The following information is to a large extent a presentation in abbreviated form of information available from Craig Murray’s web diary of his attendance at the trial’s public gallery, with some reference also from the Julian Assange Defence website, to both of which we are most grateful. We have both paraphrased and quoted extensively from these sources with a view to bringing the important information they have gathered to as wide an audience as possible.
Julian Assange’s trial has brought to life Franz Kafka’s famous dystopian novel The Trial. To quote the opening sentence: “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.”
The extradition trial of Julian Assange began on 25 February 2020 and was then postponed to 7 September 2020. Far from having done anything wrong, he had positively done good.
A view of dystopia
From the very first day, the Kafkaesque nature of the trial became evident in the original choice of venue itself. It was held originally in Woolwich magistrates’ court, located in the precincts of Woolwich Crown court, a specialist court for the trial of terrorists, though Vanessa Baraitser, the stipendiary magistrate hearing the case, was provided by Westminster magistrates’ court. And not only was Julian treated as a terrorist, seated at the back of the court enclosed behind a bullet-proof screen, but every attempt was made to restrict public access to the trial. The public gallery of the chosen court room held only 16 seats, although the case is one of extreme public interest.
Craig Murray described the physical surroundings of the court in the following terms: “Attached to a prison on a windswept marsh far from any normal social centre, an island accessible only through navigating a maze of dual carriageways, the entire location and architecture of the building is predicated on preventing public access.
“It is surrounded by a continuation of the same extremely heavy-duty steel paling barrier that surrounds the prison. It is the most extraordinary thing, a courthouse which is a part of the prison system itself, a place where you are already considered guilty and in jail on arrival.
“Woolwich Crown court is nothing but the physical negation of the presumption of innocence, the very incarnation of injustice in unyielding steel, concrete and armoured glass … It is in truth just the sentencing wing of Belmarsh prison …
“Indeed, if a single day at Woolwich Crown court does not convince you the existence of liberal democracy is now a lie, then your mind must be very closed indeed.”
Universal suppression of freedom of speech
Of special note regarding the first day’s proceedings was that prosecuting counsel James Lewis made a very long opening speech in which he emphasised that normal journalists who published classified information would not be affected by any adverse decision against Mr Assange as the case against Assange was not that he published the information but that he had conspired with Chelsea Manning to acquire it.
Almost immediately, however, it was pointed out that under English law it is an offence merely to publish such information, whatsoever the manner in which it was acquired, so the case very much demonstrates that all or any journalists who seek to expose the criminal activity of the state by publishing leaked classified documents will, like Julian Assange, find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Cruel and unusual abuse of a helpless and innocent man
On the second day: “proceedings … started with a statement from Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s QC, that shook us rudely into life. He stated that yesterday, on the first day of trial, Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells.
“On top of this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in today’s proceedings.”
The magistrate merely said that what the prison authorities did was outside her jurisdiction and she could do nothing about it.
A biased judge
In fact, throughout the day, the magistrate went to town demonstrating her abject lack of impartiality, dismissing with contempt the defence’s incontrovertible arguments.
For instance, the basis of the charges being brought by the US authorities is that Julian Assange helped Chelsea Manning to decode a hash key so as to enable her to access classified material. This was ridiculous because Manning at the time in question had full access to all the material in question without any assistance from Assange and had not even been in contact with him at the time she did access it.
Evidence that this was the case emerged during Chelsea Manning’s court martial, but incredibly Magistrate Baraitser took the view that the findings of the US court martial of Chelsea Manning did not have to be treated as fact in English legal proceedings, even in the case of agreed or uncontested evidence or prosecution evidence!
English law does not allow extradition for political offences without an express treaty permitting it
The third day was taken up with the question of whether anyone could be extradited to the US for a political offence. Although the 2007 UK/US extradition treaty specifically excludes political offences, this is not the case with the 2003 Extradition Act that governs English (as opposed to international) law.
However, Julian’s counsel correctly pointed out that the 2003 act cannot be relevant except in conjunction with an extradition treaty. If there is no applicable extradition treaty with a given state then nobody can be extradited there, whether for a political offence or anything else, and the extradition can only be on the terms of the treaty in question.
In legal jargon, the 2003 act is an ‘enabling’ act, which cannot stand on its own but only in conjunction with the treaty its provisions has ‘enabled’. It is true that the 2003 act ‘enables’ extradition for political offences, but it certainly does not make it mandatory for treaties to include extradition for political offences!
The prosecution also tried to allege that the offences with which Julian has been charged in the US courts were not ‘political’. If China were trying to extradite someone who had published any of its state secrets it goes without saying that no such suggestion would be remotely tenable!
The arguments on the extradition points continued into the fourth day, where it was notable that whereas Magistrate Baraitser listened with careful attention to the largely specious arguments put forward by the prosecution, she continually interrupted the arguments being put forward by the defence, although in law they were unanswerable.
New charges added to the prosecution’s case
What the trial so far had brought to the fore, however, was the embarrassing weakness of the US case for extradition. The case was adjourned until May, with both sides having agreed they needed more time to prepare their case.
As a result of the intervention of the Covid crisis, however, the reopening was postponed until 7 September at the Old Bailey. In the meantime, the US Department of Justice deemed it politic to try and bolster its very weak case for extradition by updating its indictment to accuse the Wikileaks founder of soliciting hackers to break into the Icelandic government’s computers to steal information that could be leaked to embarrass the government.
This additional charge was presented on 25 June, the idea apparently being to add weight to the argument that Julian Assange was not a journalist but merely a criminal hacker. In actual fact, the US hope is that if even Baraitser would be hard put to extradite on the basis of the refuted allegations made by the prosecution in February, then she might at least be prepared to extradite on the basis of alleged criminal hacking.
In the meantime, the victim of US imperialism’s rage at its murderous criminality being exposed to public view was to spend at least another six months in high-security lock-up.
By 7 September, the whole of Britain was on high Covid alert, which, needless to say, was seized on by the authorities to restrict access to the hearings. Forty NGOs that had been given permission to ‘attend’ via video link had their permission revoked on the pretext the it had been granted “in error”.
The defence argued that the amendments to the indictment should not be included as they could have been included initially but were not. The defence argued: “It is fundamentally unfair to introduce separate criminal allegations, without notice, without time to prepare evidence, where the defence cannot properly deal with the new aspects of the case.
“What is happening here is abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice if it is allowed to continue.
“The appropriate course is for the court to exercise its powers to excise the new allegations.”
Predictably, Magistrate Baraitser refused to excise the new allegations. She also refused a request that the hearing be postponed until January to give the defence time to prepare properly.
How war crimes were exposed
On 9 September, the evidence of Clive Stafford Smith was heard. This British/American lawyer licensed to practise in the UK detailed the huge extent to which Wikileaks had uncovered US war crimes in Afghanistan especially, in particular the execution without trial by drone strikes of civilians simply on the say-so of paid informants, as well as illegal rendition and torture.
His evidence, and that of other personalities, is of utmost importance to the case. The US government is attempting to portray Julian Assange as a ‘hacker’ and as someone who wanted to harm the United States, rather than as a journalist performing a public service.
Experts such as Mr Stafford Smith debunk that smear and show how Julian Assange’s work carries out his ideals, using transparency to achieve justice. This did not prevent Magistrate Baraitser from decreeing that witnesses for the defence were to be given a maximum time of just 30 minutes to present their evidence, while the prosecution was allowed unlimited time to cross-examine them.
Mr Stafford Smith was followed by Professor Feldstein, Chair of broadcast journalism at Maryland university, who has 20 years’ experience as an investigative journalist.
Effect of the First Amendment to the US constitution
According to Craig Murray: “Feldstein stated that leaking of classified information happens with abandon in the United States. Government officials did it frequently.
“One academic study estimated such leaks as ‘thousands upon thousands’. There were journalists who specialised in national security and received Pulitzer prizes for receiving such leaks on military and defence matters. Leaked material is published on a daily basis.
“Feldstein stated that ‘The first amendment protects the press, and it is vital that the first amendment does so, not because journalists are privileged, but because the public have the right to know what is going on’.
“Historically, the government had never prosecuted a publisher for publishing leaked secrets. They had prosecuted whistleblowers.”
Political nature of the prosecution
On 10 September, Paul Rogers, emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford university, took the stand by video link. Asked to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan, he responded:
“In 2001, there had been a very strong commitment in the United States to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy initial military victories led to a feeling the nation had ‘got back on track’. George W Bush’s first state-of-the-union address had the atmosphere of a victory rally.
“But Wikileaks’ revelations in the leaked war logs reinforced the view of some analysts that this was not a true picture, that the war in Afghanistan had gone wrong from the start. It contradicted the government line that Afghanistan was a success.
“Similarly, the Wikileaks evidence published in 2011 had confirmed very strongly that the Iraq war had gone badly wrong, when the US official narrative had been one of success …
“Assange had stated that he was not against the USA and there were good people in the USA who held differing views. He plainly hoped to influence US policy. Rogers also referenced the statement by Mairead Maguire in nominating Julian for the Nobel peace prize.”
Rogers was asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political. He emphatically replied: “the latter”. He was then asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the refugee convention. Rogers replied that they were. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance.
Another witness was Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Association in San Francisco, again via video link.
“Mr Timm testified that there is a rich history in the USA of famous reporters covering defence and foreign affairs-related matters drawing upon classified documents. In 1971, the supreme court had decided the government could not censor the New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers.
“There have been several instances over history where the government had explored using the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists, but no prosecution had ever materialised because of first amendment constitutional rights.”
Mr Timm said that if it were not for the first amendment, “Many great journalists would have been caught by this kind of prosecution, including Woodward and Bernstein for the cultivation of Deep Throat.”
Asked about the prosecution’s characterisation of the provision of a dropbox by Wikileaks to a whistleblower as criminal conspiracy, Timm replied that the although the indictment was treating possession of a secure dropbox as a criminal offence, the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times and over 80 other news organisations have secure drop boxes for the benefit of whistleblowers, yet nobody would seriously argue that they were conspiring in espionage!
With regard to the leaking of the Senate intelligence committee report on torture in 2014, “Timm said that this vital and damning report on CIA involvement in torture had been much redacted and was based on thousands of classified documents not made available to the public.
“Virtually the entire media had therefore been involved in trying to obtain the classified material that revealed more of the story. Much of this material was classified Top Secret – higher than the Manning material. Many newspapers appealed for whistleblowers to come forward with documents and he had himself published an appeal to that effect in the Guardian.
“Summers [for the defence] asked if it had ever been suggested to Timm this was criminal behaviour. Timm replied no, the universal belief had been that it was first amendment-protected free speech. The current indictment is unconstitutional.”
The trial was then paused because of a Covid scare on the prosecution team, but resumed again on 14 September.
Elaborate precautions taken by Julian Assange to redact the revelations and ensure no harm to the innocent
On 16 September, American journalist John Goetz, who had been working for Der Spiegel at the time it published Wikileaks revelations in 2010, gave evidence.
Mr Goetz testified that in its anxiety not to reveal any material that could damage the innocent, Wikileaks withheld 15,000 documents. Goetz testified that Wikileaks spearheaded a “very rigorous redaction process”, beginning with the Afghanistan files.
He said Assange was always “very concerned with the technical aspect of trying to find the names in this massive collection of documents” so that “we could redact them, so they wouldn’t be published, so they wouldn’t be harmed”. Assange continually reminded media partners to use secure communications so that the information would not get out to the wrong people.
Goetz also testified that Wikileaks and its media partners held conversations with the US government ahead of publication.
The New York Times sent a delegation of reporters to the White House to discuss the release ahead of time. As the Times’ Eric Schmitt emailed to Goetz immediately after the meeting, the media delegation informed the US government that Wikileaks would not be publishing some 15,000 documents within the Afghan War Diaries, and they asked the White House for any technical assistance they could provide to assist with redactions. That request, Goetz said, was met with “derision”.
Der Spiegel published an interview with Assange on 26 July 2010 (‘I enjoy crushing the bastards’) about his harm-minimisation process . It asked him: “The material contains military secrets and names of sources. By publishing it, aren’t you endangering the lives of international troops and their informants in Afghanistan?”
Assange responded: “The Kabul files contain no information related to current troop movements. The source went through their own harm-minimisation process and instructed us to conduct our usual review to make sure there was not a significant chance of innocents being negatively affected. We understand the importance of protecting confidential sources, and we understand why it is important to protect certain US and ISAF sources.”
Goetz testified that in relation to the war in Iraq, Wikileaks’ harm-minimisation process “overshot” and “ended up redacting more than the US defence department did”. However, the Wikileaks documents did confirm the CIA’s involvement in torture and its cover-up.
“Giving an example of the types of stories that Wikileaks releases assisted with, Goetz explained that he had been investigating the story of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia and extraordinarily rendered to a black site in Afghanistan, where he was detained and tortured in 2004.
“This wasn’t known at the time, so Goetz searched the documents for el-Masri’s name, saw that he had been brought to Afghanistan, and found the CIA kidnappers ‘who’d forced el-Masri onto a military plane, sodomised him and sent him’ to Afghanistan.
“Goetz tracked down the CIA agents responsible in the United States, interviewed them, and reported the story. Following that broadcast, a Munich state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for the 13 CIA agents. But, Goetz said, ‘It turns out the arrest warrant was never actually issued to the United States.’
“When he saw the State Department cables, he discovered that the US had pressured the German prosecutor to issue the warrant in a jurisdiction where the perpetrators didn’t live, threatening ‘repercussions’ otherwise.” (Assange Defence website, 18 September 2020)
The prosecution raised an objection to a statement made by el-Masri himself being entered on the court record, but Magistrate Baraitser said that this could amount to accepting the defence’s evidence “unchallenged”. In the end the issue was not resolved.
How unredacted cables came to be published
Asked about the 2011 publication of unredacted cables, John Goetz explained what really happened. In February 2011, Guardian reporters David Leigh and Luke Harding published a book with a password to the unencrypted file set as the title of a chapter. The German magazine Die Freitag published this information, and as a result others whom Assange could not control, in particular the leak site Cryptome, were able to use that password to unlock the files and publish them online in full.
Julian Assange and other Wikileaks staff called Hillary Clinton’s emergency phone line at the State Department warning that sources had been named, but they were ignored.
Goetz also said that Assange had tried to stop Die Freitag from publishing information that would lead to the release of unredacted files.
Altruistic motivation no defence
The next witness was Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who had himself been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
Ellsberg explained that he had copied and released the Pentagon Papers, comprising 7,000 Top Secret files, to the New York Times in 1971. The files demonstrated that the United States government had “started and continued” the Vietnam war “with the knowledge that it could not be won”, and that successive presidential administrations lied to Congress and the public about it.
Ellsberg testified that both he and Assange felt that the Afghan and Iraq wars were wrong and that the Iraq war was a “crime”.
“What had changed, Ellsberg said, was that in Afghanistan (and in Iraq), horrific abuses, illegal killings and war crimes had become normalised – so much so that they appeared in ‘low-level field reports’. The Iraq and Afghanistan war logs are marked up to Secret, whereas the Pentagon Papers were all Top Secret …
“The famous ‘Collateral Murder’ video illustrates this further. The title of the video, taken from a US army Apache helicopter and documenting the gunning down of civilians including journalists, children and their rescuers, was controversial when it was released in 2010. Assange was criticised for labelling the actions ‘murder,’ but to Ellsberg, the title caught his eye for a different reason:
“‘There was no question to me that what I was witnessing at the time was murder. In fact, the problematic word in the title was ‘Collateral’, implying that it was unintended. This was murder, and a war crime. So I was very glad that the American public was confronted with this’.”
Ellsberg continued: “I was very impressed that the source of these documents, Chelsea Manning, was willing to risk her liberty and even her life to make this information public. It was the first time in 40 years I saw someone else doing that, and I felt kinship toward her.”
Ellsberg also mentioned that at his trial under the US Espionage Act his public-spirited motivation for publishing the secret documents was deemed irrelevant: such publication is an offence of strict liability in the US, and the public interest provides no defence at all.
First amendment not available to foreign nationals prosecuted in US courts?
The main witness on 17 September was Eric Lewis. A practising US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge and is former professor in law at Georgetown university.
He testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications, including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the first amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Timesproblem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Timesfor publishing the same material.
The New York Times had successfully pleaded the first amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark supreme court judgement. However, Mike Pompeo argued that the free speech defence for Wikileaks was “a perversion of what our great country stands for” and claimed that the first amendment did not apply to foreigners.
It is on this basis that the US ‘justice’ department felt able to issue proceedings against Assange.
Inhumane conditions in US jails
Eric Lewis confirmed that Assange’s sentence, if convicted, could range from a ‘best case’ of 20 years to a maximum of 175!
On the question of detention conditions, Julian Assange while on remand would be placed in the Alexandria city jail, where he would most probably be held under ‘special administrative measures’. After conviction, he would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado, kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out, shackled, once a day for brief exercise or recreation, separated from other prisoners.
Mr Lewis also exposed how the US administration was directly interfering to prevent the International Criminal Court from investigating crimes alleged against any US citizen. An executive order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non-US national who assisted the ICC investigation into such crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.
Where are our ‘freedom-loving’ press?
At this point, although it had not yet been possible to give evidence regarding the second indictment, the half-hour guillotine imposed by Magistrate Baraitser on defence evidence came down, and what followed was a lengthy and futile attempt by the prosecution to show that the witness didn’t know what he was talking about.
In the meantime, Craig Murray noted: “The mainstream media are turning a blind eye. There were three reporters in the press gallery, one of them an intern and one representing the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Public access continues to be restricted and major NGOs, including Amnesty, PEN and Reporters Without Borders, continue to be excluded both physically and from watching online …
“The six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker.” Not much would appear to have changed since the days of the Star Chamber!
It did subsequently appear that another six journalists representing news agencies were also listening to the trial, but few of their reports were making it to the mainstream media. This is quite extraordinary bearing in mind that the court proceedings are making it clear that the US government is now taking the view that the first amendment is no defence against prosecution under the US Espionage Act.
The following day, 18 September, was less dramatic but was marked by a brazen and persistent display of the US government’s insistence that it has the right to prosecute any journalist or publication, anywhere in the world, that publishes US classified information.
It is clear that if Julian goes down, then so do the media, which makes it all the more extraordinary that most of them are keeping very quiet – possibly in the hope that if they are quiet the US state will not come for them in the way it has come for Julian Assange. Their silence brings to mind all those who kept quiet about Nazi atrocities in the hope that their own section of the population would be left alone – a misconception brought to the fore in Pastor Niemöller’s famous quote: “First they came for the jews …”
The threat to journalism in general explicitly underlay the entire line of questioning in the afternoon session.
Wikileaks did not publish unredacted cables
On Monday 21 September, German computer science professor Christian Grothoff gave evidence that Wikileaks did not publish unredacted cables.
He testified about his research into the timeline of events surrounding the 2011 publication of the unredacted State Department cables. Three of the 18 counts against Assange charge him specifically with publishing the unredacted cables, and Grothoff’s testimony established that Wikileaks was not the first outlet to publish that archive, that others published it first and yet have not been prosecuted for doing so while Wikileaks had taken care to encrypt the file.
Several witnesses followed who gave evidence of the great importance of the Wikileaks revelations to the public interest.
Severe danger to Assange’s mental health
On 22 September, evidence was presented regarding Julian Assange’s mental state. Dr Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, gave the view that his own “visits to Assange had yielded a man deprived of sleep, suffering ‘loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness as a result of threats to his life, the concealment of a razor blade as a means to self-harm and obsessive ruminations of ways of killing himself’.
“Kopelman was, he stated in submissions to the court, ‘as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide’.” (Assange’s eleventh day at the Old Bailey: Suicide, hallucinations and psychological torture by Dr Binoy Kampmark, Global Research, 23 September 2020)
In response to cross-examination designed to show that the doctor was wrong, the latter in fact was able to adduce further relevant information:
“The psychiatric picture of Assange drawn by Kopelman was one of regression and severity, made worse by the likelihood of harm that can arise to those with Asperger’s syndrome. He had an ‘intense suicidal preoccupation’. Findings from autism specialist Dr Simon Baron-Cohen – that suicide is nine times more likely in patients with Asperger’s ‘than in the general population in England’ – were mentioned …
“In December 2019, conditions proved acute; in February and March, moderately severe. The lockdown at the Belmarsh prison facility precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic did its share of harm. Assange had sought confession with a Catholic priest, ‘who granted him absolution’.
“He had drawn up a will, scribbled farewell letters to family and friends.
“All signs of a man possibly readying for the other side.
“As appalling as his conditions in Belmarsh had been, including a stint in confined isolation, the conditions ‘he would experience in North America would be far worse than anything experienced in the embassy or Belmarsh’ …
“Attention turned to the prevalence of depression during Assange’s time in the Ecuadorean embassy, starting around 2015. This had caught the attention of Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. Melzer has taken the long view on Assange: that the combined effort of several states – Ecuador, the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden – had created conditions of ‘psychological torture’, part of a deliberate, progressively cruel effort.
“There had been, he claimed in May 2019, ‘a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and more recently, Ecuador.’
“In company with two medical experts experienced in examining potential victims of torture and ill-treatment, Melzer’s 9 May 2019 visit to Assange confirmed that his ‘health has been seriously affected by the extreme hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years’. Assange, ‘in addition to physical ailments … showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.’
“In November 2019, Melzer reiterated his concerns in the face of tardiness on the part of the British authorities. ‘Despite the medical urgency of my [May] appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.’”
On 23 September, “Dr Quinton Deeley, a National Health Service psychiatrist who specialises in autism, ADHD and other mental health issues, took the stand to discuss Julian Assange’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“Dr Deeley had interviewed Assange several times over a period of several months, and he spoke to Assange’s partner, mother, and friends to corroborate his findings and prepare a report. Dr Deeley also agreed with what Dr Kopelman testified to yesterday, that Assange would be a ‘high risk’ of suicide if he were ordered to be extradited.” (Assange Defence website)
US spying on confidential lawyer-client discussions
On 30 September, the defence read several witness statements aloud in court, including two statements from anonymous former employees of UC Global, the Spanish security company led by David Morales that spied on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The witness statements testify to the particular zeal Morales had displayed in recording conversations between Assange and his lawyers, as well as his contract with an American company to report the recordings back to American intelligence officials.
Refusal to admit rebuttal evidence
With regard to the medical evidence, objections had been raised by the prosecution about the witnesses’ lack of direct knowledge of conditions in US prisons.
The defence had secured the agreement of two further witnesses to give such evidence but the magistrate, of course, ruled the evidence as inadmissible and out of time. She thus effectively prevented any challenge to the prosecution’s witnesses – US government officials who had lauded the kindly conditions in the US prisons to which Assange would most probably be sent – since it had apparently been accepted that US government officials could not be cross-examined.
She also decreed that closing arguments would only be made in writing (not presented in the court), which is handy for those who want to keep the Assange proceedings as far out of the public eye as possible. It is usually the closing speeches of a case that receive the most media attention.
Now that the hearing at the Old Bailey has come to an end, the timetable that has been accepted is that the defence will lodge their closing arguments in writing on 30 October, the prosecution will reply on 13 November, with the defence able to make a further response by 20 November purely on any legal questions. Baraitser will then deliver her judgment in January.
In his final report, Craig Murray condemned the barbarism of the whole process:
“In that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhomie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process.
“Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty feet square.
“Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the ‘recreation cell’ was perhaps the most chilling.
“That and the foul government ‘expert’ Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this.”
The decision on whether or not to extradite will be announced on 4 January 2021 at midday. It is expected that whichever side loses, there will be an appeal – ie, even if Julian Assange were to win, his detention in inhuman conditions would continue for the foreseeable future, and his two small sons would continue to be deprived of their father’s presence in their lives.
It is no wonder that the imperialist hyenas have taken every precaution to ensure Julian’s extradition hearing received as little publicity as possible. US imperialism and British imperialism arrogate to themselves the right not only to criticise alleged breaches of human rights in other countries, but also the right to intervene, with bombing campaigns if they think they can get away with it, to impose on other countries their ‘ideals’ of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’.
The extradition hearing has exposed their total contempt for human rights. The only ‘rights’ they pursue are the right to exploit, the right to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and the right to crush all and any opposition to their predatory marauding.
Free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning!
No cooperation with imperialist war!