Julian: yesterday’s High Court ruling

12 Aug

London yesterday. Britain’s High Court has granted the US leave to expand its grounds for appealing an earlier UK court decision to block the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA. His slow journey toward a US jail for the rest of his days, because he told us the truth about US and allied war crimes, has taken a significant step forward.

District Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser had in January ruled that Julian might kill himself under US prison conditions. That hearing was reported from the gallery by the former UK Ambassador Craig Murray; corporate media having shown little interest – though the significance for journalism of Julian’s decade of persecution could hardly be greater.

(Craig is now himself doing time after a perverse judgment by Scottish judge Lady Dorrian.)

Baraitser’s January ruling, denying the US extradition request, was the right outcome for all the wrong reasons. The request was denied not because patently political, so invalid under UK law.

Not because the CIA had a surveillance firm bug Julian at the Ecuador Embassy, an infamy which should have seen even a non political case thrown out.

And not because Julian Assange did nothing mainstream media did not. (Revealing information from covert sources is not a crime, and stories run by Guardian, New York Times, Der Speigel, Le Monde and El País did exactly the same.) To make it a crime the Americans had to draw a spurious and dangerous line between ‘real’ journalists and ‘non journalists’.

As former Guardian columnist Jonathan Cook has noted, journalism is not like medicine or law, where certification is needed for public protection. A journalist is one who does journalism. It’s that simple. On the most vital issues of our day, Julian was doing journalism. It is not the public which is in need of protection from what he told us, but the holders of high office whose evils he and Wikileaks exposed.

And the Americans knew the distinction was flimsy. Hadn’t Barack Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers and keen to see Julian behind bars, backed off for just this reason? To make the man a criminal the authorities needed also to make him a ‘source’ rather than a ‘media partner’. 1

Hence the significance of the fact that, since Baraitser’s ruling, we have learned that the FBI bribed a key witness to lie on a vital matter. Sigurdur Thordarson, a sex offender who stole $50,000 from Wikileaks, told FBI agents that Julian had asked him to hack or access phone recordings of Icelandic MPs. He has since admitted not only that this is a lie, but that as a quid pro quo the FBI granted immunity on charges they had against him. Full story here. 2

None of these facts, any one of which should alone have been fatal to the US case, informed Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling in January. (Or, in the case of Thordarson’s lies, a cross appeal never made because, presumably, the narrowly technical grounds of legal appeals – though serially indulged on the US side – do not permit it.)

Rather, Baraitser denied extradition on ground of Julian’s mental fragility and the notorious conditions of US jails. A cynic might say – since my own selection of egregious factors barely dents the full set of grounds for cynicism (next image) – that her ruling made a show of plucky john bull judicial independence while leaving the door wide open to a US appeal …

… and that this could not have been mere ineptitude.

At any rate Clair Dobbin, the British QC doing the US bidding yesterday, ‘reminded’ the court that Julian “orchestrated one of the largest thefts of data in history”. But even if this claim was not itself so legally tendentious, in what moral universe could data theft be more serious than murder and rape, torture and the supreme international crime of initiating aggressive war?

And on that basis a legally valid ‘public interest’ ground for any such ‘theft’?

Dobbin then went on to the substance of this narrow aspect of the US case: Baraitser had, she told the court, given too much weight to the testimony of one expert witness, a psychiatrist who declared Julian at risk of suicide in the event of incarceration in a US jail. That expert, she said, had “for understandable human reasons” – but the law is the law – presented Baraitser’s court hearing with biased testimony. 3 4

The court agreed, removing one more obstacle to this brave man’s incarceration for life.

I understand that October is now being mooted for the appeal proper.

*

On a personal note, at eight am yesterday I exited Holborn Tube to head south along Kingsway. At the T-junction which is Aldwych (“the old trading place”) I turned left past pretty St Clements (one of two contenders for nursery rhyme status) to join protesters outside the magnificence of the Royal Courts of Justice. It was only 08:20 but a small gathering was making itself heard.

* * *

  1. “… the authorities needed to make [Julian] a ‘source’ rather than a ‘media partner'”. In this they were massively aided by corporate media. Worst of all the Guardian – not only the World’s leading ‘liberal’ paper but having gained cash and kudos from its early collaboration with Julian – now led the pack in trashing the man. Its misreporting of the Swedish rape aspect, and anything-goes character assassinations, did DC’s and London’s dirty work in ensuring that his natural support base among the ‘woke’ fled for cover. (See my post last September: Julian, Guardian & law of volitionality)
  2. Should more evidence be needed – it isn’t of course – of systemically corrupt media whose lies of omission exceed even those of commission, media silence on the lies of Thordarson is it. That, and media silence on OPCW whistleblowers post Douma.
  3. The US Appeal submission says Assange went to “extraordinary and cunning lengths to avoid extradition [showing himself] sophisticated … adept [in the] global arena [so claims of mental health issues as a] bar to extradition must be approached with anxious scrutiny.”
  4. Writing today in RT, George Galloway notes: “The bizarre argument of the Biden government’s English counsel may be a unique non sequitur. Julian can’t be a suicide risk, she argued, because he had “secretly fathered children” with his fiancée. I’ve never heard such nonsense. Doesn’t every man father his children secretly? Do some men do it publicly? Did she mean out of wedlock? How quaint. Are married fathers more likely to be suicide risks? Or did she mean that he was a father at all? Are childless men more likely to be a suicide risk? So mindless are these contentions, it’s a wonder how anyone could take fees for arguing them, more wondrous that any judge could side with them.”

6 Replies to “Julian: yesterday’s High Court ruling

  1. Problem is one side is playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules and the other is not.

    When the deck is so blatantly rigged to the extent that anyone shining a light on crimes, which even today result in capital punishment when official enemies commit them, or those reporting such trials are themselves jailed on trumped up charges by corrupt judges and legal systems* the options for a just outcome are severely limited and lie outside of those rigged rules.

    I recall attending both of the large demonstrations in London against the then up and coming illegal and criminal invasion of Iraq. On both occasions it was obvious that protest, to paraphrase a well known science fiction trope, was futile. Short of everyone attending decamping to Iraq to act as human shields there was no practical option within the framework accepted by everyone including protestors to prevent the application of a decision which had already been made and for which justification was desperately being sought.

    Even if the logistics of such an option could have been pulled off I’ve no doubt that both Blair and Bush and the pyramid upon which they sat would not have hesitated to slaughter millions of their own citizens who stood in their way to get their way. Nor that the Corporate Media would have willingly and enthusiastically shilled to justify such an outcome.

    Short of being rescued by force and taken to a place of sanctuary outside of the reach of the Mafia State in which we find ourselves the Beast will have its pound of flesh and Assange will be extradited and will be kept alive for as long as possible to suffer in extreme incarceration for having the temerity to challenge and embarrass those who consider themselves everyone else’s betters.

    *The cases against Assange and to a lesser extent Murray and Salmond lie at one end of a spectrum whose systemic rigged process and structure are increasingly punitively applied against anyone who openly defies the diktat of the emerging feudal Establishment and its official narratives to cry ‘Uncle’ at any level. Whether its Mark Hirst, Marion Miller, Mandeep Singh, Moya Forstater, Joanna Cherry, Esther Giles, Cris Williamson, Ken Livingstone, Mark Wadsworth, JVL, Labour Party members, LWD and similar, or the many unnamed whose gerrymandered cases never make it to the wider consciousness even on the increasingly censored ‘alternative’ media blog sites.

    • Mafia state is right. Funnily enough, people will often agree with this assessment – until they realise you are deadly serious!

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