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6 reasons why everyone should fight for Assange's freedom

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WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange continues to be held in arbitrary detention (Screenshot via Instagram)

The justice system has failed to defend the principles it should protect in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, so the public must wake up to the necessity of peaceful global protest to run parallel with Assange's legal battle, write Sara Chessa.

UK HOME Secretary Priti Patel recently said she had no reason to block Julian Assange's extradition. 

Assange’s lawyers have announced they will appeal, also bringing to the High Court's attention the recent admission by the UK Government of spying actions carried out to the detriment of one of Assange’s lawyers.

Priti Patel has announced her "yes" to the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. and presented it as an acknowledgement of court findings, according to which, Assange's extradition to America will be "legal".

At the time, I spoke to a European lawyer who said:

‘I am shocked by the fact that you are hoping for Anthony Albanese to find a diplomatic solution to the Assange case because it means you don’t trust the British judicial system.’ 

The fact is – even if it is difficult to accept – human nature exists in individuals that serve a justice system. And, within human nature itself, you can find the desire for truth and justice as well as the possibility to serve particular interests that have nothing to do with the passion for truth.

While we have had – for now – journalists like Assange helping the public identify wrongdoing in national security and other sectors, this does not mean that we – the public – can give up the responsibility to observe and assess reality. 

Since anyone with eyes can see the justice system has failed to defend the fundamental principles it should protect, here is a list of reasons that should wake up the public to the necessity of a peaceful global protest, to run parallel with Julian Assange's legal battle:

  • treaty exists forbidding extradition for political reasons, but the most political extradition in decades has now been authorised;
  • one of Assange's lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, was spied on by the UK Government, which admitted to having violated articles under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);
  • a witness on whose statements the U.S. founded their charges admitted to having lied, but the extradition to the country that wants to prosecute Assange on those charges goes ahead;
  • the WikiLeaks publisher is being prosecuted for making the public aware of actual war crimes, but Article 10 of the ECHR establishes ‘the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers';
  • the Espionage Act of 1917 is being used against Assange — claims are he will be granted a fair trial, but that’s clearly impossible because this U.S. law is the only one preventing journalists from releasing such classified documents in the public interest; and
  • the hacking charges are considered unfounded by the expert who analysed them and testified at the hearing, but Assange's extradition still goes ahead.

These are all facts that Assange's legal team could bring to the High Court in the next appeal, given Patel’s political statement.

The first instance judge did not include these points among the reasons for blocking Assange's extradition. This is why the High Court can be asked to rule on the possibility to include such fundamental issues as reasons to deny the extradition.

The justice system has, so far, skipped them, but the public has the right to hope it will now act differently.

At the same time, we must not forget what has happened so far: a publisher has been held in a condition of arbitrary detention as certified by United Nations (UN) experts – earlier at the Ecuadorian Embassy and later at Belmarsh Prison – with UN Special Rapporteur Professor Nils Melzer announcing clear signs of psychological torture.

The importance of citizen protest was suggested to me years ago by former Icelandic Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson, who stopped the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when he was told its plan was to frame Assange. 

At that time, Jónasson told Independent Australia:

"You can have excellent laws and constitutions, but it is almost non-relevant if society is asleep. You need people to speak up."

So, here are six further deceptions that the public needs to know in order to realise that defending this Australian journalist is as important as was participating in the popular resistance against Nazifascism:

1. The false narrative depicting Assange as an irresponsible person

Witness statements in courts are more valid than propaganda. There are plenty of them from authoritative figures who have explained that WikiLeaks made a big effort in terms of human resources and financial investments in order to ensure the name of U.S. sources were removed from the documents and encryption used to protect the original copies still including these names. One of them is John Goetz, an investigative journalist for DER SPIEGEL.

2. The unfounded claim that Assange is not a journalist

During the first instance hearing, when the U.S. prosecutor told the founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPFTrevor Timm that the U.S. Government did not consider Assange a journalist, Timm replied that it is not up to the government to decide who is a journalist as "it is the right of everyone" and Assange was clearly "engaged in journalistic activities".

Mark Feldstein, a full professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, confirmed this. He said in the school of journalism he runs, students are also taught how to acquire classified information by interacting with sources, which is precisely what Assange is being accused of.

It’s certainly easier for the U.S. Government to spread a narrative according to which Assange is not a journalist, but this does not change reality. Even General Secretary International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Anthony Bellanger confirmed it, saying he has personally signed Assange’s press card.

3. Silence on the alleged CIA plot to poison Assange

The Spanish High Court is dealing with the case of David Morales, owner of the company that was in charge of surveillance at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Morales has been accused by whistleblowers of having secretly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), doing whatever he was asked to allow the American agency to listen to Assange's conversations, even with his lawyers and doctors.

According to what has emerged from witness statements so far, it appears a complex system was put in place to allow information to flow toward CIA headquarters without Ecuador realising it was happening.

In this context, yahoo! news published an article revealing a plot to kill Assange as revenge for his publication of the "Vault 7". According to that story, talk over kidnapping or assassinating Assange occurred at the 'highest levels' of the Trump Administration, with senior figures requesting "sketches" or "options" to kill him.

4. The untrue claim that people were killed because of WikiLeaks’ disclosures

No one has died because of WikiLeaks' disclosures. For over ten years, the U.S. could not find a case in which this happened. During Assange's extradition trial, even renowned whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was asked by the court about people in Iraq and Afghanistan being forced to leave their homes after being named by WikiLeaks as U.S. sources.

Ellsberg replied:

"None of these hundreds of threats appears to have been carried out, if they were I would have a very different attitude."

Another witness, Professor John Sloboda, testified that since there were more than 400,000 documents in the information database, it would have taken an enormous number of human resources to check them manually and computer software was designed to automate the process. The software would check the documents for non-English words and remove them, thus ensuring that no Iraqi names were made public.

5. The cunning in the Biden Administration’s diplomatic assurances

As IA has reported in the past few months, Amnesty International considers U.S. assurances that Assange won’t be detained in the special administrative measures regime (SAM) absolutely not reliable, since they include the possibility for U.S. officials to change their mind at any time.

Also, these assurances were presented only after the first instance hearing, when the defence could not examine them anymore. As explained in September 2020 by witness Maureen Baird – who worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 27 years – SAM means being held in a cell for 23 hours a day without being allowed to have contact with other inmates. Monthly phone calls are limited to one 30-minute call or two 15-minute calls and these would be monitored by an FBI agent.

Whenever the U.S. wants to change its mind about not placing Assange in a similar detention regime, it can do it in complete compliance with the promises made.

6. The illusion of having the case handled by unbiased authorities

Using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi requested access to documents held by UK authorities about WikiLeaks journalists and Assange.

Through her FOIA battle, Maurizi discovered that when Sweden wanted to interview Assange regarding sexual misconduct allegations (which never became charges and were eventually dropped), the UK public prosecutor advised the Swedish not to interview Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy and to extradite him instead. This suggestion prevented Assange, for years, from being able to clarify his position.

Also, two weeks after Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador, an article on a news outlet suggested the possibility that Sweden would drop the investigation. A British officer then wrote to the Swedish prosecutor, saying, ‘Don't you dare!!’.

Maurizi took the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to court, to get the release of further documents that could explain what is behind the handling of the case by the UK. Many papers still remain unavailable or are released redacted, but the ones that Maurizi received should make the public think about the UK’s approach — in particular, about a number of key emails between the Swedish and British prosecutors that were deleted by CPS.

The duty of world citizens for the future of Julian Assange

Attempts to deceive the public about Julian Assange have been carried out, as shown above. Peaceful, mass protest is the only way to help the world not to step into a dark place where we will not see true investigative journalism or genuine democracy.

And, while both the Trump and Biden Administrations have carried out such war on journalism, this does not mean that U.S. society wants this shame. The reality is — the 'Constitution of the United Statesis one of the main victims of this war against Assange.

This is why Australian PM Anthony Albanese and all world leaders have one more reason to speak up. The only way to be "friends of America", as so many want to be, is to have the courage to tell the U.S. it is losing its soul.

Sara Chessa is a UK-based independent journalist. You can follow Sara on Twitter @sarachessa1.

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