The campaign to free Julian Assange has intensified in recent weeks following the decision by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to approve the extradition request from the United States. The WikiLeaks co-founder and publisher has been held in Belmarsh high-security prison for the past three and a half years, stuck in an illegal limbo, while he undergoes extradition proceedings in the UK. The US seeks to try Assange under 18 different charges, 17 of which are under the infamous Espionage Act, and together hold a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
The persecution of Julian Assange by the US and its allies has been met with strong backlash from progressive forces across the world. Press freedom groups and campaigns such as Article 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists, Don’t Extradite Assange, and others have been fighting for Julian Assange’s release and amnesty since the start of the persecution against him. People’s movements and trade unions part of the International Peoples’ Assembly such as the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil, the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and others have also taken to the streets and social media to mobilize their support to Julian Assange and defend the right to tell the truth about crimes of imperialism.
The support to Assange has not only come from civil society. Prominent politicians from across the world have also challenged the actions of the US government with regards to Assange and the precedent it sets regarding press freedom globally.
On July 6, the German parliament voted in favor of a petition condemning “in the strongest possible terms the psychological torture of journalist Julian Assange and the associated attack on press freedom in Germany and Europe.” In the same week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated in one of his morning addresses that he would discuss the case of Julian Assange with his US counterpart Joe Biden during his visit to Washington DC on July 12 and declared “If (Assange) is brought to the United States and he is condemned to a maximum sentence to die in prison, we must start a campaign to tear down the Statue of Liberty that the French gave them…because it is no longer a symbol of freedom.”
These words inspired political cartoonist from Brazil, Carlos Latuff to express his solidarity to his friend and colleague, Julian Assange, once again. He drew the famous Statue of Liberty telling US President Joe Biden to “drop the charges” and “Free Assange now!”
Peoples Dispatch spoke to the world renowned cartoonist about why he made the design and why he stands in solidarity with Assange.
Peoples Dispatch: What motivated you to create this image?
Carlos Latuff: I was motivated by solidarity with the great journalist [Julian Assange] whom I had the great satisfaction of meeting in London in 2012.
PD: You have been following Julian Assange’s case for a while. Why do you think it is so important to defend him and why did you go to the Ecuadorian Embassy to speak with him?
CL: I made many cartoons for the WikiLeaks website that he created. The investigative journalism of Assange brought to light the war crimes of the US in Iraq and WikiLeaks with its “leaks” has exposed issues that different governments in the world do not want the public to know. Defending Assange is defending the freedom of expression and of press. I wanted to show my support to him personally. I was invited to an event in London in 2012 and I took the opportunity to visit him in the Ecuadorian Embassy. It was a good chat and I made a design for him then and there. It was an emotional meeting that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
PD: What does Julian’s case represent for the world and especially to the journalists, cartoonists, and artists? How can more people contribute to the international struggle in defense of Assange?
CL: Assange not only represents journalists and activists but also artists that confront the fear of repression and censorship through the lines that they draw. All artists who are in some way aware of what Assange represents should join the struggle for his freedom.