Julian Assange: UK court weighs extradition of WikiLeaks founder to US

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#freejulianassange

You are either standing with Julian Assange, a free press and projection of journalist who expose state crimes, or you accepting the tyranny that follows.

Julian Assange could face 175 years in prison for releasing classified documents and publicizing how US military forces killed civilians. The WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing resumed in London today.

Assange has won numerous journalistic awards, but he has also made powerful enemies. That much became clear by July 2017, when Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “nonstate hostile intelligence service.” That statement was made during Pompeo’s first public appearance as CIA director, a little more than a year before he became US secretary of state. Jeff Sessions, then the US attorney general, said in April 2017 that arresting Assange was “a priority.”

Assange is incarcerated in a maximum security prison in London awaiting a hearing later this month on an extradition request by the United States. He has been charged 0n 17 counts under the U.S. Espionage Act of possessing and publishing classified material that revealed prima facie evidence of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

For practising the highest order of journalism–revealing crimes of the state–Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. prison–a life sentence for the 48-year old Australian. 

Assange, whose life has been endangered in harsh prison conditions, has become an international symbol of the threat to press freedom. He is the first journalist to be charged under the Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of state secrets.

WikiLeaks had published around half-a-million classified US documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including documentation of suspected war crimes committed by US troops. An example is a video labelled “Collateral Murder,” which made WikiLeaks famous overnight in spring 2010. The footage showed how civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists, were shot from two Apache helicopters.

“Collateral Murder,” The footage showed how civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists, were shot from two Apache helicopters.

In 2011, Wikileaks allowed unflattering insights into US foreign policy when it published more than a quarter-of-a-million US diplomatic embassy cables, which were also classified.

There are at least eight prisons in London. To accommodate Julian Assange, the British judiciary has selected Belmarsh. The maximum-security facility in the east of London was built to house terrorists and felons. Conditions inside Belmarsh are considered harsh enough that the BBC has compared it to Guantanamo Bay.

Assange’s prison cell opened Monday morning and the founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblower platform was transferred to a courtroom in London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, where his fate will be determined over the next three weeks. Will the 49-year-old be extradited to the US judiciary? If convicted in the United States, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

Jeremy Corbyn in one of his last acts as leader of the Labour Party called for the extradition of Julian Assange to the US to be halted, he also praising the Wikileaks founder for exposing US “war crimes”.

Boris Johnson refused to comment on the case, which will begin today – but surprised the Commons by agreeing the extradition treaty between the two countries is “unbalanced”.

In contrast last week Ken Loach asked what the current Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer

Ken Loach spoke out after a screening of a new film highlighting Julian Assange’s political incarceration titled ‘The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange.‘ After denouncing the mainstream media for sucking every story out of Julian Assange and the Wikileaks organisation then leaving him to dry in the clutches of the vengeful establishment. Ken went on to call out the self-serving media. Ken Loach always one for expressing the truth asked the questions of the mainstream media most journalist and political commentators now shy away from. He went on to say:

“Everyone knows the real story everybody can see it, we can’t believe anybody is hoodwinked. it’s not espionage this is journalism! When you get a right-wing politician like David Davis saying Julian Assange is a political prisoner, everyone knows it, the Guardian knows it who took his stories then disowned him, the BBC knows it, Channel 4 news, every serious editor current affairs programme, of a national newspaper ‘knows this is the truth’ and yet they are silent the journalist are silent, the lawyers are silent.”

Ken Loach: Starmer should be challenged, what does he know?

Stating this should be a test for him! Starmer speaks of openness in his dealings, well let him be open about this, and let’s hear what he says about the torture and the illegal oppression of Julian Assange.

As DPP, Sir Keir Starmer tempered his supposed love of liberty by fast-tracking the extradition of Julian Assange (a process now making its way through the courts). He flouted legal precedents by advising Swedish lawyers not to question Assange in Britain: a decision that prolonged the latter’s legal purgatory, denied closure to his accusers in Sweden, and sealed his fate before a US show trial. Leaked emails from August 2012 show that, when the Swedish legal team expressed hesitancy about keeping Assange’s case open, Sir Keir’s office replied: ‘Don’t you dare get cold feet’.

Circumventing the rule of law

The Assange case saw a circumvention of the rule of law, according to Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

“Assange is not granted what is a matter of course — even for the worst war criminals, for example in The Hague. He is not given access to his American lawyers. He has very limited access to his British lawyers and almost no access to legal documents,” Melzer, who is also a professor of international law at the University of Glasgow, told DW. “Those are very grave procedural violations which are absolutely unnecessary and unjustifiable.”

In addition, Assange’s right to private communication with his lawyers was violated during his stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. That is one of the findings of a lawsuit in Madrid, where the former owner of Spanish security firm Undercover Global (UC Global), David Morales, had to stand trial. The trial established that Morales, who was paid by Ecuador’s government to protect the embassy, had a second employer from the US, on whose behalf he installed bugging devices all over the embassy in order to enable spying on Assange.

Open letters and appeals

In mid-August, more than 160 lawyers called for Assange’s release in an open letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According to the signatories, Assange was facing a “show trial.”

This appeal is just one in a long series of petitions and open letters. In July, 40 journalist associations including Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists, and PEN International called on the British government to release Assange. Previously, more than 200 doctors from more than 33 countries had made the same demand.

US: Assange a hacker, not a journalist

The US judiciary’s strategy is to accuse Assange not as a journalist but as a hacker. The 18 counts of the indictment can be reduced to three main charges: Assange is accused of providing technical support to Chelsea Manning, who in 2013 was court-martialed for providing information to WikiLeaks in violation of the Espionage Act; of instigating Manning to provide further material; and of intentionally endangering people’s lives by publishing the embassy cables.

‘US wants to set an example’

But Assange’s actions are not the only issue on the trial in London, according to the UN’s Melzer.

“Primarily, this is about the crimes of his persecutors, the involved countries: They are sidestepping the institutions of the rule of law, they are refusing to hold their war criminals and torturers accountable, and they are setting a worldwide example, according to which someone who informs the public about a nation’s war crimes can be convicted of spying.”

If this is forced through, Melzer warned, “It will only be a small step from rule of law to tyranny.”

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