Added by Gary Dunn on March 18, 2011
A high-profile human rights lawyer last night told supporters of the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his only crime is embarrassing the U.S. government and that they should “stop doing embarrassing things” if they don’t want to be embarrassed.
Julian Burnside QC and a panel including journalist John Pilger, MP Andrew Wilkie and others, told a packed Sydney Town Hall that the Assange saga is very much like the one of Guantanamo detainee, David Hicks.
Pilger said: “Like Julian Assange, he’s [Hicks] a courageous Australian citizen who was denied the help of his government.”
Wilkie spoke of his experience of challenging the Howard government over the Iraq war in 2003: “… and my experience is that when you stand up and try to speak the truth to power it is tough. For my efforts you were told that I was mad.”
The panelists and the moderator of the event, former SBS presenter Mary Kostakidis, agreed that WikiLeaks plays an important role as part of an open and democratic society.
“We have a right to know these things just like the people of Egypt and Tunisia had the right to know about the corruption of their regimes,” Pilger added.
Assange is currently appealing against a UK court decision to extradite him to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, unrelated to his work with WikiLeaks. He has denied the accusations, arguing they are part of a greater political conspiracy working to silence WikiLeaks.