John Pilger: Eyewitness to the Agony of Julian Assange

John Pilger Assange Feature photo

By John Pilger

Source

John Pilger has watched Julian Assange’s extradition trial from the public gallery at London’s Old Bailey. He spoke with Timothy Erik Ström of Arena magazine, Australia:

Q: Having watched Julian Assange’s trial firsthand, can you describe the prevailing atmosphere in the court?

The prevailing atmosphere has been shocking. I say that without hesitation; I have sat in many courts and seldom known such a corruption of due process; this is due revenge. Putting aside the ritual associated with ‘British justice’, at times it has been evocative of a Stalinist show trial. One difference is that in the show trials, the defendant stood in the court proper. In the Assange trial, the defendant was caged behind thick glass, and had to crawl on his knees to a slit in the glass, overseen by his guard, to make contact with his lawyers. His message, whispered barely audibly through face masks, WAS then passed by post-it the length of the court to where his barristers were arguing the case against his extradition to an American hellhole.

Consider this daily routine of Julian Assange, an Australian on trial for truth-telling journalism. He was woken at five o’clock in his cell at Belmarsh prison in the bleak southern sprawl of London. The first time I saw Julian in Belmarsh, having passed through half an hour of ‘security’ checks, including a dog’s snout in my rear, I found a painfully thin figure sitting alone wearing a yellow armband. He had lost more than 10 kilos in a matter of months; his arms had no muscle. His first words were: ‘I think I am losing my mind’.

I tried to assure him he wasn’t. His resilience and courage are formidable, but there is a limit. That was more than a year ago. In the past three weeks, in the pre-dawn, he was strip-searched, shackled, and prepared for transport to the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in a truck that his partner, Stella Moris, described as an upended coffin. It  had one small window; he had to stand precariously to look out. The truck and its guards were operated by Serco, one of many politically connected companies that run much of Boris Johnson’s Britain.

The journey to the Old Bailey took at least an hour and a half. That’s a minimum of three hours being jolted through snail-like traffic every day. He was led into his narrow cage at the back of the court, then look up, blinking, trying to make out faces in the public gallery through the reflection of the glass. He saw the courtly figure of his dad, John Shipton, and me, and our fists went up. Through the glass, he reached out to touch fingers with Stella, who is a lawyer and seated in the body of the court.

We were here for the ultimate of what the philosopher Guy Debord called The Society of the Spectacle: a man fighting for his life. Yet his crime is to have performed an epic public service: revealing that which we have a right to know: the lies of our governments and the crimes they commit in our name. His creation of WikiLeaks and its failsafe protection of sources revolutionised journalism, restoring it to the vision of its idealists. Edmund Burke’s notion of free journalism as a fourth estate is now a fifth estate that shines a light on those who diminish the very meaning of democracy with their criminal secrecy. That’s why his punishment is so extreme.

The sheer bias in the courts I have sat in this year and last year, with Julian in the dock, blight any notion of British justice. When thuggish police dragged him from his asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy—look closely at the photo and you’ll see he is clutching a Gore Vidal book; Assange has a political humour similar to Vidal’s—a judge gave him an outrageous 50-week sentence in a maximum-security prison for mere bail infringement.

For months, he was denied exercise and held in solitary confinement disguised as ‘heath care’. He once told me he strode the length of his cell, back and forth, back and forth, for his own half-marathon. In the next cell, the occupant screamed through the night. At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind in the embassy brutality. He was denied the legal documents with which to prepare his case, and access to the prison library and the use of a basic laptop. Books sent to him by a friend, the journalist Charles Glass, himself a survivor of hostage-taking in Beirut, were returned. He could not call his American lawyers. He has been constantly medicated by the prison authorities. When I asked him what they were giving him, he couldn’t say. The governor of Belmarsh has been awarded the Order of the British Empire.

At the Old Bailey, one of the expert medical witnesses, Dr Kate Humphrey, a clinical neuropsychologist at Imperial College, London, described the damage: Julian’s intellect had gone from ‘in the superior, or more likely very superior range’ to ‘significantly below’ this optimal level, to the point where he was struggling to absorb information and ‘perform in the low average range’.

This is what the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer, calls ‘psychological torture’, the result of a gang-like ‘mobbing’ by governments and their media shills. Some of the expert medical evidence is so shocking I have no intention of repeating it here. Suffice to say that Assange is diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome and, according to Professor Michael Kopelman, one of the world’s leading neuropsychiatrists, he suffers from ‘suicidal preoccupations’ and is likely to find a way to take his life if he is extradited to America.

James Lewis QC, America’s British prosecutor, spent the best part of his cross-examination of Professor Kopelman dismissing mental illness and its dangers as ‘malingering’. I have never heard in a modern setting such a primitive view of human frailty and vulnerability.

My own view is that if Assange is freed, he is likely to recover a substantial part of his life. He has a loving partner, devoted friends and allies and the innate strength of a principled political prisoner. He also has a wicked sense of humour.

But that is a long way off. The moments of collusion between the judge— a Gothic-looking magistrate called Vanessa Baraitser, about whom little is known—and the prosecution acting for the Trump regime have been brazen. Until the last few days, defence arguments have been routinely dismissed. The lead prosecutor, James Lewis QC, ex SAS and currently Chief Justice of the Falklands, by and large gets what he wants, notably up to four hours to denigrate expert witnesses, while the defence’s examination is guillotined at half an hour. I have no doubt, had there been a jury, his freedom would be assured.

The dissident artist Ai Weiwei came to join us one morning in the public gallery. He noted that in China the judge’s decision would already have been made. This caused some dark ironic amusement. My companion in the gallery, the astute diarist and former British ambassador Craig Murray wrote:

I fear that all over London a very hard rain is now falling on those who for a lifetime have worked within institutions of liberal democracy that at least broadly and usually used to operate within the governance of their own professed principles. It has been clear to me from Day 1 that I am watching a charade unfold. It is not in the least a shock to me that Baraitser does not think anything beyond the written opening arguments has any effect. I have again and again reported to you that, where rulings have to be made, she has brought them into court pre-written, before hearing the arguments before her.

I strongly expect the final decision was made in this case even before opening arguments were received.

The plan of the US Government throughout has been to limit the information available to the public and limit the effective access to a wider public of what information is available. Thus we have seen the extreme restrictions on both physical and video access. A complicit mainstream media has ensured those of us who know what is happening are very few in the wider population.

There are few records of the proceedings. They are Craig Murray’s personal blog, Joe Lauria’s live reporting on Consortium News, and the World Socialist Website. American journalist Kevin Gosztola’s blog, Shadowproof, funded mostly by himself, has reported more of the trial than the major US press and TV, including CNN, combined.

In Australia, Assange’s homeland, the ‘coverage’ follows a familiar formula set overseas. The London correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, Latika Bourke, wrote this recently:

The court heard Assange became depressed during the seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian embassy where he sought political asylum to escape extradition to Sweden to answer rape and sexual assault charges.

There were no ‘rape and sexual assault charges’ in Sweden. Bourke’s lazy falsehood is not uncommon. If the Assange trial is the political trial of the century, as I believe it is, its outcome will not only seal the fate of a journalist for doing his job but intimidate the very principles of free journalism and free speech. The absence of serious mainstream reporting of the proceedings is, at the very least, self-destructive. Journalists should ask: who is next?

How shaming it all is. A decade ago, the Guardian exploited Assange’s work, claimed its profit and prizes as well as a lucrative Hollywood deal, then turned on him with venom. Throughout the Old Bailey trial, two names have been cited by the prosecution, the Guardian’s David Leigh, now retired as ‘investigations editor’ and Luke Harding, the Russiaphobe and author of a fictional Guardian ‘scoop’ that claimed Trump adviser Paul Manafort and a group of Russians visited Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy. This never happened, and the Guardian has yet to apologise. The Harding and Leigh book on Assange—written behind their subject’s back—disclosed a secret password to a WikiLeaks file that Assange had entrusted to Leigh during the Guardian’s ‘partnership’. Why the defence has not called this pair is difficult to understand.

Assange is quoted in their book declaring during a dinner at a London restaurant that he didn’t care if informants named in the leaks were harmed. Neither Harding nor Leigh was at the dinner. John Goetz, an investigations reporter with Der Spiegel, was at the dinner and testified that Assange said nothing of the kind. Incredibly, Judge Baraitser stopped Goetz actually saying this in court.

However, the defence has succeeded in demonstrating the extent to which Assange sought to protect and redact names in the files released by WikiLeaks and that no credible evidence existed of individuals harmed by the leaks. The great whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg said that Assange had personally redacted 15,000 files. The renowned New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager, who worked with Assange on the Afghanistan and Iraq war leaks, described how Assange took ‘extraordinary precautions in redacting names of informants’.

Q: What are the implications of this trial’s verdict for journalism more broadly—is it an omen of things to come?

The ‘Assange effect’ is already being felt across the world. If they displease the regime in Washington, investigative journalists are liable to prosecution under the 1917 US Espionage Act; the precedent is stark. It doesn’t matter where you are. For Washington, other people’s nationality and sovereignty rarely mattered; now it does not exist. Britain has effectively surrendered its jurisdiction to Trump’s corrupt Department of Justice. In Australia, a National Security Information Act promises Kafkaesque trials for transgressors. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been raided by police and journalists’ computers taken away. The government has given unprecedented powers to intelligence officials, making journalistic whistle-blowing almost impossible. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Assange ‘must face the music’. The perfidious cruelty of his statement is reinforced by its banality.

‘Evil’, wrote Hannah Arendt, ‘comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil’.

Q: Having followed the story of WikiLeaks closely for a decade, how has this eyewitness experience shifted your understanding of what’s at stake with Assange’s trial?

I have long been a critic of journalism as an echo of unaccountable power and a champion of those who are beacons. So, for me, the arrival of WikiLeaks was exciting; I admired the way Assange regarded the public with respect, that he was prepared to share his work with the ‘mainstream’ but not join their collusive club. This, and naked jealousy, made him enemies among the overpaid and undertalented, insecure in their pretensions of independence and impartiality.

I admired the moral dimension to WikiLeaks. Assange was rarely asked about this, yet much of his remarkable energy comes from a powerful moral sense that governments and other vested interests should not operate behind walls of secrecy. He is a democrat. He explained this in one of our first interviews at my home in 2010.

 
What is at stake for the rest of us has long been at stake: freedom to call authority to account, freedom to challenge, to call out hypocrisy, to dissent. The difference today is that the world’s imperial power, the United States, has never been as unsure of its metastatic authority as it is today. Like a flailing rogue, it is spinning us towards a world war if we allow it. Little of this menace is reflected in the media.

WikiLeaks, on the other hand, has allowed us to glimpse a rampant imperial march through whole societies—think of the carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, to name a few, the dispossession of 37 million people and the deaths of 12 million men, women and children in the ‘war on terror’—most of it behind a façade of deception. 

Julian Assange is a threat to these recurring horrors—that’s why he is being persecuted, why a court of law has become an instrument of oppression, why he ought to be our collective conscience: why we all should be the threat.

The judge’s decision will be known on the 4th of January. 

Journalist Julian Assange Charged with New American Indictment

By Leon Tressell

Source

On 24 June a US Federal Grad Jury issued a second superseding indictment against Journalist Julian Assange.

The new indictment incorporates the 18 charges from the first indictment and seeks to ‘broaden the scope of the conspiracy’ and asserts that Assange and Wikileaks tried to recruit hackers for the purpose of stealing secret documents from the US government.

Thirteen of the 49 page indictment are devoted to Assange’s efforts to recruit ‘Anonymous’ hackers. At one conference Assange is alleged to have encouraged hackers to join the CIA and then use their position to steal top secret documents.

It also alleges that Assange cajoled, encouraged and assisted Chelsea Manning in ‘stealing’ hundreds of thousands of secret government documents relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars as well as diplomatic cables and Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments.

The icing on the cake of this new indictment are the claims that Assange wilfully revealed the ‘name of Human Sources and Created a Grave and Imminent Risk to Human Life’ through publishing ‘stolen’ secret documents. The tally of secret documents that Wikileaks published includes 75,000 Afghan war reports, 400,000 Iraq war reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments and 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

The new indictment alleges that Wikileaks published documents that revealed the names of various collaborators working with US military and intelligence agencies deliberately putting their lives in danger.

The new indictment also tries to make the help that Wikileaks gave NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden a criminal offence. Never mind the fact that the FBI relied upon paid informants such as ‘convicted conman, and sex criminal Sigurdur Thordarson’ to make up bogus claims against Assange. According to WikiLeaks Thordarson is one of the star witnesses for new indictment from the US Department of Justice.

The timing of this new indictment is suspicious. Trump is trailing in numerous polls due to his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that has left over 120,000 Americans dead and caused trillions of dollars worth of economic damage. Is the new indictment a pathetic attempt to try and steer the news away from the storm of negative press encircling the White House?

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has commented:

“The Trump DOJ’s new Assange indictment has all the same problems as the old one. Source communication and publishing are not crimes. They didn’t add any new charges. They didn’t really change any old ones. And the using the Espionage Act is beyond the pale.’’

Julian Assange’s extradition trial does not resume until 7 September. Further outbreaks of the virus could put a spoke in that judicial frame up by the British government. Yet it appears the entire British political class including the so called opposition Labour Party will do nothing to try and prevent Assange’s extradition. Its new leader Keir Starmer, a former human rights barrister, supports the extradition process.

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose reports revealed the global surveillance operations of the US and UK, has noted the connivance of British and American politicians and media of all political colours with Trump’s war on whistle blowers:

“The Trump DOJ’s attempt to imprison Julian Assange for working with his source to publish classified documents that exposed US war crimes is the most severe US threat to press freedom since 2016. It’s sickening to watch so many journalists ignore it, & so many liberals cheer it: ‘’

Kevin Gosztlioa of the Shadow Proof news outlet has written a detailed expose of the new indictment. He conclusion declares:

“While the conspiracy charge includes sensational claims of collaboration with hackers, it is no less of a political charge than the seventeen Espionage Act offences Assange faces for publishing information.

The additional sections in the indictment represent an attempt to give the illegitimate prosecution a greater veneer of criminality. Unfortunately, it does not take much to scrape it off and expose the contempt for press freedom that still lies behind this vindictive prosecution.’’

Ordinary people around the world must step up their efforts to secure the release of journalist Julian Assange. If extradited to the US he would face a show trial that would resemble the worst excesses of Stalin and Hitler’s courtrooms in the 1930s.

The extradition of Julian Assange by the crisis ridden American empire sends a clear warning to anyone who has thoughts about investigating or revealing US war crimes. It represents a threat to investigative journalists and anti war activists who challenge the bloody rule of American capital which will not go down without a fight.

The persecution of Julian Assange reveals a certain desperation on the part of the American ruling class. However, it won’t solve any of the social, economic and political problems facing American capitalism which is in a state of deep crisis.

John Pilger: Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed

By John Pilger

Source

(First Published on February 21, 2020)

On Saturday, there will be a march from Australia House in London to Parliament Square, the centre of British democracy. People will carry pictures of the Australian publisher and journalist Julian Assange who, on 24 February, faces a court that will decide whether or not he is to be extradited to the United States and a living death.

I know Australia House well. As an Australian myself, I used to go there in my early days in London to read the newspapers from home. Opened by King George V over a century ago, its vastness of marble and stone, chandeliers and solemn portraits, imported from Australia when Australian soldiers were dying in the slaughter of the First World War, have ensured its landmark as an imperial pile of monumental servility.

As one of the oldest “diplomatic missions” in the United Kingdom, this relic of empire provides a pleasurable sinecure for Antipodean politicians:  a “mate” rewarded or a troublemaker exiled.

Known as High Commissioner, the equivalent of an ambassador, the current beneficiary is George Brandis, who as Attorney General tried to water down Australia’s Race Discrimination Act and approved raids on whistleblowers who had revealed the truth about Australia’s illegal spying on East Timor during negotiations for the carve-up of that impoverished country’s oil and gas.

This led to the prosecution of whistleblowers Bernard Collaery and “Witness K”,  on bogus charges. Like Julian Assange, they are to be silenced in a Kafkaesque trial and put away.

Australia House is the ideal starting point for Saturday’s march.

“I confess,” wrote Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, in 1898, “that countries are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.””

We Australians have been in the service of the Great Game for a very long time. Having devastated our Indigenous people in an invasion and a war of attrition that continues to this day, we have spilt blood for our imperial masters in China, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. No imperial adventure against those with whom we have no quarrel has escaped our dedication.

Deception has been a feature. When Prime Minister Robert Menzies sent Australian soldiers to Vietnam in the 1960s, he described them as a training team, requested by a beleaguered government in Saigon. It was a lie. A senior official of the Department of External Affairs wrote secretly that “although we have stressed the fact publicly that our assistance was given in response to an invitation by the government of South Vietnam”, the order came from Washington.”

Two versions. The lie for us, the truth for them. As many as four million people died in the Vietnam war.

When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, the Australian Ambassador, Richard Woolcott, secretly urged the government in Canberra to “act in a way which would be designed to minimise the public impact in Australia and show private understanding to Indonesia.”  In other words, to lie. He alluded to the beckoning spoils of oil and gas in the Timor Sea which, boasted Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, were worth “zillions”.

In the genocide that followed, at least 200,000 East Timorese died. Australia recognised, almost alone, the legitimacy of the occupation.

When Prime Minister John Howard sent Australian special forces to invade Iraq with America and Britain in 2003, he — like George W. Bush and Tony Blair — lied that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. More than a million people died in Iraq.

WikiLeaks was not the first to call out the pattern of criminal lying in democracies that remain every bit as rapacious as in Lord Curzon’s day. The achievement of the remarkable publishing organisation founded by Julian Assange has been to provide the proof.

WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes.

It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists.

For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East — terrorism.

One email disclosed that Islamic State (ISIS) was bankrolled by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”. Moreover, as US Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, US arms sales to the world — for use in stricken countries like Yemen — doubled.

Revealed by WikiLeaks and published in The New York Times, the Podesta emails triggered a vituperative campaign against editor-in-chief Julian Assange, bereft of evidence. He was an “agent of Russia working to elect Trump”; the nonsensical “Russiagate” followed. That WikiLeaks had also published more than 800,000 frequently damning documents from Russia was ignored.

On an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme, Four Corners, in 2017, Clinton was interviewed by Sarah Ferguson, who began: “No one could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at [the moment of Donald Trump’s inauguration] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?”

Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, the fawning Ferguson described “Russia’s role” and the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.

Clinton replied, “He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And he has done their bidding.”

Ferguson said to Clinton, “Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr of free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him?”

Again, Clinton was allowed to defame Assange — a “nihilist” in the service of “dictators” — while Ferguson assured her interviewee she was “the icon of your generation”.

There was no mention of a leaked document, revealed by WikiLeaks, called Libya Tick Tock, prepared for Hillary Clinton, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of ISIS in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.

For me, this episode of Clinton’s interview — and there are many others – vividly illustrates the division between false and true journalism. On 24 February, when Julian Assange steps into Woolwich Crown Court, true journalism will be the only crime on trial.

I am sometimes asked why I have championed Assange. For one thing, I like and I admire him. He is a friend with astonishing courage; and he has a finely honed, wicked sense of humour. He is the diametric opposite of the character invented then assassinated by his enemies.

As a reporter in places of upheaval all over the world, I have learned to compare the evidence I have witnessed with the words and actions of those with power. In this way, it is possible to get a sense of how our world is controlled and divided and manipulated, how language and debate are distorted to produce the propaganda of false consciousness.

When we speak about dictatorships, we call this brainwashing: the conquest of minds. It is a truth we rarely apply to our own societies, regardless of the trail of blood that leads back to us and which never dries.

WikiLeaks has exposed this. That is why Assange is in a maximum security prison in London facing concocted political charges in America, and why he has shamed so many of those paid to keep the record straight. Watch these journalists now look for cover as it dawns on them that the American fascists who have come for Assange may come for them, not least those on the Guardian who collaborated with WikiLeaks and won prizes and secured lucrative book and Hollywood deals based on his work, before turning on him.

In 2011, David Leigh, the Guardian’s  “investigations editor”, told journalism students at City University in London that Assange was “quite deranged”. When a puzzled student asked why, Leigh replied, “Because he doesn’t understand the parameters of conventional journalism”.

But it’s precisely because he did understand that the “parameters” of the media often shielded vested and political interests and had nothing to do with transparency that the idea of WikiLeaks was so appealing to many people, especially the young, rightly cynical about the so-called “mainstream”.

Leigh mocked the very idea that, once extradited, Assange would end up “wearing an orange jumpsuit”. These were things, he said, “that he and his lawyer are saying in order to feed his paranoia”.

The current US charges against Assange centre on the Afghan Logs and Iraq Logs, which the Guardian published and Leigh worked on, and on the Collateral Murder video showing an American helicopter crew gunning down civilians and celebrating the crime. For this journalism, Assange faces 17 charges of “espionage” which carry prison sentences totalling 175 years.

Whether or not his prison uniform will be an “orange jumpsuit”, US court files seen by Assange’s lawyers reveal that, once extradited, Assange will be subject to Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMS.  A 2017 report by Yale University Law School and the Center for Constitutional Rights described SAMS as “the darkest corner of the US federal prison system” combining “the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world … The net effect is to shield this form of torture from any real public scrutiny.”

That Assange has been right all along, and getting him to Sweden was a fraud to cover an American plan to “render” him, is finally becoming clear to many who swallowed the incessant scuttlebutt of character assassination. “I speak fluent Swedish and was able to read all the original documents,” Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, said recently, “I could hardly believe my eyes. According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never taken place at all. And not only that: the woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm Police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.”

Keir Starmer is currently running for election as leader of the Labour Party in Britain. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Director of Public Prosecutions and responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service. According to Freedom of Information searches by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, Sweden tried to drop the Assange case in 2011, but a CPS official in London told the Swedish prosecutor not to treat it as “just another extradition”.

In 2012, she received an email from the CPS: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”  Other CPS emails were either deleted or redacted. Why? Keir Starmer needs to say why.

At the forefront of Saturday’s march will be John Shipton, Julian’s father, whose indefatigable support for his son is the antithesis of the collusion and cruelty of the governments of Australia, our homeland.

The roll call of shame begins with  Julia Gillard, the Australian Labor prime minister who, in 2010, wanted to criminalise WikiLeaks, arrest Assange and cancel his passport– until the Australian Federal Police pointed out that no law allowed this and that Assange had committed no crime.

While falsely claiming to give him consular assistance in London, it was the Gillard government’s shocking abandonment of its citizen that led to Ecuador granting political asylum to Assange in its London embassy.

In a subsequent speech before the US Congress, Gillard, a favourite of the US embassy in Canberra, broke records for sycophancy (according to the website Honest History) as she declared, over and again, the fidelity of America’s “mates Down Under”.

Today, while Assange waits in his cell, Gillard travels the world, promoting herself as a feminist concerned about “human rights”, often in tandem with that other right-on feminist Hillary Clinton.

The truth is that Australia could have rescued Julian Assange and can still rescue him.

In 2010, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal (Conservative) Member of Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. As a young barrister in the 1980s, Turnbull had successfully fought the British Government’s attempts to prevent the publication of the book, Spycatcher, whose author Peter Wright, a spy, had exposed Britain’s “deep state”.

We talked about his famous victory for free speech and publishing and I described the miscarriage of justice awaiting Assange — the fraud of his arrest in Sweden and its connection with an American indictment that tore up the US Constitution and the rule of international law.

Turnbull appeared to show genuine interest and an aide took extensive notes. I asked him to deliver a letter to the Australian government from Gareth Peirce, the renowned British human rights lawyer who represents Assange.

In the letter, Peirce wrote, “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for [Julian Assange] any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”

Turnbull promised to deliver the letter, follow it through and let me know. I subsequently wrote to him several times, waited and heard nothing.

In 2018, John Shipton wrote a deeply moving letter to the then prime minister of Australia asking him to exercise the diplomatic power at his government’s disposal and bring Julian home. He wrote that he feared that if Julian was not rescued, there would be a tragedy and his son would die in prison. He received no reply. The prime minister was Malcolm Turnbull.

Last year, when the current prime minister, Scott Morrison, a former public relations man, was asked about Assange, he replied in his customary way, “He should face the music!”

When Saturday’s march reaches the Houses of Parliament, said to be “the Mother of Parliaments”, Morrison and Gillard and Turnbull and all those who have betrayed Julian Assange should be called out; history and decency will not forget them or those who remain silent now.

And if there is any sense of justice left in the land of Magna Carta, the travesty that is the case against this heroic Australian must be thrown out. Or beware, all of us.

Which Law Is Assange Above?

By Alison Broinowski

Source

Julian Assange 50ed4

‘No-one is above the law’ Julian Assange has repeatedly been told in British courts. What that means in effect is, ‘You think you are above the law and we have run out of things to charge you with, so we are going to make an example of you for that’.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also told the media that ‘no-one is above the law’ so he, like his predecessors in both major parties, will not intervene with his British counterpart on Assange’s behalf. Gratuitously, he added a sexist crack about Assange’s friend and supporter Pamela Anderson, a Baywatch star. But he did not explain – and wasn’t asked – which law Assange thought he was above. He has broken no Australian law, Sweden has dropped its rape case, he has served his sentence for breach of bail in the UK, and the US has not yet extradited him on charges of espionage and treason. But he’s still locked up.

Belatedly, a growing number of Australian supporters of Assange are boldly going where Ministers fear to tread. They are speaking out for several reasons, apart from the obvious injustice of the case against Assange. They realize he is clearly in poor mental and physical health; that President Trump who once loved WikiLeaks has turned out to want the indictment as much as Hillary Clinton did; and that any hope that British justice will prevail is looking increasingly faint. In mid-November PEN International packed large venues in Melbourne and Sydney with people wanting to hear and question Assange’s London lawyer, Jennifer Robinson. Public demonstrations supporting him are spreading, and that news ‘makes him smile’ Robinson said.

Both Assange and Robinson have received death threats. His father says Assange has been strip-searched and placed in a ‘hotbox’, from which he emerged ‘very disturbed’ and couldn’t remember his date of birth in court. Used in some military prisons, the hotbox is said to induce dehydration and confusion. Imagine what else can happen to him.

In October four prominent Australians joined in calls for intervention on Assange’s behalf – businessman Dick Smith, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, and Bob Carr, former Foreign Minister and Premier of NSW. Carr said the UK and US should expect a backlash from Australia unless the extradition case is dropped and Assange’s prison conditions do not immediately improve. Wilkie has formed a multi-party Parliamentary Friendship Group, ‘Bring Assange Home’. It was this kind of political and public pressure that eventually forced Prime Minister John Howard in 2007 to intervene for the release from Guantanamo prison of accused terrorist collaborator David Hicks, long after the UK and Canada had got their nationals out in 2003.

But Australian politicians with a vested interest in seeing an example made of Assange continue, for now, to ignore such appeals. They do so for three reasons: successive government and media narratives are so heavily invested in the manufactured perception about Assange that they would have trouble explaining it away; they won’t go out on a limb for a man whose revelations have embarrassed Australia and its allies; and they prefer to hide behind the pretence of allowing British and American justice to take its course. Yet they have been eager to intervene in the cases of Australians detained in China, Indonesia, Egypt, Thailand, and Bulgaria.

British justice has not appeared in its best light in the Assange saga. UK prosecutors unsuccessfully pressed their Swedish counterparts not to drop the rape case, and later demanded they reinstate it, also without success. British police entered the Embassy of Ecuador to remove Assange, in apparent breach of the Vienna Convention. He was immediately charged with breaking bail and jailed in the high security Belmarsh Prison, in isolation. He has been admitted to the hospital facility for what the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture says are life-threatening results of psychological mistreatment, in England.

One judge, Vanessa Baraitser, who reimposed imprisonment on Assange after his bail term expired, saying he was likely to abscond, got a significant detail wrong. When she surprisingly said he was ‘charged by Sweden’, Assange corrected her, but his intervention did not appear in the court transcript. Another more senior judge, the chief magistrate who sent him to Belmarsh in the first place, Emma Arbuthnot, told him no-one is above the law.

Lady Arbuthnot’s husband James is a former Minister of Defence who retains close military connections. Until late last year Lord Arbuthnot was on the board of the IRM cyber-security consultancy. Their son Alexander is vice-president and cyber-security adviser of a private equity firm Vitruvian Partners. The company is a large investor in Darktrace, an operation founded by GCHQ and MI5, whose staff include colleagues from MI6, the Ministry of Defence, the US National Security Agency and the CIA – the very agencies which want Assange prosecuted for publishing their secrets.

Darktrace has 40 offices across the world, which seek to prevent leaks by insiders of the sorts of data that WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden published. Alexander Arbuthnot was previously head of global sales for Symantec, an American cyber-security and anti-data leak company, which sees the likes of Chelsea Manning as ‘malicious insiders’. His aim at Symantec was to ‘avoid a repeat of WikiLeaks’ (Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis, The Daily Maverick, 15 November 2019. Daily Maverick.co.za).

The CIA, which is ‘working to take down’ WikiLeaks, has audio and video recordings of Assange’s private meetings in the Embassy of Ecuador, including with his lawyers. Jennifer Robinson confirmed in Sydney that an employee of a Spanish security company had provided them, and Assange has taken legal action against the firm.

Over and above the question of whether a conflict of interest arises from the funding of some of Lady Arbuthnot’s travels, her objectivity as a judge in Assange’s case must be questionable on the basis of her husband’s and son’s past and current activities. Which does not mean that it will be questioned: as we have seen ever since Tony Blair, the British establishment on both sides of politics and in the media instinctively closes ranks to defend its friends, its interests, and those of the military/industrial/security establishment against outsiders who reveal embarrassing facts. Assange in the UK; Manning, Snowden, and Max Blumenthal in the US; and in Australia, Witness K, Bernard Collaery, David McKnight, and others are mere collateral damage.

The full extradition hearing is set for 25 February 2020. Even though the treaty between the UK and the US excludes extradition for political offences, that is clearly the intention of both governments. Silencing Assange for 175 years may do the same for the media.

Assange Only Did What a Good Journalist Is Supposed to Do

By Philip Giraldi

Source

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The United States prides itself on its rule of law, a legacy from British colonial times, but there is increasing evidence that equal justice under law has been replaced by something that is sometimes called “lawfare,” an Israeli invention which consists of using the legal system to punish dissent and silence critics. Three examples, all quite different, illustrate exactly how a quasi-legal process has been used against individuals that are perceived to be, rightly or wrongly, critics of America’s so-called “global war on terror,” which is still being conducted worldwide even though no one uses the expression anymore.

The global war on terror is being fought based on legislation that is unique to the United States, which, under the various editions of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), authorizes the United States to go after any group anywhere that has been identified by the Department of State as “terrorist.” This authority has meant in practice that even American citizens can be killed or captured by U.S. special forces in any country, which of course includes nations with which the United States is not at war—not surprisingly, as Washington is not technically at war with anyone. The AUMF has also been interpreted to permit going after entire countries or political groups designated state sponsors of terrorism.

Once presumed terrorists are captured they can be held indefinitely in special prisons, Guantanamo being the one that is best known. That is precisely the case of Pakistani citizen Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the alleged mastermind of 9/11, who was captured in March 2002 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. But are the claims about his involvement really true? KSM has been tortured and eventually confessed to many crimes, but he has never been tried even though rumors frequently surface in Washington that his day in court will be coming up soon. Recently, military judges asserted that he would finally be tried in January 2021 but warned that a number of conditions would have to be met first.

That KSM has never appeared in court is generally believed to be because the actual evidence against him is so thin and was obtained under torture. So he has been held in prison under orders from presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump with no end in sight, and without providing his testimony regarding events on the September day, one more piece of the 9/11 puzzle will never be revealed to the public.

As the federal government is wedded to its standard account of 9/11, it is likely that KSM will remain in prison until the day he dies, setting an example for all those who choose to question the sanctity of the 9/11 Commission Report.

Julian Assange is another notable example of how revenge against those who question standard narratives is meted out through the legal system. Assange, to be sure, has been guilty of publishing material that the United States government would prefer not to have been made public. His website, WikiLeaks, was conceived as a whistleblower site, with information provided to it by individuals who had uncovered illegal activity on the part of various governments. WikiLeaks exposed, for example, Chelsea Manning’s Iraq war crimes material and the Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails.

In Assange’s defense, he has stated repeatedly that he is a journalist who exposes government wrongdoing, which used to be referred to as a “muckraker.” He never engaged in personally stealing government secrets and only published material that was given to him by others. In some cases, he refused to publish material that would hurt or endanger individuals.

Assange became a target of U.S. and British law enforcement in 2010. Living in London at the time, he was accused by several Swedish women of sexual assault, leading to a request from Stockholm for extradition. At the time, many believed that the accusations were without merit, and, indeed, they were eventually dropped, but Assange was about to be arrested by the British authorities after he failed to make a bail hearing set to contest the Swedish extradition request. To avoid arrest, he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012 and was granted asylum, where he eventually spent seven years, eventually confined to a small room. His health suffered.

Forced to leave by the Ecuadorean withdrawal of his asylum under U.S. pressure, he was arrested in 2019 by the British and is currently in prison, where his health continues to deteriorate. He will eventually be sent to the United States upon release in early 2020, where he will undoubtedly be convicted under the Espionage Act of 1918, a rarely invoked law that can be brought out whenever the federal government is desperate to convict someone. It was recently used in May 2015 to imprison ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling even though there was no evidence that he had actually revealed classified information. The prosecution claimed that he “must have done it,” which was apparently enough for the judge and jury.

There is also a back story to Assange. He has always insisted that the information he received on the DNC emails did not come from a Russian source, one of the basic claims made that launched the years-long investigation of what became known as Russiagate. Many suspect that a DNC staffer named Seth Rich might have been the actual source, but the government and the Democratic Party have resisted any serious investigation into that possibility. If Assange is ever actually tried he might reveal the truth, but one must consider that folks who have secrets damaging to the government are either somehow silenced or even wind up dead. So Assange, who only did what a good journalist is supposed to do, will, like KSM, likely die in prison after the U.S. gets its hands on him.

And finally, there is the case of Edward Snowden, a government contractor who discovered that the NSA was spying illegally on literally millions of Americans. He went through channels to complain about what was being done, was ignored, and eventually sent his information over to several journalists, who published his claims.

Snowden knew that even though he was a whistleblower and was allegedly protected by special whistleblower legislation there was no chance that he would ever receive a fair trial in the U.S., so he fled first to China and then wound up in Russia, where he is today. He has stated that he would return to the United States to tell his story if he is guaranteed a fair trial that will enable him to use a “public interest” whistleblower defense, but no one is taking the bait. Many in Congress and even some in the media have called for his execution as a traitor. Some of us, however, regard him as a hero.

Truly the land of the free and the home of the brave has become something like a prison camp for those who fall outside the limits of acceptable behavior as defined by the government. Law is the weapon and it is wielded equally by Democrats and Republicans. Do KSM, Assange, and Snowden all have interesting tales to tell? Indeed, they do, but we the public will likely never hear them.

Assange Might Die from Mistreatment in Captivity

By Stuart Littlewood

Source

 

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I’ve received a reply from my MP Alister Jack (who is also Secretary of State for Scotland). I asked him to obtain an explanation from our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP, on concerns about the proceedings to extradite Julian Assange to the US, since he is the person accountable. But Mr. Jack’s response doesn’t make clear whether the response is his and, if not, where it actually comes from.

I wanted to know…

  • Why Assange is held under the inhuman conditions reserved for terrorists when he’s a journalist.
  • How the Justice Department accounts for Assange’s poor physical and mental state.
  • Why the question whether political offenses are excluded from extradition under Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty hadn’t been addressed before these expensive proceedings began.
  • Why Assange’s defense team haven’t been given easier access and more time to prepare.
  • Why high-security Belmarsh is chosen for February’s hearing, where the opportunity for public scrutiny is minimal.
  • And whether District Judge Baraitser will preside in February when, according to Craig Murray, she has already failed to behave impartially?

In particular, I wanted to know why, according to witnesses, Assange’s physical and mental states have deteriorated so rapidly while in the UK justice system’s care.

There’s no attempt to answer most of these points. However, Mr. Jack reminds me that Assange was jailed for 50 weeks on 1 May for breaching bail and holing up in the Ecuador Embassy.

“The UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr. Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his interests will be protected,” writes Mr. Jack brimming with confidence.

But, he points out, the Home Secretary when signing an extradition warrant is limited in what he’s allowed to consider. For example, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 requires any judgment about human rights and health issues to be made in court.

The administrative hearing on 21 October ruled that Assange will face a 5-day extradition hearing starting 25 February and, Mr Jack says, that’s when his human rights and poor health will be considered. It is for the judge to determine whether or not extradition would be a human rights breach and whether it would be oppressive and unjust on account of his state of health.

In other words, nobody in the UK justice system could give a toss about Assange’s wellbeing for another 4 months – an awful long time when you’re already in bad shape and worried sick that you’ll wind up in Guantanamo Bay for….. for what, exactly?

Former ambassador Craig Murray, a friend of Assange, attended the October hearing and reported that he was distressed by how his appearance had deteriorated after long confinement, and by his rapid ageing and stumbling speech — “the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known” reduced to a “shambling and incoherent wreck”.

Some have expressed concern that Assange may not live to the end of the extradition proceedings.

From tomorrow MPs will cease to exist and Parliament will cease to function until after the general election on 12 December. So nobody is representing anybody in the cesspit of Westminster for the next 5 or 6 weeks.

Killing Julian Assange: Justice Denied When Exposing Official Wrongdoing

By Philip Giraldi

Source

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The hideous treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues and many observers are citing his case as being symptomatic of developing “police state” tendencies in both the United States and in Europe, where rule of law is being subordinated to political expediency.

Julian Assange was the founder and editor-in-chief of the controversial news and information site WikiLeaks. As the name implies, after 2006 the site became famous, or perhaps notorious, for its publication of materials that have been leaked to it by government officials and other sources who consider the information to be of value to the public but unlikely to be accepted by the mainstream media, which has become increasingly corporatized and timid.

WikiLeaks became known to a global audience back in 2010 when it obtained from US Army enlisted soldier Bradley Manning a large quantity of classified documents relating to the various wars that the United States was fighting in Asia. Some of the material included what might be regarded as war crimes.

WikiLeaks again became front-page news over the 2016 presidential election, when the website released the emails of candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta. The emails revealed how Clinton and her team collaborated with the Democratic National Committee to ensure that she would be nominated rather than Bernie Sanders. It should be noted that the material released by WikiLeaks was largely documentary and factual in nature, i.e. it was not “fake news.”

Because he is a journalist ostensibly protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, the handling of the “threat” posed by journalist Assange is inevitably somewhat different than a leak by a government official, referred to as a whistleblower. Assange has been vilified as an “enemy of the state,” likely even a Russian agent, and was initially pursued by the Swedish authorities after claims of a rape, later withdrawn, were made against him. To avoid arrest, he was given asylum by a friendly Ecuadorean government seven years ago in London. The British police had an active warrant to arrest him immediately as he had failed to make a bail hearing after he obtained asylum, which is indeed what took place when Quito revoked his protected status in April.

As it turned out, Julian Assange was not exactly alone when he was in the Ecuadorean Embassy. All of his communications, including with his lawyers, were being intercepted by a Spanish security company hired for the purpose allegedly by the CIA. There apparently was also a CIA plan to kidnap Assange. In a normal court in a normal country, the government case would have been thrown out on constitutional and legal grounds, but that was not so in this instance. The United States has persisted in its demands to obtain the extradition of Assange from Britain and London seems to be more than willing to play along. Assange is undeniably hated by the American political Establishment and even much of the media in a bipartisan fashion, with the Democrats blaming him for Hillary Clinton’s loss while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has labeled him a “fraud, a coward and an enemy.” WikiLeaks itself is regarded by the White House as a “hostile non-government intelligence service.” Sending Julian Assange to prison for the rest of his life may be called justice, but it is really revenge against someone who has exposed government lies. Some American politicians have even asserted that jail is too good for Assange, insisting that he should instead be executed.

The actual charges laid out in the US indictment are for alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to publish the “Iraq War Logs,” the “Afghan War Logs” and the US State Department cables. On May 23rd, the United States government further charged Assange with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which criminalizes any exposure of classified US government information anywhere in the world by anyone. Its use would create a precedent: any investigative journalist who exposes US government malfeasance could be similarly charged.

Assange is currently incarcerated in solitary confinement at high-security Belmarsh prison. It is possible that the Justice Department, after it obtains Assange through extradition, will attempt to make the case that Assange actively colluded with the Russian government, a conspiracy to “defraud the United States” to put it in legalese. Assange is unlikely to receive anything approaching a fair trial no matter what the charges are.

Assange’s prison term ended on September 22nd, but an earlier procedural hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court had already decided that a full hearing on extradition to the US would not begin until February 25th, 2020. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange would not be released even though the prison term had ended, because he was a flight risk. His status in the prison system was duly changed from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition and his final hearing would be at the high-security Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court rather than in a normal civil court. Belmarsh is where terrorists are routinely tried and the proceedings there permit only minimal public and media scrutiny.

Most recently, on October 21st, 2019, Assange was again in Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a “case management hearing” regarding his possible extradition to the US Judge Baraitser denied a defense team request for a three-month delay so that they could gather evidence in light of the fact that Assange had been denied access to his own papers and documents in order to prepare his defense. British government prosecutor James Lewis QC and the five US “representatives” present opposed any delay in the extradition proceedings and were supported by Judge Baraitser, denying any delay in the proceedings.

Another procedural hearing will take place on December 19th followed by the full extradition hearing in February, at which time Assange will presumably be turned over to US Marshalls for transportation to the Federal prison in Virginia to await trial. That is, of course, assuming that he lives that long as his health has visibly deteriorated and there have been claims that he has been tortured by the British authorities.

Former British Ambassador Craig Murray, who knows Julian Assange well, was present when he appeared in court on the 21st. Murray was shocked by Assange’s appearance, noting that he had lost weight and looked like he had aged considerably. He was walking with a pronounced limp and when the judge asked him questions, to include his name and date of birth, he had trouble responding. Murray described him as a “shambling, incoherent wreck” and also concluded that “one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes.”

The British court was oblivious to Assange’s poor condition, with Judge Baraitser telling the clearly struggling prisoner that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. Objections to what was happening made by both Assange and his lawyers were dismissed by the Crown’s legal representatives, often after discussions with the American officials present, a process described in full by Murray, who, after describing the miscarriage of justice he had just witnessed observed that Julian Assange is being “slowly killed in public sight and arraigned on a charge of publishing the truth about government wrongdoing.” He concluded that “Unless Julian is released shortly he will be destroyed. If the state can do this, then who is next?” Indeed.

Assange Extradition: What Happened to British Justice and Fair Play?

By Stuart Littlewood

Source

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Why am I not surprised after reading Craig Murray’s alarming account of Julian Assange’s appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court this week?

Murray, a former UK ambassador and diplomat, is widely respected for his truth and accuracy. He reminds us: “The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election….

“The purpose of yesterday’s hearing was case management; to determine the timetable for the extradition proceedings. The key points at issue were that Julian’s defense was requesting more time to prepare their evidence, and arguing that political offenses were specifically excluded from the extradition treaty. There should, they argued, therefore be a preliminary hearing to determine whether the extradition treaty applied at all.”

He provides chapter and verse on Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty 2007. “On the face of it, what Assange is accused of is the very definition of a political offense…. There is every reason to consider whether this charge is excluded by the extradition treaty, and to do so before the long and very costly process of considering all the evidence should the treaty apply. But Baraitser simply dismissed the argument out of hand.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is severely criticized for failing to treat the two sides evenhandedly and for appearing to take instructions from the US Government people in the courtroom.

Assange’s defence team, according to Murray’s report, asked for the extradition hearing, scheduled for 25 February, to be delayed to allow more time for preparation. They have had very limited contact with their client in jail and haven’t been allowed to provide him with necessary documents. Assange has only just been given limited computer access and all his relevant records and materials were seized from the Ecuadorean Embassy by the US Government. He’s had no access to his own materials in preparing his defence.

The team are also in touch with the Spanish courts about a legal case currently being heard in Madrid which will provide evidence showing how the CIA arranged for a contractor to spy on conversations between Assange and his lawyers discussing his defense against these extradition proceedings. In normal circumstances, says Murray, this and other damning evidence would be enough to have the case thrown out.

However, Baraitser accepted the prosecution’s argument that there should be no extra time for the defense to prepare. And she ruled, without giving reasons, that there would be no separate consideration as to whether the charge was a political offense excluded by the extradition treaty.

“The extradition is plainly being rushed through in accordance with a Washington dictated timetable,” says Murray. “Apart from a desire to pre-empt the Spanish court providing evidence on CIA activity in sabotaging the defense, what makes the February date so important to the USA?”

The most sinister revelation came at the end. Baraitser announced that the substantive hearing in February will be held, not at an open and accessible venue like Westminster Magistrates Court, but at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, “the grim high-security facility used for preliminary legal processing of terrorists, attached to the maximum-security prison where Assange is being held”. Murray says: “There are only six seats for the public in even the largest court at Belmarsh, and the object is plainly to evade public scrutiny and make sure that Baraitser is not exposed in public again to a genuine account of her proceedings, like this one you are reading. I will probably be unable to get in….”

Craig Murray calls Assange his friend and is distressed by how his appearance has deteriorated after long confinement, and by his rapid aging and stumbling speech – “the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known” reduced to a “shambling and incoherent wreck”, says Craig. He is in such poor shape that there are fears Assange may not live to the end of the extradition proceedings.

Murray had been sceptical of claims that debilitating drugs were forced on Assange and his treatment amounted to torture. “Yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.”

Baraitser, says Murray, told Assange that if he was incapable of following proceedings, his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. And here’s a man who, by the very nature of the charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, and feared by the world’s super-power.

So how do his British captors explain his swift decline while in their care?

Murray describes the conditions under which Assange languishes at Belmarsh. “He is kept in complete isolation for 23 hours a day. He is permitted 45 minutes exercise. If he has to be moved, they clear the corridors before he walks down them and they lock all cell doors to ensure he has no contact with any other prisoner outside the short and strictly supervised exercise period. There is no possible justification for this inhuman regime, used on major terrorists, being imposed on a publisher who is a remand prisoner.”

This is hardly the British justice we were brought up to admire and expect. So I have asked my MP to obtain an explanation from our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP. A few simple answers would be appreciated:

  • Why is Assange held under the inhuman conditions reserved for terrorists when he’s no such thing and only on remand?
  • How does the Justice Department account for Assange’s poor physical and mental state?
  • Now that the Article 4 ‘cat’ is out of the bag why has the question whether political charges are excluded from the treaty not been addressed?
  • The US has had years to prepare its case, why not give Assange’s defense team more time, easier access and a sporting chance?
  • Why Belmarsh for February’s hearing, where the opportunity for public scrutiny is minimal?
  • Will District Judge Baraitser preside over the substantive hearing when, according to Murray, she has already failed to behave impartially?

Many will see the hand of the Dark State in this. Whatever one’s views on Assange there is no excuse for the vile treatment meted out to him.

Julian Assange – ‘Find Justice and Make It Quick’

By Alison Broinowski

Source

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With the US on the warpath and Australia sending military, air, and naval support for American activities in the Gulf, three Australian and British nationals are being made an example of in Iran, where they are in solitary confinement on charges of espionage. British politicians have been quick to accuse Iran of ‘hostage diplomacy’, saying the allegations against the academic and two tourists are ‘clearly false’. Australia, which still has an Embassy in Tehran, is making representations on their behalf. But Iran’s response is unlikely to be magnanimous or quick.

In Bulgaria meanwhile, another Australian, sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder in a street brawl, had served 11 years when an appeals court ordered him freed in late September. Australia’s foreign ministry is, of course, assisting Jock Palfreyman, now 32, and supporting his prominent Sydney family. Bulgaria’s Interior Minister commented, ‘When there is deprivation of life, then there is no complete justice…The logic of the law is to find justice and make it quick.’ (SMH, AP, 26 September 2019).

As usual, British and Australian treatment of three alleged spies and an accused murderer is in glaring contrast with Julian Assange’s case. Dragged by British police out of the Embassy of Ecuador, where he had diplomatic asylum, he was quickly jailed in May for 50 weeks. A judge with Tory connections, Lady Arbuthnot, took the opportunity to offer the claim that nobody in the UK is above the law. But justice delayed is justice denied, as the Bulgarian minister observed.

In June, the UK Home Secretary signed an order allowing Assange to be extradited to the US on charges of espionage after a final hearing in London next February. That in itself appears to prejudge the outcome. But the UK, which supposedly doesn’t allow extradition to nations with the death penalty, may prefer Assange to be extradited to Sweden rather than the US, and thereby wash its hands of his extradition. Sweden has a documented record of rendition of detainees to the US.

British officials have been pressing Sweden to reopen its 2010 rape case against Assange, and actually to charge him with something for the first time in the eight years of this slow-moving farce. But Sweden ended its investigation of Assange in May 2017, after he had repeatedly offered to be interviewed, and eventually was, in London. The Swedes clearly don’t want to revisit all that.

In Belmarsh high-security prison, which houses murderers and worse, Assange was seen by Nils Melzer, the UN Rapporteur on Torture, who reported to the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador on his dire state of health. Australian journalist John Pilger has confirmed Melzer’s view, and so does Assange’s father, John Shipton. But if Australian ministers have sought to intervene on Assange’s behalf, or if consular officials have checked on his welfare, they haven’t said so. The Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, was in London in the summer but has said – and apparently done – nothing. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who was recently in Washington, missed the opportunity, as far as we know, to mention the inmate of Belmarsh Prison and his prospects. Supposition is all we have, as the Australian media don’t even ask.

Assange appeared before the Westminster magistrate’s court by video from the prison on 13 September. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that although the custody period for his bail offence would end on 22 September, she would not release him for the balance of his 50-week sentence, saying he was likely to ‘abscond again’. His lawyers apparently didn’t challenge her decision. When she surprisingly said he was ‘charged by Sweden’ she was corrected by Assange, but his intervention did not appear in the court transcript.

Pilger has compared Britain’s treatment of Assange to the way dictatorships deal with political prisoners, which is what he is. A sound barrier or a time warp seems to have been imposed on Assange in the land of British justice, as it has on two other political prisoners, Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, whose whereabouts since they were poisoned in Salisbury in March 2018 are unknown. The pattern has become repetitive: nothing has been heard lately from the detective superintendent on that case, or from Charlie Rowley, both of whom were reportedly contaminated by whatever affected the Skripals. If Sergei has died, how would we know?

If Assange – like Jeffrey Epstein in the US – should suddenly die in prison while guards on suicide watch are asleep, or hospital attendants are not looking, will what the authorities tell us be credible? No wonder Assange suffers from anxiety and depression. He is confined alone for 22 hours a day and cannot communicate with his US lawyers. He has no computer. He is locked up, nominally for skipping bail for a non-existent charge, but in fact for publishing American cables given to him by a US army officer, Chelsea Manning, in 2010. This, the US prosecutors will claim, was conspiracy and espionage.

Yet when Britain’s Mail on Sunday did the same in July, publishing the British Ambassador’s cabled comments on Donald Trump, no-one cried ‘spy!’ The then Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, defended publication of the cables, saying that it was in the public interest to read them. As journalist Peter Oborne remarked, Assange had published many more documents on matters that it was much more in the public interest to know about. Oborne perceived ‘a monstrous case of double standards’. (Media Lens, 17 September 2019).

Watch while the same double standards are applied to the CIA man who leaked the transcribed phone conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky, and the American papers which published it. The public has an interest in knowing about that leak, including its authenticity, and so do both sides of Congress. If it’s genuine, there’s no difference between it and what Assange did in 2010, so why is he not a ‘whistleblower’?

Permanent Record, Edward Snowden’s recent autobiography, begins with the words ‘I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.’ Assange has always got up the nose of governments because he believes that information they collect at public expense belongs to the people, while private citizens’ data are their own. It is this fundamental principle that threatens the authorities, and makes them react aggressively to him while they lavish concern on other political prisoners. The extent of the aggression of the Anglo-allies will be seen next February when Assange’s extradition to the US is decided. But the longer the time warp persists and Assange remains invisible and inaudible, the greater the danger to him. Justice must be quick.

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