Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Ratner, Yoko Ono Lennon, Baltasar Garzón, and Ricardo Armando Patiño Aroca

Last night Yoko Ono presented the 2013 Courage Award to Julian Assange, who accepted in absentia in New York.

Ono created the Courage Award in 2013 to recognize artists who demonstrated independent thought and resisted commercial and political pressure in their work. In presenting the award to Assange, she said:

Our public officials have forgotten that they are ultimately accountable to the people who put them in office; that the information they keep in secrecy belongs to all of us. Julian Assange took a courageous step by rightfully returning what belongs to the public domain. For that reason, I believe we need to stand behind him.

Michal Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents Assange (and also blogs for FDL), delivered Assange’s speech for him, dedicating the award to the Wikileaks staff:

Through their courage and wit they are revealing the true nature of our global human civilization. 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 unequalled.

Assange’s speech also mentioned Aaron Swartz, who was hounded by overzealous prosecutors for downloading academic articles and ultimately took his own life.

Also in attendance was Daniel Ellsberg, who said “Julian Assange richly deserves this award. I hope that this award will give the Nobel Committee the courage to award Bradley Manning and Julian Assange the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino Aroca noted “Julian gives us all an example: the powerful cannot hide information to dominate states and destroy democracies.”