that they would have me arrested immediately were I to leave the embassy, the UK emphasising that this would happen “whatever the result of the Swedish investigation”.
And yet I have not been formally charged with any crime or offence in either of the two countries.
Sixty international organisations called, at the UN, for an end to the Swedish prosecution of four and a half years; meanwhile the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has taken up the case.
My life is now in danger.
WikiLeaks was created with the objective of scrutinising the political, economic and administrative systems around the world to provide transparency and ensure that they do not evade democratic sovereign control. The organisation has revealed millions of documents concerning almost all states of the world, with no distinction of regime or ideology. It allows any person who has knowledge of practices that are illegal or concern the common good to pass us this information safely and completely anonymously. This information is then verified by our journalists and specialists, sorted and organised, before being published around the world, sometimes in partnership with other prestigious media.
My organisation, which continues to be funded by donations, has pioneered a new form of journalism which has revealed more than a hundred worldwide scandals in just nine years. WikiLeaks’ activities have inspired many other humanitarian, environmental, news and other organisations who have imitated our structures and practices. Despite all the difficulties of my permanent supervision within the embassy, the systematic surveillance by the NSA of high level political, economic and administrative figures in France and Germany is the latest example of the organisation’s ability to publish information crucial to the preservation of a state’s sovereignty and democratic life.
The extent of the scandal and the reactions that followed our latest revelations have confirmed the validity of our approach. We take great encouragement from the unanimous condemnation by the French and German political class and civil society of actions taken by the governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and calls for a review of French policy on the defence of whistleblowers and the press, following the attack against Charlie Hebdo – still fresh in our minds – also offer significant encouragement.
These revelations were made at the peril of our lives.
France would be performing a humanitarian gesture
That is why I was particularly touched by the unexpected call from the French government voiced by the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, and supported by dozens of other personalities, that France give me asylum. Guardian of a constitution that obliges France to welcome those fighters for freedom whose lives are in danger – a constitution that sets an honourable example to the world in this requirement – she has opened a path which I hope will not be closed again.
By welcoming me, France would be making a humanitarian but also probably a symbolic gesture, sending encouragement to all journalists and whistleblowers throughout the world who risk their lives every day to allow their fellow citizens to take another step closer to the truth.
It would also send a signal to all those throughout the world, full of hubris, who betray their values by incessantly attacking dissenting citizens.
France has long been the bearer of a unique hope for many peoples and individuals around the world. Iconic stories from her history are a formative influence on many children even today. But my links with this country are not only ideational. I lived here from 2007 until the loss of my freedom in 2010. Our technical structures are still installed there.
And my youngest child and his mother are French. I have been unable to see them for five years now, since the political persecution against me began. The present situation causes them immense difficulties. I have had to keep their existence secret until today in order to protect them. It is my hope today that the support I receive will allow them to be protected.
Indeed my oldest son, now an adult, and my mother in Australia still suffer the consequences of my situation. Death threats, harassment, including from people with ties to the US military, began for them at the same time that calls for my assassination began. They had to change their identities and reduce their contact with me.
I do not wish this continue. I want to see them.
My life is now in danger, Mr. President, and my physical and psychological integrity is a little more threatened with each day that passes.
While I was doing everything to preserve the life of Edward Snowden, several British employees of WikiLeaks were exiled in Berlin, Germany. While we were revealing the scandal of NSA surveillance in France, politicians in the UK admitted that the siege around the Ecuadorian embassy was the result of pressure from the United States. While we were creating a foundation to support whistleblowers – Courage Foundation – the US administration increased the prosecutions against journalists and their sources to an intensity unprecedented in the history of that country. While Chelsea Manning was being sentenced to 35 years in prison for supposedly being revealed as my source and the source of revelations concerning countless war crimes and crimes against humanity, after being subjected to inhumane treatment as determined by the Special Rapporteur of the UN, I continued my efforts within WikiLeaks to make sure that no source could ever be identified because of their links with my work – so far successfully.
Today France is uniquely placed to offer me the necessary protection from (and exclusively from) the political persecution I am being subjected to. As a member state of the European Union, as a country committed throughout its history to the fight for the values that I have made my own, as the fifth most powerful state in the world, as a country that has significance in my life and which has been home to part of it, France can, if it wishes to, act.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks