Former German Ministers Launch Appeal for Assange’s Release


BERLIN (Sputnik) - A petition published on has been signed by ex-foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, former interior chief Gerhard Baum and former justice minister Katarina Barley. The number of signatories neared 400 at the time of writing.

Over 130 German ex-ministers, lawmakers, journalists and cultural figures launched a campaign on Thursday to pressure the United Kingdom into freeing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
"We urge the United Kingdom… to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance", it reads.

Baum said during a press conference held in Berlin to announce the petition that it had been signed by socialists, greens, liberals and the left-wing but only one member from the ruling conservative party. An appeal was also made for the German government to join the pressure campaign.

Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after skipping bail and asking for political asylum in 2012 to evade extradition to the United States over a major leak of classified cables that exposed US transgressions during the Iraq and Afghan wars.

He was forced out of the embassy last year and is being held at a high-security prison in London pending an extradition trial, which is scheduled to begin on February 24. A UN rapporteur on torture said that he showed signs of prolonged psychological torture.

A member of Assange’s legal team preparing the extradition case told Sputnik last month that his lawyers had not been granted adequate time with him. He faces 175 years in a US jail if convicted on 18 charges of conspiring to hack government computers and breaching an espionage law.