Wikileaks founder Julian Assange lost a high court decision Wednesday, which now allows the U.S. government to expand the grounds for its appeal of a January ruling of Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser. She had at that time denied extradition to the United States to face charges of espionage in a Virginia court, a jurisdiction where whistleblowers never win and cannot use the “public interest” or any reason for motivation to reveal “national security secrets.” Assange’s mental and physical health has been steadily deteriorating after being holed up for nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and subsequently spending 28 months and counting incarcerated in isolation in Britain’s most Middle Ages prison, Bellmarsh. Nevertheless, neither Baraitser nor this high court will allow him to be freed while awaiting the final appeal ruling, which could take another two or more years to happen.
Julian is held in a windowless cell 23 hours a day. Allowed nearly no visitors; his lawyers must write to him or he must call them from a hallway telephone; he cannot use a computer or acquire materials necessary for his defense. Bellmarsh is commonly known as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay”.
Last month, the high court granted the U.S. the right to appeal Baraitser’s decision barring extradition on minor points but not on the grounds of Assange’s health. The court reversed that decision yesterday based on the prosecution’s argument that the key defense expert witness on suicide, Professor Michael Kopelman—one of four psychiatrists for the defense who testified—did not tell the court that he knew that Assange had fathered two children with his partner, Stella Moris.
So, when the key hearing on appeal takes place, October 27-8, the U.S. will be able to argue that Assange’s health is stable enough that he wouldn’t commit suicide if extradited to U.S. “torture chambers”, so known by any who been imprisoned in them, as well as by internationally renowned experts in torture practices. One of them is the UN rapporteur on Torture, Nils Meltzer. «A murderous system is being created before our very eyes» – Republik
There is no law forcing Kopelman to state such, and he did not for admittedly “human” reasons, as even Baraitser admitted. When Kopelman prepared a preliminary report in December 2019, long before the court hearing, Assange’s relationship with Moris or the fact that they had two young children together, was not public knowledge. Moris feared for her safety and privacy and that of their children if this was disclosed.
Yet this “high court” determined that by withholding that information, Kopelman was not a credible witness.
No matter that defense lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, reminded the court that the Spanish security firm, UC Global, constantly spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy for the CIA. It even stole for the CIA a diaper of Assange’s first child to obtain DNA. CIA agents also discussed poisoning or kidnapping Assange. Baraitser heard this testimony. Julian Assange spying: Spanish firm that spied on Julian Assange tried to find out if he fathered a child at Ecuadorian embassy | International | EL PAÍS in English (elpais.com)
All of the judges who have sat above Julian with gothic wigs and heavy robes look and act condescending towards him and his team of lawyers and witnesses. As reported by Joe Lauria, Judge Holyrode (no forename given), was no different. Holyrode “gave full attention to Dobbin but fiddled with his pen and looked around the room when Fitzgerald spoke”. US Wins Right to Appeal Health Grounds on Assange Extradition – Consortiumnews
Clair Dobbin, British lawyer for the U.S., said the U.S. government would show that Assange’s mental health problems did not meet the threshold required in law to prevent extradition. Furthermore, Judge Baraitser erred when she did not consider the fact that witness Kopelman had not informed her that Assange had a lover, the mother of his two children, as important.
Edward Fitzgerald told the court that Judge Baraitser, having heard all of the evidence in the case, was in the best position to assess it and reach her decision, including concerning the “human predicament” in which Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, found herself at the time.
Judge Holyrode ruled that Kopelman’s testimony had been misleading, even if the expert’s actions had been deemed an “understandable human response” designed to protect the privacy of Assange’s partner and children.
The judge said that, in those circumstances, it was “at least arguable” that Baraitser erred in basing her conclusions on the professor’s evidence. Julian Assange loses court battle to stop US expanding extradition appeal | Julian Assange | The Guardian
Jacobin’s reporter Chip Gibbons summarized:
“The United States has sought the extradition of the Australian journalist for seventeen counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.’ The Espionage Act charges stem from WikiLeaks’ publishing of State Department Cables, the Iraq Rules of Engagement, and Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs. It marks the first time a publisher of truthful information has been indicted under the Espionage Act.
“The case is made all the more troubling by the fact that Assange is an Australian national who operates outside the United States. The United States is not only asserting it can prosecute journalists for exposing its war crimes, but that it can prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world for doing so.” Julian Assange Could Be Extradited to the US (jacobinmag.com)
The day before this hearing, Amnesty International spoke out for Assange’s freedom.
“This attempt by the US government to get the court to reverse its decision not to allow Julian Assange’s extradition on the basis of new diplomatic assurances is a blatant legal sleight of hand. Given that the US government has reserved the right to keep Julian Assange in a maximum security facility and subject him to Special Administrative Measures, these assurances are inherently unreliable.
“This disingenuous appeal should be dismissed by the court and President Biden should take the opportunity to drop these politically motivated charges which have put media freedom and freedom of expression in the dock.
“President Obama opened the investigation into Julian Assange. President Trump brought the charges against him. It is now time for President Biden to do the right thing and help end this farcical prosecution which should never have been brought in the first place. USA/UK: US authorities must drop politically motivated charges against Assange | Amnesty International
Many important facts in the case will not be allowed for Julian’s defense during upcoming appeals. The fact that a key witness for the FBI and U.S. prosecution, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, confessed to lying profusely to please them, and was paid $5000 for his lies, will not be allowed. Nor does it matter to British judges that the CIA illegally surveilled Julian, his lawyers and doctors, his love-making, and planned to murder or kidnap him. All that is irrelevant.
Key Witness Admits Lying about Julian Assange in Major US Extradition Case Setback – This Can’t Be Happening! (thiscantbehappening.net); and UC Global Employees Testify On US Spying Operation Against Assange (shadowproof.com); and US Reportedly Hinders Spanish Probe Into Alleged CIA Ties to Firm Accused of Spying on Assange – Sputnik International (sputniknews.com).
More than a hundred people demonstrated outside the High Court during the hearing. Former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was among them. Protesters’ shouted till they were hoarse: “There is only one decision: No Extradition”.
Assange appeared at the hearing via video link. It was reported that although Assange remained in prison, his mate was able to see him and for the first time in his 28 months in the prison they were allowed to embrace.
During the days of Julian’s extradition trial before Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, I read every word that England’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan (2002-4), Craig Murray, 63, wrote about the trial from the courtroom. Murray described what he saw unfold before him objectively and passionately.
On August 1, Murray was imprisoned for eight months for blogging information about a trial that could lead to “jigsaw identification”, that is, witnesses against an accused could possibly be inadvertently identified. The judge Dorrian (no forename), acts as part of a government plan to abolish jury trials in sexual assault cases by the Scottish government.
Murry writes: “We will then have a situation where, as establishment by my imprisonment, no information at all on the defense case may be published in case it contributes to ‘jigsaw identification’, and where conviction will rest purely on the view of the judge.
“That is plainly no ‘open justice’, it is not justice at all. And it is even worse than that, because the openly stated aim of abolishing juries is to increase conviction rates. So people will have their lives decided not by a jury of their peers, but by a judge who is acting under specific instruction to increase conviction rates.” Keeping Freedom Alive – Craig Murray
Murray attended the “Alex Salmond’s trial in 2020 and wrote about the court proceedings on his blog and on Twitter. He alleged that the Scottish National Party leadership, the Scottish government, the Crown Office and police conspired to convict Salmond on charges of sexual harassment and attempted rape.
“The judge in the case, Lady Dorrian, had issued an order forbidding the publication of the names of the women who testified against Salmond, or other information that might identify them. In March 2021, she found Murray to be in contempt of court after he published information that in her view could potentially lead to identifying some of the complainants, and sentenced him to eight months’ imprisonment.” Craig Murray – Wikipedia
Murray wrote that in Uzbekistan, “conviction rates in rape trials were 100%. In fact, very high conviction rates are a standard feature of all highly authoritarian regimes…The wishes of the state in such systems vastly outweigh the liberty of the individual.”
Alternative media, dissent in general, were not allowed in Uzbekistan, and Murray fears the same is occurring in the UK.
“The dreadful doctrine [of] Lady Dorrian [is] now enshrined in law, that bloggers should be held to a different (by implication higher) standard in law than the mainstream media (the judgement uses exactly those terms), because the mainstream media is self-regulating.
“This doctrine is used to justify jailing me when mainstream media journalists have not been jailed for media contempt for over half a century…. The very notion of liberty is slipping from out political culture… That Scotland has a governing party which actively supports the right of the Crown to exercise unrestrained censorship is extremely worrying, and I think a sign both of the lack of respect in modern political culture for liberties which were won by people being tortured to death, and of the sheer intellectual paucity of the current governing class.”
This governing class is now revising the authoritarian Official Secrets Act to place it fully in accord with the U.S. Espionage Act. Any future whistleblower, journalist and publisher will be subject to long incarceration for revealing alleged “national secrets”, as if they were foreign spies during war time. And, as with the Espionage Act, defendants cannot use “public interest” as a motivation or for mitigating circumstances. Official Secrets Act: home secretary’s planned reform will make criminals out of journalists (theconversation.com)
Since Murray was fired from the Foreign Office after 20 years of service, he has become a human rights and peace activist, author and journalist.
“Murder in Samarkand” is one of Murray’s four books. It deals with his time in Uzbekistan before he was dismissed by the British government for telling the truth about the U.S.-funded regime of human rights abuser President Islam Karimov—criticisms that included torture by his government and the CIA. The U.S. and UK supported Uzbekistan while demolishing the country of Iraq, whose president Saddam Hussein, was not nearly as brutal as Karimov, Murray writes in his opposition to their hypocritical “War on Terror”. Murder in Samarkand – Craig Murray