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Last throw of the dice for Julian Assange

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Julian Assange rots in isolation in a UK prison while the U.S. Government continues its relentless war against him (Image by Anarchimedia | Flickr)

Regardless of the court battle to prevent his extradition to the U.S., there appears to be little hope for Julian Assange — the Americans are relentless.

The report by Ian Curr below includes a transcript of interviews with Assange's father John Shipton, former Senator Scott Ludlam, British writer and political activist Tariq Ali and Scottish journalist Ewen MacAskill.

A HIGH powered legal team had their last throw of the dice in London this week to stop the British Government’s extradition of Assange to the United States. Regardless of the outcome in the courts, there is little hope for Julian Assange.

Sadly, the Americans are not going to let him go.

As former Greens' Senator Scott Ludlam testified to the Belmarsh Tribunal the U.S. Government has:

"...calculated to wear him and his supporters down in an endless cycle of appeals and counter appeals [where] the prosecution gets what it wants, no matter the result.”

Last week his supporters turned out in Meanjin (Brisbane) and, after ten years of organising solidarity actions, they are exhausted. Attempts by Julian’s father, John Shipton, to persuade Joe Biden to let Assange go have failed. So, Assange’s freedom relies heavily on a legal rather than a political strategy.

Added to the constant threat of extradition hanging over him should a qualified doctor testify that he is well enough to face trial in the U.S., some have suggested that he should return to Australia. This is naive, for both sides of politics in Australia would willingly hand him over to the Americans for trial and an inevitable life sentence in a hellhole. If you are in any doubt about this, just look at what Australian governments do to refugees from war.

However, Assange’s legal defence rests on thin grounds — fear by the judiciary that Assange will commit suicide. In the U.S. High Court Judges are not concerned about that. The judicial concern is purely superficial. They must not look beholden to governments, regardless of which one, British or United States. The letter of the law is paramount.

During the extradition trial, the U.S. Government lawyers won all the legal arguments, save one, itself not strictly a matter of law — the threat of suicide.

Julian, his father, mother, wife and family will pay a heavy price for WikiLeak's leaking Iraqi war logs and the 'Collateral Murder'  video. And let’s not forget Chelsea Manning. Or the million dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We publish this report (by request) about the United States’ High Court Appeal compiled by Bay FM Community Newsroom, on 29 October 2021. Thanks go to the anchor, Mia Armitage and Julian’s dad, John Shipton. Shipton is in London for the U.S. Government’s High Court appeal against the decision not to allow the extradition. He talks with Dr John Jiggens in the interview that follows.

We have also received reports of a quite different tribunal organised by Progressive International. The so-called "Belmarsh Tribunal" is modelled on the Russell Tribunal, held in Sweden in 1967. The latter was convened by prominent philosophers, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Rob Osborne reports on this citizens’ tribunal examining the war on terror, which was also in London for the appeal. The report features (British writer and political activist) Tariq Ali, John Shipton and Scottish journalist Ewen MacAskill.

Not that dissimilar to WikiLeaks, the People’s Tribunal, or Russell Tribunal, exposed American war crimes in Vietnam. On this occasion, Russell and Sartre are replaced by writers, Tariq Ali and Ewen MacAskill.

Petition

There is a petition to free Julian signed by 659,343 (at time of publication) people. All the members of the AUKUS agreement have ignored this large number of petitioners, forcing people to question the democratic system itself. The petition is appropriately named 'The British Legal System is on Trial. If they Extradite, Assange=Democracy is Dead'. Please sign it if you wish to stay informed. Also, share with your friends and colleagues.

Metrics

The petition put together by Phillip Adams is currently running at 30 signatures per hour — that’s about 720 per day. 

Adams says that there was a mass mail-out to: 

“...the 652,000 signatories at about 9:50 am Brisbane time on 31 October ’21. This [the email list] is now the largest daily news article distribution service in Australia.”

At this rate, hopefully, the petition may have one million signatures by the time the appeal decision is handed down by the High Court in London.

Sixty-five people had listened to the podcast on 4PR in the first two hours of its release and over 100 viewed the transcript on WBT (see below) before the end of the day. A good show that Bay FM put together, congratulations to John Jiggens and the team down there.

The bond between the military-industrial complex and mainstream media

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) had a small news item about the extradition hearing at the back of their Saturday print edition. So, their views would be low. Probably the same with the Weekend Australian print edition. I don’t know about their online service because I don’t subscribe. Firewalls are everywhere.

The Brisbane Times focused on the suicide submission but gave some coverage of the CIA plot.

In his article 'Four Corners v Julian Assange', Dr John Jiggens had this to say about our ABC:

Yet while journalists worldwide honour Assange and are deeply concerned by the significant threat to journalism posed by the U.S. attempt to extradite him and charge him under the '1917 Espionage Act', the Big Lie that Assange is not a journalist persists in the Australian media.

 

And not just in that section dominated by a U.S. citizen, but, surprisingly and most virulently, at the ABC’s flagship current affairs program Four Corners.

Media lies during U.S. wars

Given the media was embedded with the military during shock and awe the news is not really independent or objective. How long did it take CNN to expose the lie that Iraq had chemical weapons of mass destruction?

The U.S. had sold weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. But the United Nations (UN) investigator Hans Blix found no evidence of prohibited weapons programs prior to his withdrawal on 18 March 2003. Then the invasion began.

It was U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who stood up in the U.N. and lied about the WMD in order to get wider support for the invasion of Iraq. Did mainstream media tell us that this was the same Colin Powell who had allegedly covered up the mass murder of 200-400 Vietnamese villagers at Mỹ Lai by Lieutenant William Calley Junior and his men in 1968?

At that time, charged with the responsibility to investigate the massacre, Powell wrote: 

'In direct refutation of this portrayal [of a massacre] is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.' 

Later, Powell’s assessment would be described as whitewashing the news of the massacre and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public.

None of Powell’s Vietnam War record came out in the media to help us decide if he was lying about the WMD prior to the Iraq War.

So when WikiLeaks came up with a means whereby Bradley Manning could secretly leak the Iraqi War logs that exposed the massacre by U.S .helicopter gunships, that bond between media and military was overshadowed by whistleblowers self-publishing their concerns. The Collateral Murder video leaked by Assange exposed U.S. Government lies. Mainstream media became irrelevant, replaced by WikiLeaks.

'Knowing that you are out there fighting for me, keeps me alive in this profound isolation.'

~ Julian Assange

Assange vs the Clintons

WikiLeaks exposed two of the best liars in politics, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Assange released presidential hopeful Hillary's emails that showed how far to the Right she was.

Hillary supported the genocidal Iraq war; celebrated the brutal murder of Libyan President Gaddafi. As U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton was supplying arms to Israel to slaughter the Palestinian people. Had Hillary won the U.S. presidential election, the U.S. would probably have been at war with Iran, such was her allegiance with Israel.

So Julian Assange is entitled to be upset at how the U.S. Government has connived to lock him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

Solidarity

What freedom Julian Assange does finally achieve depends chiefly on the solidarity campaign that has been waged in many countries — strongly, in places like Germany, but not so strong in the United States or Australia (both members of AUKUS, a new arms arrangement with the UK in the coming war with China).

That is not to say that efforts have not been made to obtain better results in the U.S. and Australia. John Shipton has toured both countries seeking support. Here in Brisbane, we have tried nearly everything: stalls, rallies, petitions, formal approaches to the British consul, fundraisers, debates, forums, radio shows on local community stations like 4ZZZ and Byron Bay FM and discussion groups.

Some of these events were well attended or had big audiences, but strong political-activist defence has not developed from this — ten years of solidarity actions have fallen on deaf ears of people in power. Very sad for Julian and his family. The Yanks have been relentless.

At this point, the solidarity campaign for Julian has been exhausted save for a few hardy souls who came out of the anti-war movement here in Queensland. And, in a way, Julian was born into this movement when his mother stayed at Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland just prior to his birth at a time of the anti-Vietnam war moratorium campaign.

Julian Assange — the United States’ High Court appeal

TRANSCRIPT

Bay FM Community Newsroom, 29 October — Anchor: Mia Armitage.

John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, in London for the U.S. Government UK High Court appeal against the decision not to allow the extradition of Julian Assange, talks with Dr John Jiggens. Rob Osborne reports on the Belmarsh Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal examining the war on terror, which was also in London for the appeal, with grabs from Tariq Ali, Ewan MacAskill and Scott Ludlam.

MIA ARMITAGE: The UK High Court is this week hearing a U.S. appeal against the decision of a lower court to deny the U.S. Government requests for the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton has been in London this week for his son’s latest judicial hearing and says he’s pleased England’s most powerful judge Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Ian Burnett, has been on the bench along with Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde. Mr Shipton spoke with community newsroom reporter Dr John Jiggens.

JOHN SHIPTON: Judge is the most powerful judge in the United Kingdom, the Chief Justice of England and Wales. And it was in his court that the hearing was held. So there’s an absolute seriousness within the English judiciary merging to settle this case.

JOHN JIGGENS: Normally, the U.S. gets what it wants. Yet, you seem very optimistic. What underlines your confidence?

JOHN SHIPTON: It’s timely that the Supreme Court justice has involved himself in this matter. I feel, myself, that they are embarrassed by their behaviour. If you could imagine every single point, which is a scandal itself, however, every single point of the Americans prosecution in the original hearing in September was accepted, except for one item. And that is the health of Julian going to the United States and more than likely committing suicide.

Despite that, the Americans have a Department of Justice appeal. Since that time when the United States decided to appeal, then the revelations about the CIA involvement by 30 officials from the CIA, the revelations of the CIA involvement have appeared and Thor Deyson, their prime witness from Iceland, has recanted on his testimony and being arrested for more cases of fraud. You know.

JOHN JIGGENS: How did the first day of extradition hearing appeal go?

JOHN SHIPTON: The general outline is that the prosecution has the first day up until 4 pm. And then the defence has half an hour. The prosecutor outlined his case, he canvassed the assurances of the United States that Julian wouldn’t be thrown into some dungeon somewhere forgotten.

Of course, we all know that those assurances or barriers because, you know, we have in front of us nine cases, where assurances were given and then reneged upon. The second part is the prosecutors' argument was around. Professor Koppelman is a professor of psychiatry and his evaluation of Julian that Julian might or was very likely to commit suicide, if sent to the United States,

MIA ARMITAGE: That was the father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, John Shipton, speaking with community newsroom reporter Dr John Jiggens earlier in the week. Now since that conversation proceedings in the British High Court have finished but the legal decision isn’t expected for several weeks.

Prior to the commencement of the U.S. High Court appeal supporters of Mr Assange and campaigners for his release, helped what is called the Belmarsh tribunal, a public hearing named after the jail in which Mr Assange is being held. The tribunals purpose is to hold the United States accountable for war crimes, as they were revealed by Mr Assange and WikiLeaks. And that work, of course, won an award from the Walkley Foundation here in Australia.

Community newsroom Reporter Rob Osborne has more.

ROB OSBOURNE: Organised by Progressive International the Belmarsh Tribunal is modelled on the People’s Tribunal, held in Sweden in 1966, convened by prominent philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre. The People’s Tribunal exposed American war crimes in Vietnam.

Here is veteran British activist, writer and broadcaster Tariq Ali, describing his involvement in the 1966 event.

TARIQ ALI: Investigating teams were sent to North Vietnam to experience the war, myself included and we sat through hours and hours of bombing every single day I saw with my own eyes the day after they’d bombed hospitals and schools in turn of our province. So it was a searing experience, which really left its mark on me.

ROB OSBOURNE: Tariq Ali was the first speaker at the Belmarsh tribunal convened at the convocation Hall in London. Here’s some of what he had to say about the U.S. pursuit of journalist Julian Assange.

TARIQ ALI: Julian exposed the so called War on Terror, which began after 9/11 that has lasted 20 years has led to six wars, millions killed, trillions wasted. That is the only balance sheet of that war. Nowhere has it redeemed itself or done any good, as we’ve seen most recently, in Afghanistan. Julian is unfortunate to be captured by this particular state in order to appease the United States of America. He should never have been kept in prison for bail.

He should not be in prison now awaiting a trial for extradition. He should be released and I hope that acts like the Belmarsh Tribunal will help to bring that narrow.

ROB OSBOURNE: The shocking WikiLeaks material exposing American war crimes was published around the world in prestigious conventional media, including the New York Times, the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the French daily Le Monde and The Guardian in London, Guardian journalist, Ewen MacAskill testified to the tribunal about the importance of whistleblowers to the practice of investigative journalists.

EWEN MACASKILL: Whistleblowers reveal abuses and wrongdoing within governments, companies, the military intelligence agencies, these whistleblowers should be rewarded for their courage — instead, so often they end up facing prosecution or gaol.

ROB OSBOURNE: He also spoke about the intentions and the activities of the various Western intelligence agencies.

EWEN MACASKILL: There’s been a war being waged against journalism and free speech. And it’s been going on since at least 9/11. It’s not a general war, the intelligence agencies are waging it to try and dissuade future leakers, within the agencies. And they’re trying to dissuade the journalists covering the national security beat.

What Assange has been accused of is fundamentally no different from the normal interaction between whistleblowers and journalists on the national security beat. There’s no fundamental difference between what Julian Assange was doing and what I was doing. Assange is viewed as an easy target. There is a lot in the part of the U.S. or the British governments to take on media organisations like the New York Times or The Guardian, then ends up as an argument about press freedom. So the goal is the easy target, and that was Julian.

ROB OSBOURNE: Australian author and ex-Senator Scott Ludlam spoke to the tribunal remotely from his home in Yuin country in New South Wales.

SCOTT LUDLAM: Anybody who’s been following the extradition proceedings against Julian Assange will understand that this is a calculated abuse of the court system calculated to wear him and his supporters down in an endless cycle of appeals and counter appeals with the prosecution gets what it wants, no matter the result.

Because no matter the result, Julian Assange remains in prison unable to speak for himself, a form of judicial warfare, that the UN Special Rapporteur confirmed amounted to torture, all the while, seeding the public debate with disinformation and character assassination.

Our growing global movement and our presence here today means that this disinformation campaign has failed. Julian’s continued defiance from behind the walls of Belmarsh Prison means that this torture campaign has also failed. So this is the first essential step to protecting the right of publishers everywhere to tell the truth about the crimes of the powerful President Joe Biden, drop the appeal.

Julian wrote this to a supporter in 2019:

'Knowing that you are out there fighting for me, keeps me alive in this profound isolation.'

For us, knowing that he is in there still fighting must be our motivation to bring this campaign to a conclusion so that he can see sunlight for the first time in years, and be with his family and his friends and supporters to recover from the harsh cruelty that he has survived. And to start the next chapter of his life and work.

Free Julian Assange.

MIA ARMITAGE:  Author and former greens Senator Scott Ludlam, ending that report from Robert Osborne.

Listen to the program HERE:

You can sign the petition to free Assange HERE.

Ian Curr is the great-great-grandson of Australian settler and politician Edward Curr. You can listen to Ian's podcast 4PR Voice of the People, read his blog Workers BushTelegraph and follow Ian on Twitter @WorkersBushTele.

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