Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The Australian government”s intimidation of whistleblowers – the torture of Julian Assange

Torture of Julian Assange by Australian governments sends powerful message to whistleblowers, Michael West Media by Lissa Johnson | Nov 26, 2020

Australia has used a range of torture techniques against Julian Assange, writes Dr Lissa Johnson. Governments have isolated and demonised him; flatly rejected evidence of ill-treatment; refused to respond to specific allegations; and divested themselves  of any responsibility. Leaders can’t, or won’t, accept the difference between psychological torture and ‘a legal matter’.

Julian Assange has set a number of firsts for Australia, including:

  • The first Walkley award winner whose journalism has attracted a possible 175 years in US prison.
  • The first journalist to be prosecuted as a spy by the US government, under its 1917 Espionage Act.
  • The first citizen of an ostensibly democratic state (Australia) whom a UN official has found to be the target of a campaign of collective persecution and mobbing by other so-called democratic states.

As the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, observed:

In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.

As part of this mobbing and collective persecution, Assange is the first Australian journalist to be tortured for journalism in the UK.

On 9 May 2019, Professor Melzer visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, accompanied by two medical experts specialising in the assessment and documentation of torture. On 31 May, Melzer reported that they had found Assange to be suffering all symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture.

On 1 November 2019, Melzer warned that, unless the UK government urgently changed course, it may soon end up costing his life.

What torture?

Julian Assange is being held in ‘Britain’s Guantanamo’, Belmarsh prison, a high-security facility designed for those charged with terrorism, murder and other violent offences. He has been held in solitary confinement for 22 to 23 hours a day.

He knows that US-aligned security contractors have written in emails that he will make a nice bride in prison, and needs his head dunked in a full toilet bowl at Gitmo. He knows he is headed for life in US supermax prisons, where prisoners are held in perpetual solitary and chains.

‘If this man gets extradited to the United States, he will be tortured until the day he dies’, Profesor Melzer has cautioned.

To heighten the torment, Assange has been prevented from preparing his defence against extradition in violation of his human rights as a defendant.

He has been granted negligible access to his lawyers and is prevented from researching his own defence. The only purpose is to render him helpless, intensifying his trauma.

A Message from the Australian Government

Assange’s experience sets an example to anyone thinking of airing the dirty secrets of those in power: the genuinely dirty secrets, such as wantonly slaughtering and torturing innocent people and covering it up.

Like all public torture, it sends a message to onlookers: this could happen to you.

And the message from the Australian government to any Australian journalists looking on? You’re on your own.

The US government is seeking to retrospectively apply its own Espionage Act to non-US citizens in foreign lands, while simultaneously withholding the free speech protections of its Constitution. The upshot would be that non-US citizens, and non-US journalists, would be vulnerable to prosecution wherever they may be, whenever the United States saw fit.

Should a host country oblige, that journalist’s only hope would be the protection of their own government. And the message from the Australian government? Not a chance.

A climate of consent

But can the government do anything to stop the torture of Assange in the UK? Or are its hands tied?

Australia ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1989. It therefore has a positive duty to take ‘effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture’ of its citizens. According to the Federal Attorney-General’s website, however, that duty applies to ‘territories within Australia’s jurisdiction’.

So who is responsible for protecting Australian citizens from torture overseas?

Australian officials can raise concerns with their overseas counterparts when they are concerned about gross violations of citizens’ rights as happened in the cases of Melinda Taylor, James Ricketson, David Hicks and Peter Greste.

 

They could also make a submission to the Committee against Torture that a state is ‘not fulfilling its obligations under this Convention’.

n Assange’s case, however, the government has opted for ‘consent and acquiescence’ under Article 1 of the convention. Consent and acquiescence is listed alongside inflicting and instigating torture as part of the very definition of torture.

 ‘Standard’ fare

DFAT representatives say repeatedly that Assange’s treatment In the UK is perfectly normal. ‘Standard’. ‘No different’ from the treatment of other UK prisoners. Routine, in other words. Nothing to see here.

When reminded that Assange had been handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and moved between five holding cells after the first day of his extradition hearing, a DFAT representative described this as ‘standard prison to court and court to prison procedure’.

What the official failed to explain is that treatment is only ‘standard’ and normal for prisoners charged with terrorism or other violent offences.

It is not remotely normal for journalists with no criminal history, and no history or risk of violence, to be detained under the most punitive conditions that UK law enforcement has to offer.

As an exercise in “consent and acquiescence” DFAT representatives performed their duties well.

Sanitising, normalising language minimises and trivialises abuse………….

‘Not our responsibility’ has been the Australian government’s refrain. Australian government officials ‘don’t provide running commentaries on legal matters before the courts in other parts of the world’, asserted the Foreign Minister.

Australia is ‘not a party to the legal proceedings in the United Kingdom’, stressed a DFAT official when asked why Australia had not intervened in Assange’s case during Senate Estimates. ‘We have no standing in the legal matter that is currently before the courts.’

Perhaps the Australian government doesn’t understand the seriousness of the abuses taking place in the UK. Perhaps ministers and their advisors are unaware of the difference between psychological torture and a ‘legal matter’. Psychological torture is, after all, not commonly well understood.

It is possible that the Australian government merely fails to grasp the gravity of ignoring Professor Melzer’s warnings. However, when the group Doctors for Assange wrote to the Australian government in December 2019, they detailed the medical and psychological basis of their concerns for Assange’s life and health…………..

New normal in Australia?

Assange is not the first person in Australia to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Australia’s abuse of asylum seekers and refugees has been found to violate the Convention Against Torture. Aboriginal Australians, among the most incarcerated groups on earth, have been dying in custody, buried under acquiescent consent, for decades, and historically for hundreds of years.

The Human Rights Measurement Index 2019 has given Australia a 5.5 out of 10 rating for ‘freedom from torture’, noting, ‘Torture is a serious problem in Australia … a large range of people [are] at particular risk of torture or ill-treatment, with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders at the top of the list’…….

Through sending a message to journalists worldwide by torturing Assange, the abusive licence deployed against other persecuted groups is being expanded to take in journalism. The targeting of journalists around the world matters because journalists cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music, and expose what is going on inside. Every persecuted and abused group or person needs them, to break the cycle of violence by breaking the silence.

We do torture here. It is our problem. In Julian Assange’s case, the biggest problem appears to be that torturing journalists is becoming the new normal in Australia.

This edited extract is reproduced from A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés, edited by Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, December 2020. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/torture-of-julian-assange-by-australian-governments-sends-powerful-message-to-whistleblowers/

November 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’

November 16, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Adani hires spying on activist’s daughter on way to school

October 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

The Guardian was grossly unfair to Julian Assange. They could still make up for this.

The Guardian’s Silence Let UK Trample on Assange’s Rights in Effective Darkness  https://consortiumnews.com/2020/10/21/the-guardians-silence-let-uk-trample-on-assanges-rights-in-effective-darkness/?fbclid=IwAR16w5kNgLGJ3jyFI6QvKZmxJ5tn_LjZcD90a7FOG-ZQ8jaGzUYKlhnRT8M

October 21, 2020  On the eve of a demonstration outside the paper’s office in London, Jonathan Cook issues a statement about The Guardian’s abandonment of its former media partner.  By Jonathan Cook

Jonathan-Cook.net   WISE Up, a solidarity group for Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, is due to stage a demonstration outside The Guardian offices on Oct. 22 to protest the paper’s failure to support Assange as the U.S. seeks his extradition in an unprecedented assault on press freedom.

The date chosen for the protest marks the 10th anniversary of The Guardian’s publication of the Iraq war logs, leaked by Manning to Assange and which lie at the heart of the U.S. case to reclassify journalism exposing crimes against humanity as “espionage.”

Here is my full statement, part of which is due to be read out, in support of Assange and castigating The Guardian for its craven failure to speak up in solidarity with its former media partner:  

Julian Assange has been hounded out of public life and public view by the U.K.  and U.S.  governments for the best part of a decade.

Now he languishes in a small, airless cell in Belmarsh high-security prison in London — a victim of arbitrary detention, according to a UN working group, and a victim of psychological torture, according to Nils Melzer, the UN’s expert on torture.

If Judge Vanessa Baraitser, presiding in the Central Criminal Court in London, agrees to extradition, as she gives every appearance of preparing to do, Assange will be the first journalist to face a terrifying new ordeal — a form of extraordinary rendition to the United States for “espionage” — for having the courage to publish documents that exposed U.S.  war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Guardian worked with Assange and WikiLeaks on vitally important documents – now at the heart of the U.S.  case against Assange – known as the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs. The latter were published exactly a decade ago today. They were a journalistic coup of global significance, and the paper ought to be profoundly proud of its role in bringing them to public attention.

During Assange’s extradition hearing, however, The Guardian treated the logs and its past association with Assange and WikiLeaks more like a dirty secret it hoped to keep out of sight. Those scoops furnished by Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning enriched the paper financially, and bolstered its standing internationally. They also helped to pave its path into the lucrative U.S.  market.

Unlike Assange and Manning, The Guardian has suffered no consequences for publishing the logs. Unlike Assange and Manning, the paper has faced no retribution. While it profited, Assange continues to be made an example of — to deter other journalists from contemplating following in his footsteps.

The Guardian owes Assange.

  • It owes him a huge debt for allowing it to share in the journalistic glory of WikiLeaks’ revelations.
  • It owes him a duty of care as its partner in publishing the logs.
  • It owes him its voice loudly denouncing the abuse of a fellow journalist for doing the essence of journalism — holding the powerful to account.
  • It owes him and its own staff, and the young journalists who will one day take their place, its muscle in vigorously defending the principle of a strong and free press.
  • It owes him, and the rest of us, a clear profession of its outrage as the U.S. conducts an unprecedented assault on free speech, the foundation of a democratic society.

And yet The Guardian has barely raised its voice above a whisper as the noose has tightened around Assange’s — and by extension, our — neck. It has barely bothered to cover the dramatic and deeply disturbing developments of last month’s extradition hearing, or the blatant abuses of legal process overseen by Baraitser.

The Guardian has failed to raise its editorial voice in condemnation either of the patently dishonest U.S.  case for extradition or of the undisguised mistreatment of Assange by Britain’s legal and judicial authorities.

The paper’s many columnists ignored the proceedings too, except for those who contributed yet more snide and personal attacks of the kind that have typified The Guardian’s coverage of Assange for many years.

It is not too late for the paper to act in defence of Assange and journalism.

Assange’s rights are being trampled under foot close by The Guardian’s offices in London because the British establishment knows that these abuses are taking place effectively in darkness. It has nothing to fear as long as the media abdicates its responsibility to scrutinize what amounts to the biggest attack on journalism in living memory.

Were The Guardian to shine a light on Assange’s case — as it is morally obligated to do — the pressure would build on other media organizations, not least the BBC, to do their job properly too. The British establishment would finally face a countervailing pressure to the one being exerted so forcefully by the U.S.

The Guardian should have stood up for Assange long ago, when the threats he and investigative journalism faced became unmistakable. It missed that opportunity. But the threats to Assange — and the causes of transparency and accountability he champions — have not gone away. They have only intensified. Assange needs the Guardian’s support more urgently, more desperately than ever before.

Jonathan Cook is a former Guardian journalist (1994-2001) and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. He is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support.

This article is from his blog Jonathan Cook.net. 

October 22, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

New government Bill could target journalists, environmental and human rights groups

October 20, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Persecuting Assange Is a Real Blow to Reporting and Human Rights Advocacy’

Persecuting Assange Is a Real Blow to Reporting and Human Rights Advocacy’
CounterSpin interview with Chip Gibbons on Assange extradition Fair, 15 Oct 20

JANINE JACKSON Janine Jackson interviewed Defending Rights & Dissent’s Chip Gibbons about Julian Assange’s extradition hearing for the October 9, 2020, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
CounterSpin Chip Gibbons Interview
Janine Jackson: If it were not for a tiny handful of journalists—ShadowProof’s Kevin Gosztola preeminent among them—Americans might be utterly unaware that a London magistrate, for the last month, has been considering nothing less than whether journalists have a right to publish information the US government doesn’t want them to. Not whether outlets can leak classified information, but whether they can publish that information on, as in the case  US war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporateUS war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporate media interest.

Assange’s case, the unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to go after a journalist, has dire implications for all reporters. But this country’s elite press corps have evidently decided they can simply whistle past it, perhaps hoping that if and when the state comes after them, they’ll make a more sympathetic victim.

Joining us now to discuss the case is Chip Gibbons. He’s policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC………..

CG: Sure. So the US has indicted Julian Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act, as well as a count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Assange is not a US person; he’s an Australian national. He was inside the Ecuadorian embassy for a number of years, as Ecuador had granted him asylum, and the UK had refused to basically recognize that and let him leave the country, so he was de facto imprisoned inside the embassy. And after the indictment the US issued, the new government of Ecuador—which is much less sympathetic to Assange than the previous Correa government—let the US come in the embassy and seize him.

And the US is seeking Assange’s extradition to the US from the UK. I guess it’s, probably, technically a hearing, but Kevin’s point was that it’s more like what we would think of as a trial, in that there’s different witnesses, there’s expert testimony, there’s different legal arguments at stake.

The defense, the witness portion of it, has closed; it ended last week. And there’s going to be closing arguments submitted in writing, and then the judge will render a decision, and that decision will be appealable by either side. So regardless of the outcome, we can expect appeals. So it does very closely mirror what we would think of more like a trial than a hearing in the US court context.

It’s important to really understand what’s at stake with Assange’s extradition. He is the first person ever indicted by the US government under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information.

The US government has considered indicting journalists before: They considered indicting Seymour Hersh, a very famous investigative reporter. They considered indicting James Bamford, because he had the audacity to try to write a book on the National Security Agency. But they’ve never done that.

And Obama’s administration looked at the idea of indicting Assange and said, “No, this would violate the First Amendment, and it would open the door to all kinds of other bad things.” But the Trump administration clearly doesn’t have those qualms……..

 It is very interesting to see how this plays out in a US court in the current environment. If whoever—Trump or  Biden, whoever is president, when this finally comes to the US—actually pursues this, and they actually are allowing the persecution of journalists, that’s going to be a really dark, dark assault on free expression rights. 

And it’s worth remembering—and Julian Assange is clearly very reviled in the corporate media and the political establishment right now—but the information he leaked came from Chelsea Manning, it dealt with US war crimes; and he worked with the New York Times, the GuardianDer Spiegel, Le MondeAl Jazeera, to publish this information. So if he can go to jail for publishing this, why can’t the New York Times? And is that a door anyone wants to open? There is a big press freedom angle here.

I also want to talk about the facts, though: What did Julian Assange publish, and why did it matter? ………..

Julian Assange is accused of publishing information about war crimes, about human rights abuses and about abuses of power, that have been tremendously important, not just for the public’s right to know, but also have made a real difference in advocacy around those issues. People were able to go and get justice for victims of rendition, or able to go and get court rulings in other countries about US drone strikes, because of this information being in the public domain. So attacking Assange, persecuting Assange, disappearing him into a supermax prison, this is a real blow to reporting and human rights advocacy. ………

JJ: Right. And, finally, the journalists who are holding their nose right now on covering it aren’t offering to give back the awards that they won based on reporting relying on WikiLeaks revelations. And James Risen had an op-ed in the New York Times a while back, in which he was talking about Glenn Greenwald, but also about Julian Assange, and he said that he thought that governments—he was talking about Bolsonaro in Brazil, as well as Donald Trump—that they’re trying out these anti-press measures and, he said, they “seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti- press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.”………. https://fair.org/home/persecuting-assange-is-a-real-blow-to-reporting-and-human-rights-advocacy/

October 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

As Julian Assange faces extradition to USA, global press freedom is endangered

 

October 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange could face life in America’s most dreaded ‘Supermax’ prison

October 1, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Medical experts testify to court on Julian Assange’s precarious mental health

Assange faces “very high risk of suicide,” medical expert tells court, WSWS, By Thomas Scripps and Laura Tiernan, 23 September 2020

Medical evidence was produced in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing yesterday detailing the terrible harm done to the heroic journalist by a decade of state-orchestrated persecution.

The day was given over to the examination of Professor Michael Kopelman who testified to Assange’s mental health. Kopelman is a psychiatrist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychiatry at Kings College London. He has given expert evidence in multiple extradition cases on behalf of both the defence and the prosecution. In assessing Assange, he conducted seventeen visits in 2019 and additional visits in 2020, constructed a “full family history” and a “full personal psychiatric history,” and carried out “interviews with his family and lifelong friends.”

His findings constitute a clear bar to Assange’s extradition to the United States. Under Section 91 of the UK Extradition Act (2003), extradition is prohibited if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

Under Section 87, extradition is prohibited if it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 3 of the ECHR states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Medical evidence speaking to these bars has played a critical role in previous US-UK extradition hearings, for example in the case of Lauri Love. The risk of notoriously poor conditions in US prisons exacerbating mental illness is an important factor.

Assange’s case meets these criteria. The details in today’s WSWS coverage are being reported consistent with the “sensitivity” called for by defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC, on behalf of his client. Nonetheless they make overwhelmingly clear the “unjust and oppressive” treatment to which Assange has already been subjected.

Assange, Kopelman told the court, has experienced periods of serious mental illness in his earlier life. Since being confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy and then Belmarsh maximum security prison, these issues have resurfaced and worsened. Assange has suffered symptoms of severe and recurrent depression. Those symptoms have included “loss of sleep, loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness” and auditory hallucinations which Kopelman summarised as “derogatory and persecutory.”

They have also included “suicidal preoccupations.” Kopelman told the court, “There are… an abundance of known risk factors in Mr Assange’s case” and that Assange has “made various plans and undergone various preparations.” He gave his opinion that there was a “very high risk of suicide.”

These symptoms and risks, Kopelman explained, are exacerbated by an anxiety disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and by a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Kopelman cited a paper by world-leading autism expert Dr Simon Baron-Cohen which found that the lifetime experience of suicidal thoughts in those with Asperger’s “was more than nine times higher than in the general population in England.”

Explaining the impact of the US government’s persecution, Kopelman said, “The risk of suicide arises out of the clinical factors of depression and the other diagnoses, but it is the imminence of extradition and/or an actual extradition that will trigger the attempt, in my opinion.”

If Assange were to be incarcerated in the US and segregated from other prisoners, Kopelman gave his opinion that the WikiLeaks founder would “deteriorate substantially” and see an “exacerbation” of his “suicidal ideas.” This would “amount to psychological harm and severe psychological suffering.”

Kopelman’s evidence confirms the warnings made since November 2019 by Doctors for Assange, representing hundreds of medical professionals from around the world, that Assange is suffering “psychological torture” and “could die in prison.” It underlines in distressing detail UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s comment regarding Assange’s treatment that “psychological torture is not torture-lite. Psychological torture aims to wreck and destroy the person’s personality and identity… to make them break.”

Assange’s year-and-a-half long incarceration at Belmarsh has been designed to achieve this objective. It has profoundly undermined, in numerous ways, his legal right to prepare his defence against extradition. Kopelman reported yesterday that Assange has repeatedly complained that the medication taken for his mental health has caused him “difficulty in thinking, in memorising [and] in concentration.”

During the morning’s cross examination, Kopelman forcefully rebuffed prosecution lawyer James Lewis QC’s challenge to his credentials. He said solicitors had called him several times in recent years saying that Lewis himself was “keen to have your services” in an extradition case.

In the afternoon, cross-examination continued, with Lewis challenging the veracity of Kopelman’s diagnosis, and claiming that Assange’s appearance was “wholly inconsistent with someone who is severely or moderately-severely depressed and with psychotic symptoms.”

Kopelman replied, “Could we go back a step?” Having seen Assange between May 30 and December [2019], “I thought he was severely depressed, suicidal and was experiencing hallucinations.”………….. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/23/assa-s23.html

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian scientists censored on speaking about climate change

 Censored: Australian scientists say suppression of environment research is getting worse
Survey finds that many researchers are banned from speaking about their work or have had their research altered to downplay risks.  Nature ,
Dyani Lewis, 22 Sept 20,   Environmental scientists in Australia say that they are under increasing pressure from their employers to downplay research findings or avoid communicating them at all. More than half of the respondents to an online survey thought that constraints on speaking publicly on issues such as threatened species, urban development, mining, logging and climate change had become worse in recent years1.

The findings, published this month in Conservation Letters, reflect how politicized debates about environmental policy in Australia have become, says Saul Cunningham, an environmental scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra. “We need our publicly funded institutions to be more vocal in defending the importance of an independent voice based on research,” he says.

Australian scientists aren’t the only ones who have reported interference in science or pressure — particularly from government employers — to downplay research findings. Scientists in the United StatesCanada and Brazil have also

Scale of the problem

Two hundred and twenty scientists in Australia responded to the survey, which was organized by the Ecological Society of Australia and ran from October 2018 until February 2019. Some of the respondents worked in government; others worked in universities or in industry, such as environmental consultancies or non-governmental organizations.

The results show that government and industry scientists experienced greater constraints from their employers than did university staff. Among government employees, about half were prohibited from speaking publicly about their research, compared with 38% employed in industry and 9% of university staff. Three-quarters of those surveyed also reported self-censoring their work (see ‘Scientists silenced’)……….

One-third of government respondents and 30% of industry employees also reported that their employers or managers had modified their work to downplay or mislead the public on the environmental impacts of activities such as logging and mining. ………. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02669-8

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange dragged from embassy “on the orders of the president”

Explosive evidence from Trump insider,Assange dragged from embassy “on the orders of the president”, WSWS, By Laura Tiernan and Thomas Scripps, 22 September 2020

Alt-right media personality Cassandra Fairbanks’ witness testimony was read out in court yesterday, providing evidence that Julian Assange’s April 2019 arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London was politically motivated and directed by United States President Donald Trump.

Fairbanks testified that Arthur Schwartz, a wealthy Republican Party donor and key Trump ally, had told her that Assange was taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy “on orders from the president.” The conversation between Schwartz and Fairbanks occurred in September 2019 and was recorded by Fairbanks.

Schwartz, a frequent visitor to the White House and “informal adviser” or “fixer” to Donald Trump Jr., told Fairbanks the president’s orders were conveyed via US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who brokered a deal with the Ecuadorian government for Assange’s removal. Grenell was appointed acting director of national intelligence by Trump in February this year, holding the position until May.

Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, spelled out the significance of Fairbanks’ disclosures, telling Judge Vanessa Baraitser they were, “evidence of the declared intentions of those at the top who planned the prosecution and the eviction from the embassy.”

Fairbanks, who writes for the pro-Trump Gateway Pundit, is a prominent Assange supporter who visited the WikiLeaks founder at the Embassy on two key occasions. Her evidence was read into proceedings yesterday afternoon unopposed, with Fitzgerald explaining, “My learned friend [James Lewis QC for the prosecution] reserves the right to say ‘because she’s a supporter of Julian Assange you must take that into account in weighing her evidence.’ But we say [her evidence] is true.”

Given her close connections to leading figures in the Trump administration’s fascistic entourage, Fairbanks is uniquely positioned to expose key aspects of the politically motivated vendetta against the WikiLeaks founder. Throughout the extradition hearing, lawyers for the US government have repeatedly claimed the charges against Assange under the Espionage Act are motivated by “criminal justice concerns” and are “not political.”

Fairbanks’ evidence shreds the official narrative of the Department of Justice (DoJ) that Assange was arrested on April 11, 2019 in relation to “hacking.” In a phone call with Schwartz on October 30, 2018, he made clear that Assange would be arrested as political payback for his role in “the Manning case,” i.e., the disclosure by US Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq……………

Speaking outside the court, Assange’s father, John Shipton, said, “Today we had the prosecution trying to prove that water runs uphill and up is down. … The defence replied and conclusively demonstrated that it was David Leigh [who caused the unredacted cables to be released]. We can only conclude from the amount of time that the prosecution spent defending David Leigh that David Leigh is a state asset.”

At the end of the hearing’s morning session, an exchange between District Judge Vanessa Baraitser and the legal teams pointed to further restrictions being imposed on the defence’s ability to present its case.

Seizing on the delays caused by a potential COVID-19 outbreak in the first week of the hearing, Baraitser insisted that the defence prepare a timetable that allowed the hearing to “finish within two weeks.” When the defence replied that this would leave no time for closing submissions, she reacted enthusiastically to the suggestion of prosecution lawyer James Lewis QC that these could be submitted in written form and summarised in just half a day each for the prosecution and the defence. A final decision is forthcoming.

The hearing continues today……… https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/22/assa-s22.html

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal | Leave a comment

Following the UK court hearing on the extradition of Julian Assange

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8, Craig Murray  September 10, 2020  The great question after yesterday’s hearing was whether prosecution counsel James Lewis QC would continue to charge at defence witnesses like a deranged berserker (spoiler – he would), and more importantly, why?

QC’s representing governments usually seek to radiate calm control, and treat defence arguments as almost beneath their notice, certainly as no conceivable threat to the majestic thinking of the state. Lewis instead resembled a starving terrier kept away from a prime sausage by a steel fence whose manufacture and appearance was far beyond his comprehension.

Perhaps he has toothache.

PROFESSOR PAUL ROGERS

The first defence witness this morning was Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has written 9 books on the War on Terror, and has been for 15 years responsible for MOD contracts on training of armed forces in law and ethics of conflict. Rogers appeared by videolink from Bradford.

Prof Rogers’ full witness statement is here.

Edward Fitzgerald QC asked Prof Rogers whether Julian Assange’s views are political (this goes to article 4 in the UK/US extradition treaty against political extradition). Prof Rogers replied that “Assange is very clearly a person of strong political opinions.”

Fitzgerald then asked Prof Rogers to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan. Prof Rogers responded that in 2001 there had been a very strong commitment in the United States to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy initial military victories led to a feeling the nation had “got back on track”. George W Bush’s first state of the union address had the atmosphere of a victory rally. But Wikileaks’ revelations in the leaked war logs reinforced the view of some analysts that this was not a true picture, that the war in Afghanistan had gone wrong from the start. It contradicted the government line that Afghanistan was a success. Similarly the Wikileaks evidence published in 2011 had confirmed very strongly that the Iraq War had gone badly wrong, when the US official narrative had been one of success.

Wikileaks had for example proven from the war logs that there were a minimum of 15,000 more civilian deaths than had been reckoned by Iraq Body Count. These Wikileaks exposures of the failures of these wars had contributed in large part to a much greater subsequent reluctance of western powers to go to war at an early stage.

Fitzgerald said that para 8 of Rogers’ report suggests that Assange was motivated by his political views and referenced his speech to the United Nations. Was his intention to influence political actions by the USA?

Rogers replied yes. Assange had stated that he was not against the USA and there were good people in the USA who held differing views. He plainly hoped to influence US policy. Rogers also referenced the statement by Mairead Maguire in nominating Julian for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world.

Rogers stated that Assange had a clear and coherent political philosophy. He had set it out in particular in the campaign of the Wikileaks Party for a Senate seat in Australia. It was based on human rights and a belief in transparency and accountability of organisations. It was essentially libertarian in nature. It embraced not just government transparency, but also transparency in corporations, trade unions and NGOs. It amounted to a very clear political philosophy. Assange adopted a clear political stance that did not align with conventional party politics but incorporated coherent beliefs that had attracted growing support in recent years.

Fitzgerald asked how this related to the Trump administration. Rogers said that Trump was a threat to Wikileaks because he comes from a position of quite extreme hostility to transparency and accountability in his administration. Fitzgerald suggested the incoming Trump administration had demonstrated this hostility to Assange and desire to prosecute. Rogers replied that yes, the hostility had been evidenced in a series of statements right across the senior members of the Trump administration. It was motivated by Trump’s characterisation of any adverse information as “fake news”.

Fitzgerald asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political? Rogers replied “the latter”. This was a part of the atypical behaviour of the Trump administration; it prosecutes on political motivation. They see openness as a particular threat to this administration. This also related to Trump’s obsessive dislike of his predecessor. His administration would prosecute Assange precisely because Obama did not prosecute Assange. Also the incoming Trump administration had been extremely annoyed by the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, a decision they had no power to revoke. For that the prosecution of Assange could be vicarious revenge.

Several senior administration members had advocated extremely long jail sentences for Assange and some had even mooted the death penalty, although Rogers realised that was technically impossible through this process.

Fitzgerald asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the Refugee Convention. Rogers replied yes. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance. Finally Fitzgerald then asked whether Rogers saw political significance in the fact that Assange was not prosecuted under Obama. Rogers replied yes, he did. This case is plainly affected by fundamental political motivation emanating from Trump himself.

James Lewis QC then rose to cross-examine for the prosecution. His first question was “what is a political opinion?” Rogers replied that a political opinion takes a particular stance on the political process and does so openly. It relates to the governance of communities, from nations down to smaller units……….  https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/?fbclid=IwAR1SSVvRVbh8_y-5pargeR-U2E6JHQDcGUq_752VyejbktpjIbMY-g-MdnA

September 13, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Professor Paul Rogers – a witness explaining how Julian Assange is to be extradited for POLITICAL REASONS

Julian Assange clearly political, says extradition trial witness, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/julian-assange-clearly-political-says-extradition-trial-witness/news-story/735ef7d40551d52f4f7f12d9d6c318d7      JACQUELIN MAGNAY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT@jacquelinmagnay, THE TIMES, SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

Julian Assange’s nomination for the Senate during the 2013 federal­ election campaign and the establishment of the WikiLeaks political party the year before­ “clearly shows’’ the WikiLeaks founder has a political view and a libertarian standpoint, a witness has told the Old Bailey.

Professor Paul Rogers, the emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford University, was called as a witness by Assange’s team to persuade the judge that Assange is being targeted for ­political means, and thus an extraditio­n to the US should not be permitted under the Anglo-US extradition treaty.

In day three of the court hearing where Assange, 49, is objecting to extradition to the US, Professor Rogers said in written testimony that Assange’s expresse­d views, opinions and activities demonstrate very clearly “political opinions”. He cited how Assange had formed the political party to contest­ the Australian general election and “central of this is his view to put far greater attention to human rights’’.

He added: “The clash of those opinions with those of successive US administrations, but in particular­ the present administration which has moved to prosecute him for publications made almost a decade ago, suggest that he is regarded primarily as a polit­ical opponent who must exper­ience the full wrath of government, even with suggestions of punishment by death made by senior officials including the current­ President.’’

But US prosecutor James Lewis QC said: “Assistant US Attorney­ Gordon D. Kromberg explicitly refutes that this is a political prosecution but rather an evidence-based prosecution.’’

In documents to the court, the prosecution says the inves­t­ig­ation into Assange had been ongoing before the Trump admin­istration came into office.

“Assange’s arguments are contradicted by judicial findings, made in the US District Court of the District of Columbia, that the investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of classified information on the WikiLeaks website remained ongoing when the present administration came into office,” the prosecution says.

Mr Lewis added: “If this was a political prosecution, wouldn’t you expect him to be prosecuted for publishing the collateral murder video?’’https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/julian-assange-clearly-political-says-extradition-trial-witness/news-story/735ef7d40551d52f4f7f12d9d6c318d7

He said Assange was being extradited to face charges relating to complicity in illegal acts to obtain or receive voluminous databases­ of classified inform­ation, his agreement and attempt­ to obtain classified information­ through computer hacking; and publishing certain classified documents that contained the unredacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to provide information to the United States and its allies, including local Afghan­s and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes.

Professor Rogers told the court the motivation of Assange and WikiLeaks was to achieve greater transparency and was political. The trial continues.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London. What can we expect?

What’s at stake at Julian Assange’s long-awaited extradition hearing?,    ABC 8 Sept 20, Julian Assange is fighting an attempt by the United States to extradite him to face charges on what it says was “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

It marks the culmination of a nearly decade-long pursuit by US authorities of the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder over the publication of secret documents and files in 2010 and 2011.

Assange’s extradition hearing had initially begun in February but was delayed for several months, and the coronavirus pandemic added additional delays, meaning Assange has been kept on remand in Belmarsh prison in south-east London since last September.

As reported by Background Briefing, Assange’s defence team will attempt to persuade the court he is unfit to travel to the US to face trial, and that the attempt to send him there is essentially an abuse of process.

How did he get to this point?

WikiLeaks made international headlines in April 2010 when it published a classified US military video showing an Apache attack helicopter gunning down 11 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, on a street in Baghdad in 2007.

Later that year, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of US military messages and cables, a leak that saw former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning jailed……..

Assange, 49, has always denied the allegations, saying they were part of a US plot to discredit him and eventually extradite him to the US, and the investigation was eventually dropped in 2017.

He remained holed up in the embassy for seven years until April 2019, when the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum and Metropolitan Police officers arrested him for failing to surrender to the court over an arrest warrant issued in 2012……..

In May 2019, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail conditions, and during that time the US Justice Department brought 18 charges against him.

What is Assange accused of?

Assange is facing 17 charges relating to obtaining and disclosing classified information, and one charge concerning an alleged conspiracy to crack passwords on government servers.

The US alleges he conspired with Chelsea Manning to hack into US military computers to acquire the classified information published by WikiLeaks.

…… Assange maintains the information exposed abuses by the US military and that he was acting as a journalist and is therefore entitled to protection by the US’s First Amendment.

What can we expect from this hearing?

The court must examine a series of factors before any extradition can be granted, such as if the alleged crimes have equivalent offences in the UK and could lead to trial.

“It’s what’s called double criminality, in other words, whether the offences for which Assange is being sought in under US law are broadly being recognised under UK law,” Professor Don Rothwell, from the Australian National University, told Background Briefing.

Prosecutors have argued there is no doubt his actions would amount to offences under the UK’s Official Secrets Act.

If the court agrees, it must then consider how extradition would affect Assange’s health.

Previous court appearances this year have been delayed due to health issues, and his lawyers say his efforts to protect himself from US extradition and being stuck inside the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years had taken its toll.

If the court accepted it would be detrimental to his health, it could open up the possibility of protecting Assange in the UK under European human rights law.

The magistrate may also take issue with how the prosecutors are seeking to impose American law on what Mr Assange is alleged to have done outside of US territory.

“In this matter, US law is seeking to extend all the way, not only from the United States, but into the United Kingdom and into parts of Europe and basically impact upon the activities that Assange has undertaken associated with WikiLeaks over 10 years ago,” Professor Rothwell said…….

Assange’s legal team contends the US is seeking to prosecute Assange for political offences and that he is thereby exempt from extradition under the terms of the UK-US extradition treaty…….

What happens next?

The hearing is expected to last between three and four weeks, with any decision made likely to be appealed and go to a higher court, meaning the legal battle would likely drag into next year and possibly beyond that.

If Assange is eventually extradited to the United States and found guilty, he faces a maximum 175 years imprisonment for the 18 offences listed in the indictment.  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-09/julian-assange-what-does-extradition-hearing-mean/12642972

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian government helps two journalists escape Chinese oppression, but no help for Julian Assange to escape American oppression

DOUBLE STANDARDS!     What a glaring example of kowtowing to USA!

Julian Assange is not getting fair treatment at the Old Bailey (London) hearing about whether or not he should be extradited to the USA, to face 175 years of gaol, on “espionage” charges.   Independent journalists, people from Amnesty, or anyone else likely to give Assange’s side of the story, in reporting this bizarre hearing, is excluded from the courtroom.  That’s despite the OLd Bailey’s tradition of an open courtroom.

As far as I can ascertain, they’re now charging Julian with publicising the names of USA agents.   But in fact, Assange gave the documents to newspapers, I think it was the Guardian and the New York Times, with an express request to NOT publish those names. And the papers went ahead and published them. Julian didn’t.    I also understand that, even then no harm came to any of those agents.

It’s all a trumped up thing.  Assange revealed evidence of USA military atrocities.  So, like Wilfred Burchett, decades ago, he must be punished by almighty America, and Australia must dutifully follow suit.

September 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews, civil liberties | Leave a comment