The pretense of justice meted out to Assange by the Rules Based Order has come undone

Feb 25, 2024
London, UK. 21st February 2024. Julian Assange's father John Shipton takes part in a march from the Royal Courts of Justice to Downing Street on the second day of Julian Assange's extradition hearing. Image: Alamy /Vuk Valcic/Alamy Live News

The approval of Julian Assange’s extradition is not only morally wrong, it appears to be wrong in law, and serious questions should be asked of the UK Home Secretary, as well as the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and the former incumbents of those positions.

This follows a barely reported revelatory exchange between the lawyer representing the UK Home Secretary James Cleverly and Justice Jeremy Johnson in Julian Assange’s High Court Appeal against his extradition reported in Pearls and Irritations last week.

The hearing was plagued by audio problems for journalists, and in response to my enquiries seeking confirmation of this conversation reported by independent journalist Mohamed Elmaazi, I was told by one journalist who was aware the conversation was taking place that it was spoken too softly and too rapidly for her to discern what was being said. Since then, a lawyer present has confirmed the exchange.

Here is the discussion reported by Elmaazi. Bear in mind as you read it that the former UK Secretary of State Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition, it is still in place under James Cleverly, and that extradition from the UK is barred if there is a risk the person may face the death penalty.

“If the appellant is extradited,” Johnson asked, “is there anything to prevent amending the charges of aiding and abetting [a leak]?”

Ben Watson KC, who was instructed to represent the U.K. Home Secretary, replied, “The short answer is no.”

“Do you accept that those charges could carry the death penalty?” Johnson asked.

“In principle, yes,” Watson answered.

Johnson asked, “Is there anything that can be done to prevent a death penalty [from] being imposed?”
“It would be very difficult to offer assurances to prevent the death penalty from being imposed,” Watson admitted.

This is what the Crown Prosecution Service’s website tells us with respect to conditions for barring extradition.

Extradition, roles of the Secretary of State cps.gov.uk Screenshot
Extradition, roles of the Secretary of State cps.gov.uk Screenshot supplied

The Home Office Guidelines show extradition would be prohibited by law in Assange’s circumstances according to the reported conversation. Bear in mind Chelsea Manning was charged with ‘aiding the enemy’ – a charge that carries the death penalty and senior public figures in the US have similarly invoked treason in Assange’s case, calling for him to be killed.

Role of the Secretary of State gov.uk /screenshot supplied

How much have DFAT known, as this and many other travesties of justice have occurred in Assange’s case? His wife and lawyers have been articulating fears of the death penalty being imposed for years. The three countries are part of the five-eyes network of allies who share information extensively. In Assange’s case, Marise Payne assured me on the tarmac at Sydney airport after our flight from Canberra when she was en route to London, ‘they know everything’. I had expressed grave concern about Assange after visiting him in Belmarsh prison when I ran into the then Foreign Minister.

FOI requests by Kellie Tranter for Declassified Australia have revealed very little correspondence and almost no information – certainly nothing that would indicate an Australian citizen is being extradited to the US and could face the death penalty. How is this possible? If it were Egypt, or China or Russia, our political leaders would be telegraphing their condemnation to the world and they would be briefed to the eyeballs by DFAT.

Another way in which this sham process has been conducted concerns the so called ‘hacking’ charge – the charge Assange helped or was trying to help Manning conceal her identity when accessing the documents. During the 4-week evidentiary hearing an expert witness testified in great detail that this could not be the case because Manning not only already had access, she also knew access is tracked via IP address, not username. In a supplementary submission to that court, the US Prosecutor alleged the charge related to the accessing of documents .. in a more general sense.. whatever that means.

The problem it would appear is evidence, and the hunt for it continues to this day. They had no joy from Manning herself, who did extra time because she insisted she had nothing further to say that had been said at her trial. An extradition trial Defence expert witness demolished any prospect of joy for the Prosecution. They then co-opted Siggi Thordarson, a completely unreliable witness – a convicted paedophile and known liar, around the time Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy. A year later he couldn’t help himself and confessed he lied to the FBI. Then they did the rounds of anyone who may have had a falling out with Assange, mostly journalists, none of whom cooperated, some if not all of whom said they felt coerced and intimidated, and had to spend large sums of money on lawyers to protect their rights – James Ball, Heather Brooke, former Guardian investigations editor David Leigh and Andrew O’Hagan.

Finally, the grounds on which Assange’s lawyers are seeking an Appeal reveal gross violations of multiple Articles in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Extradition Treaty and Act, including the provisions that cover free speech and prosecution for political opinions that can’t all be dealt with in one article. But I reiterate – and other senior journalists like Chris Hedges agree – the Defence arguments here were extraordinarily powerful in conveying the naked political nature of the prosecution. It is a nonsense to use the Espionage Act and to allege it is not political in nature.

Should Assange lose, he may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. But all this should end now and end with haste. The extradition approval should be withdrawn, never mind another year in jail for Assange and another huge legal case.

Best the Prosecution is dropped and if Biden needs to save face, he can announce he is doing it to save his beloved American mainstream Press from the jeopardy of a precedent – which ought to concern Americans anyway.

 

You may wish to view the first article from Mary Kostakidis on Assange’s Appeal hearing:

Assange’s draconian prosecution criminalises journalism and grants the US extraterritorial reach

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