On Sunday February 3rd 2013, in an event attended by approximately 150 invited guests, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was awarded the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts. The guests included the Honorable Judge Baltasar Garzon Real and the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, the Honorable Ricardo Patino Aroca. From the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Julain Assange delivered a speech thanking those who support him and WikiLeaks.
Although Mr. Assange could not attend the event as he remains trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England, he did provide a speech for the over 150 people who attended the event.
Receiving the award for Mr. Assange were the Honorable Judge Baltasar Garzon Real, one of Assange’s lawyers and Michael Ratner the President Emeritus of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.
According to the press release the Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Ricardo Patino Aroca and Daniel Ellsberg, the famous source of the Pentagaon Paper, were also in attendance and gave speeches at the event.
Julian's speech in absentia was as follows: “First of all, I want to thank Yoko Ono Lennon for her courage and spirit in granting me this award. A fine woman whose many actions define her. The test for all of us.”
“People often ask me how I keep going. They ask as if my work was some kind of burden to me. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no greater pleasure than fighting for your principles. There is no greater pleasure than in fighting for those who have risked all to share your vision. And there is no greater pleasure than seeing those who you admire, in turn, move to fight for you.”
“And while the embassy that shelters me is still surrounded by armed police, my voice is free. Within the constraints of the UK surveillance operation outside, I am free to see my staff and my friends. Many have fought and continue to fight to permit this basic liberty and I am grateful to them.”
Mr. Assange then made a rare comment to the Ecuadorian people: “I want to thank the Ecuadorian people. I want to thank President Rafael Correa and Foreign Minister Patino for their courageous and unyielding support. Their stance strengthens, not just my rights, but the rights of political refugees everywhere. Support them. “
He commented on the award and thank those who work for the WikiLeaks organization said, quote: “I dedicate this award to our courageous sources, supporters and to my staff. Through their courage and wit they are revealing the true nature of our global human civilisation. This is how we may reform it. Elevate it - and make it just, beyond its humble origins. Their courage in documenting war crimes, gross human rights violations, and the corruption of our societies is unequaled.”
Assange was gracious enough not to forget to thank some of those who have paid the biggest price and have provided material that has exposed more evil than anyone else in recent history: “I want to thank all our anonymous volunteers and all those volunteers from Anonymous. You are unseen in your work but your work far from unseen. But I want to specifically name some. Volunteer, Aaron Swartz, aged 26. Political activist, hounded to death, right here in New York last month as part of the broader political crackdown against our ideals. Alleged source, now political prisoner Bradley Manning. Bradley is now two weeks away from 1,000 days in prison. The longest pre-trail detention in US military history. Alleged source, now political prisoner Jeremy Hammond, detained without trial, right here in New York, for the last 336 days as of today. Volunteer and alleged source, now political prisoner, Gottfrid Svartholm, detained in Sweden for almost five months. WikiLeaks banking blockade protestors Christopher Weatherhead, aged 22 and Ashley Rhodes aged 28. Sentenced in the UK last week to 18 months and 7 months in prison respectively.”
In closing Assange thanked his lawyers Baltasar Garzon and Michael Ratner who are accepted the award for him, and said that along with other lawyers in the US, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Ecuador they would fight to make sure that the rights of WikiLeaks are respected and that they can continue their mission.
Regarding WikiLeaks being silenced Assange said this was a fantasy due to the courage, tenacity, love and support of friends. He said they would continue the fight to: “document the world, understand its institutions and hold our civilisation to a higher standard.”