The Trial of Julian Assange: A story of persecution

Jun 5, 2022
Black and white illustration Julian Assange
The incarceration of Julian Assange for revealing war crimes is the most crucial judicial scandal of this century. Image: Pixabay / CaitlinJohnstone

Nils Melzer was UN Special Rapporteur on Torture between 2016 and 2022. In 2019 he began investigating the case of Julian Assange. The English language edition of his book, The Trial of Julian Assange, is the most well-researched account of the legal ordeals suffered by the WikiLeaks founder. A brave and an important book, it corrects the mainstream narrative substantially.

Initially, Nils Melzer had declined to get involved in the Assange case because he too believed the mainstream media narrative that presented Assange as a spy, a rapist, and a narcissist. But in 2019, Assange’s lawyers warned him that the situation for Assange was becoming critical.

After visiting Assange in prison, Melzer began to see the case for what it was: a story of political persecution. Julian Assange was being arbitrarily punished for having publicised the dirty secrets of the powerful. It was the criminalisation of investigative journalism. His decade-long containment, first in the Ecuadorian Embassy, then in Belmarsh prison, due to prosecutions by the UK, the USA and Sweden, had resulted in a progressively intensifying state of mental and emotional distress that amounted to psychological torture.

As Melzer writes in his introduction:

“I write this book because, when investigating the case of Julian Assange, I came across compelling evidence of political persecution and gross judicial arbitrariness, as well as of deliberate torture and ill-treatment.”

When he presented his findings to the governments concerned, Sweden, the UK, and the USA, his well-written letters about human rights, the rule of law, proportionality, and the presumption of innocence, were treated with an indifference scarcely distinguishable from contempt that displayed imperial scorn for his United Nations’ mandate.

Fearing his silence would be tantamount to complicity in the cover-up of serious crimes─ both those exposed by Assange and those committed against him ─ Melzer decided he had to write this book. This was a highly unusual action, but he felt a fundamental freedom, the freedom of information, was being deliberately suppressed, while those in power were torturing a dissident for releasing evidence of their war crimes.

As UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Melzer believed his mandate was to the people, not to powerful states. He writes:

“This is especially true when it comes to the practice of torture and abuse, when our fundamental freedoms of expression, of the press, and of information are being suppressed, and when those in power claim impunity for corruption and the most serious crimes. So, I suppose, in a way, by writing this book, I have become a whistleblower myself.”

As Melzer’s investigation continued, it revealed rampant legal abuses by the states involved: Assange had faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, and manipulated evidence in both the UK and Sweden.

The multi-lingual Melzer has two chapters, Swedish Judicial Persecution and Anglo-Swedish Extradition Trial, exposing the legal charade behind the (non-existent!) rape charges that the mainstream media continually used to blacken Assange’s name. Despite the endless tabloid headlines, in nine years the Swedish case never advanced beyond being a ‘preliminary investigation’. There were never any charges. The Swedish prosecutors seemed singularly disinterested in interviewing Assange or resolving the case. Assange’s preliminary investigation holds the record for the longest preliminary investigation in Swedish history: it dragged on for nine years, and was conveniently dropped when the US extradition request replaced it.

Shortly before Assange left for Sweden, US intelligence consulting firm Stratfor had outlined the strategy for US allies to adopt with Assange:

 ‘Pile on. Move him from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years. But seize everything he and his family own, to include every person linked to Wiki.’

So, when two women approached the Swedish police to get Assange to have an STD test, the rape narrative was quickly imposed. Melzer devotes a substantial part of the book to his examination of the Swedish rape narrative and his language skills, his fluency in Swedish, coupled with his authority as a UN Special Rapporteur to obtain evidence about the Swedish prosecution, make Melzer’s assessment damning. The Swedish Prosecution Authority never pursued justice or the law, neither for Assange, nor the two women, Melzer concludes: “All three were instrumentalised by the authorities for the purpose of political persecution and deterrence.”

Melzer speculates that the Swedish reason for discrediting Assange was that Assange was investigating setting up WikiLeaks in Sweden, naively believing Sweden was an independent country, when it wasn’t. Swedish independence was only window-dressing for the Swedish population; beneath the surface, ‘independent’ Sweden was deeply integrated into NATO. The Swedish deep state was made aware Assange’s plans to establish WikiLeaks in Sweden would draw major US disapproval!

Twelve years later, ‘Pile-on’ remains the strategy adopted by the US and its allies. This death by a thousand court cases will grind remorselessly onward until the Australian people force their government to forsake their shameful abandonment of this Australian citizen.

For independent media, the case of Julian Assange sets an alarming precedent as numerous journalist organisations such as the Independent Consortium of Journalists, Journalists without Borders, the UK National Union of Journalists, and the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, all affirm. Melzer reminds us that when telling the truth becomes a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny.

We are on the edge of that precipice now. The incarceration of Julian Assange for revealing war crimes is the most crucial judicial scandal of this century.

Before they silenced him by locking him away in Belmarsh Prison – when he had a voice! – Julian Assange used to say that courage is contagious. As horrible as the story of the persecution of Julian Assange is, the bravery of Melzer, his decision to stand with Assange, knowing the likely consequences─ as Julian Assange also knew! ─demonstrates that courage remains infectious, even when the powerful most wantonly display their bottomless malevolence.

As Melzer concludes.

“Even in the darkest room, the light of a single candle is enough to enable everyone to see. Julian Assange has lit such a candle with his work. He has exposed war crimes, abuse and corruption that has been concealed behind a curtain of secrecy. It was only a brief glimpse behind the curtain, but sometimes one glimpse is enough to change our whole world view. We now know that this curtain of secrecy exists and that a parallel world of dirty secrets lies behind it.”

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