Julian Assange, known for his whistleblowing activities, is rapidly running out of legal avenues. There is a high likelihood that he could be extradited to the United States within the coming week, raising concerns about the future of investigative journalism.
Last week, High Court Judge Jonathan Swift, who has previously worked with British government agencies and expressed a preference for “security and intelligence agencies” as clients, dismissed two applications from Assange’s legal team to appeal his extradition. The extradition order, signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel in June of the previous year, is now in its final stages of implementation.
Assange’s legal team has submitted a final application for appeal, representing their last recourse within the British courts. If this application is accepted, the case may proceed to a public hearing presided over by two new High Court judges. However, in the event that the final appeal is rejected, as expected, Assange faces the immediate prospect of extradition to the United States, where he is set to face trial on 18 charges under the Espionage Act. If convicted, he could potentially face a sentence of up to 175 years. This critical juncture in Assange’s case marks a pivotal moment, as it could redefine reporting on the inner workings of power as a criminal act.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) remains Assange’s last hope for blocking his extradition, should the final appeal be unsuccessful. The parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, which established the ECHR, along with their Commissioner for Human Rights, oppose Assange’s “detention, extradition, and prosecution,” citing the dangerous precedent it sets for journalists. The stance of the British government, however, remains uncertain.
Despite being legally obligated to abide by the court’s decision, there are concerns that the UK may proceed with the extradition before an appeal to the European court can be heard. If Assange is sent to the United States, his trial will take place in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the government has historically been successful in prosecuting espionage cases. In January 2021, Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates’ Court denied the U.S. government’s extradition request due to the harsh conditions Assange would face in the American prison system.
Baraitser expressed concern over the risk of suicide and deemed extradition oppressive based on the potential mental harm. However, this decision was subsequently overturned after an appeal by U.S. authorities, with the High Court accepting the lower court’s findings regarding the heightened risk of suicide and inhumane prison conditions. As the legal options dwindle, Julian Assange’s future hangs in the balance, raising significant questions about press freedom and the potential consequences for those who dare to expose sensitive information.
Julian Assange’s Bleak Future: The Illusion of Assurances and the Implications for Journalism
In February 2021, the U.S. government presented four assurances in Diplomatic Note no. 74, aiming to address concerns raised in the lower court and convince the judge that Julian Assange would be treated well. According to these “assurances,” Assange would not be subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) and could potentially serve his sentence in Australia if the Australian government sought his extradition. It was also promised that he would receive appropriate medical and psychological care, and that he would not be held in the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, both pre-trial and post-trial.
However, these assurances, which were hailed as answers to the court’s concerns, are far from reliable. They come with escape clauses and lack legal binding. The court acknowledged that if Assange were to take any action after the assurances were provided that warranted the imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX, he would be subject to these harsher forms of control. Furthermore, if Australia did not request a transfer, the ruling stated that it could not be criticized or considered inadequate by the USA.
Even if these concerns were not significant, Assange would face an arduous process of appealing his sentence up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take a decade or more. This lengthy duration leaves ample opportunity for severe psychological and physical harm to be inflicted upon him.
It is highly likely that Assange would be subjected to “extraordinary renditions,” reminiscent of the practices conducted by the CIA, during his extradition to the U.S. This grim fate awaits the publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, an influential journalist of our time, effectively ensuring that he will spend the remainder of his life in an American prison. The repercussions extend beyond Assange himself, as the legal precedents set by this case would criminalize any investigations into the inner workings of power, even by individuals from foreign nations.
This looming extradition represents a devastating blow to America’s frail democracy, which is rapidly succumbing to corporate totalitarianism. The lack of public outcry, particularly within the media, in response to this unabashed assault on journalism is equally disconcerting. Calls from prominent publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País to drop the extradition charges come too late and seem insufficient.
Public protests in support of Assange in the U.S. have been dismally attended, reflecting a disheartening passivity that implicates us in our own subjugation. The somber reality is that Assange’s future appears bleak, and the implications for press freedom are deeply troubling.
Julian Assange: A Judicial Travesty Unveiled
The handling of Julian Assange’s case has been nothing short of a judicial travesty right from the beginning. Former Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno violated international law by terminating Assange’s rights of asylum as a political refugee and allowing the London Metropolitan Police to arrest him within the Ecuadorian Embassy, a diplomatically protected sovereign territory, despite his status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador.
Notably, Moreno’s government, which revoked Assange’s citizenship, conveniently received a substantial loan from the International Monetary Fund, raising questions about the motivations behind these actions. By demanding Assange’s extradition under the Espionage Act, Donald Trump effectively criminalized journalism, reminiscent of Woodrow Wilson’s suppression of socialist publications like The Masses.
The hearings were characterized by a disregard for basic legal protocols. This included the decision to ignore the CIA’s surveillance and recording of Assange’s meetings with his attorneys during his time as a political refugee in the embassy, undermining the fundamental principle of attorney-client privilege. This alone should have been grounds for dismissing the case. Furthermore, the courts validated the decision to charge Assange under the Espionage Act, despite him not being a US citizen. Kafkaesque arguments were used to deny his status as a journalist, and Article 4 of the UK-US extradition treaty, which prohibits extradition for political offenses, was conveniently ignored.
The prosecutor James Lewis, representing the US, provide legal directives to Judge Baraitser, who readily adopted them as her legal decisions. This kind of manipulation and collusion resembles the darkest days of the Lubyanka rather than upholding the principles of British jurisprudence.
Lost in the debate over intricate legal details is the fact that Assange has not committed a crime in Britain, other than a minor charge of breaching bail conditions when he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Typically, this offense would result in a fine, but Assange was instead sentenced to a year in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held since April 2019.
The decision to pursue his extradition, initially considered by the Obama administration, was actively pursued by the Trump administration following WikiLeaks’ release of the Vault 7 documents. These documents exposed the CIA’s cyberwarfare programs, which aimed to monitor and manipulate various devices, including cars, smart TVs, web browsers, smartphones, and operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
It is clear that the case against Julian Assange is deeply flawed and politically motivated. The relentless persecution he faces serves as a chilling warning to journalists and threatens press freedom worldwide.
Assange: A Target for Exposing the Truth
Julian Assange has become a target because of his role in publishing the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which revealed numerous U.S. war crimes. These logs included the infamous Collateral Murder video, which showed the killing of two Reuters journalists and several civilians, including children. Assange also exposed the deaths of nearly 700 civilians who were mistakenly perceived as threats by U.S. convoys and checkpoints, including pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, and children.
Assange revealed over 15,000 unreported civilian deaths in Iraq and the abuse and torture of hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. He exposed how Hillary Clinton, during her tenure as secretary of state, ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on various UN representatives, gathering personal information such as DNA samples and fingerprints. This illegal surveillance even targeted former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Assange’s revelations extended to uncovering U.S. involvement in the military coup in Honduras in 2009, as well as secret missile, bomb, and drone attacks in Yemen that resulted in civilian casualties. He also made public the private speeches Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs, shedding light on potential conflicts of interest and questionable practices.
For exposing these truths, Assange has been unjustly vilified. The U.S. court system, known for its harsh approach, can employ Special Administrative Measures, anti-terrorism laws, and the Espionage Act to silence him, deny bail, and prevent public access to the evidence used against him.
The CIA, an agency with a history of unlawful activities, including assassinations, coups, and illegal surveillance, collaborated with the Spanish security firm UC Global to extensively monitor Assange during his stay in the embassy. Plans for kidnapping and assassination, involving London Metropolitan Police, were even discussed.
The U.S. operates secret budgets and clandestine projects, allocating billions of dollars annually to intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency and the CIA. These activities often go unchecked by Congress. Past investigations, such as the Church Committee and Pike Committee hearings, exposed the dark side of these agencies, revealing their involvement in murder, coercion, blackmail, and spreading falsehoods.
Assange’s extradition is driven by these powerful forces seeking retribution for the wounds he inflicted by exposing their crimes and deceit. Their desire for control extends not only internationally but domestically as well.
Julian Assange may face a lifetime of imprisonment in the U.S. for his journalistic work, but he is not the only one at risk. The actions of various governments involved in Assange’s case raise concerns about their commitment to upholding international law. From the termination of his asylum rights by the Ecuadorian government to the potential violation of diplomatic territory during his arrest, Assange’s treatment has been riddled with legal transgressions.
The impact of Assange’s prosecution extends beyond his individual case. It sends a chilling message to journalists worldwide, discouraging them from pursuing investigative journalism and revealing information that holds power to account. The death of free press is not a literal demise but rather a slow erosion of the essential pillars that support it.
The defense of Julian Assange is not merely about one person but about defending the principles of a free and independent press. It is crucial to recognize the broader implications of his case and the dangerous precedent it sets for the future of journalism and the public’s right to know. The fate of Julian Assange is intricately tied to the fate of press freedom itself.
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