A group of prominent intellectuals, social activists and artists have signed an open letter demanding Ecuador's government restore WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's internet and phone access, allow him visits and respect his right to freedom of expression.
"If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now," the letter reads.
The letter was signed by prominent intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek, as well as rock musician Brian Eno, filmmaker Oliver Stone, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, actress Pamela Anderson and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
Ecuador cut off Assange's internet access, his window to the outside world, arguing he violated his promise to refrain from commenting on political issues.
The Ecuadorean government argues that Assange's comments could compromise the Latin American nation's relations with other countries, especially in Europe.
"If the Ecuadorean government does not cease its unworthy action, it too will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech," the letter said.
The signatories claim Ecuador's actions suggest that pressure was placed on the government by the United States: "Under its previous president, the Ecuadorean government bravely stood against the bullying might of the United States and granted Assange political asylum as a political refugee. International law and the morality of human rights was on its side."
Assange has been a promoter of international social movements, including Catalonia's fight for independence, for which he has been criticised by Spanish authorities.
"His critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan President Carles Puidgemont in Germany, and following pressure from the U.S., Spanish and U.K. governments, the Ecuadorean government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone," the letter continues.
Assange recently criticized Germany's decision to arrest Puigdemont on behalf of the Spanish government. A few days before Ecuador cut off his access to the outside world, Assange tweeted a response to the U.K. Deputy Foreign Minister with responsibility for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan, who called Assange a "miserable little worm."
"As a political prisoner detained without charge for eight years, in violation of two U.N. rulings, I suppose I must be 'miserable,' yet nothing wrong with being a 'little' person although I'm rather tall; and better a 'worm,' a healthy creature that invigorates the soil, than a snake," Assange tweeted on Tuesday.
The letter also demands Assange's human rights be respected as an Ecuadorean citizen and an internationally protected person and asks Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno "to end the isolation of Julian Assange now."
"If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us – regardless of the disparate opinions we hold," it reads.
Assange and the United Nations consider the WikiLeaks founder to be under arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorean embassy since 2012, a description of his situation rejected by British authorities. The U.K. says he voluntarily went into the building and could leave anytime if he is prepared to face the consequences of his actions.
Swedish prosecutors opened a rape case against Assange, but dropped it later as evidence crumbled. He has never been charged with a crime, and his supporters claim he's being internationally persecuted because of his status as a whistleblower.
List of Signatories:
Pamela Anderson, actress and activist
Jacob Appelbaum, freelance journalist
Renata Avila, International Human Rights Lawyer
Sally Burch, British/Ecuadorian journalist
Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom 2012-16
Naomi Colvin, Courage Foundation
Noam Chomsky, linguist, and political theorist
Brian Eno, musician
Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador and board member of The Centre for Investigative Journalism
Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun, Montserrat Monastery
Chris Hedges, journalist
Srećko Horvat, philosopher, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25)
Jean Michel Jarre, musician
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer, and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Lauri Love, computer scientist, and activist
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, Presidential advisor
John Pilger, journalist, and film-maker
Angela Richter, theater director, Germany
Saskia Sassen, sociologist, Columbia University
Oliver Stone, film-maker
Vaughan Smith, English journalist
Yanis Varoufakis, economist, former Greek finance minister
Natalia Viana, investigative journalist and co-director of Agencia Publica, Brazil
Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer, and activist
Slavoj Zizek, philosopher, Birkbeck Institute for Humanities