#JulianAssange has lost #extradition fight in the High Court – but there will be an appeal

Protest: you can tell the strength of public feeling in support of Julian Assange from this image – but the law is the law, even if it is a bad one.

How ironic that a plan to extradite a public interest reporter to the United States, to face trial under extremely restrictive conditions for reporting alleged war crimes against foreign people and corruption, should have happened on Human Rights Day.

The good news is that an appeal is under way.

The US government wants to prosecute Julian Assange for 18 alleged crimes – 17 of them under a 1917 terrorism act – because his reports of these alleged US war crimes on the website Wikileaks allegedly caused risk to the lives of American military personnel.

No evidence has been brought forward to substantiate the claim. US prosecutors have admitted that they do not have any.

Bear in mind that those responsible for the alleged war crimes and corruptions have not faced any form of justice and were allowed to walk free, despite the allegations and evidence supporting them.

The US has been foiled in its attempts to bring Assange to trial for 11 years – firstly because the journalist, fearing his own life would be under threat if he was brought into US custody, fled to the UK’s Ecuadorian Embassy seeking asylum, which he received until 2019, when he was arrested for breaking UK bail by British police.

He has stayed in Belmarsh Prison for two years since then – long after his jail term for the bail offence was over – because the US had applied to extradite him and he has a history of absconding.

This has led him to suffer mental ill-health, according to his supporters.

It led a court to deny the US extradition request in January, on the grounds that his mental health would suffer much more if he were subjected to the US penal system, which is far more hostile that that in the UK. The judgement last week was on an appeal by the US government.

Meanwhile, it is understood that US secret service operatives planned to either kidnap or assassinate Assange, while he was in UK custody.

Former CIA director and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, confronted with the allegation, said the 30 sources who spoke to Yahoo News reporters “should all be prosecuted for speaking about classified activity inside the Central Intelligence Agency” – which seems to be an admission that the claims were accurate.

It seems that in 2017, US intelligence agents plotted to poison Assange. They bugged the Ecuadorian embassy in London so they could listen to meetings with his solicitors, followed Assange’s family and associates, targeted his then six-months-old baby to steal his DNA, and burgled the office of his lawyer.

Given this information, one would expect a UK court to dismiss any extradition request at once, on the basis that Assange’s life is in clear danger.

Unfortunately, the UK has a one-sided extradition treaty with the US – signed during Tony Blair’s period in office – that makes no provisions for such circumstances. Indeed, the UK must take US assurances that a suspect will not be ill-treated at face value, with no evidence requirement, and US claims cannot even be cross-examined in court.

This has been highlighted by former UK diplomat Craig Murray, who was only recently released from prison himself after being convicted on what many believe to be a trumped-up charge relating to his own journalism:

Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, also spoke powerfully about the implications:

Here’s some more information on the deal, and the Acts of Parliament that enforce it:

Once extradited to the States, it seems Assange will face a kangaroo court, rather than receiving any actual justice.

The law under which he is charged does not allow a public interest defence, meaning he cannot argue that he was holding the US government to account by publishing details of its alleged war crimes.

And as Assange is not a US citizen, it seems he would not enjoy constitutional free-speech rights.

Furthermore, the US authorities have arranged for his case to be heard in Alexandria, Virginia – home of the US intelligence services, where people cannot be excluded from a jury because they work for the US government – prompting fears that Assange will be judged by people with a vested interest in supporting their employer.

He could go to prison for 175 years, according to colleagues at Wikileaks – although the US government says the term is more likely to be between four and six years. Who do you believe?

Oh, and he could be sent to Australia to serve the term, so it’s closer to home. This would address concerns about the state of the US prison system – but has the state of Australian penal servitude been checked?

Wikileaks has also raised the wider issue of precedent – that extraditing Assange could make it possible for UK journalists to be sent all over the world to face trial for crimes in foreign countries that simply aren’t offences here.

This Writer is not convinced by the argument. The US-UK extradition deal is unique; it isn’t one that we’re offering to any despotic regime that accuses you of terrorism for looking at a photo of their dictator the wrong way.

That being said, we live in a country where Boris Johnson is the prime minister (for now) and Priti Patel is Home Secretary. The Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case shows that he will happily allow a UK citizen to rot in a foreign jail if it means he can keep some money; logically he’ll send UK citizens to foreign jails for the sake of some filthy lucre too. And she is just desperate to deport as many people as she can.

If they see this as an opportunity to clear the UK of interfering right-on lefties, then who knows what kind of carnage this will cause?

Still, there’s the appeal, which could take place on two grounds: firstly, that the leaks do not amount to an alleged crime; secondly, that the US’s diplomatic assurances aren’t worth the time it takes to speak them.

I don’t have much hope for either. The US-UK treaty means the High Court must accept the assurances at face value, and this also means that they have to honour the claim that a trial under US criminal law is justified.

It means that, as Kit Klarendon stated in his Twitter thread, Assange will be kept “in Belmarsh, his mental and physical health evaporating each day, pinballing from cell to court and back”. So perhaps the US government is having its revenge on him by alternative means.

These are dangerous times – not just for Julian Assange, but for freedom of speech and freedom from tyranny.

Without journalists holding governments to account in the public interest, dictatorial regimes – and I include the United States in that group, along with the UK, at least as far as their behaviour toward foreign nations evidences – can get away with mass murder.

And it seems we have Tony Blair to blame.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.


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1 thought on “#JulianAssange has lost #extradition fight in the High Court – but there will be an appeal

  1. Tony

    James Earl Ray never even got a trial.

    When he realised he had been tricked out of one, he applied to Judge Preston Battle who then very conveniently died of a heart attack.

    And so his conviction for the assassination of Martin Luther King went unchallenged.

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