Jonathan Cook on Assange
Posted by margo on May 14, 2022, 12:22 pm
A good review of Prof Nils Melzer's book "The Trial of Julian Assange". |
Apologies if already posted.
How UK judiciary shamefully bends to USA diktat
But as soon as Assange departed for London, an Interpol Red Notice was issued, another extraordinary development given its use for serious international crimes, setting the stage for the fugitive-from-justice narrative (p167).
A European Arrest Warrant was approved by the UK courts soon afterwards – but, again exceptionally, after the judges had reversed the express will of the British parliament that such warrants could only be issued by a “judicial authority” in the country seeking extradition, not the police or a prosecutor (p177-9).
A law was passed shortly after the ruling to close that loophole and make sure no one else would suffer Assange’s fate (p180).
As the noose tightened around the neck not only of Assange but WikiLeaks too – the group was denied server capacity, its bank accounts were blocked, credit companies refused to process payments (p172) – Assange had little choice but to accept that the US was the moving force behind the scenes.
He hurried into the Ecuadorean embassy after being offered political asylum. A new chapter of the same story was about to begin.
British officials in the Crown Prosecution Service [under K Starmer at the time], as the few surviving emails show, were the ones bullying their Swedish counterparts to keep going with the case as Swedish interest flagged. The UK, supposedly a disinterested party, insisted behind the scenes that Assange must be required to leave the embassy – and his asylum – to be interviewed in Stockholm (p174).
A CPS lawyer told Swedish counterparts “don’t you dare get cold feet!” (p186).
As Christmas neared, the Swedish prosecutor joked about Assange being a present, “I am OK without… In fact, it would be a shock to get that one!” (p187).
When she discussed with the CPS Swedish doubts about continuing the case, she apologised for “ruining your weekend” (p188).
In yet another email, a British CPS lawyer advised “please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request” (p176).
Embassy spying operation
That may explain why William Hague, the UK’s foreign secretary at the time, risked a major diplomatic incident by threatening to violate Ecuadorean sovereignty and invade the embassy to arrest Assange (p184).
And why Sir Alan Duncan, a UK government minister, made regular entries in his diary, later published as a book, on how he was working aggressively behind the scenes to get Assange out of the embassy (p200, 209, 273, 313).
And why the British police were ready to spend £16 million of public money besieging the embassy for seven years to enforce an extradition Swedish prosecutors seemed entirely uninterested in advancing (p188).
Ecuador, the only country ready to offer Assange sanctuary, rapidly changed course once its popular left-wing president Rafael Correa stepped down in 2017. His successor, Lenin Moreno, came under enormous diplomatic pressure from Washington and was offered significant financial incentives to give up Assange (p212).
At first, this appears to have chiefly involved depriving Assange of almost all contact with the outside world, including access to the internet, and telephone and launching a media demonisation campaign that portrayed him as abusing his cat and smearing faeces on the wall (p207-9).
At the same time, the CIA worked with the embassy’s security firm to launch a sophisticated, covert spying operation of Assange and all his visitors, including his doctors and lawyers (p200). We now know that the CIA was also considering plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange (p218).
Finally in April 2019, having stripped Assange of his citizenship and asylum – in flagrant violation of international and Ecuadorean law – Quito let the British police seize him (p213).
[essentially, extrajudicial kidnapping of an asylee and rendition of him into US-UK hands in a UK jail]
He was dragged into the daylight, his first public appearance in many months, looking unshaven and unkempt – a “demented looking gnome”, as a long-time Guardian columnist called him.
In fact, Assange’s image had been carefully managed to alienate the watching world. Embassy staff had confiscated his shaving and grooming kit months earlier.
Meanwhile, Assange’s personal belongings, his computer, and documents were seized and transferred not to his family or lawyers, or even the British authorities, but to the US – the real author of this drama (p214).
That move, and the fact that the CIA had spied on Assange’s conversations with his lawyers inside the embassy, should have sufficiently polluted any legal proceedings against Assange to require that he walk free.
But the rule of law, as Melzer keeps noting, has never seemed to matter in Assange’s case.
Quite the reverse, in fact. Assange was immediately taken to a London police station where a new arrest warrant was issued for his extradition to the US.
The same afternoon Assange appeared before a court for half an hour, with no time to prepare a defence, to be tried for a seven-year-old bail violation over his being granted asylum in the embassy (p48).
He was sentenced to 50 weeks – almost the maximum possible – in Belmarsh high-security prison, where he has been ever since.
Apparently, it occurred neither to the British courts nor to the media that the reason Assange had violated his bail conditions was precisely to avoid the political extradition to the US he was faced with as soon as he was forced out of the embassy.
‘Living in a tyranny’
Much of the rest of Melzer’s book documents in disturbing detail what he calls the current “Anglo-American show trial”: the endless procedural abuses Assange has faced over the past three years as British judges have failed to prevent what Melzer argues should be seen as not just one but a raft of glaring miscarriages of justice.
Not least, extradition on political grounds is expressly forbidden under Britain’s extradition treaty with the US (p178-80, 294-5). But yet again the law counts for nothing when it applies to Assange.
The decision on extradition now rests with Patel, the hawkish home secretary who previously had to resign from the government for secret dealings with a foreign power, Israel, and is behind the government’s current draconian plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda, almost certainly in violation of the UN Refugee Convention.
Melzer has repeatedly complained to the UK, the US, Sweden, and Ecuador about the many procedural abuses in Assange’s case, as well as the psychological torture he has been subjected to.
All four, the UN rapporteur points out, have either stonewalled or treated his inquiries with open contempt (p235-44).