Clarifying a statement about Courage Foundation and WikiLeaks

This note is a long overdue clarification and a public apology to both the current Courage Foundation trustees and Julian Assange.

I served as an advisory board member for Courage Foundation for an extended period, and then as a trustee from November 2016 until late April 2018. During that period, I collaborated closely with my fellow trustees in campaign, legal and administrative matters regularly.

I had to resign in late April to the position due to two situations:

  • First, my entry to the Embassy of Ecuador was blocked for months. Being blocked from the Embassy, given the massive surveillance and the unreliable means of remote digital communication, my understanding of the case and its priorities was limited and, without good information, my work was not contributing as much, as I was unable to attend the legal briefings and meetings.
  • This was after a series of false intelligence reports, leaked to sensationalist news outlets, alleging that I was a Catalan citizen working for the Catalunya Independence movement and affecting the interests of the State of Ecuador. As evidence, the intelligence service of Ecuador and a private security firm had my picture next to Mayor Ada Colau and a group of digital rights advocates from all over the World.
Picture by Jorge Delgado. This picture was included in the false “conspiracy” reports by some media.
  • To clarify and understand the lack of professionalism and misleading reports from those in charge of intelligence and security at the Embassy of Ecuador, I only have a nationality, Guatemalan. The Embassy has a full copy of my passport and the passport of all legal team members and visitors since 2012.
  • I never worked as an employee for the Legal firm of Baltasar Garzón, and a simple search on LinkedIn or the Website of my employment could have provided far more relevant information. Indeed, I have worked together with Baltasar Garzón, collaborated closely from day one, but as a member of an international team of lawyers, most of them pro bono, from different fields and jurisdictions. We worked together, assisting in securing the freedom of Julian Assange since he took his defence almost seven years ago, but I never worked as part of his staff. There is even a movie about our work together on the Assange case.
  • We also share a common interest in transitional justice, universal jurisdiction, transparency, and accountability and we have participated together in different activities around Europe. No, not in Catalunya.
  • Second. Personal and professional reasons forced me to move back to Latin America. While I was changing jobs and moving to a country 17 hours away from London, it was complicated to follow Julian’s case or the campaign for his support. Different timelines and the impossibility of meeting face to face reduced my availability to devote quality time to the increasingly pressing work of the Courage Foundation.

On August 13 2018, I made a mistake I want to clarify here, a wrong, ill-informed tweet response I wrote to the statement from Naomi Colvin, former Courage Foundation Director, who was resigning from her position:

I present my sincere, long overdue apologies to the current Trustees, because I wrote that tweet out of impulse, without thinking of the consequences of it and without full facts in hand.

As I explained above, I was not deeply involved in the work of Courage. By August 2018, I had been almost a quarter wholly disconnected from both the case and the campaigns, fully immersed in my new role in South America. I did not supervise the work under Ms Colvin leadership. I did not even follow the escalation of attacks, threats, and harassment against Julian and other Wikileaks members, contrasted with the slow response of Courage Foundation over the Summer. I also understood, too late, that the disagreements over the case of the beneficiary Barret Brown placed the leadership in a situation of disagreement incompatible with the purpose of a legal defence fund.

- Months after, I got a more detailed account of the situation at that time and I now understand the decision of the Trustees to prioritise the case of Wikileaks over all other beneficiaries. I also acknowledge that the Courage Foundation did not make enough during an extended period, under the past leadership, to support and secure the freedom of Julian Assange, particularly regarding sustainability and impact.

- The seriousness of the case of Julian Assange and other members from Wikileaks makes it the natural priority and, given the hostile media and political environment, antagonistic to both the most powerful government in the World and its opposition, demand solidarity from everyone and the lack of camaraderie shown by one of the beneficiaries, Barrett Brown. Attacking someone under a severe situation of arbitrary detention was disloyal and unacceptable.

My behaviour with that tweet was terrible. It did not show respect to the hard work of the trustees, under such limited circumstances. I did not behave professionally. Moreover, I failed not only a person I advise legally, but I also failed a long time friend facing unspeakable hardships.

I am deeply sorry. And I urge anyone reading this to reflect, beyond headlines and misleading claims by the usual suspects, about the importance of the freedom of Julian Assange in today’s World. The battle we are fighting here is one of concentration versus deconcentration of knowledge, of power. If Julian goes to jail, we will lose a crucial struggle for the future of ideas, of what is permitted, by whom. What we are defending here is larger than Wikileaks or Julian: we are defending the ability of journalists and citizens, regardless of their nationality, to hold accountable the most powerful government in the World by exposing its secrets, uncovering wrongdoing, and keeping us all informed. The fight for press freedom is more urgent than ever.

If you want to understand why the case is so relevant today, I encourage you to read this article from Glen Greenwald.

If you want more details, visit the Courage Foundation Website.

If you want to contribute to the Legal Defence Fund, you can do it here.

Fellow @StanfordHAI, co-Founder <A+> Alliance https://aplusalliance.org/, Author @globalvoices + @eldiarioes, Board @creativecommons, #DigitalColonialism writer

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