Most people might be excused for not knowing it, because the story is mainly ignored, or is shamelessly misreported in the corporate media when it does get any attention. A courageous Australian journalist, abandoned by his own country, is being railroaded by a British court towards extradition to the US where he could face life in prison in solitary confinement for the “crime of espionage”—exposing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks have revealed for the whole world to see is the systematic devastation of peoples, of lands, and perennial military pollution of planet earth. The main perpetrator is the most powerful and self-declared “greatest democratic nation” in the world, the United States of America—accompanied by its European and Commonwealth vassal states, plus proxy allies in the Middle East and Zionist Israel.
The villainous perpetrators are the prosecutors. The truth-telling hero is their prisoner.
That is what the British extradition hearing holding Julian Assange’s fate in its hands is all about. The testimony aspect of the court case has ended after four grueling weeks. While awaiting closing arguments and the judge’s decision, the truth-teller is forced to deteriorate in a prison cell where he has been languishing for 18 months.
The defense and prosecution are now preparing for closing arguments, which, however, will not be held orally. The public will be denied court interaction. The extradition judge, Vanessa Baraitser, will take only written arguments on November 16. She will make her ruling on extradition January 4, 2021.
Magistrate Baraitser noted in this purportedly “non-political” court case that the election might have an impact on the hearing. She said, “I agree that one way or the other my decision will come after an election in the United States. For that reason, I find no reason not to give you the four weeks,” to prepare closing arguments, she told the arguing parties.
Assange and his publication Wikileaks have not murdered anyone. Nevertheless, Assange is treated as a dangerous criminal, because he and his staff have published well over 10 million government/military secret documents showing crimes and corruption of scores of governments, above all how the United States, with its always faithful “United” Kingdom, have committed massive war crimes during their “war on terror”. This three-decade-long war has resulted in the deaths of three to five million humans, and forced between 37 and 58 million to flee their bombed out countries seeking refuge in neighboring countries and in Europe.
Wikileaks’ disclosures are clearly in the “public interest”. Yet the public’s interest is not allowed as evidence in United States grand jury courts nor in the British courts created as part of the Magna Carta—heralded by “Lord” “Baron” “King’s Counsel” Alfred Thompson Denning as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. The Magna Carta is a forbearer to the U.S. Constitution.
Julian Assange has been held in isolation 23 hours every day at Belmarsh high-security prison since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, on April 11, 2019. This was just the beginning of a “charade of justice”, as former British ambassador Craig Murray has called court proceedings against Julian. (1)
President Donald Trump successfully pressured, or to put it more accurately bribed, Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, to expel Assange from its embassy in London. Moreno also expunged Assange’s Ecuadoran citizenship. In return, the U.S. saw to it that Ecuador got a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund, and improved trade deals. Ecuador would realign its foreign policy to meet U.S. terms, such as recognizing Juan Guadió as the self-declared president of Venezuela, and have Ecuador’s troops trained by the U.S.
Moreno also met with Trump in Washington D.C. Trump termed this a “great meeting…“We’re working on military options including the purchase of a lot of our military equipment.”
Upon expulsion (actually more of a kidnapping by British Metropolitan police) from Ecuador’s embassy, Assange was immediately convicted of jumping bail. He had been given 15 minutes with his lawyer before the hearing. A judge called him a narcissist. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in the country’s hardest prison.
Violating conditions of bail is usually punished by a fine or a few days in jail. Although never charged with any violent crime, and although the deportation request in Sweden–at issue in the court hearing for which he had jumped bail–had expired. And the matter of alleged sexual misconduct also fell apart.
Assange is in Britain’s most maximum prison. He can have no contact with other prisoners, who, otherwise, have contact with one another. Assange has long since served his time, but the government won’t release him pending results on the extradition matter, which could take years.
A decade ago, December 2010, a British court granted Assange bail weeks after being arrested, because Sweden sought his extradition, in order to “question” him regarding allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange was never cited for “rape” charges, as the mass media constantly claims.
When Britain decided to send Assange to Sweden, in June 2012, Assange then sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy, in order to avoid imprisonment in the U.S. Sweden had refused to guarantee that it would not send him to the U.S. where a grand jury was conducting secret hearings regarding possible severe charges against him, which could have led to his execution.
Then President Rafael Correa granted him asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship. Assange remained in a small space in the embassy for nearly seven years. A member of his legal team, Stella Moris, became his lover and fiancée during his enclosed exile. Their only privacy was in a camping tent in his small room, hoping to avoid probable surveillance cameras, which, it was revealed, did exist. Stella bore him two sons, Gabriel (6 years old), and Max (4).
The first extradition hearing was held briefly in February 2020 once the United States filed its first request to have him bound over to the US for prosecution. The chief magistrate is “Lady” Emma Arbuthnot. (2) Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser was later appointed to conduct the hearings.
Magistrate Baraitser has three main points to consider regarding the U.S. request for extradition of Julian Assange: 1) Political motivation. Article 4 of UK law on extradition: “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.” 2) Abuse of Power. The defense showed such abuse occurred when the CIA contracted a Spanish security company, UC Global, to illegally surveil Assange, his lawyers and medical personnel while he was in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, in London. 3) Cruel and Inhumane Treatment if Extradited. The defense argues that Assange’s medical history, psychological torture imposed, combined with the condition of U.S. prisons where he would be imprisoned would amount to cruelty if extradited.
Cruel treatment includes Julian’s daily life during the hearings. After Assange is wakened and strip-searched, eats his breakfast, he is transported shackled and standing in a van to the courtroom where he is enclosed in a glass cage. Those closest to him who are not his defense team but rather prosecutors, who could hear him if he speaks. Meanwhile, he cannot speak to his lawyers. Instead he has had to write notes and bend down on his knees to place them through a slit. A court employee takes the notes to his lawyers.
It must be noted that those are conditions that the UK and U.S. governments both call human rights violations when their enemies treat defendants in such a manner.
The public was supposed to have heard what NGO observers could have informed them about the hearings. Forty NGOs were granted seats in court or in a courtroom beside the hearing room where they could have seen/heard what was going on over a screen. Without any rational explanation, Magistrate Baraitser revoked this right. Amnesty International, PEN, and Reporters Without Borders (RWB), for instance, were thus prohibited from witnessing this travesty of justice. A British RWB representative told people at a closing rally that it had never been so treated when investigating abuse of media personnel in other countries.
Only five persons closely connected to Assange, other than his attorneys, could sit in the hearing courtroom. A few more, plus mainstream journalists and some independent ones could sit before a tiny screen and watch proceedings from another room.
At first, Magistrate Baraitser did not want any defense oral testimony — only written statements sent to her. Assange’s defense team won a compromise. The witnesses that the judge would accept could have one-half-hour of testimony whilst the prosecution would have four hours of cross-examination.
Here is what Craig Murray writes about this:
“The plan of the U.S. government throughout has been to limit the information available to the public, and limit the effective access to a wider public of what information is available. Thus, we have seen the extreme restrictions of both physical and video access. A complicit mainstream media has ensured…that very few in the wider population” get to know what is happening. Censorship also exists in the social media world.
“Even my blog has never been so systematically subject to shadow banning from Twitter and Facebook as now. Normally about 50 percent of my blog readers arrive from Twitter and 40 percent from Facebook. During the trial, it has been 3 percent from Twitter and 9 percent from Facebook. That is a fall from 90 percent to 12 percent.”
“It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister—people believe they have successfully shared my articles.” In fact, though, they have not, he says.
What the Prosecution Case is all about
The original indictment was based on a rather simple accusation of computer interference, something Assange had allegedly somehow assisted Chelsea Manning in downloading secret documents, evidence of war crimes. This narrow indictment sought to obscure the real political reason for U.S. prosecution once he would be extradited, treason under rarely used Espionage Act of 1917, a law passed primarily to prosecute leftist and anti-war immigrants in the US.
Yet the U.S. government had no real evidence of Assange’s assisting Manning. No authorities had even done the basic task of forensics (collect, preserve, and analyze scientific evidence during the course of an investigation).
Realizing they were getting nowhere, the U.S. government introduced a superseding indictment during the hearings, giving the defense just a few hours before filing it with the court.
So that meant there were then 17 additional charges, all related to the Espionage Act, for which Chelsea Manning had already been convicted in not a court but a military courtmartial, by a jury of military officers and a military judge in what many legal observers called a “Kangaroo court.” She served seven years in prison for disclosing nearly 750,000 classified and otherwise sensitive military and diplomatic documents. These disclosures revealed U.S. war crimes against the peoples of Afghanistan (90,000 reports) and Iraq (over 400,000 reports), the horrific Baghdad airstrike killing a dozen civilians (“Collateral Damage” video), and 250,000 diplomatic “cablegate” documents.
WikiLeaks’ disclosure of those diplomatic cables to media organizations between 1966 and 2010 remain an extreme embarrassment to the U.S. government, not to mention evidence of war crimes should any country ever want to prosecute them. Among the disclosures were various Hillary Clinton orders to U.S. diplomats, U.S. ambassadors’ complaints about allies and other embarrassing commentary and revelations. These revelations were new while war crimes are old hat, so to speak.
Another part of the indictments, not related to Manning, include the release of 800,000 Guantánamo Bay detainee assessments documenting routine torture of kidnapped and imprisoned individuals suspected, but never tried or convicted of “terrorism.”
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She was a victim of Bush and Obama’s wars. At the end of Obama’s term, he granted her parole. Yet the same grand jury in Alexandria Virginia responsible for the indictment(s) that have led to the current imprisonment of Julian Assange in the UK sent her to prison again — this time for contempt of court. She sat in prison again for a year (March 2019 to March 2020), and was fined $256,000 simply for heroically standing on principle and refusing to be forced to testify against Assange.
The case against Assange thus has its origins in the “War on Terror” launched by the Bush administration as his response to four hijacked aircraft attacks on September 11, 2001.
This is how a member of Consortium News team, Alexander Mercouris, described that war: “The result has been a series of wars in a succession of Middle East [and North African] countries fought by the U.S. and its allies and proxies, which have caused the devastation of whole societies…In the process, the U.S. has become drawn increasingly into practices which it once condemned or, at least said it condemned.”
Mercouris cites “extrajudicial killing” including of children and U.S. citizens, by drone strikes; and “extraordinary rendition” — that is kidnapping and torture of individuals sometimes chosen at random or suspected enemies of U.S. informants.
To commit these acts that violate both international and U.S. laws, Mercouris contends that the U.S. has created “a vast and ultimately unaccountable national security apparatus of a sort that is ultimately incompatible with a democratic society.” This is manifested through an “indiscriminate and illegal bulk-surveillance program [conducted primarily by the National Security Agency and the FBI] that was exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, and by the systemic FISA surveillance abuse exposed over the course of the Russiagate ‘scandal’.” (3)
“All this explains the extreme reaction to Julian Assange, and the determined attempts to destroy him, and to pulp his reputation. [Assange/Wikileaks] have done those things which the U.S. government and its national security apparatus most fear, and have worked hardest to prevent, by exposing the terrible reality of much of what the U.S. government now routinely does, and is determined to conceal, and what much of the media is helping the U.S. government to conceal.” .
RON RIDENOUR is a US-born journalist and anti-war activist living in Denmark. A member of www.thiscantbehappening.net, his books, including “The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert” and ‘Winding Brook Stories’ are available at Amazon and Lulu. His other work can be found at ronridenour.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
For Part II of this article go to: A travesty of justice: UK Caters to the US Government’s Desire to Crush Assange
(1) This article is mainly based on the teams of independent reporters associated with Consortium News. Its chief editor, Joe Laurie; Craig Murray former British ambassador to Uzbekistan (2002-4), author, broadcaster, human rights activist, University of Dundee rector (2007-10); Alexander Mercoruis, Juan Passarelli, and others. I have read scores of their articles and viewed two round table discussions of people closely involved in the case. I truly appreciate their excellent reportage and humanitarian solidarity.
(2) “Lady” Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot’s husband, “Lord” Arbuthnot of Edrom, is “a former defense minister, a paid chair of the advisory board of military corporation Thales Group,” and was an adviser to arms company Babcock International. Both companies have major contracts with the UK Ministry of Defense, wrote Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard.
There is more than a mere appearance of bias. The judge’s husband was part of a delegation, including a former chair of the British joint intelligence committee, who met with Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and energy minister Berat Albayrak, PM Erdoğan’s son-in-law. In 2016, WikiLeaks published 57,934 of Albayrak’s personal emails, of which more than 300 mentioned Çavuşoğlu, in its “Berat’s Box” release.
“Thus at the same time Lady Arbuthnot was presiding over Assange’s legal case, her husband was holding talks with senior officials in Turkey exposed by WikiLeaks, some of whom have an interest in punishing Assange and the WikiLeaks organization.”
“At a time when Lady Arbuthnot was in her former position as a district judge in Westminster, she personally benefited from funding together with her husband from two sources exposed by WikiLeaks in its document releases,” wrote Curtis and Kennard.
British judges are required to declare any potential conflicts of interest to the courts, but Emma Arbuthnot did not excuse herself from judging the WikiLeaks publisher. Arbuthnot began presiding over Assange’s legal case in 2017. She remains the supervising legal figure in the process. According to the UK courts service, the chief magistrate is “responsible for…supporting and guiding district judge colleagues.”
(3) FISA= The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against foreign spies inside the United States by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It was revealed that special FISA judges routinely grant nearly all such requests.