Even if Assange’s death isn’t the goal of the US and UK, everything they’re doing makes it more likely
by Jonathan Cook
There was a hope in some quarters after Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on Monday against an application to extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faced being locked away for the rest of his life, that she might finally be changing tack.
Washington has wanted Assange permanently silenced and made an example of – by demonstrating to other journalists its terrifying reach and powers of retaliation – ever since the Wikileaks founder exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago.
There were reasons, however, to be suspicious of what Baraitser was really up to even as she made her ruling in Assange’s favour. This district judge has a record of nodding through extradition cases, including several that have recently been overturned on appeal by a higher court.
During the hearings back in September, Baraitser had endlessly indulged lawyers representing the US while showing absolute disdain for Assange’s legal team, obstructing them at every turn. Her contempt for Assange and his political and moral worldview was on show throughout the proceedings. She often arrived in court with a prepared script she read from, barely feigning a pretence that she had listened to the legal arguments presented in court.
Her script always favoured Washington’s line, apart from on those occasions when she took an even more hostile position towards Assange than requested by the US. That included sealing him off from the rest of the court in an impregnable perspex box, treating him more like Hannibal Lecter than a publisher and journalist fighting for press freedom.
Much of the time, Baraitser sounded unnervingly like a prosecution barrister rather than the judge.