Event celebrating whistleblowers marks Assange embassy milestone
A global event celebrating whistleblowers and freedom of expression will be held to mark the fourth anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Under the title First They Came For Assange, songs, speeches and readings will be held simultaneously in a number of cities today.
Mr Assange has been living inside the embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over a sex allegation, which he denies.
He believes he will be taken to the United States to be quizzed over the activities of WikiLeaks if he goes to Sweden, with the FBI pursuing charges including espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, theft of government property and computer crimes.
The simultaneous events at Paris's Centre Pompidou, Berlin's Volksbuhne, Brussels' Theatre Bozar, Madrid's Circulo de Bellas Artes, Milan Fashion Week, Belgrade, Naples and Sarajevo will kick off Assange Week, with additional events in New York, Quito, Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
Participants include Patti Smith, Brian Eno, PJ Harvey, Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Ai Weiwei, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Moore and Ken Loach.
Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat, a founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement, and one of the organisers of the event, said: "The inspiration for the title of the event comes from the famous Martin Niemoller poem about the cowardice of intellectuals and purging of dissidents.
"What we want to stress with these events is that we live in a critical time. We are gathering all around the world on June 19 to speak out for Julian, because he has spoken out for all of us."
Film-maker Loach explained he will join the event because "our legal system is being manipulated to keep a brave man in isolation" and that "all who care about freedom of information should demand that the threats made against Julian should be lifted.
"He should be able to leave his place of safety without fear of deportation or being handed over to those who intend him harm."