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

Rest super fund commits to net-zero emission investments after Brisbane man sues

November 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | 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

Litigation: a promising new way to address Australia’s climate inaction

On trial: Australia’s dismal climate record, South Wind,  13 October 2020 

The pandemic lays bare a truth leaders consistently ignore: in the end, nature reigns supreme.

It ought to be worth noting that last month was Earth’s hottest September over the 140-year global temperature record, or that this year is in record territory even without an El Nino, or that warming over the past 12 months was just 0.2C below the internationally agreed “safe” limit……

The sad fact is that new temperature records have next to no impact in a world that has become hardened against climate shocks, a situation encouraged by an unholy coalition of political and corporate interests which over many decades have worked hard to obscure the true story.

As a nation, we ought to be up in arms about the Morrison government’s plans to ramp up methane extraction, based on the false claim that generating power by burning natural gas is somehow clean energy. But we’re not. It seems that in a pandemic you don’t question and don’t argue.

The pandemic is bad and generally getting worse getting worse as countries battle with competing health and economic demands. But at least, on the whole, governments recognise that COVID-19 constitutes an emergency and that urgent measures are needed to counter it.

What they don’t see is that the pandemic emergency sits within a bigger emergency. For all its devastation – and we should never downplay its impact on lives and livelihoods – in the long run we know it will end. That cannot be said about the all-enveloping catastrophe of climate change………

Litigation and divestment are two potent legal and financial levers that hold much promise. A case brought this year against the federal government promises to pull both of them.

Katta O’Donnell, a 23-year-old La Trobe University law student, grew up in Victoria’s central highlands. She experienced the impact of long-term drought on that landscape, and twice in 11 years saw it devastated by unstoppable wildfire. Last year, inspired by a lecture by Australian climate law specialist David Barnden, she decided it was time to act.

With Barnden’s help, O’Donnell filed a federal court claim alleging that the Australian government was breaching its legal duty and misleading sovereign bond investors by failing to disclose climate-driven financial risks, such as stranded fossil fuel assets and worsening environmental conditions.

In identifying a material risk to the market in government bonds everywhere, her action attracted attention globally, including in business circles in Europe and the United States alert to any sign of future financial loss.

Australia’s troubled environment, she told me last week, puts it on the front line of the climate crisis. Coral bleaching threatens Great Barrier Reef tourism, drought is lowering our capacity to grow food, and last summer’s bushfires will cost us upwards of $100 billion. Such tangible threats prompted Sweden to sell its Australian bonds last November.

The pandemic is telling us that fiscal and monetary controls, budgets and banks and all the rest of our economic constructs and artifices can’t hide the fact that it is nature, above all, that determines wealth, or its absence. We should all take that message to heart and welcome O’Donnell’s initiative as a long-overdue wakeup call. http://southwind.com.au/2020/10/13/on-trial-australias-dismal-climate-record/

October 13, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment

Assange extradition case could esrablish a dangerous legal precedent

Crumbling Case Against Assange Shows Weakness of “Hacking” Charges Related to Whistleblowing

The charge against Assange is about establishing legal precedent to charge publishers with conspiring with their sources, something that so far the U.S. government has failed to do because of the First Amendment.

October 10, 2020 Micah Lee  THE INTERCEPT, By 2013, the Obama administration had concluded that it could not charge WikiLeaks or Julian Assange with crimes related to publishing classified documents — documents that showed, among other things, evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan — without criminalizing investigative journalism itself. President Barack Obama’s Justice Department called this the “New York Times problem,” because if WikiLeaks and Assange were criminals for publishing classified information, the New York Times would be just as guilty.

Five years later, in 2018, the Trump Administration indicted Assange anyway. But, rather than charging him with espionage for publishing classified information, they charged him with a computer crime, later adding 17 counts of espionage in a superseding May 2019 indictment.

The computer charges claimed that, in 2010, Assange conspired with his source, Chelsea Manning, to crack an account on a Windows computer in her military base, and that the “primary purpose of the conspiracy was to facilitate Manning’s acquisition and transmission of classified information.” The account enabled internet file transfers using a protocol known as FTP.

New testimony from the third week of Assange’s extradition trial makes it increasingly clear that this hacking charge is incredibly flimsy. The alleged hacking not only didn’t happen, according to expert testimony at Manning’s court martial hearing in 2013 and again at Assange’s extradition trial last week, but it also couldn’t have happened.

The new testimony, reported earlier this week by investigative news site Shadowproof, also shows that Manning already had authorized access to, and the ability to exfiltrate, all of the documents that she was accused of leaking — without receiving any technical help from WikiLeaks. …….

the charge is not actually about hacking — it’s about establishing legal precedent to charge publishers with conspiring with their sources, something that so far the U.S. government has failed to do because of the First Amendment………

Whether or not you believe Assange is a journalist is beside the point. The New York Times just published groundbreaking revelations from two decades of Donald Trump’s taxes showing obscene tax avoidance, massive fraud, and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.

Trump would like nothing more than to charge the New York Times itself, and individual journalists that reported that story, with felonies for conspiring with their source. This is why the precedent in Assange’s case is so important: If Assange loses, the Justice Department will have established new legal tactics with which to go after publishers for conspiring with their sources. https://portside.org/2020-10-10/crumbling-case-against-assange-shows-weakness-hacking-charges-related-whistleblowing

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

Australia needs a permanent war crimes investigation unit

Australia needs a permanent war crimes investigation unit, The Age, By Rawan Arraf

October 7, 2020 — The public has been shocked by revelation after revelation of serious allegations of war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. There’s been a steady stream of statements from the Defence Minister and, most recently, the Chief of the Army, preparing us for worse to come.

At the conclusion of Justice Paul Brereton’s Afghanistan inquiry we know there will be more referrals to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation of war crimes allegations.

We know so far that Brereton’s inquiry has investigated more than 55 incidents of alleged unlawful killings and cruel treatment of Afghan civilians and captured combatants. We know that the AFP is investigating at least three incidents, and it has been put on notice to prepare for more.

Our legal centre was established to push Australia to undertake more investigations and prosecutions into international crimes and to contribute to the global effort to end the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these crimes. It has been saying for some time that the AFP needs specialist training, skills, and resources to undertake such investigations. Experience shows that authorities often find the challenges involved in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed extraterritorially daunting, and consequently choose not to prioritise these cases………….

Rawan Arraf is principal lawyer and director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, a legal centre that has been working with survivor and victims’ communities on criminal complaints to the Australian Federal Police. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/australia-needs-a-permanent-war-crimes-investigation-unit-20201005-p562a2.html

October 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, weapons and war | 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

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

Julian Assange case: Witnesses recall Collateral Murder attack: “Look at those dead bastards,” shooters said

September 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange was offered a pardon, if he would name a source

Trump ‘associates’ offered Assange pardon in return for emails source, court hears
WikiLeaks founder was asked to reveal source of leak damaging to Hillary Clinton, hearing told, 
Guardian,  Peter Beaumont in London, Sat 19 Sep 2020   Two political figures claiming to represent Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a “win-win” deal to avoid extradition to the US and indictment, a London court has heard.

Under the proposed deal, outlined by Assange’s barrister Jennifer Robinson, the WikiLeaks founder would be offered a pardon if he disclosed who leaked Democratic party emails to his site, in order to help clear up allegations they had been supplied by Russian hackers to help Trump’s election in 2016.

According to a statement from Robinson read out to the court, the offer was made by the then Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Trump associate Charles Johnson at a meeting on 15 August 2017 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange was then sheltering. At the time he was under secret investigation by a US grand jury.

Robinson added: “The proposal put forward by Congressman Rohrabacher was that Mr Assange identify the source for the 2016 election publications in return for some kind of pardon, assurance or agreement which would both benefit President Trump politically and prevent US indictment and extradition.”

……….. The barrister added that Assange did not name the source of the emails.While Assange’s legal team first made the claim in February detailing a deal for a pardon in exchange for denying the source of the emails was Russia, Robinson’s statement – admitted as evidence by the court – provides substantial details of the meeting………

Robinson’s description of the offer suggests Trump was prepared to consider a pardon for Assange in exchange for information almost a year before a federal grand jury issued a sealed indictment against the WikiLeaks founder.

If it is confirmed that the approach did indeed have the approval of Trump, it would mark the latest in a number of interventions by the US president in relation to the investigation into Russian election interference.

In her statement, Robinson said Rohrabacher and Johnson “wanted us to believe they were acting on behalf of the president”.

“They stated that President Trump was aware of and had approved of them coming to meet with Mr Assange to discuss a proposal – and that they would have an audience with the president to discuss the matter on their return to Washington DC,” she said……

Appearing to confirm that the approach had been made, James Lewis QC, for the US government, said: “The position of the government is we don’t contest these things were said,” adding: We obviously do not accept the truth of what was said by others.” ……. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/sep/18/trump-offered-julian-assange-pardon-in-return-for-democrat-hacking-source-court-told

September 19, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange exposed “a very serious pattern of actual war crimes”

Speaking on the significance of the WikiLeaks releases, Ellsberg said, “It was clear to me that these revelations, like the Pentagon papers, had the capability of informing the public that they had been seriously misled about the nature of the [Iraq and Afghan] war[s], the progress of the war, the likelihood that it would be ended successfully or at all, and that this was information of the highest importance to the American public.”

Characterising the wars that WikiLeaks exposed, Ellsberg explained, “The Iraq war was clearly recognisable, even to a layman, as a crime against the peace, as an aggressive war.”

September 19, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | 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

A legal win for Adani, against climate activist Ben Pennings

Adani granted injunction to stop activist Ben Pennings using ‘confidential material’ABC 11 Sept 20,   Mining giant Adani has been granted an injunction ordering an activist to stop using “confidential material” it claims is frustrating the development of its mine and rail network in the Galilee Basin.

Key points:

  • The legal action is against Brisbane activist Ben Pennings
  • Mr Pennings is accused of demanding contractors to cease working with Adani
  • Justice Martin found the “Stop Adani” movement had caused at least three contractors to withdraw

Adani launched legal action in the Supreme Court in Brisbane against activist Ben Pennings, claiming he had continually demanded contractors who had agreements with the mining company to terminate or withdraw from negotiations.

Adani also argued Mr Pennings would encourage others to provide confidential information to an ongoing campaign —The Galilee Blockade — concerning plans and operations at the site.

Today’s order comes after Adani twice failed to secure a search order to seize evidence from Mr Penning’s home.

…… Under the injunction orders handed down this morning, Mr Pennings will be required to remove certain social media posts and be prevented from using confidential information obtained through campaigns run by him.

Activist accused of ‘intimidation and conspiracy’

Outside court, Mr Pennings said he would respect the court’s injunction but was “very concerned” about ongoing civil action in which Adani accused Mr Pennings of a “breach of confidence, inducing breach of contract, intimidation and conspiracy”.

“I have a family at home, kids, a kid with a disability,” Mr Pennings said.

“If Adani is successful with their civil action, I’ll have to sell my house, and that’s really difficult for my family, but Adani seem determined to hurt me.

“I don’t believe I should have to sell my suburban family home in Aspley to make an Indian multi-billionaire even richer.

“The ‘Stop Adani’ movement is massive. I’m just one passionate person. They really can’t sue all of us.”……….  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-11/adani-granted-court-injunction-ben-pennings-galilee-basin/12654486

September 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment