A writer’s association has named WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – who faces spending the rest of his life in prison in the United States – as an honorary member and has called on the UK to release him from Belmarsh Prison.
PEN Centre Germany released a statement saying that it had appointed “investigative journalist Julian Assange as an honorary member” and urged the UK to release him from HMP Belmarsh, saying that “his continued detention is purely political and is therefore neither acceptable nor justified”.
PEN Centre Germany is part of PEN International, which is a global association of writers which was founded in London in 1921. One of its primary goals is to fight for freedom of expression.
Assange has been detained in Belmarsh Prison since April 2019 after spending almost seven years living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had applied for asylum to avoid extradition to the United States where he faces spending the rest of his life behind bars.
PEN Centre Germany added in its statement: “Assange has been in solitary confinement in London’s maximum security prison Belmarsh since April 2019, after applying for asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and living there as a political refugee for almost seven years.”
In December 2020, the organisation projected a message on the British Embassy building in the German capital Berlin which read: “Free Julian Assange.”
Their statement added: “Julian Assange , born in Australia in 1971, is the founder and spokesman of the WikiLeaks platform. With the publication of classified military documents in 2010 WikiLeaks denounced the systematic torture and other war crimes of the US military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few months later, the investigation into Assange began, which eventually led to his arrest by the London police.
“The appointment as an honorary member of the German PEN Center is linked to the concern for the health of Julian Assange, whose prison conditions are described by Amnesty International as torture. The arbitrariness of the judiciary and the deprivation of liberty of Assange are a monstrous violation of human rights – and this happens in the midst of a Western European democracy and not in a despotic regime. The German PEN center takes the allegations of sexual assault seriously, but we are also aware of the doubts expressed by Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, about these accusations and the risk of their inadmissible instrumentalization.”
Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice President and Writers-in-Prison Representative of PEN Centre Germany, is quoted in the statement as saying: “We call on the competent authorities in England not to extradite our honorary member Julian Assange to the United States of America, where he faces up to 175 years in prison, but to release him immediately and unconditionally from prison.”
PEN International has a ‘Writers in Prison Committee’ that works to defend persecuted and imprisoned writers around the world. It monitors the situation of hundreds of writers, journalists and Internet users who have been detained, tortured or even murdered.
Nestmeyer added: “His continued detention is purely political and is therefore neither acceptable nor justified. It contradicts the right to freedom of expression and therefore the charter of the international PEN. We assure him, like our other honorary members, of our unlimited solidarity.”
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