The slow-motion execution of Julian Assange continues

May 22, 2024
Never surrender and give up, hang on, keep going and strong determination

The ruling by the High Court in London permitting Julian Assange to appeal his extradition order leaves him languishing in precarious health in a high-security prison. That is the point.

The decision by the High Court in London to grant Julian Assange the right to appeal the order to extradite him to the United States may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. It does not mean Julian will elude extradition. It does not mean the court has ruled, as it should, that he is a journalist whose only “crime” was providing evidence of war crimes and lies by the U.S. government to the public. It does not mean he will be released from the high-security HMS Belmarsh prison where, as Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, after visiting Julian there, said he was undergoing a “slow motion execution.”

It does not mean that journalism is any less imperiled. Editors and publishers of  five international media outlets —– The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and DER SPIEGEL —– which published stories based on documents released by WikiLeaks, have urged that the U.S. charges be dropped and Julian be released. None of these media executives were charged with espionage. It does not dismiss the ludicrous ploy by the U.S. government to extradite an Australian citizen whose publication is not based in the U.S. and charge him under the Espionage Act. It continues the long Dickensian farce that mocks the most basic concepts of due process.

This ruling is based on the grounds that the U.S. government did not offer sufficient assurances that Julian would be granted the same First Amendment protections afforded to a U.S. citizen, should he stand trial. The appeal process is one more legal hurdle in the persecution of a journalist who should not only be free, but feted and honoured as the most courageous of our generation.

Yes. He can file an appeal. But this means another year, perhaps longer, in harsh prison conditions as his physical and psychological health deteriorates. He has spent over five years in HMS Belmarsh without being charged. He spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy because the U.K. and Swedish governments refused to guarantee that he wouldn’t be extradited to the U.S., even though he agreed to return to Sweden to aid a preliminary investigation that was eventually dropped.

The judicial lynching of Julian was never about justice. The plethora of legal irregularities, including the recording of his meetings with attorneys by the Spanish security firm UC Global at the embassy on behalf of the CIA, alone should have seen the case thrown out of court as it eviscerates attorney-client privilege.

The U.S. has charged Julian with 17 acts under the Espionage Act and one count of computer misuse, for an alleged conspiracy to take possession of and then publish national defense information. If found guilty on all of these charges he faces 175 years in a U.S. prison.

The extradition request is based on the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs — hundreds of thousands of classified documents, leaked to the site by Chelsea Manning, then an Army intelligence analyst, which exposed numerous U.S. war crimes including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints.

In February, lawyers for Julian submitted nine separate grounds for a possible appeal.

A two-day hearing in March, which I attended, was Julian’s last chance to request an appeal of the extradition decision made in 2022 by the then British home secretary, Priti Patel, and of many of the rulings of District Judge Baraitser in 2021.

The two High Court judges, Dame Victoria Sharp and Justice Jeremy Johnson, in March rejected most of Julian’s grounds of appeal. These included his lawyers’ contention that the UK-US extradition treaty bars extradition for political offences; that the extradition request was made for the purpose of prosecuting him for his political opinions; that extradition would amount to retroactive application of the law — because it was not foreseeable that a century-old espionage law would be used against a foreign publisher; and that he would not receive a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. The judges also refused to hear new evidence that the CIA plotted to kidnap and assassinate Julian, concluding — both perversely and incorrectly — that the CIA only considered these options because they believed Julian was planning to flee to Russia.

But the two judges determined Monday that it is “arguable” that a U.S. court might not grant Julian protection under the First Amendment, violating his rights to free speech as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.


Republished from The Chris Hedges Report Substack, May 21, 2024

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