US celebrities back Assange ayslum - but some fight shy
Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Woolf urge Ecuador to accept WikiLeaks founder's application
PROMINENT American supporters of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who woke up this morning having spent a seventh night in the Ecuadorian embassy in Hans Crescent, London, have written to the president of the South American country to urge him to grant political asylum to the 41-year-old Australian political activist, The Guardian reports.
Film directors Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, as well as political activist Noam Chomsky, actor Danny Glover, author Naomi Woolf and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, have all signed the letter to Rafael Correa which was delivered to the embassy on Monday and which has also been posted online.
In the letter, Assange's stateside backers claim that he has “good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States”. Were he to be charged in Sweden, they claim he could be held under "oppressive conditions" which would involve "secret hearings".
Assange is set to be extradited from the UK to Sweden, where he faces accusations that he raped one woman and coerced another woman into sex during a visit to Stockholm in August 2010. He denies the charges, which could see him imprisoned in Sweden and subsequently extradited to the US. He went to the Ecuadorian embassy after his final legal bid to remain in the UK failed last month.
Noting that Assange could face the death penalty should be tried under the US Espionage Act for exposing military secrets via WikiLeaks, his supporters conclude "because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public's right to know important truths about US foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and well-being is serious, we urge you to grant... political asylum".
Conspicuous by their absence from the letter’s signatories, however, are many of Assange's high-profile London supporters, who would previously have been expected to join such a public message of support but who now risk losing £20,000 each in bail money they put up for Assange.
Although Jemima Khan, the "British writer and campaigner" as she is listed in the letter, has signed up, those who have not are:
Vaughan Smith, the photo-journalist who runs London's Frontline club and housed Assange at his country home in Norfolk for more than a year during his legal appeal. Smith said last week he was "shocked" by Assange's decision to seek political aylum in Ecuador and was "troubled" that he might lose the bail money;
Journalist and fellow Australian Phillip Knightley, who said that "when I first heard about it [the asylum bid] my reaction was one of surprise";
The left-wing filmmaker Ken Loach, who stands to lose the same amount of cash.
One man less concerned about the fate of his money is the firebrand journalist and novelist Tariq Ali, who told The Independent: "I totally approve" of Assange's actions. "Why the double standards? A Chinese dissident becomes a folk-hero for reaching the US embassy, but a Western dissident doing the same... is not kosher. Fuck the money." ·