Skip to main content

How Julian Assange beat extradition

Julian Assange’s defeat of extradition to the United States was a huge victory — one that couldn’t have been achieved without a public pressure campaign. That same public pressure will now be needed to free Assange from prison.
by John Rees 

As I watched Judge Vanessa Baraitser give her verdict in the Assange extradition case at the Old Bailey yesterday, a deep depression settled over me. I’ve heard every minute of the Assange case from the moment it started in Belmarsh in February last year, through three weeks in September at the Old Bailey, to this forty-five-minute summary of the verdict.

For forty minutes of that three-quarters of an hour the judge rejected every defense argument against extradition. Journalists are allowed to tweet court proceedings as they happen, thanks to a ruling in an earlier Assange hearing.

I watched Assange come into the court and take his seat. At a little after quarter past ten, the judge began by rejecting Assange’s political offenses defense because the extradition treaty wasn’t part of UK law. She went on to say that Assange helped Chelsea Manning to download materials — a line which went along with the prosecutors’ case, including its most dubious claims. Then she said there was no public interest defense.

Fifteen minutes into the judgement, the judge still seemed to be concurring with the arguments made by the US state. She refused to accept that Assange was being extradited for his political views, excused CIA spying on Assange, including in the embassy, and defended Ecuador’s withdrawal of asylum. Then Judge Baraitser made the most remarkable statement of all: “This court trusts a US court will uphold Assange’s civil liberties.

Few who heard this lengthy defense of the US empire’s pursuit of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks could have been in much doubt that an extradition order was coming. It seemed a clear-cut verdict, based on almost total credit being given to the prosecution for their case — including considerable evidence which Assange’s team hadn’t had the opportunity to challenge. But then something extraordinary happened.

At almost 11 AM, the tone changed. The judge accepted that Assange suffered from depression and that he would likely be held in solitary confinement in the United States, worsening the condition. Then she recognized the threat of suicide this situation posed. On these grounds, the extradition was refused.

In the final few moments of the verdict, the judge ruled that conditions in the United States’s super-max prisons are simply too brutal for Julian Assange to be incarcerated without serious risk that he would take his own life. The prisons are, she accepted, “oppressive.”

So, if the US government wishes to know why it lost this extradition hearing, and lost it in the court of a judge that is fundamentally in agreement with their case in every particular, then it boils down to this: the US prison system is too inhumane, to damaging to those in its care, for a human being to avoid thoughts of self harm or even suicide.

If the US lawyers insist on going ahead with appealing to a higher court to try and enforce their extradition request it will not be Julian Assange who is on trial. It will be the US prison system. We have every reason to campaign to ensure that they lose this battle for a second time.

The verdict is a triumph for Assange, his family, his lawyers, and his supporters. But it leaves many questions unanswered. Most immediate of those is the question of bail: Assange should already be walking the streets as a free man. He faces no charges and his extradition has been refused by the only court it is before.

But the judge sent him back to the hell of Belmarsh (no better than a US super-max), pending yet another hearing on Wednesday. There is no reason, beyond the convenience of the US prosecutors, that he should remain in jail. He should be freed immediately.

We also have to return to the deeply problematic points in the judgement, which undermine so much of what was being fought for in this case — from political freedom to freedom of the press and the rights of whistleblowers.

The judge actually went beyond the claims of the US prosecutors when she said that the fact that the extradition treaty was not fully written into UK law means that there is, intentionally, no defense for political dissidents in the UK’s extradition arrangements. This cannot be allowed to stand, and it is not how MPs, both Labour and Tory, remember the assurances given by the Blair government when the current treaty was adopted.

Nor should we accept for a second the judge’s claims that there is no public interest defense for whistleblowers and journalists, or her claim that those being persecuted for their political opinions should not enjoy the protection of the law. All these glaring contradictions with accepted norms are a product of the judge’s decision to reject extradition on narrow grounds while accepting the overwhelming majority of the prosecution case.

No doubt this approach appeals to the political establishment. Ruling against Assange on questions of journalistic freedom but banishing the political embarrassment of his case on the basis that he is too weak to endure the US prison system is an expedient way out of the mess that they have created.

It’s exactly the kind of political fix that has kept the old and cunning English establishment in power for centuries. Other examples might be the transportation of the Tolpuddle martyrs, and their return before the full span of punishment was complete under public pressure, or the sudden intervention of the little known “official solicitor” which freed the Pentonville dockers in 1972 — again under the threat of mass campaigning and strike action.

And therein lies the lesson. Without constant public campaigning the pressure simply would not have existed to produce a verdict such as this. The way to remedy its partial and inadequate nature is more of the same.



Popular posts from this blog

Pro-Trump capitalists fire the first serious warning shot in Capitol

globinfo freexchange In June, 2020, we wrote that, the whole picture indicates that all these far-right militia groups together with a significant part the US police force are forming a loony army of Trump defenders, driven by racism, ultra-conservative ideas and far-right extreme conspiracy theories. These fanatics have become so loyal to their leader - who happens to be the President of the United States - that they will do whatever it takes to see him in charge for another four years. As Trump's popularity has taken a downturn, his "brigades" are ready to take action in case he loses November's election. Especially if he loses marginally. Previously, we explained that, what we see now in the United States with Trump, is a counter-attack by the part of the American capital against the globalist faction. The faction that is primarily consisted by the liberal plutocracy . Therefore, as the capitalist class splits, the capitalists around Trump are now taking with the

The DNC mafia is about to complete the process of assimilation of the progressives, exactly as predicted

globinfo freexchange   Since already July 2018, we identified an immediate mobilization by the corporate media in the US to force the progressive wing of the Democratic party comply with the DNC neoliberal norm. In the specific example , we analyzed how the corporate pundit forced the new star of the progressive wing, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to literally declare loyalty to the DNC corporate "chief-baroness" Nancy Pelosi. After that, we saw an unexplained and bizarre contribution of both Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to the establishment pro-McCain 'litanies'. In this totally unnecessary self-recruitment for the McCain's legacy whitewash operation, Cortez retreated unconditionally and the establishment marked a second victory against her. As we had mentioned , the corporate media will focus mainly on pushing progressives to be 'swallowed' by the current DNC establishment in order to destroy the political revolution of Bernie Sanders. Yet, it is expect

George Monbiot got it half-right: There is a capitalist civil war, but not exactly the kind of war he describes

by system failure  Since at least July 2019, we were supporting the idea that Brexit is primarily the result of a capitalist civil war. Very few people (mostly in social media), were eager to accept this theory, while several were even mocking it as some kind of crazy conspiracy theory.    What puzzled us most, was the fact that even people from the global real Left were completely ignoring the capitalist-civil-war factor in Brexit equation during public debates. Many of them were seeing Brexit mainly as an angry response by the UK working class against the political and financial elites. We thought it would take forever to find someone from the Left to support the capitalist-civil-war theory.   Finally, at last, it was George Monbiot who spoke clearly about a capitalist civil war. And not only that. He correctly supported (as you can hear in the beginning of his analysis) that " The only way really to understand Brexit is as the outcome of a civil war within capitalism. " 

Venezuelan Foreign Minister on why Juan Guaidó wasn't arrested & the Left's revival in Latin America

The Grayzone   As Venezuela elects and swears in a new National Assembly Red Lines host Anya Parampil sits down with the country's Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, in their latest conversation since the US launched its coup attempt against his government in January of 2019. They discuss the impact of US regime change policy on Venezuela's domestic political situation, why Juan Guaidó has not been arrested, hope for diplomacy with the incoming Biden Administration, the left's resurgence in Latin America, and more. 

The real reason corporate America fights Chinese high-tech giant Huawei so hard

globinfo freexchange   The short answer that comes immediately in mind is: competition.    Indeed, Huawei had been found frequently at the epicenter of Trump's "holly" trade war against China. Someone should expect this since Silicon Valley oligarchs see the Chinese high-tech giant rapidly penetrate into the global market, claiming bigger and bigger portion of the market pie.   As we reported previously, the US imperialist machine openly called Western allies (and particularly the UK), to sabotage China's economic and technological penetration in its Western sphere of influence, through a Foreign Policy article. According to the article, the UK appears to be the most suitable, among the US allies, to lead the race against China's 5G infrastructure deals with Western countries. In essence, it called the UK to play a leading role in sabotaging China's and Huawei's deals with the UK itself and other Western countries.   Also, according to MintPress , &

Assange verdict: Statements from WikiLeaks, Assange's partner, Reporters Without Borders & more

acTVism Munich   These statements were recorded by the "Don't Extradite Assange" campaign. acTVism Munich has republished it today because of the lack of coverage of these statements in the local media landscape, as well as to foster understanding of the Julian Assange case.  

Assange wins - The cost: the crushing of Press Freedom

by Jonathan Cook   Part 2 - A moment of celebration   We have contributed collectively in our various small ways to win back for Assange some degree of freedom, and hopefully a reprieve from what could be a death sentence as his health continues to deteriorate in an overcrowded Belmarsh high-security prison in London that has become a breeding ground for Covid-19. For this we should allow ourselves a moment of celebration. But Assange is not out of the woods yet. The US has said it will appeal the decision. And it is not yet clear whether Assange will remain jailed in the UK – possibly in Belmarsh – while many months of further legal argument about his future take place. The US and British establishments do not care where Assange is imprisoned – be it Sweden, the UK or the US. What has been most important to them is that he continues to be locked out of sight in a cell somewhere, where his physical and mental fortitude can be destroyed and where he is effectively silenced, encouraging

UN expert: crippling US sanctions on Syria are illegal and hurting civilians

The Grayzone   An independent United Nations expert is calling on the US to lift its crippling sanctions on Syria. Under the Caesar Act, US sanctions explicitly target Syria's reconstruction in the aftermath of a catastrophic 10-year war. Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the impact of sanctions, says that the US sanctions are illegal and depriving Syrian civilians of their basic needs.  " People shouldn't die, people shouldn't suffer, and people shouldn't fear whether they can survive after tomorrow, because they have neither medicine or food, because of the sanctions applied, " Douhan says.

Apr 2020 picks

April 1st 1957: the day Western mainstream media officially became masters of propaganda through a seemingly innocent April Fools' Day joke    Varoufakis claims that the innermost circle of the Greek PM owns shares of vulture funds connected with the non-performing loans of Greek banks   COVID-19 demonstrates that capitalism has outrun its historical tolerability      As Bernie drops nomination, progressives are left with only one political option: the Green Party    Biden's lame attempt to lure Bernie supporters fails miserably    How Bernie Sanders could still become president    We have come now to the point where an entire class of society has been designated "expendable"   Best evidence so far for the fact that Biden would start a war with Iran, just like Trump   

UK judge justifies CIA spying on Assange citing debunked CNN report based on… CIA spying

UK judge Vanessa Baraitser justified CIA spying on Julian Assange by citing a falsehood-filled CNN report. Her judgment highlighted corporate media’s enthusiastic role in a state-sponsored assault on press freedom.   by Ben Norton   Part 2 - UK judge casts doubt on US spying on Assange while simultaneously justifying it   The Grayzone has published several investigations into the US government spying operation that targeted Julian Assange when he was trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Spanish company hired by Ecuador to provide security, UC Global, was secretly working with the CIA, providing the US spy agency with 24/7 video and audio surveillance that covered almost every inch of the diplomatic building, including even the women’s bathroom. Max Blumenthal demonstrated that the CIA presided over this illegal spying ring with the help of a company owned by billionaire Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of President Donald Trump and former CIA Director and Secretar