There is nothing more hypocritical than to see the persecution of Julian Assange for exposing war crimes committed by the West.
This extradition of a whistleblower who called out the wrongdoings of the West in an illegal war is happening while Joe Biden and Boris Johnson have the audacity to moralise over alleged war crimes committed in the Ukraine conflict.
While Biden shouts across the media for Russia to be condemned for war crimes the person that helped exposed US war crimes is being extradited to the US and could see sentencing of 175 years for helping to expose those crimes.
The courts have formally approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US on espionage charges, in what will ultimately be a decision for the UK home secretary, Priti Patel.
The Wikileaks co-founder, who has the right of appeal, appeared by videolink during the Westminster magistrates court hearing, which one of his barristers described as a “brief but significant moment in the case”.
Mark Summers QC, for Assange, told the chief magistrate that he had no option but to send the case to the home secretary. It was not open, at this point, for Assange’s team to raise fresh evidence but there had been “fresh developments”, he added.
Summers said “serious submissions” would be made to the home secretary regarding US sentencing and conditions.
The brief hearing was taking place after the supreme court last month refused Assange’s appeal against his extradition. He had sought to challenge a judgment by the high court in December that ruled he could be extradited after assurances from the US authorities with regard to his prison conditions there.
An extradition order was issued by the chief magistrate, Paul Goldspring, during the seven-minute hearing.
Goldspring told Assange: “In layman’s terms, I am duty bound to send your case to the secretary of state for a decision.”
As well as being able to make submissions to Patel, Assange’s lawyers can also access other routes to fight his extradition. This could include mounting a challenge on other issues of law raised at the first instance on which he lost and has not yet been subject to appeal.
The court issued a formal extradition order in a hearing Wednesday, leaving UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to rubber-stamp his transfer to the US after a years-long legal wrangle. Assange is able to appeal the decision. He is wanted in the US on 18 criminal charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables in 2010. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
Assange joined the hearing virtually from the high security Belmarsh Prison in London, where he has been held since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London three years ago. He stated his full name and date of birth.
His extradition has been the subject of numerous court dates since his arrest, which took place after Assange sought diplomatic refuge in the embassy for seven years. In January 2021, a magistrates’ court ruling found that Assange could not be extradited as it would be “oppressive,” by reason of his mental health. But the High Court overturned that decision in December, saying Assange could be extradited to the US on the basis of assurances given by the US government about his treatment there.
These included pledges that Assange would not be made the subject of “special administrative measures,” nor would he be held at a maximum security prison before or after trial.
The 50-year-old has been in prison since he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 and arrested by British police, after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status.
In May 2019, while serving a jail sentence in the UK for breaching bail, the US justice department filed 17 charges against Mr Assange for violating the Espionage Act – alleging that material obtained by Wikileaks endangered lives.
Mr Assange’s legal team claimed that classified documents published by Wikileaks, which related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, exposed US wrongdoing and were in the public interest.
Julian Assange married his long-term partner Stella Moris inside a high-security prison in southeast London in March at a small ceremony during visiting hours.
Today is my wedding day. I will marry the love of my life. My husband to be is the father of our two sons, he is a wonderful man, intelligent and funny, he has a deep-seated sense of right and wrong and he is known the world over for his work as a courageous publisher. At lunchtime today, I will go through the gates at the most oppressive high security prison in the country and be married to a political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Of course, this is not the wedding we should be having. Julian has spent nearly three years unjustly detained on behalf of the foreign power that plotted to kill him in the streets of London.
Today will be a private moment in which we will affirm our love for each other. The dress is designed by Julian’s friends, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler. I am honoured to be wearing their beautiful creation. It is a symbol of our love and defiance in the face of this cruel situation.
This is not a prison wedding, it is a declaration of love and resilience in spite of the prison walls, in spite of the political persecution, in spite of the arbitrary detention, in spite of the harm and harassment inflicted on Julian and our family. Their torment only makes our love grow stronger.
Every part of this private event is being intensely policed, from our guest list to the wedding picture.
Behind the scenes, we have been locked in a dispute with the Ministry of Justice and prison authorities, who have denied our proposed witnesses because they are journalists; and who have denied our proposed photographer because he also works as a press photographer, even though they would all attend in a private capacity.
The prison states that our wedding picture is a security risk because it could end up in social media or the press. How absurd. What kind of security threat could a wedding picture pose?
Belmarsh regularly permits photography. Tommy Robinson and other convicted prisoners were allowed to be interviewed on camera when ITV filmed inside Belmarsh prison. But for Julian, who isn’t even serving a sentence, there appears to be a different set of rules. What are they so afraid of?
I am convinced that they fear that people will see Julian as a human being. Not a name, but a person. Their fear reveals that they want Julian to remain invisible to the public at all costs, even on his wedding day, and especially on his wedding day. For him to disappear from public consciousness.
The press has not been permitted to photograph Julian since 2019. The last time he was photographed by the press was through the scratched windows of a Serco prison van on his way to court, shortly after his arrest on 11 April 2019. After those pictures were published, the authorities switched his transport to vans with automatic steel shutters, which prevent even that type of press photography.
Julian hasn’t been seen by the public in three years. Recently, he has not even been permitted to be in court for his own hearings. In October, he suffered a transient ischemic (TIA) attack, or mini-stroke.
The way he is being treated is cruel and inhuman, and the public doesn’t like it. So the authorities hide it from the public.
Julian is being turned into prisoner X, an abstraction that is neither seen nor heard, and therefore nonexistent. Julian is being disappeared because his imprisonment is a national disgrace, an embarrassment for the British state, and a vicious, authoritarian move.
The logic of disappearing a person in the hope that they will be forgotten is what Soviet Russia did. But it’s too late to hide what is being done to him. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has deconstructed a decade of persecution and psychological torture inflicted on Julian. Julian is being made to suffer in a monstrous, undeniable, political persecution.
Julian is not charged with a crime in the UK. The charges he faces in the United States are, according to Amnesty International, politically motivated. And according to every major press freedom organisation, the charges are also an attack on journalism itself, because they criminalise journalism and open the doors to imprisoning journalists for doing their jobs.
The urge of the authorities to silence and disappear Julian is born out of fear. We have the strength of our love and righteous conviction. Julian’s family will fight for his freedom and for his life, until he is free. Love over fear. Join us.