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Press Release

Julian Assange receives Keys to Mexico City

The Head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, named Julian Assange a Distinguished Guest and delivered the Keys to the City to the family of the founder of WikiLeaks, who is in Mexico at the invitation of the Presidency to the celebrations for the anniversary of the independence.

“Julian Assange represents the truth, he represents freedom of expression and never, anywhere in the world, can that be persecuted,” Sheinbaum said. John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton, father and brother of Julian Assange, attended the ceremony on Wednesday.

“Today, in this national month, we endorse Independence and because we always endorse freedom of expression, Julian Assange will be welcomed, through his family, to Mexico City.”

Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, general coordinator of Social Communication and Spokesman for the Government of the Republic, pointed out that Julian Assange could be considered a “21st century liberator.”

“We hand over the Keys to the City to the family of Julian Assange. For us, Julian represents the truth, freedom of expression. We are a progressive City that has always defended the great freedoms and the right to free access to information.” Claudia Sheinbaum, Head of Government of Mexico City

The Former Minister of National Defence of Ecuador Ricardo Patino was able to deliver to the father and brother of Julian Assange, the national journalism award given to the founder of Wikileaks by the Journalists Club of Mexico in 2018.

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Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange Files his Perfected Grounds of Appeal

Today, 26 August 2022, Julian Assange is filing his Perfected Grounds of Appeal before the High Court of Justice Administrative Court. The Respondents are the Government of the United States and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel.

The Perfected Grounds of Appeal contain the arguments on which Julian Assange intends to challenge District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s decision of 4 January 2021, and introduces significant new evidence that has developed since that ruling.

The Perfected Grounds of Appeal concerning the United States Government include the following points:

  • Julian Assange is being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions (s.81(a) of the Extradition Act);
  • Julian Assange is being prosecuted for protected speech (Article 10)
  • The request itself violates the US-UK Extradition Treaty and International law because it is for political offences;
  • The US Government has misrepresented the core facts of the case to the British courts; and
  • The extradition request and its surrounding circumstances constitute an abuse of process.

The Perfected Grounds of Appeal concerning the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) include arguments that Home Secretary Priti Patel erred in her decision to approve the extradition order on grounds of specialty and because the request itself violates Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty.

“Since the last ruling, overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that the United States prosecution against my husband is a criminal abuse. The High Court judges will now decide whether Julian is given the opportunity to put the case against the United States before open court, and in full, at the appeal,” said Julian Assange’s wife Stella Assange.

Background:

4 January 2021: Westminster Magistrates Court discharges (throws out) the US extradition request against Julian Assange. District judge Vanessa Baraitser rules that extradition is barred under the 2003 Extradition Act because it is “opressive” (s.91). The United States Government appeals.

27-28 October 2021: US appeal hearing before the High Court Appeal. Julian Assange suffers a transient ischemic attack (TIA) on the first day.

10 December 2021: The decision to discharge the extradition request is overturned by the High Court due to the United States Government issuing so-called ‘diplomatic assurances’ to the UK Government. The High Court rejects the United States Government’s arguments that the district judge erred in her findings.

14 March 2022: The Supreme Court refuses Julian Assange permission to appeal the High Court’s decision. The case is sent back to the Magistrates’ Court with instruction to issue the extradition order.

20 April 2022: The Magistrate issues the extradition order, which is sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval.

17 June 2022: Home Secretary Priti Patel approves the extradition order to extradite Julian Assange to the United States.

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Press Release

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, met with Assange’s wife

(en español)

Stella Assange, Michelle Bachelet, Baltasar Garzón, and Aitor Martínez


Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human RightsMichelle Bachelet, met with Julian Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, and Mr. Assange’s Spanish lawyers, Baltasar Garzón and Aitor Martínez, at the Palais Wilson in Geneva.

At the meeting, the High Commissioner was informed about the human rights violations against Julian Assange, the risk to his life if he is extradited to the United States, and the implications for freedom of the press and the right of citizens to the truth.

The meeting lasted a little over an hour. Mr. Assange’s lawyers, Baltasar Garzón and Aitor Martínez, explained Mr. Assange’s current situation in the context of the United Kingdom’s extradition proceedings. The High Commissioner was informed that there are currently two pending appeals before the British High Court. The first, against the decision of the Home Office to agree to hand over Julian Assange to the United States; and the second, the cross appeal brought by the WikiLeaks founder against the arguments that district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected in the lower court’s ruling.

Mr. Assange’s lawyers explained in detail to High Commissioner Michel Bachelet the grounds that are before the High Court of the United Kingdom. Some of these grounds represent a very serious attack, not only on the rights of Mr. Assange, but also on freedom of the press globally. They discussed how, by criminally prosecuting a journalist for publishing truthful information related to serious international crimes committed by the United States Army, the United States’ case against Mr. Assange is also an aggression on the freedom of the press globally and on the right of access to information.

Similarly, the absence of dual criminality was discussed, since the Espionage Law of 1917 is being invoked to prosecute a journalist for exercising his profession, a rule that would not apply in Europe under the criminal standards of the continent.

In addition, his lawyers discussed how this case violates the principle of proportionality, as Julian Assange faces a potential prison sentence of 175 years, a de facto life sentence, simply for publishing information related to international crimes, which are crimes that the international community is under an obligation to prosecute. The lawyers also exposed the abusive extraterritoriality deployed by the United States in persecuting a foreign journalist who published abroad and who has no ties to the US jurisdiction.

Along with other arguments, the criminal cases opened by Spain to investigate the security company UC GLOBAL (which provided security services to the Embassy of Ecuador in London in apparent collaboration with US intelligence services to systematically spy on Mr. Assange, his lawyers and other visitors in Ecuador’s diplomatic mission for years), recently caused the Spanish Audiencia Nacional (aquivalent to the High Court) to issue a summons to take statements from Mike Pompeo, former director of the CIA, and William Evanina, former chief of US counterintelligence.

Finally, the High Commissioner was informed of a recent investigation revealing that Mike Pompeo’s Central Intelligence Agency instructed its agents to develop plans to kidnap Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy and even to draw up ‘sketches and options’ for his assassination.

His lawyers argued that minimal international human rights standards ought to have prevented the authorization to extradite of him to the country that has planned his assassination.

Furthermore, Mr. Assange’s lawyers discussed all the limitations suffered by Mr. Assange to his right to mount a defense, as well as the ways in which his political asylum was breached in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

For her part, Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, focused on the frail state of Mr. Assange’s health. She invoked various medical reports that confirmed the risk of Mr Assange dying in prison including that extradition could drive him to take his own life, a risk corroborated by specialists’ reports before the British courts.

In addition, she highlighted the fact that the Special Rapporteur against Torture, Nils Melzer, visited her husband in Belmarsh prison with specialized doctors and concluded, in a very harsh report sent to the Human Rights Council, that Julian Assange was being subjected to a situation of torture. Regarding the medical situation, she recalled that her husband recently suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and she expressed a profound and serious concern for his life.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michel Bachelet, together with members of her team, received the information provided at the meeting and had a very productive exchange with the lawyers for Mr. Assange and his wife.

—-


ESPAÑOL

Hoy, la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos HumanosMichelle Bachelet, se reunió con la esposa de Julian Assange, Stella Assange, y los abogados españoles del Sr. Assange, Baltasar Garzón y Aitor Martínez, en el Palais Wilson de Ginebra.
 
En la reunión se le informó sobre las violaciones a los derechos humanos contra Julian Assange, el riesgo para su vida si es extraditado a Estados Unidos y las implicaciones para la libertad de prensa y el derecho de los ciudadanos a la verdad.

La reunión duró algo más de una hora. En la misma, los abogados del Sr. Assange, Baltasar Garzón y Aitor Martínez, expusieron la situación actual del Sr. Assange en el marco de la extradición que se está dilucidando en Reino Unido. En este sentido se comunicó a la Alta Comisionada que actualmente existen dos apelaciones pendientes que serán solventadas por la High Court británica. La primera, contra la decisión del Home Office de acordar la entrega de Julian Assange a Estados Unidos; y la segunda, la “cross appeal” de la defensa del fundador de WikiLeaks contra aquellos aspectos denegados en la primera decisión por parte de la jueza de distrito, Vanessa Baraitser.

En relación a esta segunda apelación, el equipo jurídico expuso con todo detalle a la Alta Comisionada, Michel Bachelet, los elementos que van a ser valorados por la High Court en Reino Unido. Algunos de esos elementos suponen un gravísimo atentado, no sólo a los derechos del Sr. Assange, sino a la libertad de prensa en el mundo. Para ello se expuso la agresión que la causa abierta en Estados Unidos significa para la libertad de prensa en el mundo y el derecho de acceso a la información, toda vez que se persigue penalmente a un periodista por publicar información veraz relativa a graves crímenes internacionales cometidos por el ejército de Estados Unidos. De igual forma, se expuso la falta de doble incriminación, ya que se está invocando la Ley de Espionaje, de 1917, para perseguir a un periodista por ejercer su profesión, una norma que no tendría aplicación en Europa bajo los estándares penales del continente. Además, se recordó la violación que esta causa supone al principio de proporcionalidad, al enfrentar Julian Assange potenciales penas de 175 años de cárcel, una cadena perpetua de facto, simplemente por publicar información relativa a crímenes internacionales, sobre los cuales existe una obligación de persecución por parte de la comunidad internacional. También se expuso la extraterritorialidad abusiva desplegada por Estados Unidos, persiguiendo a un periodista extranjero que publicó en el extranjero y que no tiene vínculos con su jurisdicción. Junto a otros argumentos, igualmente se expuso lo relativo a las causas penales abiertas en España para investigar a la empresa de seguridad UC GLOBAL, la cual proveía servicios de seguridad a la Embajada de Ecuador en Londres y habría colaborado con los servicios de inteligencia norteamericanos para espiar en forma masiva al Sr. Assange, sus abogados y demás visitantes en la misión diplomática por años, lo que ha motivado que recientemente la Audiencia Nacional española haya pedido tomar declaración a Mike Pompeo, ex director de la CIA, y a William Evanina, ex jefe de contrainteligencia. Por último, se puso al tanto a la Alta Comisionada que recientemente se reveló en Estados Unidos por parte de agentes de la CIA que se llegó a planear el secuestro de Julian Assange, incluso proyectándose su asesinato en la Embajada de Ecuador en Londres, contexto que impide bajo los mínimos estándares internacionales de derechos humanos que se puede autorizar la entrega a la jurisdicción que proyectó su asesinato.

Así mismo se compartió todas las limitaciones que se han venido sufriendo en el ejercicio del derecho de defensa por parte del señor Assange, y el incumplimiento de las condiciones del asilo en la embajada de Ecuador en Londres.

Por su parte, Stella Assange, la esposa de Julian Assange, se centró en el delicado estado de salud que atraviesa el Sr. Assange. Recordó los diversos informes médicos que confirmaron el riesgo de morir en prisión o de que cometiera suicidio en caso de ser entregado, tal y como se informó por parte de diversos especialistas a la justicia británica. Además, resaltó el hecho de que el Relator Especial contra la Tortura, Nils Melzer, visitó a su esposo en la prisión de Belmarsh con médicos especializados y concluyó, en un durísimo informe remitido al Consejo de Derechos Humanos, que Julian Assange estaba siendo sometido a una situación de tortura. En relación a la situación médica, recordó que su esposo recientemente sufrió un derrame cerebral, mostrando una profunda y seria preocupación por su vida.

La Alta Comisionada para los Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas, Michel Bachelet, junto a miembros de su equipo, recibió la información aportada en el referido encuentro y mantuvo un intercambio muy productivo con la defensa del Sr. Assange y su esposa.

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Past Events Press Release

Roger Waters joins DOJ rally, tells Merrick Garland to free Julian Assange

Roger Waters joined a rally organized by DC Action for Assange and Assange Defense at the Department of Justice today, and he spoke out against the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. Waters had just performed in Washington DC the previous night — Waters has partnered with Assange Defense to feature a Free Assange information table at every stop on his current ‘This is Not a Drill’ tour of the United States.

Video by News2Share // Ford Fischer

Before Waters, Defending Rights & Dissent’s Chip Gibbons and Sue Udry, Randy Credico, and Max Blumenthal condemned the persecution of Assange and called on the Attorney General to drop the charges.

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Press Release

Attorneys and Journalists Illegally Searched During Visits with Julian Assange Sue CIA and Michael Pompeo

Press conference

News coverage

Sydney Morning Herald: Assange lawyers sue CIA for allegedly spying on Wikileaks founder and his visitors in London

“At a press conference in New York on Monday, Assange’s US lawyers said the suit alleges that unbeknown to even the Ecuadorians, who granted Assange aslyum, the data on their phones and other electronic devices was copied and handed over to the CIA.”

Reuters: CIA sued over alleged spying on lawyers, journalists who met Assange

“The CIA, which declined to comment on the lawsuit, is prohibited from collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens, although several lawmakers have alleged that the agency maintains a secret repository of Americans’ communications data.”

Newsweek: CIA spying on Assange “illegally” swept up US lawyers, journalists: Lawsuit

“Legal experts, including a former senior intelligence official, told Newsweek that the allegations in the lawsuit, if proven, show the CIA crossed lines drawn to protect American citizens from surveillance by overzealous intelligence agencies.”

Democracy Now

Legal filing

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Press Release

Mexican president called on Biden to free Assange

Photo: Randy Credico (click for source)

July 20, 2022 — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) delivered a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden last week, in which “he defended Julian Assange’s innocence and renewed a previous offer of asylum to the WikiLeaks founder,” Reuters reports

“I left a letter to the president about Assange, explaining that he did not commit any serious crime, did not cause anyone’s death, did not violate any human rights and that he exercised his freedom, and that arresting him would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression”

Al Jazeera adds that AMLO also said that “Mexico is offering protection and asylum to Julian Assange,” but he hasn’t yet heard a response from Biden. 

Activists in Washington DC thanked AMLO for raising Assange’s persecution with Assange in a letter delivered to the Mexican embassy, writing,

“We applaud your decision to bring up Julian Assange in your conversation with President Biden today. We agree with you that the prosecution of Mr. Assange for publishing is a profound threat to journalism around the world. We appreciate your consistent vocal support for these important principles, core tenets of a functioning democracy.”

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Press Release

Letter thanking Mexican President AMLO for Assange support

As President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with President Joseph Biden in Washington, a national network of press freedom groups delivered a letter to him at the Mexican Embassy. The coalition thanked López Obrador for his support for publisher Julian Assange and freedom of the press. Carrying “Gracias AMLO – Free Assange” signage, local activists celebrated Lopez Obrador’s announcement that he will raise the issue in his conversation with Biden. Below is the English translation of the letter in full.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador
President of Mexico
c/o Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC, USA

RE: Freedom of the Press and Julian Assange

Dear President Lopez Obrador,

Welcome to the United States, welcome to Washington D.C., and thank you for your support for press freedom!

We are activists dedicated to saving publisher Julian Assange from prosecution and persecution for his revelations regarding U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fight to save Assange is also the fight to save press freedom and our First Amendment rights.

We applaud your decision to bring up Julian Assange in your conversation with President Biden today. We agree with you that the prosecution of Mr. Assange for publishing is a profound threat to journalism around the world. We appreciate your consistent vocal support for these important principles, core tenets of a functioning democracy.

Your courage and commitment to freedom of speech are justly celebrated in Mexico and across the globe. Here in Washington, your voice is important.

In Solidarity,

DC Action for Assange
Assange Defense

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Press Release

Rep. Tlaib introduces Espionage Act Reform amendment that would protect journalists and their sources

Representative Rashida Tlaib has introduced an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would reform the draconian 1917 Espionage Act to protect whistleblowers and publishers from prosecution. 

Defending Rights and Dissent explains just how important enacting this reform would be:

The Tlaib amendment puts roadblocks in front of the government, making it harder to charge whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, and allowing whistleblowers to defend themselves if they are charged. Specifically, the amendment:

-Requires the government prove specific intent to injure the United States

-Requires that the information exposed was actually properly classified

-Permits a defendant charged under the Espionage Act  to testify as to their purpose for disclosing the information

-Creates a public interest defense.

-Additionally, the amendment would undermine the government’s effort to prosecute Julian Assange – or any future publisher or journalist – under the Espionage Act by excluding journalists, publishers, and members of the general public from its jurisdiction.

As the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Trevor Timm put it, “Congress has a historic chance to protect journalists and whistleblowers in this year’s defense authorization bill.”

Assange Defense co-chair and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg reacted to the amendment in a statement to reporter Ryan Grim:

“For half a century, starting with my own prosecution, no whistleblower charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 has had, or could have, a fair trial.  These long-overdue amendments would remedy that injustice, protect the First Amendment freedom of the press, and encourage vitally-needed truth-telling.”

Grim reported on the amendment proposal on The Hill’s Rising:

See the full text of the amendment here.

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Press Release

International Federation of Journalists launches major Free Assange campaign

July 5, 2022 – Last week, the International Federation of Journalists launched a new global campaign to call on the United States to drop all charges against publisher Julian Assange.

The IFJ is the largest association of journalists’ trade unions worldwide, representing over half a million media employees from 187 organizations in 146 countries. Assange, a member of Australia’s Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance (MEAA), is an international press card-carrying member of the IFJ.

In its announcement of the new campaign, the federation explains,

“The IFJ is gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. The US pursuit of Assange against the public’s right to know poses a grave threat to the fundamental tenets of democracy, which are becoming increasingly fragile worldwide. Irrespective of personal views on Assange, his extradition will have a chilling effect, with all journalists and media workers at risk.

The case sets a dangerous precedent that members of the media, in any country, can now be targeted by governments, anywhere in the world, to answer for publishing information in the public interest.”

Following a timeline of WikiLeaks’ work, Assange’s journalism awards, his political asylum, and the U.S. persecution, the IFJ encourages media unions around the world to take action to fight back against a grave threat to their profession. IFJ has prepared a model letter for unions around the globe to sign and send to their local U.S. embassy.

The IFJ also calls on unions to urge their members to cover Assange’s case. “Organise a meeting, a rally, a press conference to highlight the implications of Assange’s extradition in the US on freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.”

Click to watch video

Finally, the IFJ has posted video statements from key union leaders, including Dominique Pradalié, President of the IFJ; Sadiq Ibrahim, President of the Federation of African Journalists; Zuliana Lainez, President of the Federación de Periodistas de América Latina y el Caribe; Maja Sever, President of the European Federation of Journalists; Sabina Inderjit, President of the Federation of Asia-Pacific Journalists; and Karen Percy, president of MEAA.

Click to watch video

The IFJ’s statement closes,

“The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to be with his wife and children. The IFJ is also calling on all media unions, press freedom organisations and journalists to urge governments to actively work to secure Assange’s release. #FreeAssangeNOW”

Click to watch video
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Past Events Press Release

The Assange case: international solidarity and implications for press freedom globally

Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, Vijay Prashad, journalist (International Peoples’ Assembly) and Zuliana Lainez, vice-president of the IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), held a panel discussion which ran parallel to the 50th Ordinary Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The objective of the event is to oppose the extradition of Julian Assange and to express the grave concerns regarding the violations of Assange’s human, civil and political rights.

Julian Assange has been held without legal grounds in Belmarsh maximum security prison in the UK since 2019. He is accused by the United States of violating the Espionage Act for the publication between 2010 and 2011 of classified documents revealing war crimes and torture camps in Iraq and Afghanistan. Julian Assange could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

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Past Events

Geneva Press Club: In the name of press freedom, media and journalists call for the release of Assange

For all citizens:

For journalists only:

At the invitation of the Swiss Press Club in Geneva, Swiss and international organizations of journalists and publishers as well as editors call with one voice for the release of Julian Assange in the name of freedom of the press, the June 22 at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva at 11 a.m. CEST. A very large mobilization of journalists and media was formed when the British government authorized this June 17 the extradition of the founder of WikiLeaks to the United States where he faces 175 years in prison. This Geneva coalition, which is joined by journalistic organizations from many other countries, is directly challenging the British and American authorities. It also asks the Swiss authorities, in the name of freedom of the press and human rights,

The coalition supports Julian Assange who will use all possible remedies to oppose his extradition and regain his freedom. His only crime is to have published classified documents revealing in particular war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bearers of the Appeal will recall in particular on this occasion that an extradition of Julian Assange would have serious repercussions for investigative journalism since any use of so-called “classified” or secret documents could be prosecuted and result in a prison sentence for the investigators. . This threat will reinforce the pressure for self-censorship and encourage the renunciation of disclosing information of public interest coming from “protected” official sources.

Since May 18, the decision to extradite Julian Assange at the request of the United States has been in the sole hands of the British Minister of Justice, Priti Patel. She decided this Friday, June 17 to sign the extradition order considering that there was no reason to prohibit this order. This in flagrant violation of human rights and total disregard for press freedom.

As a reminder, Julian Assange, after having lived as a recluse at the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years, has now been locked up for more than three years in Belmarsh Penitentiary, the high security prison in London, where he suffers, according to Nils Melzer , UN special rapporteur on torture, a treatment that amounts to torture. His health has seriously deteriorated and if extradited, he faces a 175-year prison sentence.

Beyond the human aspects and the violation of human rights dear to Geneva, the case of Julian Assange constitutes a major challenge for the future of press freedom as it is increasingly attacked in all latitudes. , including in Switzerland. It should be noted that the latter country, even if the situation there is described as “rather good”, has lost four places in the 2022 ranking of Reporters Without Borders, thus falling to 14th place. Recent provisions affecting the freedom of the press explain this result in particular.

With the participation of

  • Edgar Bloch , co-President, impressum, Swiss Journalists
  • Daniel Hammer , General Secretary, Swiss Media
  • Denis Masmejan , Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders, Switzerland
  • Dominique Pradalié , President, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and National Syndicate of Journalists (France)
  • Marc Meschenmoser , co-president Investigativ.ch
  • Jean-Philippe Ceppi , producer, TempsPresent (RTS) and investigativ.ch member
  • Nicole Lamon , Associate Editor, Matin Dimanche
  • Frédéric Julliard , editor-in-chief, Tribune de Genève
  • Philippe Bach , editor-in-chief, Le Courrier
  • Serge Michel , Editor-in-Chief, heidi.news
  • Tim Dawson , National Union of Journalists, Great Britain (zoom)
  • Karen Percy,   President of Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia (Zoom)
  • Mika Beuster, Co-Head, Deutscher Journalisten Verband, (Association of German Journalists), Germany (Zoom)
  • Jean Musy , President of the Association of the Foreign Press in Switzerland (APES)
  • Agustin Yanel , General Secretary, Federation of Spanish Journalists’ Unions, Spain
  • Pierre Ruetschi , Executive Director, Swiss Press Club and President of the Dumur Prize.

Ten other Swiss editors support the Appeal. Other international organizations join the Call.


This video was originally published at the Geneva Press Club.

Categories
Press Release

UK Home Sec. signs Assange extradition order

United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed off on Julian Assange’s extradition order, paving the way to send the publisher to the United States where he is indicted on unprecedented charges endangering press freedom.

Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton, held a press conference in New York City immediately following the news, in which they announced Assange’s defense team will fight this decision in an appeal to the UK’s High Court.

‘Julian Assange strip searched and moved to bare cell on day extradition announced’

The Independent:

“Prison is a constant humiliation but what happened on Friday felt especially cruel,” said Ms Assange.

“After the announcement of Patel’s decision, Julian was taken from his cell so that he could be strip searched, and then escorted to a bare cell where he remained for the rest of the weekend.

“His own cell was searched. They were looking for things that could be used to take one’s own life.

“In the bare cell, guards logged his status every hour until he was allowed to return to his cell on Tuesday.

“This kind of thing never becomes more tolerable. Any person would find it degrading. The mental strain on Julian is enormous as it is, having to process what is essentially a death sentence.

“The fact he is imprisoned while this outrageous extradition proceeds is a grave injustice in itself. He needs to deal with all that, while preparing for a complex appeal to the High Court.”

National Writers’ Union condemns Assange extradition order

Gabriel Shipton read a statement from National Writers’ Union President Larry Goldbetter:

“This fight isn’t over. As President of the National Writers Union and in the name of press freedom, I stand in solidarity with John and Gabriel Shipton, the father and brother of Julian Assange, in calling on the Biden Administration to withdraw the extradition request. Their protest at the Consulate here in Manhattan will be echoed around the world by professional journalists and our brothers and sisters in the global human rights community.

We join the 600,000 journalists represented by the International Federation of Journalists and its 147 member unions, plus press freedom advocates, like PEN, Reporters Without Borders, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Investigative Journalism, FAIR and many more in demanding freedom for Julian Assange!

Julian is not alone and we will support the appeal of this outrageous decision in London today.”

Journalists demand Assange release from UK jail

From the AFP:

An international coalition of journalists, editors and publishers demanded Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be immediately released from a UK jail and that all charges against him be dropped.

Fifteen representatives of international journalist and publishers’ unions and organisations gathered in Geneva for the “call to free Julian Assange in the name of press freedom”.

“We are demanding that Julian Assange be freed, returned to his family, and finally permitted to live a normal life,” said Dominique Pradalie, head of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which counts some 600,000 members across 140 countries.

Assange’s brother on MSNBC and Democracy Now

Press freedom riding on upcoming Julian Assange decision 

‘Punished for Exposing War Crimes? U.K. Approves Assange Extradition to U.S., Faces 175 Years in Prison’

Assange Defense co-chairs condemn decision

Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker:

“It is a sad day for western democracy. The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him – the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest – is an abomination. 

We expect the world’s most despised autocrats to persecute journalists, publishers, and whistleblowers. We expect totalitarian regimes to gaslight their people and crack down on those who challenge the government. Shouldn’t we expect western democracies to behave better?

Julian Assange is my husband – his extradition is an abomination

Stella Assange’s op-ed in the Independent:

“Julian remains imprisoned in Belmarsh after more than three years at the behest of US prosecutors. He faces a prison sentence of up to 175 years for arguably the most celebrated publications in the history of journalism.

Patel’s decision to extradite Julian has sent shockwaves across the journalism community. The home secretary flouted calls from representatives of the Council of Europe, the OSCE, almost 2000 journalists and 300 doctors for the extradition to be halted.

Julian’s extradition case itself creates legal precedent. What has long been understood to be a bedrock principle of democracy, press freedom, will disappear in one fell swoop.

As it stands, no journalist is going to risk having what Julian is being subjected to happen to them. Julian must be freed before it’s too late. His life depends on it. Your rights depend on it.”

The Guardian view on Julian Assange’s extradition: a bad day for journalism

The Guardian’s editorial:

“Ms Patel could have turned down the American request. Britain should be wary of extraditing a suspect to a country with such a political justice department. Her predecessor Theresa May halted the extradition proceedings of Gary McKinnon, who hacked the US Department of Defense. The UK could have decided that Mr Assange faces an unacceptably high risk of prolonged solitary confinement in a US maximum security prison. Instead, Ms Patel has dealt a blow to press freedom and against the public, who have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name. It’s not over. Mr Assange will appeal.

The charges against him should never have been brought. As Mr Assange published classified documents and he did not leak them, Barack Obama’s administration was reluctant to bring charges. His legal officers correctly understood that this would threaten public interest journalism. It was Donald Trump’s team, which considered the press an “enemy of the people”, that took the step. It is not too late for the US to drop the charges. On World Press Freedom Day this year, the US president, Joe Biden, said: “The work of free and independent media matters now more than ever.” Giving Mr Assange his freedom back would give meaning to those words.”

Reporters without Borders condemns extradition order on BBC

‘Julian Assange Is Enduring Unbearable Persecution for Exposing US War Crimes

Marjorie Cohn, for Truthout:

“Assange now has until July 1 to appeal Patel’s decision and will apply to the High Court to reverse Baraitser’s rulings on other issues Assange raised at the extradition hearing. They include:

The U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty prohibits extradition for a political offense and “espionage” is a political offense;

Extradition is forbidden as the U.S. request is based on Assange’s political opinions;

The request for extradition is an abuse of process as it was made for a political motive and not in good faith;

Extradition would be oppressive or unjust because so much time has passed;

The charges against Assange do not comply with the “dual criminality test” because they encompass acts that are not criminal offenses in both the U.S. and the U.K.; and

Extradition would violate Assange’s rights to free expression and a fair trial, in addition to the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Assange will also raise on appeal the CIA’s plot to kidnap and assassinate him while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy under a grant of asylum.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation: ‘The extradition of Julian Assange must be condemned by all who believe in press freedom

By Trevor Timm:

There is some historical irony in the fact that this extradition announcement falls during the anniversary of the Pentagon Papers trial, which began with the Times publication of stories based on the legendary leak on June 13, 1971, and continued through the seminal Supreme Court opinion rejecting prior restraint on June 30, 1971.

In the months and years following that debacle, whistleblower (and FPF co-founder) Daniel Ellsberg became the first journalistic source to be charged under the Espionage Act. What many do not know is that the Nixon administration attempted to prosecute Times reporter Neil Sheehan for receiving the Pentagon Papers as well — under a very similar legal theory the Justice Department is using against Assange.

Thankfully, that prosecution failed. And until this one does too, we continue to urge the Biden administration to drop this prosecution. Every day it continues to further undermine the First Amendment.

Doctors for Assange plea for Assange’s release

Just one week before the announcement, a coalition of more than 300 doctors wrote to Patel urging her to reject the extradition order, on the grounds that sending Assange to the United States would further imperil his health:

“During the extradition proceedings, the Court heard and accepted medical evidence that Mr Assange’s mental health was such that an extradition order, if imposed, would likely inflict substantial risk of suicide on him. The subsequent “assurances” of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism, quite apart from the fact that the US government reserves the right to subject Mr Assange to the very conditions, namely, “Special Administrative Measures”, that would be inhuman.”

Protesters across U.S. demand Assange’s freedom

Geneva Press Club: In the name of press freedom, journalists call for the release of Assange

See more reactions from leaders around the world here.

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Past Events

Assange Defense at the People’s Summit 2022

Directed by Robert Corsini, Assange Defense-Los Angeles

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Past Events Press Release

Audio panel: Stella Assange & Harvard protesters

June 6, 2022 — Assange Defense hosted a Twitter Spaces conversation among Stella Assange, Julian’s wife; Mike Miccioli, Harvard student who organized the May 29th protest of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s commencement speech; and Susan McLucas, Boston Area Assange Defense campaigner.

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Past Events Press Release

Harvard students, local activists protest Merrick Garland’s commencement speech over Assange prosecution

On Sunday, May 29, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland gave the commencement speech at the Harvard University graduation ceremony for the class of 2020-21. Harvard students teamed up with Boston Area Assange Defense and other local activists to protest Garland’s speech over the continued prosecution of Julian Assange. 

Mike Miccioli, class of ’22, explained why he and other Harvard students decided to use the commencement speech to draw attention to Assange’s plight:

“The prosecution of Julian Assange violates the First Amendment right to a free press. If Assange’s work with Manning is criminalized, this would open the door for any investigative journalist to be prosecuted for their standard work. If he is charged under the Espionage Act, a similar legal case could be built against any journalist who reports unflatteringly on US national security. Although he published evidence of war crimes, torture, surveillance, corruption, and more, no one in the US government has ever been held legally accountable for such exposures. Merrick Garland’s commencement speech is an important opportunity to bring awareness to this political persecution. In addition to drawing attention from the attendees, we hope to make Garland ask himself whether he wants this to be his legacy – the first prosecution of a publisher under the Espionage Act. Since Garland is Harvard class of ’74 and Harvard Law class of ’77, the university should be feeling a sense of shame for this reckless case, not inviting him to opine at the largest event on campus.”

After the event, Miccioli spoke with Assange Defense about the action:

Boston Area Assange Defense campaigner Susan McLucas said,

“After almost 2 years of helping organize rallies for Julian Assange, I was delighted to hear that Merrick Garland would be in our neighborhood at Harvard’s graduation. It was disturbing, though not surprising, to hear him encourage the graduates to take up public service (unspoken message: Just don’t try to end wars by exposing US war crimes!)”

Jill Stein, former Green Party presidential candidate, spoke at Sunday’s rally, saying,

“Merrick Garland, you need to make the biggest gift to the future of our younger generation possible by ending this assault on our most basic freedom that establishes the infrastructure for our democracy. End the prosecution of Julian Assange.”

The protest was picked up by the Boston Globe and the Harvard Crimson. See this thread on Twitter for more photos and videos from the action.

Boston Area Assange Defense campaigner Paula Iasella recounted the effort to organize Sunday’s demonstration:

“Mike, a Harvard student, came out of nowhere last summer to one of our Boston actions, took the microphone and wowed me with his understanding of the Espionage Act and the Assange case. Mike wrote to us in April, suggesting an action at Harvard’s graduation, protesting AG Merrick Garland who was the keynote speaker.

Weeks of planning between the Harvard students and Boston Area Assange Defense made for a successful event protesting Merrick Garland’s unconstitutional prosecution of a journalist.

It demonstrated the importance of Boston’s online networking in tandem with consistent boots-on-the-ground – showing up, in person, to spread the Free Assange message while giving others space to speak up publicly for Julian.”

Photo: Paula Iasella
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Press Release

Protected: PROTEST: Priti Patel signs Julian Assange’s extradition order

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Press Release

Book Release: ‘Secret Power: WikiLeaks and its Enemies’

Book cover, in black with ripped paper showing the words "Secret Power: WikiLeaks and its Enemies" by Stefania Maurizi, with a foreword by Ken Loach.
Pluto Press

Investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi has written a new book detailing the secretive innerworkings behind the persecution of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Originally published in Italian, Secret Power: WikiLeaks and its Enemies won the 2022 European Award for Investigative And Judicial Journalism and Premio Alessandro Leogrande Award, and will be out in English in November 2022 from Pluto Press.

From Pluto Press’s overview:

‘I want to live in a society where secret power is accountable to the law and to public opinion for its atrocities, where it is the war criminals who go to jail, not those who have the conscience and courage to expose them.’

It is 2008, and Stefania Maurizi, an investigative journalist with a growing interest in cryptography, starts looking into the little-known organisation WikiLeaks. Through hushed meetings, encrypted files and explosive documents, what she discovers sets her on a life-long journey that takes her deep into the realm of secret power.

Working closely with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and his organisation for her newspaper, Maurizi has spent over a decade investigating state criminality protected by thick layers of secrecy, while also embarking on a solitary trench warfare to unearth the facts underpinning the cruel persecution of Assange and WikiLeaks.

With complex and disturbing insights, Maurizi’s tireless journalism exposes atrocities, the shameful treatment of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, on up to the present persecution of WikiLeaks: a terrifying web of impunity and cover-ups.

At the heart of the book is the brutality of secret power and the unbearable price paid by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and truthtellers.

Pluto Press’s biography of Maurizi:

Stefania Maurizi is an Italian investigative journalist working for the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, having previously reported for La Repubblica and l’Espresso. She began working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in 2009 for her newspaper. Among international journalists, she is the only one who has worked on the entirety of the WikiLeaks secret documents and the only one who has conducted a multi-jurisdictional litigation to defend the right of the press to access the full documentation on the WikiLeaks case.

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Press Release

VIDEO: Stella Assange on BBC Hardtalk

Julian Assange’s wife Stella on BBC Hardtalk

Stella Assange, Julian’s wife and mother to his two young children, speaks to the BBC’s Stephen Sackur about Assange’s case as supporters await the decision from UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on whether to sign his extradition order.

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Press Release

Assange awarded German journalism prize

Günter Wallraff Prize 2022 goes to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Investigative journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange receives this year’s Günter Wallraff Prize. In the name of Germany’s best-known investigative journalist, this award recognizes critical journalism and civil courage. The prize will be awarded during the 6th Cologne Forum for Journalism Criticism, which will take place tomorrow at Deutschlandradio’s broadcasting centre. Human rights activist and lawyer Stella Moris accepts the award on behalf of her husband Julian Assange.

“Julian Assange has made a significant investigative contribution to the news by revealing classified footage and text of possible US war crimes. In his work with the Internet platform WikiLeaks, Assange has always accepted immense reprisals in favor of reporting. The relentless pursuit of the investigative journalist Assange by the USA with the threat of extradition now poses a threat to free reporting in general,” was the jury’s reasoning.

On Thursday, May 19, the 6th Cologne Forum for Criticism of Journalism will deal with the topics of “reporting in times of war” and “activism in the media”. Among others, Thomas Präkelt (war correspondent RTL and n-tv), Olaf Müller (Humboldt University Berlin), Bettina Schmieding (editorial manager @mediasres), Karsten Frerichs (epd) and Ellen Heinrichs (Bonn Institute) will sit on the podium. The presentation of the Günter Wallraff Prize marks the end of the event, the laudatory speech will be held by Deutschlandfunk editor-in-chief Birgit Wentzien.

Deutschlandfunk broadcasts all program items via live stream and on digital radio on the “Deutschlandfunk Documents and Debates” channel.

Further information, the detailed program and the live stream can be found at www.deutschlandfunk.de/journalismuskritik

The Forum for Criticism of Journalism is an event organized by the Deutschlandfunk newsroom and the News Enlightenment Initiative (INA), co-organized this year by the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences.


This was originally published at derbindefleck.de.

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Press Release

Letter from Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace laureate to UK Secretary of State Priti Patel

The Rt. Hon Priti Patel
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

19 May 2022

Dear Home Secretary,

I am writing to you with deep concerns for the safety of Mr Julian Paul Assange who is facing extradition to the United States. I am writing to ask you to reject the US government’s extradition request of Mr Assange, a decision now under the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

On 4 January 2021, the British court barred Mr Assange extradition on the grounds of section 91 of the Extradition Act 2003. The court ruled that Mr Assange’s “suicidal impulses would come from his psychiatric diagnoses rather than his own voluntary act”, rendering “oppressive” in terms of the law to extradite him”. The Court recognised that there is a great likelihood that if extradite, that Mr Assange will end his own life.

The United Nations Official report also concluded on 1 November 2019 that “[u]nless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.” The extradition to the United States will aggravate those conditions. Over 60 doctors from around the world raised concerns about the precarious state of Mr. Assange’s physical and mental health which included fears for his life. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute states that, in view of Mr Assange being a victim of psychological torture, his extradition to the USA would be also illegal under international human rights law.

The Council of Europe considers that Mr Assange’s treatment to be among “the most severe threats to media freedom”.

Amnesty Internationalpress freedom and human rights organisations, legalmedical and other professional associations have called for Mr Assange’s immediate release. They condemned the illegality of this extradition proceedings under procedural (breach of the right of a fair trial) and material grounds.

The EU ParliamentParliamentarianshead of states and former head of States world-wide, legal practitioners and legal academics express concerns about the violations of Mr. Julian Assange’s fundamental human, civil and political rights and the precedent his persecution is setting.

I join the growing collective concerns, which have been expressed about the violations of Mr. Julian Assange’s fundamental human, civil and political rights and the precedent his persecution is setting for press freedom and the assertion of the universal jurisdiction of the United States of America. The United Kingdom, a sovereign country with longstanding tradition in the upholding the rule of law, should refuse the abusive and illegal extradition request by the United States of America.

Former Secretary of State for the Home Department, Theresa May, has correctly halted Gary McKinnon’s extradition in recognition of the same psychiatric condition as Mr Assange.

There could be potentially fatal consequences if the United Kingdom chooses to pursue this extradition. Therefore, I urge you, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to uphold the rule of law and reject the extradition order.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

Nobel Prize for Peace

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Press Release

COE Human Rights Commissioner calls on UK government not to extradite Julian Assange

Rt Hon Priti PATEL MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
of the United Kingdom
Strasbourg, 10 May 2022


Dear Home Secretary,

I am writing to you regarding the case of Mr Julian Assange, since a decision will soon be made about his extradition to the United States. While I have expressed myself publicly on this matter before, at this
important juncture in the extradition procedure I wish to convey my views to you directly.

I have been following the developments in Mr Assange’s case with great attention. In the judicial proceedings so far, the focus has mainly been on Mr Assange’s personal circumstances upon his possible extradition to the United States. While a very important matter, this also means, in my opinion, that the wider human rights implications of Mr Assange’s possible extradition, which reach far beyond his individual case, have not been adequately considered so far.

In particular, it is my view that the indictment by the United States against Mr Assange raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including information that exposes human rights violations. The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Mr Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond. Consequently, allowing Mr Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.

As I have previously stated, it is my position that, taking into account both these wider implications and the concerns raised by independent experts about Mr Assange’s treatment upon extradition, the government of the United Kingdom should not allow his extradition to the United States. I therefore call upon you to decide against the extradition of Mr Assange.

I look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue on this issue and other matters of mutual interest.

Yours sincerely,
Dunja Mijatović

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Resources

Assange Extradition Ruling: Briefing Note as of May 2022

In summary:

  • On 4 January 2021, a UK judge ruled that it was unsafe to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, and that if an extradition is ordered, this would likely result in his death.
  • The United States wants to prosecute Assange for common journalistic practices after he published documents containing evidence of U.S. war crimes in 2010. He faces up to 175 years in prison.
  • The decision to prosecute Assange has been universally condemned by free speech groups, newspapers and experts as an unprecedented threat to press freedom everywhere, including in the UK.
  • Assange is an unconvicted “remand” prisoner in Belmarsh high-security prison. He has been there for 37 months. He faces incredibly difficult conditions of isolation, which are compounded by the COVID pandemic. 97 prisoners in Assange’s house block had tested positive for COVID by the end of December 2020, including the prisoners in the cells on either side of Assange. There have been a number of COVID deaths, suicides and murders at Belmarsh during the time that Assange has been there.
  • If the new U.S. Administration’s Department of Justice drops the charges, this would put a sudden and definitive end to this extraordinary political prosecution and end the gravest attack on press freedom in living memory.
  • RSF and other press freedom groups have written, “Our government must ensure the UK is a safe place for journalists and publishers to work. Whilst Julian Assange remains in prison facing extradition, it is not.”
  • Assange is not being prosecuted for publishing bulk databases.
  • UK courts have consistently described Julian Assange as a journalist and Wikileaks as a media organization since 2011. The U.S. government’s position on his status is therefore irrelevant from the UK perspective (he is also a member of his journalism union in Australia since 2006 and has won numerous top journalism prizes).
  • Assange is not being prosecuted for “putting lives at risk”. The “criminal acts” Assange is being accused of is possessing, receiving and disseminating (publishing) classified information which the U.S. government says was harmful to U.S. national interests.
  • The U.S. has testified under oath that there is no evidence that any person has been harmed as a result of WikiLeaks publications.
  • The single computer misuse charge makes up only 5 years of the 175-year potential sentence. The U.S. does not claim that Julian Assange “hacked” anything. The U.S. theory is that Assange and Manning tried to hide Chelsea Manning’s identity. The U.S. does not claim the purpose was to access classified information, and indeed the chronology shows that Manning had already provided Wikileaks with the material and had full authorized access by the time this alleged conversation took place.
  • The U.S. government’s key witness Sigurdur Thordarson—who was granted immunity by the Trump administration in exchange for his testimony that provided the basis for the second superseding indictment against Assange—has recanted his testimony and admitted that he lied about his allegations.
  • Cryptome.org was the first to publish the unredacted U.S. State Department cables. The U.S. does not dispute that Cryptome published a full day before WikiLeaks. Cryptome’s owner has not been prosecuted and has not even been served with a takedown notice.
  • A 75-minute phone call between Assange and the U.S. State Department was leaked over the Christmas period. The phone call took place a full week before Cryptome published the unredacted 250,000 U.S. State Department cables and demonstrates that the U.S. case is not only unfounded, but profoundly misleading. In the conversation, Assange warns the State Department that third parties would release the unredacted cables onto the Internet, and he advised the U.S. government on how to stop it or mitigate it.
  • On 26 September 2021, Yahoo! News reported on the CIA’s proposals and discussions in 2017 to kidnap and render and even to assassinate Julian Assange
    • “Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred ‘at the highest levels’ of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. ‘There seemed to be no boundaries.’”
      • The CIA’s plans drove the DOJ’s prosecution
        • “Concerned the CIA’s plans would derail a potential criminal case, the Justice Department expedited the drafting of charges against Assange to ensure that they were in place if he were brought to the United States.”

Extradition judgment– 4 January 2021

On January 4, 2021, a British judge ruled to block the U.S. extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange on grounds that his extradition would be “oppressive” because it would result in his death. The conclusion rested on medical evidence that his Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, combined with his psychiatric history (including the period pf confinement in the embassy and current incarceration) and the prospect of U.S. imprisonment resulted in a high likelihood of suicide. The judge also concluded that these factors meant that the mere order of extradition could trigger his suicide.

The U.S. government is attempting to extradite Assange in order to prosecute him for publishing evidence of war crimes in 2010. For more than two years, Assange has been detained in London’s highest-security prison—HMP Belmarsh—as he fights extradition.

The U.S. Justice Department is requesting extradition on charges that legal scholars testified would “radically rewrite the First Amendment” by criminalizing the soliciting, possession, and publishing of government information, regardless of its public interest value. If sent to and tried in the United States, a conviction would be all but guaranteed, as Assange would not be allowed to argue in court that his actions were justified. For publishing stories that won numerous journalism awards, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison. 

Assange’s extradition hearing focused on three main arguments:

  • that the indictment of Assange is an unprecedented and dangerously overbroad attempt to criminalize basic journalistic activity
  • that the prosecution — which Obama declined to introduce and which the media-hostile Trump made its “priority” — is politicized
  • that sending Assange to the U.S., when he has Asperger’s syndrome and clinical depression and where experts testified would most likely be placed in solitary confinement for the rest of his life, would endanger his life and put him at grave risk of suicide.

The judge accepted this last point. The magistrate delivered a lengthy decision recounting the U.S. government’s claims, the defense’s responses, and which aspects she agrees with before ultimately ruling to deny the extradition request.

It is important to note that the UK magistrate only made findings of fact with regards to the medical evidence. U.S. prosecutors’ arguments are presumed to be true, and the defence cannot cross-examine those claims.

Decision Overturned (Dec. 2021) & U.S. “Assurances”

The U.S. government, having lost at the Magistrate’s court, appealed that decision to the UK’s High Court, which heard appeal arguments October 27 and October 28 of last year (see Julian Assange’s appeal defense here). Those arguments dealt primarily with psychiatrists’ assessment of Assange’s suicide risk if his extradition were ordered, and the prison conditions Assange would face in the United States.

The High Court ruled in the U.S. government’s favor, overturning the District Court’s ruling after accepting the U.S. government’s so-called “assurances” regarding the conditions Assange would face in pre- and post-trial confinement. These “assurances” include caveats that render them meaningless: the United States can still use these measures if it decides that Assange “do[es] something subsequent to the offering of these assurances that meets the tests for the imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX.” Amnesty International says, “Such latitude to alter the terms of the core assurances after Assange’s transfer to the US renders them irrelevant from the start since he would remain at risk of ill-treatment in US detention at the point of transfer and afterward.”

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s Expert on Counter-Terrorism, Criminal Justice, and Human Rights, says, “Those are not assurances at all. It is not that difficult to look at those assurances and say: these are inherently unreliable, it promises to do something and then reserves the right to break the promise.”

Responding to the High Court’s decision to accept the US’s appeal against the decision not to extradite Julian Assange, Amnesty International’s Europe Director Nils Muižnieks said:

“This is a travesty of justice. By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. The fact that the US has reserved the right to change its mind at any time means that these assurances are not worth the paper they are written on.

“If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could not only face trial on charges under the Espionage Act but also a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

“The US government’s indictment poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad. If upheld, it would undermine the key role of journalists and publishers in scrutinizing governments and exposing their misdeeds would leave journalists everywhere looking over their shoulders.”

What happens next?

Civil liberties groups, press freedom groups, and leading newspapers are urging UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to drop the case against Assange. Patel now has two weeks to sign the amended extradition order following the High Court’s ruling.

Assange’s defense team has submitted its application to appeal the extradition order to the High Court again, this time on the other substantive issues from the original Magistrates’ ruling that were not discussed at the previous appeal. These issues include a politicized prosecution, the threat the charges pose to the First Amendment, and the likelihood Assange would face a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.

At any time, if U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to drop the charges, in keeping with the Obama Justice Department’s policy not to prosecute Assange and grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange will immediately walk free.

If the final decision comes from an appeal at the High Court, it will most likely be a matter of months. If the case goes through each stage of appeal to the European Court, the process could take several months.

Implications for Press Freedom

The indictment and extradition request for Assange raises grave and extraordinary concerns for press freedom:

  • The indictment criminalizes public interest journalistic activity: legal scholars testified at the Assange hearing that his prosecution on this indictment would put an end to national security journalism and “radically rewrite the First Amendment” by criminalizing the soliciting, possession, and publishing of government information, regardless of its public interest value.
  • The U.S. government is seeking to exercise jurisdiction over a foreign publisher and journalist, while at the same time claiming that Assange will not benefit from constitutional free speech protections because he is a foreigner (an Australian citizen), opening the door for the U.S. government to extradite other journalists and publishers without offering them free speech protections; this also opens the door for other countries to prosecute foreign journalists outside their jurisdiction for doing their jobs, and will allow them to use these tools to judicially persecute exiled dissidents.
  • Accepting U.S. arguments about double criminality under the Official Secrets Act in the UK means that UK court is locking in the Trump administration’s approach to the prosecution of journalists under the law in this UK, making republication of a document that has previously published a crime, and accepting for the first time the prosecution of a publisher or media worker for clearly newsworthy information.

There has been widespread concern expressed by international organizations and media organizations across the political spectrum about the free speech implications of the extradition and prosecution of Assange. See more here.

In March 2020, two dozen leading U.S. press freedom organizations cosigned a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, calling for the charges against Assange to be dropped immediately. They write,

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do. Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

Prison Conditions in the UK

Assange remains detained in HMP Belmarsh, a high-security prison. There have been constant issues with his prison conditions, which have been compounded by the further restrictions imposed during the COVID pandemic. There have been at least 97 cases of COVID in Belmarsh alone, with several deaths reported. There has been a COVID outbreak in Assange’s prison block, where he is at serious risk of contracting COVID and suffering serious medical complications because of his existing respiratory issues.

For example, before COVID, his legal team reported:

  • Difficulties in access to visits to Assange for the purposes of preparing their case
  • Difficulties in ensuring Assange had adequate facilities for preparing his defence, including delays in legal papers reaching Assange by post, not being permitted to physically deliver him legal papers, delay in the provision of a laptop to enable him to be able to review the extensive material required for his defence, and so on; and
  • His isolation within the prison and being kept in his prison cell up to 23 hours a day.

Since COVID, his situation in prison has become more difficult, including:

  • No in-person legal visits due to COVID restrictions
  • No videoconferencing because of the risk of COVID transmission (when video conferencing has been permitted during COVID, the waiting list is approximately 6 weeks)
  • No social visits due to COVID restrictions, which meant Assange was completely isolated from contact with his partner, their small children and his family and friends between late March- mid August and November 2020.
  • Due to the COVID outbreak in his prison block, he has for long periods been kept in his cell 24/7, unable to leave his cell to exercise or to shower.

The judge refused a bail application made in early 2020 despite the concerns raised by Assange’s lawyers in relation to the risk of COVID in prison and his ability to properly prepare his defence. Since her decision, there have been several COVID related deaths at Belmarsh prison. After winning his case at the Magistrates Court on 4 January, Assange applied for bail. Bail was refused despite the ruling in his favour in relation to U.S. extradition.

Categories
Press Release

WHISPeR Urges UK to Reject Assange Extradition

Posted below is the letter from the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program [WHISPeR] at Expose Facts, calling on UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to reject the US government’s request to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

The Rt. Hon Priti Patel
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF
May 16, 2022

Dear Home Secretary,

The Whistleblower & Source Protection Program is a US-based nonprofit organization that protects freedom of the press and civil liberties by providing pro bono legal defense for journalistic sources and whistleblowers. We write to urge you to reject the United States government’s request to extradite Julian Assange.

We are uniquely positioned to speak to this matter. We have represented several of the most prominent defendants in Espionage Act cases, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, and Daniel Hale, who were investigated, charged, and/or prosecuted for revealing information about mass surveillance, torture, and war crimes. They were charged under the same law as Mr. Assange: the Espionage Act of 1917, a draconian wartime law that has been increasingly abused to hide government abuses and punish dissent. Under the Espionage Act, no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just. The trial would take place largely in secret. Moreover, it is effectively a strict liability law that does not permit you to raise a defense because under the terms of the law, intent is irrelevant.

Thanks to vague and overbroad language, the Espionage Act implicates a wide range of activities that are central to the news-reporting process and bear little or no resemblance to classic espionage. Prosecutions of journalists’ sources over the past decade have done enormous damage to the free functioning of investigative
journalism, a central pillar of democracy. The prosecution of a publisher such as Assange is even more chilling. Several counts of the Assange indictment criminalize “pure publication,” and others extend to ordinary journalistic activities, including using encryption.

The precedents from any such proceeding would erode the bedrock principles of the Anglo-American legal tradition, and the cherished freedoms they guarantee. The extradition of a foreign-citizen publisher operating on foreign territory for crimes of pure publication would give encouragement and cover for similar behavior by tyrants and dictators around the world. It would be a boon to the enemies of freedom and a travesty for human rights and freedom of speech globally.

Finally, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is simply too capricious and arbitrary to guarantee that Mr. Assange will receive the minimum standard of humane treatment for prisoners. Consider the experience of our client, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. Last year, Hale was unexpectedly jailed pre-trial due to supposed concern for his mental health. He was sent to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia – the same facility where Assange would be held – where he was placed in “administrative segregation,” euphemism for solitary or near-solitary confinement. In actual practice, mental health is commonly used as a pretext for more oppressive conditions.

At sentencing, Judge Liam O’Grady recommended Hale for placement in minimum security prison, citing Hale’s nonviolent offense, lack of criminal history, and the utter impossibility of recidivism, given his now permanent lack of access to classified information. The Bureau of Prisons, however, is not bound to this recommendation, and instead sent him to a high security facility called a Communications Management Unit (CMU) where he is nearly isolated from the outside world. These conditions, while not meeting the strict definition of solitary confinement, do not meet international minimum standards, and are deeply detrimental to his well being. The stated rationale for creation of Communications Management Units was the need to more heavily monitor and control the communications of people convicted of crimes with ties to organized crime or terrorist networks, who could potentially carry on these crimes while incarcerated. The specious logic of the Bureau of Prisons placement then should be obvious, given the aforementioned impossibility of recidivism by Hale, and the fact that the communications central to his conviction were with a journalist, not a criminal network. Julian Assange would certainly be vulnerable to these kinds of capricious designations.

The assurances provided by the U.S. government elided these realities, and even their own terms left plenty of freedom to renege. Our experience is that they are not reticent to take those liberties, and given the political nature of Assange’s prosecution, they would be exceptionally eager to avail themselves of any opportunity for retaliation.

For these reasons, we ask you to reject this extradition.

Sincerely,

Jesselyn Radack,

Director, Whistleblower & Source Protection Program at
ExposeFacts


This post was originally published at ExposeFacts.

Categories
Resources

Write a letter to the editor

One of the best ways to spread the word is to write a letter to the editor (also known as an LTE) of your local newspaper. When you write an LTE, you are letting your community, your legislators, and our national leadership know that you will not be silent about the criminalization of journalists and publishers like Julian Assange.

  • If you’d like us to submit your letter for you, send us your full name, street address, and phone number at team@assangedefense.org. Then we will use this information ONLY to submit a letter to the editor that one of our team members will write on your behalf.
  • If you’d like to write/submit yourself, get in touch with us for tips, templates, and resources, and let us know where you’re submitting so we can keep track of which newspapers are publishing your letters around the country.

Example of a published LTE

See two examples of published LTEs for Assange here.

In December 2021, retired constitutional lawyer and Assange Defense-Los Angeles member Stephen Rohde wrote to the New York Times,

A free, uninhibited and courageous press is essential to a functioning democracy. When the Supreme Court upheld The New York Times’s right to publish the classified Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama rightly declined to indict Julian Assange for publishing secret government documents. But in 2019, the Trump administration did so, and President Biden’s Justice Department chose Donald Trump’s path over Mr. Obama’s by vigorously pursuing Mr. Assange’s extradition. Mr. Trump’s shameful legacy threatens to become Mr. Biden’s.

In October, 24 leading press freedom, civil liberties and human rights organizations urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to dismiss the indictment.

Mr. Garland should uphold the Constitution and American values of freedom of the press, due process and human rights by immediately dropping the indictment against Julian Assange.

Categories
Press Release

Defending Rights & Dissent Urges UK To Reject Extradition Request for Julian Assange

SmallLogo

On Monday May 9, 2022, Defending Rights & Dissent urged UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject the US’s extradition request for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. As a US-based NGO focused on the First Amendment, it is highly unusual for us to correspond with foreign governments. However, given the extraordinary nature of Assange’s case and its implications for press freedom not just in the US, but globally, we are compelled to do so.

For 12 years, our organization has closely monitored the US government’s attacks on WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. We have also monitored the cases of other individuals indicted under the Espionage Act.We have repeatedly monitored the treatment of national security journalism-related individuals detained at the Alexandria Detention Center, where Assange is likely to be held if extradited. We raised concerns about their treatment to both local officials and United Nations experts.

Based on this extensive monitoring, we have concluded that the case against Assange is politically motivated, that he will not receive a fair trial in the US, and that he will be subjected to conditions of confinement that would constitute serious deprivations of human rights. For these reasons, we urge the UK to reject his extradition.

You can read the letter below:


This was originally published at Defending Rights & Dissent.

Categories
Commentary

The Future of Gen Z Journalism Depends on Julian Assange’s Freedom

This post by Sam Carliner was originally published at CodePink

CODEPINK’s staff sending their support to Assange ahead of his wedding

Just thirteen days before World Press Freedom Day 2022 the very existence of world press freedom inched closer to its possible demise. On April 20, a U.K. court formally approved extradition of WikiLeaks founder and Australian journalist, Julian Assange, to the United States to be tried under the Espionage Act. He is facing a sentence of up to 175 years.

Extradition is still not guaranteed. The ultimate decision is pending approval from the U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Assange’s legal team is requesting an appeal. However the reality of extradition and all the implications for a free press that come with it are increasingly likely.

Unlike most Assange supporters I’ve met, I’m from a generation born too late to fully appreciate the importance of WikiLeaks and its most significant publications like the Collateral Murder Video, the Iraq War Logs, and CableGate. In fact, I first encountered Chelsea Manning through my friends in the LGBTQ+ community who admired her trans rights activism. At the time I was focused much more on LGBTQ+ issues than on whistleblower issues. Following this introduction, I learned about her importance as the source who provided proof of U.S. war crimes for WikiLeaks to publish.

The first time I remember really understanding WikiLeaks’s importance was when Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019. Because I had been only vaguely aware of WikiLeaks and Assange up until that point, it was easy for me to look past many of the smears that had circulated about him and instead quickly wrap my head around the dangers for press freedom that his case presented. As I educated myself about the Assange case, I also began to educate my peers.

At the time I was in college for journalism. The journalism program at my school focused on teaching students about flashy news production and marketing, but placed little emphasis on the public service aspect of journalism, such as challenging the powerful, platforming the voiceless, and informing one’s community. I became convinced that it was foolish for me and my classmates to be preparing for future careers in journalism while the very basic principles of ethical journalism might soon be criminalized. I found that many of my classmates were receptive to this message, even as the administration of my school refused to take the case seriously. As one of my first initiatives to grow support for Assange, I sent several emails to the director of the communications school I was attending, inquiring about the school’s stance on the case and asking for the school to voice support. I also got some of my classmates to send emails. Not one of those emails received a reply.

Following the silence from my own school’s administration, I compiled a list of hundreds of communications schools and journalism programs throughout the United States and emailed their directors. I received less than five replies and no commitments to take action in support of Assange.

Much has been written about why Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States is so dangerous, but two points are worth repeating.

First is that the United States aims to prosecute and sentence Julian Assange under the Espionage Act for publishing evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq. This would criminalize the action of publishing truthful information about the world’s most expansive military, resulting in a legal precedent that would enable the U.S. government to sentence any publication, from indie media to legacy papers like The New York Times. Such a precedent will likely extend beyond the realm of foreign policy reporting. Any form of adversarial reporting could be punished in a world where U.S. courts decide that publishing true information constitutes espionage. 

The second point that makes Assange’s case so dangerous is that he is not a citizen of the country seeking his extradition (The United States) or of the country overseeing his extradition (The United Kingdom). Assange is Australian. The absurdity and international implications of one country extraditing the citizen of another country to a third country is likely to silence any journalist from any part of the world who might otherwise report on U.S. crimes and corruption. Essentially, the world’s most powerful government will be able to suppress scrutiny and accountability from journalists anywhere in the world if Assange is successfully extradited, tried, and sentenced.

As both World Press Freedom Day and Assange’s possible extradition approach, it is essential that anyone who hopes to hold onto world press freedom support Julian Assange, firmly and vocally. Nothing short of mass pressure from the public will allow for Assange’s freedom and the guarantee of press freedom that hangs in the balance. 

It is easier than ever to support the campaign than at any point in this last decade. Most leading human rights and press freedom organizations have spoken out against extradition including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, PEN International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists as well as editorial boards of The New York TimesThe Guardian and many other outlets. 

News outlets that previously remained quiet are also starting to sound the alarm. MSNBC, an outlet that generally aligns with the framing of U.S. foreign policy, allowed an interview with Julian’s wife, Stella Assange, to be aired on their streaming service. Then MSNBC promoted the interview on Twitter to its 4.6 million followers. This action alone is likely exposing the case to countless people who may not otherwise question the threat it poses and shows that momentum is building for new activism around freeing Assange.

The new generation of journalists can bring an essential energy to the campaign for Assange’s freedom. My hope is that as momentum starts to build in the United States for Assange’s freedom, established journalists and journalism schools will support us by taking Assange’s case seriously. I encourage young journalists like myself and student journalists to take initiative, call for Assange’s freedom, and demand that our mentors join us. Our future remains in jeopardy as long as Assange is not free.

Categories
Press Release

Send a message to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Please use this form to contact UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Customize your email subject line and message to ensure each email is delivered and read by them separately.

Categories
Past Events

VIDEO: WikiLeaks & War Crimes

April 27, 2022

What is a war of aggression? What is a war crime? What are crimes against humanity? How is the public to know when they occur and by whom they are perpetrated? What and who censors the press and for what reasons? Why didn’t we listen when Julian Assange exposed US war crimes? With the war in Ukraine raging and the ashes in Iraq still smoldering, these questions need to be clearly defined before they can be answered completely and truthfully.

Moderator:

  • Jim Lafferty 

Speakers:

  • Renata Avila
  • Medea Benjamin
  • Marjorie Cohn
  • Chris Hedges
  • Vijay Prashad

Sponsored by LA Progressive, CodePink, the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU Pasadena/Foothill Chapter, American Constitution Society-San Diego chapter, and Assange Defense.

Categories
Press Release

One step closer to extradition: rights groups call on Home Secretary to free Assange

April 22, 2022 — On Wednesday, a UK magistrates judge ordered the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, where he will face an unpredented prosecution threatening 175 years in prison for publishing truthful information in the public interest.

The decision now moves to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, to sign off on the extradition order. The defense have until May 18 to file an application to appeal the extradition order on the substantive issues —like a politicized prosecution and the threats to press freedom— back at the UK’s High Court. 

Rights groups around the world condemned the latest legal development and are calling on Patel to halt the extradition.

PEN International and 18 other press freedom groups signed a new letter to the Home Secretary, calling for Assange’s freedom

“We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern regarding the possibility of extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States and to ask you to reject the US government’s extradition request. We also request a meeting with you to discuss these points further.”

National Union of Journalists: Assange’s fate in Priti Patel’s hands

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke to protestors outside the court. He told them:

“There is still a chance for this Government to do the right thing, bring this case to a close, and free Julian Assange. I call on them to do that at once”.

 Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This Government seems confused about press freedom. It promises legislation to make SLAPPs more difficult, but is allowing this extradition to continue, when it is clear that the US is trying to prosecute Julian Assange for actions that are commonplace for journalists the world over”.

Reporters without Borders launches new #FreeAssange petition as Home Secretary considers extradition order

“Following a district court order referring the extradition of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange back to the Home Office, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a new petition calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject Assange’s extradition to the United States. RSF urges supporters to join the call on the Home Secretary to #FreeAssange by signing and sharing the petition before 18 May!


The next four weeks will prove crucial in the fight to block extradition and secure the release of Julian Assange. Through this petition, we are seeking to unite those who care about journalism and press freedom to hold the UK government to account. The Home Secretary must act now to protect journalism and adhere to the UK’s commitment to media freedom by rejecting the extradition order and releasing Assange,” said RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns Rebecca Vincent, who monitored proceedings on RSF’s behalf.”

Sign the petition here.

Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnés Callamard speaks to the New York Times

“The extradition of Julian Assange would also be devastating for press freedom and for the public, who have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name.”

Stella Assange’s speech outside of court

More reactions from human rights & press freedom groups

Categories
Press Release

Press freedom groups send letter calling on UK Home Secretary to free Assange

April 22, 2022 — PEN International joins Reporters Without Borders and 17 organisations – including English PEN, German PEN, PEN Melbourne, PEN Norway, PEN Sydney, Scottish PEN, Slovene PEN and Swedish PEN – in calling on UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject Julian Assange’s extradition to the US and to release him from prison.

The Rt. Hon Priti Patel

Secretary of State for the Home Department

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

22 April 2022

Dear Home Secretary, We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern regarding the possibility of extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States and to ask you to reject the US government’s extradition request. We also request a meeting with you to discuss these points further.

In March, the Supreme Court refused to consider Mr Assange’s appeal against the High Court decision, which overturned the District Court ruling barring extradition on mental health grounds. We are deeply disappointed with this decision given the high public interest in this case, which deserved review by the highest court in the land.

However, it is now in your hands to decide whether to approve or reject Mr Assange’s extradition to the US. The undersigned organisations urge you to act in the interest of press freedom and journalism by refusing extradition and immediately releasing Mr Assange from prison, where he has remained on remand for three years despite the great risks posed to his mental and physical health.

In the US, Mr Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years. He is highly likely to be detained there in conditions of isolation or solitary confinement despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide.

Further, Mr Assange would be unable to adequately defend himself in the US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defence. His prosecution would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.

We ask you, Home Secretary, to honour the UK government’s commitment to protecting and promoting media freedom and reject the US extradition request. We ask you to release Mr Assange from Belmarsh prison and allow him to return to his young family after many years of isolation. Finally, we ask you to publicly commit to ensuring that no publisher, journalist or source ever again faces detention in the UK for publishing information in the public interest.

We request to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience, and would be grateful for a prompt response. Please reply via Azzurra Moores at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at amoores@rsf.org.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19

Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer, Big Brother Watch

Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director, Blueprint for Free Speech

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice-President and Writers-in-Prison Officer, German PEN

Index on Censorship

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International

Christine McKenzie, President, PEN International Melbourne Centre

Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway

Zoë Rodriguez, joint President, PEN Sydney, and Chair of the PEN International Women Writers Committee

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN

Tanja Tuma, President, Slovene PEN

Jesper Bengtsson, President, Swedish PEN

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org


This was first posted by PEN International

See also: UK: RSF launches new #FreeAssange petition as Home Secretary considers extradition order

Categories
Past Events

Twin Cities 3 year anniversary event

Twin Cities Assange Defense hosted a panel discussion on April 9, 2022, to raise awareness and win the freedom of Julian Assange. Panelists included:

  • Susan Banaszewski – An activist with the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Susan spoke about the many instances of secret government wrongdoing that would have remained hidden from the public if not for the courageous work of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
  • Todd Pierce – A retired Army Major, Todd was a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer who represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay Prison. He spoke to the expanding realms of information and cognitive warfare increasingly deployed against the American people, and how that relates to the public’s perception of Julian Assange.
  • Kathya Dawe – Kathya is president of Citizens for Global Solutions MN. She is a human rights lawyer who provided legal assistance for maximum security prisoners in Brazil. At the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, she worked for the Trial Chamber in the Ratko Mladic case. She spoke to the principle of non-refoulement, and how it has been denied to Julian Assange.
  • Jordan S. Kushner – An attorney practicing criminal defense and civil rights law in Minneapolis since 1991, Jordan is also active in the National Lawyers Guild. He spoke to the long-established First Amendment protections that are being denied in the Assange case, not just to Julian Assange the journalist, but to the public at large which has a right to uncensored information.

Following the presentation and audience discussion, attendees mingled and picked up Assange buttons and informational literature. Six Nils Melzer books, The Trial of Julian Assange, were sold. With a bright sun warming a cool spring afternoon, we then took to the streets of Minneapolis with signs of support for Julian and press freedom. The reception we received from passersby was encouraging. We send all of that support to London in hope that Julian will soon be a free man reunited with his family.


Photos by Tom Dickenson

Categories
Press Release

PEN America highlights Assange’s persecution

PEN America, the U.S. chapter of PEN International, an association of writers around the world founded in 1921, has released its annual ‘Freedom to Write’ index, a catalogue of bloggers and journalists and other writers who have been killed, prosecuted, or otherwise threatened for carrying out their work.

In its section on the United Kingdom, PEN highlights the detention and indictment of Julian Assange, noting:

“Assange, publisher of WikiLeaks, was imprisoned in the U.K. in 2019 for violating bail terms. Since September 2019 he is jailed facing possible extradition to the U.S., including on 17 counts under the Espionage Act, charges with worrying implications for press freedom.”

In the full report, PEN expounds on Assange’s journalism and the charges against him, noting

PEN International calls on the United States to drop charges against Assange. Espionage laws should not be used against journalists and publishers for disclosing information of public interest. PEN International further calls on the United Kingdom to reject extraditing Julian Assange to the United States. PEN Action: statement April 2019, resolution September 2019.

Last year, PEN America joined two dozen other press freedom and human rights organizations in signing an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling on the Department of Justice to drop the case against Assange.

Earlier this week, PEN’s Australian branch visited the British Consulate to present an Open Letter calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange and a halt to the extradition. They wrote,

“PEN Australia centres, in conjunction with PEN International, call for the British Government as an independent democracy to immediately release Julian Assange and to halt the US case for extradition.

The prosecution of Assange has been described as a political case from the outset. Extradition for political offences has been prohibited by democracies that respect human rights. Britain prides itself for standing for democracy and freedom of expression. We call on Britain to take a stand for the wellbeing and democratic freedom of expression of Wikileaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange.”

See PEN America’s full ‘Freedom to Write’ index here.

Categories
Press Release

3 years since Julian Assange’s arrest

April 11, 2022 — Today marks three years since WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had his political asylum revoked by the Ecuadorian government, which then allowed British police into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to arrest Assange, as the United States unsealed its indictment against him. Assange has spent the entire interim in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison, where experts have visited him and determined him to have suffered psychological torture. He has been all but barred from participating in his own extradition proceedings, in which a district judge initially ruled against sending Julian to the United States on grounds that doing so would put him at undue risk of suicide. A High Court later overturned that ruling after accepting belated, caveated “assurances” from the United States government regarding the prospective prison conditions Assange would face. Human rights organizations, press freedom groups, leading politicians, and top newspaper editors across the board have condemned the U.S. indictment against Assange as a landmark threat to the First Amendment which would criminalize basic journalistic activity on which a functioning democracy depends. If convicted, Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. prison.

Stella Assange: Julian’s continued imprisonment is “a criminal act”

Speaking to Press Association, Stella said,

“The UK Government could end Julian’s imprisonment at any time by obeying its treaty obligations. The US extradition request violates the US-UK extradition treaty Article 4, which prohibits extraditions for political offences. The UK Government can and should obey the word of the treaty and put an end to the extradition process once and for all. Julian’s incarceration and extradition process is an abuse in itself. He faces 175 years buried alive in a US hellhole for publishing true information in the public interest, exposing the crimes and killing of innocent people by the country that wants him to spend the rest of his life in prison. The UN special rapporteur on torture has found that Julian has been subjected to psychological torture. Senior US officials have reportedly confirmed White House and CIA plans to assassinate him on UK soil during the Trump administration. The UK is imprisoning a publisher on behalf of the foreign power who conspired to murder him. There is no way of concealing any more that Julian is the victim of a vicious political persecution. His continued imprisonment is not only a national disgrace, it is a criminal act.”

PEN International delegation calls on UK to free Assange

In Australia, a delegation from global writers’ association PEN International visited the British Consulate to present an Open Letter calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange and a halt to the extradition. They write,

“PEN Australia centres, in conjunction with PEN International, call for the British Government as an independent democracy to immediately release Julian Assange and to halt the US case for extradition.

The prosecution of Assange has been described as a political case from the outset. Extradition for political offences has been prohibited by democracies that respect human rights. Britain prides itself for standing for democracy and freedom of expression. We call on Britain to take a stand for the wellbeing and democratic freedom of expression of Wikileaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange.”

Australian media union calls on government to stand up for one of its own

SBS News: ‘It’s been three years since Julian Assange was imprisoned. Advocates say it’s time to let him go’

Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) calls on the Australian government to help free Assange:

“Julian Assange’s work with WikiLeaks was important and in the public interest: exposing evidence of war crimes and other shameful actions by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” MEAA Media federal president Karen Percy said on Monday.

“The stories published by WikiLeaks and its mainstream media partners more than a decade ago were picked up by news outlets around the world. The charges against Assange are an affront to journalists everywhere and a threat to press freedom.

The US government must see reason and drop these charges, and the Australian government should be doing all it can to represent the interests of an Australian citizen.”

Protests held around the world to free Assange

Westminster Magistrates Court

Image
Photo by Gordon Dimmack

Projections across London

Image

Rallies across the United States

Demonstrations organized in Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Denver, Tulsa, Bay Area, Minneapolis, and more:

DC rallies at UK Consulate and DOJ

Progressive leaders call on US President Biden to drop the charges against Assange

“progressive leaders, intellectuals, and former heads of state from across the world including Dilma Rousseff, Yanis Varoufakis, Roger Waters, Rafael Correa, among others sent a letter to US President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to demand that US officials drop the 18 charges against Julian Assange.”

More reactions / statements

Categories
Press Release

Progressive leaders call on US President Biden to drop the charges against Assange

This was first published at the International Peoples’ Assembly

En Español

Today April 11, progressive leaders, intellectuals, and former heads of state from across the world including Dilma Rousseff, Yanis Varoufakis, Roger Waters, Rafael Correa, among others sent a letter to US President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to demand that US officials drop the 18 charges against Julian Assange.

Today also marks the three year anniversary of when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by the Metropolitan Police, arrested, and put in Belmarsh Prison. He is being held there while the UK courts deliberate on the request to extradite him to the United States where he will stand trial for the 18 charges, many of which are under the Espionage Act, and where he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years. 

If extradited and charged, it would be the first time a publisher would be convicted under the Espionage Act and it would mark a dangerous precedent for the right to Free Speech and Press Freedom not only in the US but across the globe.

Assange who while in prison has already suffered suicide attempts, psychological torture, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a severe deterioration of his physical and mental health has stated that his extradition to the US would be akin to a death sentence. 

Many, including the signatories of the letter, have denounced the persecution faced by Assange as retaliation for his brave work with Wikileaks to, as a journalist, uncover the truth about the crimes committed by governments across the world.

Stand with Assange, stand for press freedom.  

JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW:

SEND A LETTER – Sign this letter drafted by the IPA and send it to your local British embassy or consulate telling them to respect their legal responsibilities and Free Assange NOW!

PARTICIPATE – Follow the social media accounts of the IPA to learn more about Assange’s case and his immeasurable contributions to the anti-imperialist struggle today. Share our materials with your communities and movements. Help us get the word out about why we must #FreeAssangeNOW! 

Contact information: secretaria@asambleadelospueblos.org


President Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

1236 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear President of United States and Speaker of the House,

We have been paying close attention to the legal process and trial of Australian journalist Julian Paul Assange, who is currently in prison in the United Kingdom where he awaits a final decision on the extradition request made by the government of the United States of America.

 The United States of America has a long tradition of defending freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press. The philosophical, legal, political and social thought produced by intellectuals in the United States of America forms an important foundational framework for the reflection and realization of freedom of expression throughout the world. Likewise, the struggle of activists since the 19th century for this freedom has been a source of inspiration for countless societies and countries.

It is precisely in the name of this tradition, continually renewed by daily creation, that we, progressive leaders of the world, address you to ask that, within the scope of its constitutional and legal competence, in respect of due process of law, and the democratic rule of law, that Your Presidency exercise its prerogative of dropping all 18 charges leveled against journalist Julian Paul Assange.

With such a gesture, you will send a strong message to the world: that freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press constitute an instrument that can controvert the interests of any government, including that of the United States of America. The cases where there are reports of serious violations of freedom of expression would also be impacted by the dropping of the 18 charges against Assange. It would affirm the defense of this Fundamental Human Right and would undoubtedly represent a clear and robust sign that everyone can express their opinion without fear of retaliation; that all the press outlets can give news to all the citizens of the world, with the certainty that the pluralism of thought is guaranteed.

It is these considerations that lead us to address you, Mr. President and other American authorities, to request that you drop all 18 charges against Julian Paul Assange.

São Paulo, April 11, 2022.

SIGNATORIES OF THE LETTER:

  • DILMA ROUSSEFF –
  • Former President of Brazil (2011-2016).
  • ERNESTO SAMPER – Former President of Colombia (1994-1998) and former General Secretary of UNASUL
  • FERNANDO LUGO – Former President of Paraguay (2008-2012).
  • RAFAEL CORREA – Former President of Ecuador (2007-2017)
  • AIDA NARANJO GARCIA MOCHA – Former Minister for Women in Peru
  • ALOIZIO MERCADANTE – Former Chief of Staff and former Brazilian Minister of Education in the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff
  • ANDRÉS ARAUZ – Ecuadorian presidential candidate in 2019
  • CARLOS OMINAMI – Chilean intellectual
  • CELSO AMORIM – Brazilian diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Itamar Franco’s government and in Lula’s government, and Minister of Defense in Dilma’s government 
  • DANIEL MARTÍNEZ – Former Mayor of Montevideo for the Broad Front of Uruguay
  • ESPERANZA MARTÍNEZ – Senator from the Guasú Front in Paraguay
  • GUILLAUME LONG – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador
  • IDELI SALVATTI – Former Senator of the Republic, former Minister of Human Rights, former Secretary of Access to Rights and Equity at the OAS (Brazil)
  • IVAN CEPEDA – Senator from the Alternative Democratic Pole party in Colombia
  • JOSÉ CARLOS DIAS – Lawyer, former Minister of Justice, former Secretary of Justice in the State of São Paulo (Brazil)
  • JOSÉ EDUARDO CARDOZO – Former Minister of Justice and attorney-general of the Union of Brazil. He is a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo
  • KAROL CARIOLA – Federal Deputy from the Communist Party of Chile
  • MARCO ENRÍQUEZ-OMINAMI – Chilean filmmaker
  • MARIA DO ROSÁRIO NUNES – Member of parliament and former Special Secretary for Human Rights (Brazil)
  • MARÍA JOSÉ PIZARRO – Senator from the Historic Pact in Colombia
  • MÓNICA XAVIER – Former Senator from the Broad Front in Uruguay and the former President of the Socialist Party of Uruguay
  • NILMA GOMES – Professor Emeritus of UFMG. Former Minister of the Secretariat for Racial Equality Policies and the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights (Brazil)
  • NILMÁRIO MIRANDA – Former National Secretary of Human Rights (Brazil)
  • PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO – Former Brazilian National Secretary for Human Rights. Former UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi, an African country victim of civil war
  • PAULO VANNUCHI – Former Brazilian Minister of Human Rights (2005-2010). Former Commissioner of Inter American Commission on Human Rights (2014-2017)
  • PEPE VARGAS – Former Minister of Human Rights, Minister of Institutional Relations, and Minister of Agrarian Development in the Dilma Rousseff government
  • RICARDO PATIÑO – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador
  • ROGÉRIO SOTTILI – Executive Director of Vladimir Herzog Institute, former Special Secretary of Human Rights, former Secretary of Human Rights in the State of São Paulo (Brazil)
  • ROGER WATERS – Singer, songwriter and musician (England)
  • SLAVOJ ZIZEK – Philosopher (Slovenia)
  • SREĆKO HORVAT – Philosopher and Co-founder of DiEM25 (Croatia)
  • TARSO GENRO – Jurist, former Minister of Education, former Minister of Justice, former Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)
  • YANIS VAROUFAKIS – Member of the Hellenic Parliament (Greece)
Categories
Past Events

VIDEO: Panel on Assange at the International Journalism Festival

The International Journalism Festival in Italy hosted “Julian Assange and Wikileaks: freedom of information on trial”

“The most consequential trial against journalism is reaching a critical point as UK courts are set to issue the order to extradite the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to face a 175-year sentence for WikiLeaks’ renowned publications exposing war crimes, torture, abuse and illegality in Guantanamo Bay and in the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Every major press freedom group has raised the alarm that the case against him sets a precedent that will be used against other journalists the world over and has started a global race to the bottom on press freedom. Assange lost his freedom in 2010 and has not walked the streets as a free man since. As for the WikiLeaks journalists, they have been under continuous investigation since 2010 and they risk ending up charged for the same publications. This is not just a monstrous injustice, but also an unprecedented attack on the right of the public to know about the darkest corners of our governments, where wars, torture, extrajudicial killings are planned. “

  • Stella Assange is the wife of Julian Assange and the mother of their two little sons: they just got married in Belmarsh prison
  • Joseph Farrell is a British journalist who has worked with WikiLeaks since 2010
  • Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist who has worked on all WikiLeaks secret documents since 2009.
Categories
Press Release

Call for Assange’s Freedom

Call your Senators, Representatives, the Department of Justice and the White House comment line. We can make clear to our elected officials that we demand the charges be dropped, the First Amendment be protected, and Assange be freed. Here’s how.

Free Assange Phone Script

Hello, my name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [CITY]. I’m calling to ask that the United States drop its case against Julian Assange. I’m deeply concerned about the ramifications that prosecuting a journalist for exposing American war crimes will have on our civil liberties.

President Biden promised that he would end Trump’s attacks on the press, yet his administration is continuing to seek Assange’s extradition.

The prosecution of Assange creates a dangerous precedent that will prevent journalists from holding our government accountable. Please protect our First Amendment and drop the case against Assange immediately.

Thank you for your time.

Contact your Senator

Phone numbers are available on each state’s page or on your senator’s website — a directory is also available here: Senators Suite & Telephone List (PDF)

Or you can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard operator: (202) 224-3121

Find other ways to contact your Senator here.

Contact your Representative

Contact the Department of Justice

  • DOJ comment line: 202-353-1555
  • DOJ general phone number: (202) 514-2000
  • Email: AskDoJ@usdoj.gov

Ask Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the prosecution of a publisher

Contact the White House

The White House comment line is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 11am to 3pm EDT, and callers have the option of speaking to an operator and leaving a voicemail. Please remember that respectful communication is most effective.

Categories
Press Release

U.S. demonstrations planned for April 11th

April 11, 2022, will mark three years since WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain, three years he has spent since in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London. Protests are planned in major cities around the world — see this thread from @Candles4Assange for global actions; here we highlight rallies and other events planned here in the United States.

Washington DC

Boston

Minneapolis

Felton, CA

Tulsa

Denver

Milwaukee

Online

Categories
Press Release

Julian and Stella marry at Belmarsh

March 23, 2022 — Julian Assange married his partner Stella Moris in a beautiful ceremony held at Belmarsh prison, in London. Stella was accompanied by Julian’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton. Legendary fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood custom-designed Stella’s dress and a tartan kilt for Julian, a nod to his Scottish heritage. 

“This is not a prison wedding”

As the Guardian notes, Belmarsh blocked the couple’s witnesses and proposed photographers on the grounds that they were members of the press and therefore, a “security risk.”

Stella wrote an op-ed for the Guardian on the fight to get married and what today’s occasion means to her:

Today is my wedding day. I will marry the love of my life. My husband to be is the father of our two sons, he is a wonderful man, intelligent and funny, he has a deep-seated sense of right and wrong and he is known the world over for his work as a courageous publisher. At lunchtime today, I will go through the gates at the most oppressive high security prison in the country and be married to a political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Of course, this is not the wedding we should be having. Julian has spent nearly three years unjustly detained on behalf of the foreign power that plotted to kill him in the streets of London.

Today will be a private moment in which we will affirm our love for each other. The dress is designed by Julian’s friends, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler. I am honoured to be wearing their beautiful creation. It is a symbol of our love and defiance in the face of this cruel situation.

This is not a prison wedding, it is a declaration of love and resilience in spite of the prison walls, in spite of the political persecution, in spite of the arbitrary detention, in spite of the harm and harassment inflicted on Julian and our family. Their torment only makes our love grow stronger.

Photos

Photos by Reuters’ Peter Nicholls

Categories
Commentary Hearing Coverage Press Release

Extradition Looms for Assange After UK Supreme Court Refuses to Hear His Appeal

March 16, 2022 This article, by professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and Assange Defense Committee advisory board member Marjorie Cohn, was originally posted at Truthout.org.


The British judicial system has erected still another barrier to Julian Assange’s freedom. On March 14, the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of the U.K. High Court’s ruling ordering his extradition to the United States. If extradited to the U.S. for trial, Assange will face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and up to 175 years in prison for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

With no explanation of its reasoning, the Supreme Court denied Assange “permission to appeal” the High Court’s decision, saying that Assange’s appeal did not “raise an arguable point of law.” The court remanded the case back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which is the same court that denied the U.S. extradition request on January 4, 2021.

In all likelihood, the magistrates’ court will refer the case to the British Home Office where Home Secretary Priti Patel will review it. Assange’s lawyers then have four weeks to submit materials for Patel’s consideration. If she orders Assange’s extradition — which is highly likely — his lawyers will file a cross-appeal in the High Court asking it to review the issues Assange lost in the magistrates’ court.

If the High Court refuses to review those additional issues, Assange can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. That could take years. Meanwhile, he languishes in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, in fragile mental and physical health. He suffered a mini-stroke as his extradition hearing began. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer wrote in a Twitter post that the “U.K. is literally torturing him to death.”

The Legal Background

On January 24, 2022, the High Court rejected Assange’s appeal but it certified to the Supreme Court that Assange had raised a “point of law of general public importance.” This means that it is a proper issue for the Supreme Court to review. The three-judge panel of the Supreme Court has now refused Assange permission to appeal.

The point of law that the High Court certified to the Supreme Court was as follows:

“In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.”

The United States waited until after the extradition hearing was over to offer U.K. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser assurances about the way Assange would be treated in U.S. prisons if extradited.

Following a three-week evidentiary hearing, Baraitser ruled on January 4, 2021, that if Assange is extradited to the United States for trial, he is very likely to attempt suicide due to his mental state and the harsh conditions of confinement under which he would be held in U.S. prisons.

During the hearing, the U.S. government did not assure Baraitser that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in the United States. After Baraitser denied extradition, the Biden administration provided “assurances” that Assange wouldn’t be subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) or be housed at the ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

But the United States’s so-called assurances contained a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. All assurances would be void if Assange committed a “future act” that “met the test” for the imposition of SAMs. That subjective determination would be made by prison officials with no judicial review.If extradited to the U.S. for trial, Assange will face … up to 175 years in prison for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

Although the late timing of the U.S.’s assurances prevented Assange’s lawyers from arguing they were unreliable and citing prior such assurances the United States failed to honor, the High Court accepted Biden’s assurances and dismissed Assange’s appeal in its January 2022 ruling.

Issues Assange Seeks to Raise on Cross-Appeal

In the cross-appeal, Assange’s lawyers will raise the following points:

*The extradition treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. forbids extradition for a political offense and since espionage is a political offense, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case;

*Extradition would be oppressive or unjust due to the passage of time;

*The charges against Assange do not satisfy the “dual criminality test” which requires that they constitute criminal offenses in both the U.S. and the U.K.;

*Extradition is barred because the request is based on Assange’s political opinions;

*Extradition is barred because it would violate Assange’s rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression, as well as the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, under the European Convention on Human Rights; and

*The request for extradition is an abuse of process because it is being pursued for a political motive and not in good faith.

Human Rights Organizations Decry Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Appeal

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s deputy research director for Europe, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal a “blow to Julian Assange and to justice.” Hall said, “Demanding that states like the UK extradite people for publishing classified information that is in the public interest sets a dangerous precedent and must be rejected.” She added:

Prolonged solitary confinement is a key feature of life for many people in U.S. maximum security prisons and amounts to torture or other ill treatment under international law. The ban on torture and other ill-treatment is absolute and empty promises of fair treatment, such as those offered by the U.S.A. in the Assange case threaten to profoundly undermine that international prohibition.

Likewise, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed strong opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision. “Assange’s case is overwhelmingly in the public interest, and it deserved review by the highest court in the U.K. After two full years of extradition proceedings, once again Assange’s fate has become a political decision,” said Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s director of operations and campaigns. “We call on the Home Office to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom by refusing extradition and releasing Assange from prison without further delay.”

Assange’s Fiancée Says U.S. Wants to Imprison Him for Exposing Its War Crimes

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, says Assange is being persecuted for carrying out a core journalistic mission: telling the truth.

“Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is being decided through a process of legal avoidance,” Moris said. “Avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the UK courts’ deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him. The country whose atrocities he brought into the public domain. Julian is the key witness, the [principal] indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive US governments.”

Moris added, “Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power.”

According to Moris, the United States wants to imprison Assange for 175 years because he “published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.”

Assange and Moris, who share two small children, have finally received permission to marry. They will be wed later this month in Belmarsh Prison.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

UK Supreme Court refuses to hear Assange appeal

Statement from Assange’s legal team, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors

On 24 January 2022, the High Court (the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice Holroyde) certified that a point of law of public importance had been raised by Mr Assange following its rejection of his appeal.

The point certified for the potential consideration by the Supreme Court was

“In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.”

A panel of three judges of the Supreme Court has considered the application on paper, and this afternoon (14 March 2022) refused permission to appeal on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law.”

We regret that the opportunity has not been taken to consider the troubling circumstances in which Requesting States can provide caveated guarantees after the conclusion of a full evidential hearing. In Mr Assange’s case, the Court had found that there was a real risk of prohibited treatment in the event of his onward extradition.

We explain below the legal processes that now follow in his case.

The case, on the direction of the High Court, will now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, whose function thereafter is limited to referring the decision for extradition to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

The Home Secretary then decides whether to order or refuse extradition to the United States on a number of statutory bases. The defence is entitled to make submissions to the Home Secretary within the following four weeks, in advance of her making any decision.

It will be recollected that Mr Assange succeeded in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the issue subsequently appealed by the US to the High Court. No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other important issues he raised previously in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. That separate process of appeal, of course, has yet to be initiated.

Statement from Assange’s partner, Stella Moris

From Moris’ new Substack newsletter:

Just this morning on our way to school, our four-year-old son asked me when daddy will come home. Julian’s life is being treated as if it were expendable. He has been robbed of over a decade of liberty, and three years from his home and his young children who are being forced to grow up without their father.

A system that allows this is a system that has lost its way.

Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is being decided through a process of legal avoidance. Avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the UK courts’ deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him. The country whose atrocities he brought into the public domain. Julian is the key witness, the principle indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive US governments.

Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power. He published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing. For this, that country wants him in prison for 175 years.

Now the extradition will formally move to a political stage. Julian’s fate now lies in the hands of Home Secretary Priti Patel. This is a political case and she can end it. It is in her hands to prove that the UK is better than all of this. Patel can end Britain’s exposure to international ridicule because of Julian’s incarceration. It takes political courage but that is what it needed to preserve an open society that protects publishers from foreign persecution.

The cruelty against Julian is corrupting. It corrupts our most cherished values and institutions.  They will be extinguished and lost forever unless this travesty is brought to an end.

The fight for freedom will go on, until he’s freed.

Categories
Past Events

VIDEO: The Belmarsh Tribunal comes to the United States

Inspired by the Russell-Sartre Tribunals of the late 1960s, which put the US government on trial for its war crimes in Vietnam, the Belmarsh Tribunal exposes the crimes of the so-called War on Terror 20 years after the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo Bay — and calls for Julian Assange’s freedom.

Categories
Press Release

Twin Cities launch new Assange Defense chapter!

Supporters of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange in the Minneapolis/St. Paul have formed the newest branch of Assange Defense! The Twin Cities join other chapters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Denver, and Washington D.C.

Twin Cities Assange Defense launched their chapter at Mayday Bookstore in Minneapolis:

Photo: Mike Madden

Spokesperson for the Twin Cities Assange Defense is Mike Madden, a member of Vets for Peace Chapter 27. Madden has organized several coordinated write-in actions to various government officials, explaining the threat Assange’s prosecution poses to the First Amendment and why he must be freed. Most recently, Mike helped organize a nationwide call-in to the White House with Women Against Military Madness, calling on the Biden Administration to drop the charges.

Last year, when John and Gabriel Shipton toured the United States to meet supporters and speak out about the case, Minneapolis/St. Paul warmly welcomed Assange’s family members with a roundtable discussion with local journalists at the East Side Freedom Library, followed by a rally at the Highland Park Pavilion.

In the Twin Cities and want to get involved? Get in touch! Email TwinCities@AssangeDefense.org

Categories
Press Release

VIDEO: John & Gabriel Shipton’s #HomeRun4Julian

In June 2021, John and Gabriel Shipton, father and brother of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange, toured the United States to speak about Julian’s persecution and to meet with thousands of supporters across the country. This 20-minute video features highlights from that trip and insights from John and Gabriel along the way.

Gabriel has produced a feature-length film on his and his father’s travels around the world to speak up about the prosecution of Julian Assange and what it means for the rights of journalists to publish and for the rights of citizens to know what their governments are doing in their names. Ithaka premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in November, and at the Capricorn Film Festival in Queensland, the film won awards for Best Documentary and Best Direction.

Categories
Past Events Press Release

Nils Melzer press briefing on The Trial of Julian Assange

On February 18, 2022, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer discussed his new book, The Trial of Julian Assange, in a press briefing with the Foreign Press Association.

PA Newswire: ‘No legal basis for leaving Assange in high security prison – human rights expert’

Accusations of the psychological torture of Julian Assange have not been addressed, with no legal basis for leaving the WikiLeaks founder locked up in solitary confinement in a high security prison, a human rights expert has claimed.

Nils Melzer, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said Mr Assange’s health is being “destroyed” as he remains in Belmarsh prison in London as the United States continues to try to extradite him.

The UN official, speaking about his book The Trial Of Julian Assange, said allegations that Mr Assange hacked sensitive information were based on fabricated evidence.

He said he declined to become involved when he was first approached, shortly after Mr Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but acted after receiving medical reports.

Mr Melzer visited the WikiLeaks founder in prison, saying: “I did not expect to find torture. What I found shocked me.”

He claimed “mass violations” of Mr Assange’s human rights, which he added have not been properly addressed.

From Verso’s book listing:

“When Ecuador finally turned [Assange] over to Britain in 2019, the US immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.

Melzer’s findings are explosive: in all four states involved, Assange has faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, and manipulated evidence. He has been exposed to constant surveillance, defamation and threats. Melzer also gathered consolidated medical evidence proving that Assange has suffered prolonged psychological torture. Melzer’s compelling investigation shows how—through secrecy, impunity and, crucially, public indifference—unchecked power risks annihilating Western democracy and the rule of law. The case of Julian Assange sets a chilling precedent: for when telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny.”

Read more and see Melzer’s interviews about the new book, released by Verso, here.

Categories
Past Events

VIDEO: Progressive Democrats of America Town Hall on the Case of Julian Assange

If the Biden Administration persists in demanding Julian Assange’s removal from Great Britain to the United States, investigative journalism as we know it will be in mortal danger.

Future administrations will claim a legal basis to extradite any journalist, anywhere in the world – whether they’re American citizens or not – setting a precedent for authoritarian governments around the world.

  • Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, and one of America’s and the world’s leading advocates for press freedom
  • Marjorie Cohn, Advisory Board Member for both PDA and the Assange Defense Committee, also the former President of the National Lawyers Guild
  • Jody Armour, USC Law Professor
  • Nathan Fuller, Director of Assange Defense
  • Alan Minsky, Moderator, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America
Categories
Press Release

Tell the White House: Free Julian Assange

February 22, 2022 — The Assange Defense Committee is endorsing an action organized by Women Against Military Madness and Assange Defense-Boston in a continuing effort to free Julian Assange: a call-in to President Joe Biden the day after President’s Day to say that upholding the First Amendment to the Constitution is presidential! We urge the White House to halt the extradition, drop all charges, and guarantee safe passage for Julian Assange.

The White House comment line is 1-202-456-1111.

If you prefer to write, you can use the White House contact form.

The White House comment line has limited hours. On Tuesdays, you can only leave a message from 11am to 3pm Eastern Standard Time. Please remember respectful communication is most effective.

Below is a list of suggested comments. You may also have your own reasons to free Julian. Please speak from your heart in your call:

  • Free Julian Assange. He has committed no crime. He has done a public service. Every WikiLeaks publication has been shown to be true and authentic.
  • Julian Assange is charged under the Espionage Act. He is not a spy. He provided information of public interest to the whole world, not a foreign adversary.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom everywhere. He has won journalistic awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize. His cause is supported by press freedom organizations around the world including Reporters Without Borders, PEN International, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • The Obama Administration recognized the threat to press freedom, and declined to prosecute Assange citing what it called a “NY Times problem”. Instead of following Obama’s lead, the Biden administration has taken up the mantle of the Trump Administration which unsealed an indictment and requested Assange’s extradition the very day (April 11, 2019) he was unlawfully expelled from Ecuador’s Embassy in London.
  • The wrong party is on trial. Julian Assange exposed US war crimes and torture. Instead of addressing its own wrongdoing, the US government is vindictively pursuing the messenger.
  • The case against Julian Assange has collapsed. A key Icelandic witness has recanted his testimony that Assange instructed him to hack into government computers. Prosecutorial conduct has been egregious. The CIA spied on Assange, including meetings with his doctors and lawyers. In 2017, the CIA plotted to kidnap or assassinate him.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange diminishes the stature of the United States. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken proselytizes about U.S. support for independent journalism, it is simultaneously seeking to imprison the most high-profile journalist of the 21st century for 175 years.
  • Julian Assange did not “put lives at risk”. A 2013 Pentagon study could not identify a single instance of anyone killed as a result of being named in the WikiLeaks trove.
  • Julian Assange wanted the documents published responsibly. He worked with traditional news outlets to redact the documents and reduce harm. It was only when two Guardian journalists, Luke Harding and David Leigh, recklessly published an encryption code that unredacted documents spilled into the public realm.
  • An investigation by United Nations Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer found the entire period of Assange’s detention, including that spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to be arbitrary. He also called his treatment at the hands of the State parties responsible for his detention “a public mobbing”.
  • Over the course of more than ten years of arbitrary detention, Julian has suffered greatly. His physical and mental health have deteriorated to the point that he has trouble concentrating and cannot properly participate in his own defense. He suffered a small stroke on October 27, 2021 during a remote court hearing. His continued imprisonment is a threat to his very life. He must be transferred immediately from Belmarsh Prison to home confinement to regain his health.
  • Julian Assange is not an American citizen, nor was he on American soil when the alleged crimes were committed. He should not be subject to American laws like the Espionage Act.

If you belong to an organization that would like to be a co-sponsor of this effort, please contact Mike Madden.

Co-sponsors:

Categories
Press Release

Belmarsh Tribunal comes to the United States

Inspired by the Russell-Sartre Tribunals of the late 1960s, which put the US government on trial for its war crimes in Vietnam, the Belmarsh Tribunal will expose the crimes of the so-called War on Terror 20 years after the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo Bay — and call for Julian Assange’s freedom. Register here to watch the event online.

The event — convened in partnership with DiEM25, the Courage Foundation, The People’s Forum, DSA International Committee, The Intercept, People’s Dispatch and the International People’s Assembly — will be chaired by philosopher Srećko Horvat and civil rights attorney Margaret Kunstler. Witnesses will include: Alice Walker, Angela Richter, Austin González, Balthesar Garzón, Chip Gibbons, Chris Hedges, Clare Daly, Claudia De la Cruz, Cornel West, Deborah Hrbek, Golriz Ghahraman, Guillaume Long, Jeremy Scahill, Jodi Dean, Milo Rau, Nancy Hollander, Nathan Fuller, Nick Estes, Noam Chomsky, Renata Avila, Roger Waters, Sevim Dagdalen, Srećko Horvat, Steven Donziger, Vijay Prashad, and Yanis Varoufakis.

The Belmarsh Tribunal coincides with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the concentration camp at occupied Guantánamo Bay on Cuba’s southeastern shore. In January 2002, the first 20 detainees arrived at the site. Since then, 779 Muslim men and boys from 49 countries have been held there. The youngest detainee was just 14 when he arrived. The oldest was 89. Over years and decades, detainees faced torture, ritual humiliation, and the uncertainty of prolonged detention without charges or trial.

Two decades after the facility opened its doors, 39 people continue to languish at Guantánamo, 27 of them without charge — “eternal prisoners” with little hope for release, and no prospects for justice. Many of them remain confined for the simple reason that their release would allow them to testify to the brutal treatment they endured.

Classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks in 2011 revealed the grim contours of the US regime of detention and torture at Guantánamo. Many prisoners — among them a journalist from Al Jazeera — were held for years despite officially posing no threat to the US. Many developed severe mental health problems as a result of their treatment. Some committed suicide.

But, today, it is not the perpetrators who face persecution, but the whistleblowers. In April this year, Julian Assange will enter his third year of detention at HMP Belmarsh — a maximum-security prison, sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Guantánamo”, that was infamously used to detain terrorist suspects without trial — as he seeks to appeal a court decision to extradite him to the US.

That is why the Progressive International is bringing the Belmarsh Tribunal to the belly of the beast. On 25 February 2022 at 2pm EST, at the People’s Forum in New York City, we will convene legal experts, UN representatives, whistleblowers, journalists, and many others to investigate and expose the crimes of the so-called War on Terror, to seek justice for its victims, and to demand the closure of the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay.

Ahead of the Tribunal, one of the most distinguished public intellectuals of our time, Council member of the Progressive International and co-chair of Assange Defense, Noam Chomsky said:

“We just commemorated one of the mechanisms to strangle Cuba – the control of the Guantánamo Bay naval facilities vital for Cuba’s development, which was stolen from Cuba in 1903 as part of the system for maintaining Cuba as a virtual colony after the United States intervened to prevent Cuba’s liberation from Spain. Twenty years ago Bush’s administration moved on turning it into one of the world’s most horrendous torture chambers still holding brutalized victims without charges. Information about all these was provided to the American and the world public by WikiLeaks. Those are the crimes that cannot be forgiven as power begins to evaporate when exposed to sunlight.”

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Press Release

Book release: ‘The Trial of Julian Assange’

February 3, 2022 — UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution will be released by Verso on February 8, 2022. In May 2019, Melzer visited Julian in prison and was shocked at what he found: that Julian Assange had been psychologically tortured.

Melzer gives a full recounting of how he came to discover just how misinformed he and the rest of the public had been about Assange’s case, and how a close examination reveals the extent of Assange’s mistreatment by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Ecuador. 

“When Ecuador finally turned [Assange] over to Britain in 2019, the US immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.

Melzer’s findings are explosive: in all four states involved, Assange has faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, and manipulated evidence. He has been exposed to constant surveillance, defamation and threats. Melzer also gathered consolidated medical evidence proving that Assange has suffered prolonged psychological torture. Melzer’s compelling investigation shows how—through secrecy, impunity and, crucially, public indifference—unchecked power risks annihilating Western democracy and the rule of law. The case of Julian Assange sets a chilling precedent: for when telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny.”

Current Affairs

Primary Sources podcast

On Contact with Chris Hedges 

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Hearing Coverage

Explanatory Background Note: High Court Decision in USA v Julian Assange Extradition Proceedings

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Assange extradition argument certified for UK Supreme Court appeal

January 24, 2022 — In an extremely brief court hearing in London this morning, the UK’s High Court announced that it has certified a point of law for Julian Assange to be able to apply to appeal to the Supreme Court. The High Court ruled not to allow the appeal itself but to certify the question of what stage in the extradition hearing process ‘assurances’ can or should be introduced. Assange is now allowed to apply to appeal on that specific point to the UK Supreme Court.

In January 2021, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that it would be oppressive to extradite Assange on the grounds that it would drive him to suicide. The U.S. government appealed that decision, in part on the grounds that it should have been allowed to offer the district court “assurances” regarding Assange’s prospective treatment in the United States during the extradition hearing rather than afterward on appeal. The High Court overturned the lower court’s ruling, partially on the point that the judge should have informed the U.S. that it was “minded” to rule in Assange’s favor and allowed the U.S. government to offer assurances.

Assange will now appeal this point to the Supreme Court, which must first decide whether to allow an appeal hearing before setting a date. 

Journalists attempting to cover today’s legal proceedings remotely were provided with a video link just minutes before court was in session. However, they were never actually able to see what transpired in court, viewing only a blank screen instead. Those of us reporting on today’s developments had to rely on public tweets from those physically in attendance in London. 

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Hearing Coverage Resources

Julian Assange’s Supreme Court Certification Application

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Hearing Coverage

Decision on Assange appeal arguments to come Jan. 24th

January 21, 2022 — The UK High Court will deliver its decision on Monday, January 24th, at 10:45am London time as to whether to permit Julian Assange to appeal the U.S. extradition decision to the UK Supreme Court on points of law of general public importance. Julian Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris will be there to give a statement.

The judgment will either:

  1. Certify that the point(s) of law raised by Julian Assange are of general public importance–thus giving him permission to lodge an application with the UK Supreme Court; or
  2. Deny such certification, in which case the extradition order will pass to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorize or deny Mr. Assange’s extradition.

The judgment will be read out at 10:45am London time at:

Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
WC2A 2LL

Background:

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Press Release

Thousands Sign Petition Supporting Assange Release


January 19, 2022 – Led by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), more than 26 antiwar groups and 2,500 individual peace and justice advocates have cosponsored a statement calling for the immediate release of publisher Julian Assange and commending him for his contributions toward global peace. They write,

“The persecution of Julian Assange by the U.S. government is a threat against free speech and free press. It is also a threat to the Peace Movement and all movements for social change since without information and the ability to speak and write freely about U.S. wars and war crimes we are greatly limited, and the people of the world are kept in the dark.”

Assange is currently fighting extradition to the United States after the Trump administration indicted him on unprecedented Espionage Act charges. His indictment marked the first time in U.S. history that a journalist has been charged for publishing truthful information. 

Since being removed from Ecuador’s London embassy after a new Ecuadorian administration bowed to U.S. pressure to withdraw his asylum, Assange has been held for more than 1,000 days in Belmarsh Prison while his extradition case is being heard through UK courts. A decision from the British High Court on whether to hear an appeal is expected in the coming days.

Among the statement’s signers is Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple and longtime peace activist. Walker, a co-chair of the Assange Defense Committee, emphasized the importance of Assange’s commitment to showing the public the horrors of war.

“We owe it to Julian to fight for his freedom, because he fought for peace for the rest of us,” Walker said. “He fought for justice by exposing how the United States conducted horrific wars of conquest in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions died in these wars, mostly civilians. Assange believed that knowledge of U.S. war crimes belonged to us, the people, to decide for ourselves what should happen in our name. And now it’s time for us to fight for him.”

Remarking on the ignominious 1,000 day milestone, Nathan Fuller, Director of the Courage Foundation and Assange Defense, expressed disappointment over the Biden administration’s unjust continuation of Trump’s controversial prosecution.

“While the Biden administration is confronting U.S. adversaries over their press freedom shortcomings, it should address its own hypocrisy,” Fuller said. “Locking up Julian Assange for exposing the truth about U.S. wars is an insult to all those struggling for peace and human rights.” 

Categories
Press Release

CPJ report on Biden and the press

January 13, 2022 — The Committee to Protect Journalism has issued a report on the Biden administration’s relationship with the press thus far, including the Justice Department’s handling of the Assange case. CPJ closes the report with recommendations for the Biden administration, including, “Stop the misuse of the Espionage Act to hinder press freedom: Drop the espionage charges against Julian Assange and cease efforts to extradite him to the U.S. Put into place legislation that would prevent the use of the Espionage Act as a means to halt news gathering activity.”

The report’s authors discussed these issues in a web event:

The following is an excerpt from the CPJ’s full report:

“The Biden administration is not just stepping away from what Trump was doing, but also what Obama was doing,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “But, so far, it’s just words. It needs to be written into Justice Department guidelines. And Congress needs to take the words of Garland and write them into law.”

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department prosecuted an unprecedented 10 government employees and contractors for leaking classified information to the news media, including Justice investigations begun under President George W. Bush. Reporters’ phone logs and email records were secretly subpoenaed and seized in several of those cases. Under Donald Trump, Justice prosecuted eight more government employees and contractors for leaks to the press. In addition, it indicted Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, with obtaining secret military and diplomatic documents and publishing them on the WikiLeaks website, making them accessible to news media around the world.

Under pressure from Trump, Justice also opened leak investigations that involved the secret seizures in 2020 of 2017 phone and email records of the Post, Times, and CNN reporters. The Biden-era Justice Department did not disclose the seizures until notifying the targeted reporters in May and June of 2021. While Garland took responsibility, Brown of the Reporters Committee said that the news media leaders and lawyers who met with Garland “made clear there should be accountability within DOJ” for the secrecy and delay in notifications.

Brown and other press freedom advocates also remain concerned about what the Biden Justice Department will do with the long-standing indictment of Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which was used by both the Obama and Trump administrations for many of their prosecutions of government employees and contractors for leaking classified information to the press. 

The Trump-era indictment charged Assange with conspiring with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to acquire and publish classified military and diplomatic information on WikiLeaks.

In February 2021, the Justice Department filed a brief appealing a British court ruling that had blocked extradition of Assange from the U.K. We are continuing to seek extradition, Justice spokesperson Marc Raimondi said at the time. On December 10, Britain’s High Court ruled that Assange could be extradited after assurances from the Biden administration that, if convicted, Assange would not be sent to the highest-security U.S. prison or put into solitary confinement. Assange’s lawyers said they would seek to make additional appeals on free speech and human rights grounds. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment further.

A coalition of press, civil liberties, and human rights groups have urged the Biden administration to drop its extradition efforts because they believe prosecution of Assange poses a grave danger to press freedom. Many organizations fear that successful prosecution of him could hamper investigative reporting around the world by labeling as espionage the ways that reporters often work in seeking information from government sources.

“What is written in the indictment is a threat to journalists everywhere – obtaining and publishing classified information,” Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told me. “The Assange prosecution would make reporting on national security a crime. It could criminalize investigative reporting. The Biden administration should drop the charges.”

Columbia Journalism School’s Coll agreed. “The Assange case should be dropped,” he told me. The indictment “is full of misunderstandings about how reporting works – very ordinary reporting.”

“It’s really troubling that in the indictment was a characterization of basic reporting as part of a conspiracy,” said University of Georgia’s Peters.

“How does the administration square new protections for journalists with the actions it takes on Assange?” asked Columbia Law School’s Professor Jameel Jaffer. “The answer will shed light on the scope of those protections.”

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Press Release

Call on DOJ to Free Assange

Contact the Department of Justice to urge AG Merrick Garland to drop all charges and free Julian Assange. The DOJ does not provide an option to speak with a live person. It does have a comment line where you can leave a recorded message.

That number is 1-202-514-2000.

Below is a list of suggested comments. You may also have your own reasons to free Julian. Please speak from your heart in your call:

  • Free Julian Assange. He has committed no crime. He has done a public service.
  • Julian Assange is charged under the Espionage Act. He is not a spy. He provided information of public interest to the whole world, not a foreign adversary.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom everywhere. He has won journalistic awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize. His cause is supported by press freedom organizations around the world including Reporters Without Borders, PEN International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • The Obama Administration recognized the threat to press freedom and declined to prosecute Assange. Obama said prosecution would present the government with a “NY Times problem”. Instead of following Obama’s lead, the Biden administration has taken up the mantle of former-President Trump.
  • The wrong party is on trial. Julian Assange exposed U.S. war crimes and torture. It’s obvious to many that the party guilty of those crimes is vindictively pursuing him.
  • The case against Julian Assange has collapsed. A key Icelandic witness has recanted his testimony that Assange instructed him to hack into government computers. Prosecutorial conduct has been egregious. The CIA spied on Assange, including meetings with his doctors and lawyers. In 2017, the CIA plotted to kidnap or assassinate him.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange diminishes the stature of the United States. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken proselytizes about U.S. support for independent journalism, it is simultaneously seeking to imprison the most high profile journalist of the 21st century for 175 years.
  • Julian Assange did not “put lives at risk”. A 2013 Pentagon study could not identify a single instance of anyone killed as a result of being named in the WikiLeaks trove.
  • Julian Assange wanted the documents published responsibly. He worked with traditional news outlets to to redact the documents and save lives. It was only when two Guardian journalists, Luke Harding and David Leigh, recklessly published an encryption code that unredacted documents spilled into the public realm.
  • An investigation by United Nations Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer found the entire period of Assange’s detention, including that spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to be arbitrary. He also called his treatment at the hands of the State parties responsible for his detention “a public mobbing”.
  • Over the course of more than ten years of arbitrary detention, Julian has suffered greatly. His physical and mental health have deteriorated to the point that he has trouble concentrating and cannot properly participate in his own defense. He suffered a small stroke on October 27th during a remote court hearing. His continued imprisonment is a threat to his very life.
  • Julian Assange is not an American citizen, nor was he on American soil when the alleged crimes were committed. He should not be subject to American laws like the Espionage Act.

If you belong to an organization that would like to be a co-sponsor of this effort, please email Mike Madden.

Co-sponsors:

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Hearing Coverage

Stella Moris statement on Julian Assange’s Supreme Court appeal

December 23, 2021 — This morning at 11:05 Julian Assange filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court the High Court’s ruling that he can be extradited to the US on three grounds.

The High Court’s ruling in USA v Assange raises three points of law of general public importance that have an impact on the procedural and human rights safeguards of a wide range of other types of cases.

On December 10th, the High Court upheld the Magistrates’ Court’s assessment, based on the evidence before her, that there was a real risk that, should Julian Assange be extradited to the United States, he would be subjected to near total isolation, including under the regimes of SAMs (Special Administrative Measures) and/or ADX, (administrative maximum prison) and that such isolation would cause his mental condition to deteriorate to such a degree that there was a high risk of suicide. These findings led the lower court to block the extradition under s. 91 of the Extradition Act, which bans “oppressive” extraditions.

However, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision to block the extradition, based solely on the fact that after the US lost the extradition case on January 4th 2021, the US State Department sent a letter to the UK Foreign Office containing conditional assurances in relation to Julian Assange’s placement under SAMs and ADX. The assurances letter explicitly states in points one and four that “the United States retains the power” to “impose SAMs” on Mr. Assange and to “designate Mr. Assange to ADX” should he say or do anything since January 4, 2021 that would cause the US government to determine, in its subjective assessment, that Julian Assange should be placed under SAMs conditions and/or in ADX Florence. These conditional assurances alone were considered sufficient by the High Court to overturn the lower court’s decision.

Under English law, in order for the application to have a chance to be considered by the Supreme Court, first the same High Court judges who ordered Julian Assange’s extradition must certify that at least one of the Supreme Court appeal grounds is a point of law of general public importance (s.114 of the 2003 Extradition Act).

Julian Assange’s application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is therefore currently under consideration by the High Court judges. It is not known how long it will take for the decision to come down, but it is not expected before the third week of January.

For background, see Julian Assange’s filing opposing the US extradition in the High Court.

Stella Moris

Categories
Press Release

New York Times, Chicago Tribune publish Free Assange letters

December 22, 2021 — The New York Times and Chicago Tribune have published letters to the editor from Assange supporters this week, a sign of the growing chorus calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the Trump Administration’s unprecedented charges against Julian Assange. 

Writing to your own local newspaper is a great way to take action for Julian Assange. When you write a letter to the editor, you are letting your community, your legislators, and our national leadership know that you care about the criminalization of journalists and publishers, and you encourage your local news outlet to cover the case further.

In the New York Times, retired constitutional lawyer and Assange Defense-Los Angeles member Stephen Rohde writes,

A free, uninhibited and courageous press is essential to a functioning democracy. When the Supreme Court upheld The New York Times’s right to publish the classified Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama rightly declined to indict Julian Assange for publishing secret government documents. But in 2019, the Trump administration did so, and President Biden’s Justice Department chose Donald Trump’s path over Mr. Obama’s by vigorously pursuing Mr. Assange’s extradition. Mr. Trump’s shameful legacy threatens to become Mr. Biden’s.

In October, 24 leading press freedom, civil liberties and human rights organizations urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to dismiss the indictment.

Mr. Garland should uphold the Constitution and American values of freedom of the press, due process and human rights by immediately dropping the indictment against Julian Assange.

Richard McGowan, writing to the Chicago Tribune, says:

Can a country still call itself a democracy, founded on the notions of truth and justice and a free press, if it suppresses state crimes and forbids journalists publishing classified information when that reveals the crimes of elites? If damning information implicates the powerful, how much will the public tolerate the inversion of law by those same elites to exact revenge on journalists for exposing the truth?

Those are some of the questions that I had this past week when President Joe Biden hosted a summit for the U.S. and other countries to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and human rights — the same week the U.S. won its appeal to extradite Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, under the archaic Espionage Act, for exposing American war crimes and human rights abuses.

Covered-up videos of troops killing journalists and civilians. Censored documents that show the torture of prisoners in Iraq. Records of mass illegal surveillance of American citizens. Assange exposed these crimes and more, committed during the Bush and Obama administrations.

United States official statements and policy are often full of hypocrisy — pledging to be a leader in the climate crisis and immediately opening up 80 million acres to drilling comes to mind — but the Justice Department’s maleficent, single-minded mission to imprison Assange for exposing the truth is the epitome of injustice.

Juxtapose that with the official double talk of defending democracy and a free society heard at this summit and in recent years. It’s a national shame.

Write your own letter to the editor today! Here’s how.

Categories
Past Events

Assange Extradition: Reactions & Updates

In one of the most widely watched cases for global press freedom, last Friday the UK High Court ruled Julian Assange could be extradited to the US. Press freedom, human rights, and civil liberties organizations have unanimously condemned the US government’s indictment of the WikiLeaks publisher under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information about US war crimes and other abuses of power.

A lower court judge had ruled that US prison conditions and Assange’s mental health would make the extradition oppressive. The High Court also ignored concerns about Assange’s health, and the fact that the CIA had plotted to kidnap and even assassinate him. Assange is now one step closer to being in the hands of a government that has relentlessly persecuted him for daring to expose its secrets.

This all-star expert panel discussed the impact of Assange’s prosecution on press freedom, the ramifications of the High Court’s decision, and what comes next.


Featuring:

Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist for Il Fatto Quotidiano. She has worked with Julian Assange and “WikiLeaks” since 2009, teaming up with large teams of international media to cover and investigate all WikiLeaks’ secret documents: from the secret files on the war in Afghanistan (Afghan War Logs) to the US diplomacy cables (Cablegate), from the files on the Guantanamo detainees (Gitmo Files) on up to the most recent revelations about the European military mission against boats travelling from Libya to Italy smuggling migrants and refugees and the espionage activities against French and the European leaders by the National Security Agency (NSA). She is the author in Italian, of Il potere segreto: Perché vogliono distruggere Julian Assange e WikiLeaks, which is expected to be translated into English next year. 

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, Unauthorized Disclosure and curates The Dissenter newsletter. Kevin attended Assange’s initial hearings (first in person and now with COVID virtually) and reported on them daily. He also extensively covered Chelsea Manning’s court martial.

Jeffrey Sterling is a lawyer and former CIA case officer who sued the CIA for racial discrimination. In 2015, Sterling became another victim in the US government’s war on whistleblowers when he was convicted under the Espionage Act. Only circumstantial evidence was presented during the controversial trial. Jeffery authored the book Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower.

Chip Gibbons is the Policy Director of Defending Rights & Dissent where he hosts the Primary Sources Podcast, which focuses on the challenges of national security whistleblowers. He also covered the UK High Court hearings in US v. Julian Assange as a correspondent for Jacobin, where his most recent piece was “Julian Assange’s Extradition to the United States Would Result in Serious Human Rights Violations.” Chip is currently working on a book on the history of the FBI exploring the relationship between domestic political surveillance and the emergence of the US national security state. Titled The Imperial Bureau, it is expected to be published by Verso in 2024.

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Press Release

NYC Assange Rally: Susan Sarandon, Julian’s Brother, Roger Waters & More

Image
Photo credit: Assange Defense

Supporters of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange gathered Monday at the British Consulate in New York City to condemn Friday’s High Court ruling granting the US appeal of Assange’s extradition ruling.

Oscar-winning actor and prominent activist Susan Sarandon spoke out against the prosecution of Assange for the first time. “When the truth is illegal,” she said, “when you can’t speak the truth, how do we know what’s being done in our name?”

Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, told reporters at the rally that he fears for Julian’s life:

Shipton also spoke to AFP about his brother:

The demonstrators were protesting against a decision on Friday by British appeals judges to overturn the ruling after accepting US government assurances Assange would receive appropriate treatment and not be held in punishing isolation in custody.

“Very worried about it,” Shipton told AFP. “This hanging over Julian’s head just increases the pressure on him now.

“So we live in fear that he won’t make it through this or that he will die basically, during this process,” he added.

Pink Floyd cofounder and activist Roger Waters warned of the dangers the prosecution against Assange poses to the rest of our rights:

Veteran human rights attorney Margaret Kunstler spoke about the importance of Julian’s journalism. “Without truthtellers, we’re in tremendous danger.”

Podcaster Katie Halper called on President Biden to drop the charges against Assange:

Halper interviewed Waters as well as comedian and radio host Randy Credico, who MC’d Monday’s rally:

Katie Halper · Free Assange Protest with Roger Waters & Randy Credico

See the full rally video, featuring speeches from Credico as well as several local activists, and subsequent interviews by Status Coup’s Jordan Chariton.

Categories
Hearing Coverage

High Court Grants U.S. Appeal

December 10, 2021 — Britain’s High Court ruled to approve the United States’ appeal of the District Judge’s decision not to extradite WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, sending the case back down to the Magistrate’s level for his extradition to be ordered. Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris called the decision “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

Lord Justice Holroyde summarized the ruling and explained that the High Court had denied three of the U.S. government’s five lines of appeal argument which dealt with District Judge Vanessa Barrister’s handling of evidence in assessing Julian Assange’s suicide risk upon the order of his extradition. The High Court granted the U.S. government’s two other grounds for appeal dealing with the so-called ‘assurances’ the U.S. purports to provide regarding the treatment Assange would receive in prison. 

The U.S. had argued to the High Court that Judge Baraitser should have notified them during the extradition hearing that she was “minded” to rule against extradition on grounds of oppressive conditions so that it could provide assurances before she delivered her final verdict. 

Assange’s defense argued in response, per the High Court’s summary, “The offer of assurances comes too late. They do not remove the real risk of detention subject to SAMs and/or in ADX, or the real risk of detention in ADSEG and at Alexandria Detention Centre. In any event, even if the assurances are admitted the appeal should not be allowed but the case remitted to the judge with a direction to decide the relevant question again.”

The High Court sided with the U.S. on this question, and found that the assurances the U.S. gave were responsive to Baraitser’s specific concerns regarding Assange’s prospective treatment. “It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently,” they write. 

In ruling to allow the U.S. government’s appeal, the High Court sends the case back down to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court with a direction for the district judge to then send the case to the Secretary of State to approve the extradition.

Responding to the ruling, Stella Moris said, “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

High Court decision “Grave miscarriage of justice,” says Julian Assange’s fiancée

A UK court has overturned an earlier decision blocking the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States where he is accused of publishing true information revealing crimes committed by the US government in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and details of CIA torture and rendition. Julian Assange was not given permission to attend the appeal hearing in person.

The prosecution against Julian Assange is an existential threat to press freedom worldwide. Leading civil liberties groups, including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, ACLU, and Human Rights Watch have called the charges against Julian Assange a “threat to press freedom around the globe.” Journalist unions, including the National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists, have said that “media freedom is suffering lasting damage by the continued prosecution of Julian Assange.” He faces a 175-year prison sentence.

Responding to the decision of the High Court to overturn the lower court’s earlier ruling to block the extradition of Mr. Assange, Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, said: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

Moris described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.” “How can if be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said.

On September 26, CIA plans to assassinate Julian Assange were uncovered in a bombshell report. The detailed investigation revealed that discussions of assassinating Julian Assange in London had occurred “at the highest levels” of the CIA and Trump White House, and that kill “sketches” and “options” had been drawn up on orders of Mike Pompeo, then CIA director. The investigation revealed that plans to kidnap and rendition Assange were far advanced and the CIA’s operations prompted a political decision to produce charges against him.

Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson said, “Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient. This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.”

Amnesty International says the so-called ‘assurances’ upon which the US government relies “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment,” are “inherently unreliable,” and “should be rejected,” adding that they are “discredited by their admission that they reserved the right to reverse those guarantees.” Amnesty concluded the charges against Assange are “politically motivated” and must be dropped.

Julian Assange and Stella Moris are engaged to be married and have two children, who are British and live in London.

Stella Moris will be giving a statement outside court following the decision; updates via @wikileaks

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Assange High Court decision expected Shortly

On 4 January 2021, a UK judge ruled that extraditing Julian Assange to the United States would be oppressive, would lead to his death and must be stopped. Mr. Assange faces a 175-year sentence.

Two days before leaving office the Trump Administration appealed this decision, and appeal arguments were heard by the UK’s High Court on 27-28 October 2021. The High Court is due to rule on the U.S. appeal imminently. See Julian Assange’s full response to the U.S. appeal effort here.

The U.S. purports to give “assurances” about the treatment Julian Assange would face in a U.S. prison, in its attempt to overturn the district judge’s opinion.  These “assurances” specifically allow the U.S. to inflict extreme isolation on Mr. Assange, explicitly asserting that the U.S. government can still impose the very prison conditions that the magistrate found would kill him. Amnesty International says these so-called assurances “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment” are “inherently unreliable” and “should be rejected.”

The U.S. prosecution is entirely related to documents Julian Assange published in 2010 revealing war crimes and major human rights abuses. Mr. Assange faces a 175-year sentence if extradited.

The decision to prosecute Julian Assange has been universally condemned by all major free speech, human rights and media organizations as an unprecedented threat to the public’s right to know.

The ACLU and 24 other groups recently reiterated their opposition to Julian Assange’s prosecution as a “grave threat to journalists and freedom of the press” which the government should “drop immediately” following the extraordinary revelation that the CIA deployed a multipronged physical and informational operation against WikiLeaks which included plans to assassinate or kidnap Mr. Assange. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Mr. Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the U.S. administration.

Julian Assange is being held as an unconvicted remand inmate at the high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has been since April 2019. Prior to this he spent seven years in effective detention in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, having been granted political asylum. Mr. Assange has been in detention in one form or another since 2010. Mr. Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris, and their two young children who are British live in the UK. Mr. Assange is an Australian national who has worked in the UK for many years.

Reporters Without Borders and the UK National Union of Journalists say: “Our government must ensure the UK is a safe place for journalists and publishers to work. Whilst Julian Assange remains in prison facing extradition, it is not.”

Categories
Commentary

Chris Hedges and John Pilger on the ‘Show Trial’ of Julian Assange

As supporters of Julian Assange rally behind the jailed WikiLeaks founder in the lead-up to Wednesday’s extradition hearing in a British court, Chris Hedges gets a read on the status of Assange’s case with input from investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker John Pilger. In this clip from “On Contact With Chris Hedges,” the host and his guest are equally unsparing in their takes on what, in stark contrast to official accounts, is really behind the ongoing and vigorous efforts on the part of the U.S. and other governments to punish Assange.

Hedges, pointing to a recent Yahoo! News article confirming previous reports that the the CIA and Trump administration members had considered assassinating Assange, bluntly describes the upcoming hearing as a “judicial pantomime” and part of a broader strategy of “political persecution” against Assange for exposing and embarrassing the U.S. government (among others) through his work at WikiLeaks.

Pilger chalks up Assange’s current tribulation to a “CIA operation” and a “show trial,” adding that “everyone who knows the United States well knows the power of the CIA—the extrajudicial power of the CIA, the extra-governmental power of the CIA. That’s what this is.” Anticipating push-back on this characterization, Pilger reminds “On Contact” viewers that he has been present at several of Assange’s most consequential days in court for more than a decade. According to Pilger, the goal of Assange’s persecutors is to shut WikiLeaks down and to make an example of its founder, who faces 175 years in prison if extradited to the U.S. “Serious investigative journalism is the enemy,” says Pilger.

Watch the interview in its entirety above.

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Hearing Coverage

Defense chronology surrounding Assange’s family and Dr Kopelman

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Hearing Coverage

Declaration of Assange attorney Gareth Peirce on Prof Kopelman

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Hearing Coverage

Declaration of Maureen Baird, U.S. Prison Warden

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Hearing Coverage

Julian Assange Extradition Appeal: Day 2

Appeal hearing concludes as defense dismantles U.S. arguments

UK MP Jeremy Corbyn and Assange’s partner Stella Moris, outside court in London | Photo by Guy Smallman

On the second day of Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing, the defense laid out its arguments to uphold the District Judge’s ruling which barred Assange’s ruling on medical grounds. Yesterday, the prosecution attempted to undermine a renowned psychiatrist, admitted its prison assurances are “conditional,” and tried to downplay how harsh Assange’s US conditions would be.

Before the proceedings began, Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris clarified some misreporting about Julian’s condition. “Reports that Assange didn’t attend court in person due to medication are incorrect,” she wrote. “He asked to appear in person. The request was rejected. The medication interfering with his ability to follow has nothing to do with the fact he wasn’t permitted to attend court.”

Edward Fitzgerald, Barrister for the defense, addressed grounds 1, 3, and 4 of the U.S. appeal, all dealing with evidence surrounding Assange’s mental health and whether his psychiatric condition and prospective treatment are so oppressive so as to render an extradition unjust. In the afternoon, Mark Summers QC addressed grounds 2 and 5, comprising the U.S.’s claims of assurances that Assange wouldn’t be placed in the most severe and isolating conditions in a U.S. prison. 

Fitzgerald argued that in her January 4, 2021 ruling, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser carefully weighed defense and prosecution testimony and evidence, applied the appropriate test based on relevant case law (Turner v. USA), and reasonably found overwhelming evidence supporting the finding that ordering his extradition would put him at grave risk of suicide. She found that Assange is severely depressed, that a “single-minded determination” resulting from his Asperger’s Syndrome would reduce his capacity to resist suicide, and that these factors combined with the prospect of an all-but-guaranteed oppressive prison regime and life sentence in the United States put him at grave risk of suicide should his extradition be ordered. 

To highlight just how justified Assange’s fears have been, Fitzgerald also reminded the court of the recent Yahoo News revelations, based on conversations with more than 30 former government officials, that the CIA under the Trump Administration made serious plans to kidnap and even assassinate Julian Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

Because the prosecution spent such a considerable portion of yesterday’s proceedings homing in on the fact that Dr Michael Kopelman, the psychiatrist who evaluated Assange over the course of many in-person interviews, initially omitted the fact that Julian was in a relationship with Stella Moris, Fitzgerald again explained how misleading it is to call this deceptive. Kopelman made the court aware of this fact well before the September 2020 extradition case, the judge addressed this in her ruling, and she explicitly said that she “did not accept that Professor Kopelman failed in his duty to the court.”

Fitzgerald also countered the prosecution’s off-hand comment from yesterday suggesting Dr. Sondra Crosby’s testimony should be ignored because she “is just a GP and a friend of Assange’s.” He explained that Dr. Crosby is an expert on physical and psychological impact of torture who took an interest in the case due to its severe and unusual nature. 

Finally, the prosecution said that Dr. Kopelman was the only doctor to find Assange is on the autism spectrum. The judge’s ruling directly contradicts that. Dr. Quinton Deeley, a consultant developmental neuropsychiatrist at the National Autism Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital, “found that he met the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder albeit that his was ‘a high functioning autistic case’ and Asperger’s syndrome disorder,” the judge wrote.

Assurances are inadequate and unreliable

After the lunch break, Summers argued for the defense that the prosecution’s “assurances” regarding the prison conditions Assange would face in a U.S. prison pre- and post-trial cannot be trusted, and are inadequate even if they could be. 

The defense argues that the U.S. assurances regarding prison conditions:

  • are late, having been given after the District Judge ruling (after the evidentiary stage)
  • address only 2 of the 7 bases for the finding of a substantial risk of suicide
  • don’t even adequately address the limited issues they purport to address
  • can’t be considered in good faith when considering the U.S. vindictiveness, particularly the CIA’s vituperative plans

The prosecution has argued that the judge should have notified them ahead of time that she was “minded” to find Assange’s suicide risk to be too high, so that they could have provided these assurances during the evidentiary stage. But as Summers points out for the defense, Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), solitary confinement, and ADX Florence were continuously points of discussion throughout the extradition hearing. The U.S. could have taken them off the table at any time. The judge addressed this very point in her ruling, noting that “[US attorney and witness] Mr. Kromberg acknowledged that their imposition is possible.”

But even taking the assurances at their word, “The newly proffered and conditional assurances do not in fact remove the real risk of detention on SAMs or on ADX. They certainly do not remove the very real risk of detention in administrative segregation.”

The assurance that Assange wouldn’t be subject to SAMs actually “does not prevent the imposition of SAMs at all. It expressly reserves to the USA the power to impose SAMs on Mr Assange ‘in the event that, after entry of this assurance, he was to commit any future act that met the test for the imposition of a SAM.”

By focusing so narrowly on SAMs and the ADX Florence, the prosecution is attempting to skirt the fact that U.S. prisoners not in those conditions face isolation in many other ways. “The assurances attempt to address one notorious prison regime and one notorious prison,” the defense argues, “and say nothing about any of the other severely isolating prison regimes or other notorious prisons in the USA about which the DJ heard copious evidence.”

The prosecution would later attempt to counter this point by suggesting the U.S. Bureau of Prisons doesn’t practice solitary confinement. Administrative Segregation (AdSeg) can’t be considered solitary confinement, Lewis said, because Assange would be allowed to visit with his lawyers. But anyone with any familiarity with U.S. prison conditions sees past these euphemistic disguises. The National Immigrant Justice Center, a U.S.-based human rights organization, writes

“The hole, AdSeg, protective custody, SMU, SHU—are all terms used to refer to solitary confinement, a form of incarceration where a prisoner is locked up for 23 hours a day with little or no human contact. Prisons often hide behind these rhetorical labels to avoid scrutiny under legal sanctions that prohibit indefinite placement in solitary confinement and require due process for those who are sentenced.”

The defense also notes that the ADX assurance “bizarrely promises not to detain at ADX ‘pre-trial’ – something which could never happen (ADX is a post-conviction establishment)” and “does not in fact prevent post-conviction detention at ADX.”

“The evidence is overwhelming that regardless of SAMs, and regardless of the ADX, if extradited, Julian Assange is surely headed for extreme isolation, pre- & post-trial,” Summers said. Even if acquitted, after pre-trial solitary confinement and a lengthy trial, Assange could be re-arrested and could face isolation all over again. 

The prosecution has pointed to shorter sentences of Jeffrey Sterling (3.5 years), Daniel Hale (3.75 years), and Reality Winner (5.25 years) as evidence Assange might not get decades in jail. But the obvious corollary should be Chelsea Manning’s sentence, as she leaked the very documents Assange is charged with publishing and Assange is alleged to have conspired with her. Chelsea was sentenced to 35 years, which would amount to a life (or death) sentence for Julian.

This is particularly relevant to the US assurance that Assange could be transferred to an Australian prison. This assurance elides the fact that Assange’s U.S. case would very likely cycle through many appeals and span many years. “On the evidence,” the defense argues, “Mr Assange will most likely be dead before [this assurance] can have any purchase, if it ever could.”

But the U.S. cannot be trusted to keep the assurance about transferring Assange to an Australian prison even if it did have purchase. Summers cited the case of David Mendoza Herrarte, where a Spanish court was given assurances that Mendoza could serve his prison sentence in Spain if he were extradited to face trial in the United States first. In that case, the U.S. promised to send him to Spain, but when it came time to approve the prison transfer, the DOJ denied it. The Spanish court believed that the U.S. government was giving the assurance, but the U.S. then said that the prosecutor had only assured that Mendoza could apply for a transfer, and the DOJ reserved the right to deny it. 

Assurance cannot be trusted, Summers said, when it is caveated, it is conditional, and it is insufficient.” Furthermore, assurances cannot be trusted from the same government that made serious plans to render, kidnap, and even discussed killing Julian Assange.

The appeal proceedings then adjourned, at 4:30pm London time, with the judges closing that both parties have “given [them] much to think about.” No timeline was given for a decision, but we expect it to take weeks if not months. We’ll report back here as we learn more. 

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Hearing Coverage

Assange Defense Appeal Arguments & Extradition Glossary

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Hearing Coverage

Julian Assange Extradition Appeal: Day 1

Assange too unwell to view proceedings remotely

Julia Quenzler / SWNS. Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing, Oct 27, 2021

Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing, which will turn in part on determinations about his health and risk of suicide, commenced with the news that Julian was too ill to even follow the proceedings by remote videolink from Belmarsh prison. Julian did enter the viewing box about midway through the morning’s session, but he appeared thin and unwell, and he could be seen leaving the room about an hour later.

Assange’s extradition was denied in January of this year when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that ordering his extradition would put him at such high risk of suicide so as to be “oppressive.” The U.S. is appealing that ruling to the UK’s High Court on the grounds that, it argues, the judge misapplied evidence as to Assange’s mental health, and the U.S. government can assure the court that Assange wouldn’t be held under the worst and most isolating conditions if sentenced to a U.S. prison.

Prosecution claims Assange won’t face isolation in U.S. prison

As the appealing party, the U.S. government argued first, led by James Lewis QC. Lewis broke up up its objections to each aspect of the judge’s finding — whether Assange’s mental health condition puts him at high risk of suicide, his personal capacity to resist that impulse, how prospective treatment affects that risk level. He began with the so-called “assurances” that Assange wouldn’t be placed in ADX Florence, the U.S.’s highest-security prison designed specifically to isolate its inmates, and that he wouldn’t be subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which are applied, often in national security cases, to even further restrict an inmate’s communication with the outside world. The U.S. worked to restrict all of the defense’s objections regarding prison conditions to ADX Florence and SAMs, attempting to narrow its burden of proof by arguing that if ADX Florence and SAMs were removed from the equation, Judge Baraitser would have ruled to extradite Assange.

Amnesty International has warned that assurances Assange wouldn’t be placed in ADX Florence and that SAMs wouldn’t be imposed are “inherently unreliable,” as they contain the crucial caveat that the U.S. can change its mind whenever it chooses, if it determines that Assange has done something to warrant isolation or SAMs. Lewis admitted that these assurances are indeed “conditional,” but he said that they must be, “otherwise it would give him a blank check to do whatever he’d like.”

Lewis argued against the defense’s contention that Assange would likely face solitary confinement in pre-trial detention by claiming that Assange would be allowed to visit with his lawyers whenever he would like. (Note that even in detention in the UK, Assange has gone for stretches of several months without being able to communicate with his legal team.) He also floated the possibility that Assange might not be convicted at all, despite the fact that more than 90% of U.S. federal cases result in guilty verdicts, and Assange would be tried in the U.S.’s harshest district, EDVA (a district that CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who has been convicted under the same Espionage Act of which Assange faces 17 counts, refers to as the “Espionage court”). 

U.S. attempts to undermine renowned psychiatrist’s testimony

Press Association / Elizabeth Cook. Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing, Oct 27, 2021

The prosecution then moved to Assange’s mental health and the testimony of Professor Kopelman, the psychiatrist who examined and interviewed Assange and determined he would be at high risk of suicide if his extradition were ordered. The U.S. contends that the defense conflates criteria for breaching Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and those for breaching Section 91 of the UK Extradition Act, which prevent extradition if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

As it did in the evidentiary stage in September 2020, the U.S. attempted to elevate the opinion of its own psychiatrist, Dr. Nigel Blackwood. over that of Dr Kopelman. Dr. Blackwood “accepted there was some risk of a suicide attempt linked to extradition but this did not reach a ‘substantial risk’ threshold.” In October 2020, Declassified UK reported that Dr Blackwood “works for an academic institute that is funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and linked to the US Department of Defence.”

The U.S. spent considerable time in the afternoon session repeating its arguments from the evidentiary stage of the proceedings back in September 2020. Lewis reiterated the U.S.’s feeling that Dr. Kopelman misled the court in his first psychiatric report by omitting his awareness that Julian was in a relationship with Stella Moris. In her ruling, Judge Baraitser addressed the issue head-on: 

“I did not accept that Professor Kopelman failed in his duty to the court when he did not disclose Ms. Morris’s relationship with Mr. Assange…. Professor Kopelman’s decision to conceal their relationship was misleading and inappropriate in the context of his obligations to the court, but an understandable human response to Ms. Morris’s predicament. He explained that her relationship with Mr. Assange was not yet in the public domain and that she was very concerned about her privacy. After their relationship became public, he had disclosed it in his August 2020 report. In fact, the court had become aware of the true position in April 2020, before it had read the medical evidence or heard evidence on this issue.”

The prosecution attempted to persuade the High Court that if it doesn’t find this renders Kopelman’s testimony inadmissible, it should at least find that it holds much less weight than Baraitser did. The U.S. argument boils down to this question of weight, rather than contestations of fact: which witnesses and statistics and pieces of evidence should be considered more seriously than others. Lewis complained that the judge didn’t adequately explain her reasoning for preferring Kopelman’s testimony. 

Defense responds; judge preferred Kopelman

But as Edward Fitzgerald pointed out when responding to the prosecution in the final half hour of today’s session, the judge can’t explain in detail her reasoning for weighing every bit of evidence more than others, and in fact she was quite clear about how she reached her conclusion. “I preferred the expert opinions of Professor Kopelman and Dr. Deeley to those of Dr. Blackwood,” Baraitser wrote. “[Dr. Blackwood’s] summary of the notes was significantly less detailed than the summary provided by Professor Kopelman and he did not appear to have access to all relevant notes.” For example, Dr. Blackwood didn’t even know why Julian was in the healthcare ward at Belmarsh, that ”Mr. Assange was finding it hard to control his thoughts of self-harm and suicide.”

The prosecution argued that the present tense in the phrase barring extradition on the grounds that “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him” means that only a defendant’s present mental health conditions should be considered, as opposed to how future prospective prison conditions might impact the risk of suicide. But Fitzgerald responded that Dr. Kopelman addressed this as well, finding that the mere ordering of Assange’s extradition would trigger this grave risk, so this was considered an imminent issue rather than a hypothetical.

Court adjourned after Fitzgerald’s point-by-point response to the arguments the U.S. made in court today. Tomorrow, the defense will have the majority of the day to argue its own response to the full government submission. We’ll return at the same time tomorrow. 

Categories
Past Events

ACLU Capital U. Law panel on Julian Assange

Panelists:

  • Gabriel Shipton – Brother of Julian Assange
  • Juan Passarelli – Journalist & Film Maker of “The War on Journalism
  • Stephen Rohde – Former Chair of ACLU So. Cal. & Attorney with 50 years experience in Constitutional/Civil Rights Law
  • Misty Winston – Assange Activist & Host of “Action 4 Assange

Moderator:

  • Chris Licameli – Capital Law ACLU Evening Rep. & Founder of Unified People’s Coalition

Resources mentioned in the panel:

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Past Events

Free Assange Events Across the US Ahead of UK Appeal

Just days before Julian Assange returns to court in London as the United States government appeals his extradition decision before the UK’s High Court, supporters are calling for Assange’s freedom at rallies and vigils across the United States and around the world

What’s Next for Julian Assange?

Will revelations of the CIA plots to kidnap or kill Assange and of the key FBI prosecution witness admitting he lied have an impact on the October 27-28 UK extradition hearings? Julian’s life and the future of a free press rest on this case.

Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton and editor at The Grayzone Max Blumenthal remotely join attorneys Margaret Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek for discussion with WBAI radio host and moderator Mimi Rosenberg.


Repressing Free Speech: From Hip Hop to Julian Assange

The LA Assange Defense group has put together a fantastic program hosted by author and USC Law Professor Jody Armour, with rappers drawing connections between threats to their own free speech and  Assange’s journalism, weaving together new performances, interviews with whistleblowers, and a discussion about freedom of expression. 


Rally under Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre marquee!

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Full rally video here!

Speakers:

  • Nozomi Hayase, Author, “WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History is Happening”
  • Dennis Bernstein, Host, KPFA’s Flashpoints  (Via taped message)
  • Cynthia Papermaster,  CodePink/Women for Peace
  • Rick Sterling, Task Forces on the Americas; Syria Solidarity Movement
  • Marsha Feinland, Bay Area Peace and Freedom Party
  • Francis Collins 
  • Ustade Kaderi, Haiti Action Committee
  • Nic deLaRiva, ANSWER Coalition
  • Gloria La Riva, First VP, Pacific Media Workers Guild
  • John Holmes, member, Pacific Media Workers Guild, Bay Area Committee four Julian Assange
  • Anthony Fest, KPFA, reading Mickey Huff Project Censored and Media Freedom Alliance  statement
  • Shahid Buttar, activist/organizer
  • James McFadden,  Research physicist, UC Berkeley. Green Party
  • Judy Greenspan, International Action Center
  • Roger Harris, U.S. Peace Council; Alex Saab Defense Committee
  • Gerald Smith, Labor Action Commtitee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

 Rally Co-chairs

  • Jeff Mackler, AssangeDefense.org; United National Antiwar Coalition
  • Andrew Kodama, Exec. Dir. Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center

Taped greetings from…

  • Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize novelist
  • Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower
  • Mumia Abu-Jamal, investigative journalist/political prisoner
  • Noam Chomsky, author & historian

Denver rally and Congressional action

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Colorado supporters called their representatives to ask them to protect the First Amendment and call on Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the charges against Assange.


Milwaukee rally and music performance

George Martin compares Darnella Frazier and Julian Assange

George Martin compares Darnella Frazier and Julian Assange, October 23, 2021, Milwaukee

Full video: October 22 rally

Guitarist Chris Borg performed and activist Ann Batiza spoke out in defense of Julian Assange and a free press in Milwaukee, WI.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Stand for Peace: October 23


War on Terror Film Festival

Veteran journalist and Associate Editor of The Electronic Intifada, Nora Barrows-Friedman, hosts a discussion with director of Fahrenheit 9/11Michael Moore, along with co-director of The War You Don’t SeeJohn Pilger, public intellectual Noam Chomsky, and attorney and partner of Julian Assange, Stella Moris.


Stand Ups for Assange NYC

Part 2 of the Stand-Ups for Assange featuring Lee CampRandy Credico, and Katie Halper

Special remarks from Margaret Kimberley and Margaret Kunstler!

Full video: Theatre 80 St. Marks, NYC, October 24, 2021

Roger Waters and Cornel West

Stand Ups for Assange DC


ACLU Capital U. Law panel on Julian Assange

Click here for more info & resources

Panelists:

  • Gabriel Shipton – Brother of Julian Assange
  • Juan Passarelli – Journalist & Film Maker of “The War on Journalism
  • Stephen Rohde – Former Chair of ACLU So. Cal. & Attorney with 50 years experience in Constitutional/Civil Rights Law
  • Misty Winston – Assange Activist & Host of “Action 4 Assange

Moderator:

  • Chris Licameli – Capital Law ACLU Evening Rep. & Founder of Unified People’s Coalition

Espionage Act Panel: The Prosecution of Julian Assange and the Threats to Freedom of the Press and Human Rights


Film screening & Discussion:
The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange

Categories
Past Events

Milwaukee: “Why Should I Care About Julian Assange?” Part 2

George Martin compares Darnella Frazier and Julian Assange

George Martin compares Darnella Frazier and Julian Assange, October 23, 2021, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace rally: October 23, 2021

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Past Events

Milwaukee: “Why should I care about Julian Assange?” Part 1

Rally: October 22, 2021

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Past Events

Oakland Rally to Free Assange

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Flyer for today's rally to free Assange at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater from noon to 1:30pm, featuring Nozomi Hayase, Dennis Bernstein and others in person, with taped statements from Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Dan Ellsberg, Mumia Abu Jamal, Boots Reilly, and more.
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Video Series

My Son Julian Assange: Episode 2

An exclusive video series and an intimate fireside chat with John Shipton discussing the persecution of his son Julian Assange. Julian faces extradition to the US where he risks up to 175 years in a maximum security prison for publishing truth about war crimes.

Episode 2 – The impact of WikiLeaks Publications
  • “What has been the impact of WikiLeaks publications on the war in Afghanistan?”
  • “How do you respond to the US claims that these publications endangered lives?”
Categories
Video Series

My Son Julian Assange: Episode 1

An exclusive video series and an intimate fireside chat with John Shipton discussing the persecution of his son Julian Assange. Julian faces extradition to the US where he risks up to 175 years in a maximum security prison for publishing truth about war crimes.

Episode 1 – The UK Extradition Procedure
  • “What to think of the Jan. 4th 2021 decision by a UK court not to extradite Julian?”
  • “What is the Oct. 27-28, 2021, appeal really about?”
Categories
Press Release

Free Julian Assange: The Belmarsh Tribunal Comes to London

Just after the bombshell revelations about the CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange while he sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the Progressive International comes to London with the first physical Belmarsh Tribunal. The intervention comes ahead of Assange’s extradition proceedings, which are set to continue in London’s High Court from 27 to 28 October 2021.

Inspired by the famous Russell-Sartre people’s tribunal, the Belmarsh Tribunal places the War on Terror on trial and holds the US government accountable for its war crimes. It is named for the London prison that has held Assange in permanent confinement for the last two years, as he faces extradition to the US, whose government plotted his assassination. The Belmarsh Tribunal will hold its first physical proceedings in London on the 22 of October 2021 at the Convocation Hall, Church House, Westminster, which was used for sittings of parliament during the Second World War.

The Belmarsh Tribunal will gather leading figures from politics, the law and journalism, to shed light on the US crimes that were revealed by WikiLeaks – torture, violence, illegal spying – but also to speak about the existing crimes of both US and UK against Julian Assange for exposing their illegal and unjustifiable actions. Among the speakers who will appear both in physical presence and via “live-stream” are Tariq Ali, Renata Ávila, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Jeremy Corbyn, Rafael Correa, Özlem Demirel, Deepa Govindarajan Driver, Daniel Ellsberg, Selay Ghaffar, Markéta Gregorová, Heike Hänsel, Srećko Horvat, Ken Loach, Annie Machon, Stefania Maurizi, John McDonnell, Yanis Varoufakis, Ben Wizner and Eyal Weizman.

“After the revelations about the murderous CIA plans to kill a publisher and journalist on British soil, not only the current US government but also the UK government must be held responsible for still keeping Assange in prison”, says philosopher Srećko Horvat, cabinet member of the Progressive International and one of the founders of the Belmarsh Tribunal.

“The Biden administration should drop the charges against Assange and the UK government should free him immediately and end the suffering and torture of a courageous man who has committed no crime. In a society in which telling the truth becomes a crime, we are all accomplices of crime as long as Assange is in prison.” 

“Wikileaks exposed crimes of US empire in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. At the Belmarsh Tribunal, we will turn the world the right way up, placing crimes of war, torture, kidnapping and a litany of other gross human rights abuses on trial,” says Jeremy Corbyn, Progressive International council member and member of the Belmarsh Tribunal

“The perpetrators of these crimes walk free, often still prominent public figures in the US, U.K. and elsewhere. They should be held accountable for the lives they destroyed and the futures they stole.”

Categories
Past Events

Repressing Free Speech: From Hip Hop to Julian Assange

Join us for an hour of hip hop performance, testimonials, and updates on Julian Assange’s free speech fight.

Click to watch the full program on YouTube

America has a shameful history of censoring marginal voices who had the courage to speak truth to power, from Fred Hampton to Angela Davis to Daniel Ellsberg to Colin Kaepernick to Ice Cube. Today, Julian Assange is being prosecuted for telling the truth about US war crimes. We need to stand with all victims of censorship.

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Click to watch the full program on Facebook
Categories
Past Events

Video: Stand-Up for Assange DC

A Night of Comedy and Satire in Support of Julian Assange with Lee Camp & Randy Credico.

Special Guests: Max Blumenthal, Margaret Kunstler, and John Kiriakou


Jazz Piano by Steve Jones

Categories
Past Events

Video: Panel of veterans and intelligence experts on Assange

Featuring:

  • Maj. Danny Sjursen, U.S. Army Veteran and Director of Eisenhower Media Network
  • Capt. Matt Hoh, Former U.S. Marine Corps Captain and State Department Officer
  • Special Agent Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent and Whistleblower

Moderated by author, activist and spiritual thought leader Marianne Williamson

Categories
Press Release

24 rights groups call on Garland to free Assange

Two dozen leading civil liberties and press freedom organizations have written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to share “profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange.”

The groups, including the ACLU, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Amnesty International among others, wrote to the Biden DOJ back in February to warn of the dangers of the Assange prosecution, and here they reiterate the First Amendment considerations in the case

“In our view, a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press.”

But the groups write today with a renewed urgency in light of the Yahoo News revelations that the CIA under the Trump administration drew up plans to kidnap and even kill Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

“The Yahoo News story only heightens our concerns about the motivations behind his prosecution, and about the dangerous precedent that is being set.

In light of these concerns, and in light of the shocking new reporting on the government’s conduct in this case, we respectfully urge you to drop the ongoing appeal of Judge Baraitser’s ruling and to dismiss the indictment of Mr. Assange.”

Garland and the Biden administration have yet to comment in public about the Assange prosecution. In the Trump administration’s final days in office, the DOJ appealed the UK District Court ruling which blocked Assange’s extradition to the U.S. on the grounds that it would put him at grave risk of suicide. The Biden DOJ has allowed that appeal to continue, and the UK’s High Court will hear appeal arguments in London on October 27-28. 

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Featured Press Release

Bombshell investigation reveals CIA plots to kidnap, assassinate Assange

Yahoo! News has uncovered the incredible and disturbing range of actions the CIA was considering against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff spoke to more than 30 former U.S. officials to confirm that the agency seriously considered and debated abducting Assange from the embassy and even mentioned the possibility of assassinating him. 

“Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request “sketches” or “options” for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. “There seemed to be no boundaries.”

The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.”

Read the full piece here

U.S. officials allege that in 2017 they believed that Russia was working to sneak Assange out of the embassy—which, as Assange’s partner Stella Moris reminds, was a fabricated pretext —and they were willing to go to extreme lengths to thwart such a plot: 

“In response, the CIA and the White House began preparing for a number of scenarios to foil Assange’s Russian departure plans, according to three former officials. Those included potential gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London, crashing a car into a Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange and then grabbing him, and shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow. (U.S. officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.)”

The Obama administration, as has been widely reported and discussed at length during Assange’s extradition hearing, declined to prosecute Assange on publication charges on Constitutional grounds, finding no way to do so without running afoul of the First Amendment. So the intelligence community worked to redefine WikiLeaks to circumvent the problem and to expand their range of targets:

“Still chafing at the limits in place, top intelligence officials lobbied the White House to redefine WikiLeaks — and some high-profile journalists — as “information brokers,” which would have opened up the use of more investigative tools against them, potentially paving the way for their prosecution, according to former officials. It “was a step in the direction of showing a court, if we got that far, that we were dealing with agents of a foreign power,” a former senior counterintelligence official said.

Among the journalists some U.S. officials wanted to designate as “information brokers” were Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist for the Guardian, and Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who had both been instrumental in publishing documents provided by Snowden.”

Video: The war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: Yahoo News Explains

While the abduction and assassination plans were ultimately rebuffed by White House lawyers, they sped up the Department of Justice’s legal case against Assange, merely by virtue of being so outrageous:

“Some National Security Council officials worried that the CIA’s proposals to kidnap Assange would not only be illegal but also might jeopardize the prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder. Concerned the CIA’s plans would derail a potential criminal case, the Justice Department expedited the drafting of charges against Assange to ensure that they were in place if he were brought to the United States.”

Assange remains imprisoned in maximum security Belmarsh prison for two and a half years, despite winning his extradition battle in the UK’s District Court. The ruling, which declared that sending Assange from the UK to the U.S. would put him at risk of suicide, was immediately appealed by the U.S. to the High Court, which will hear appeal arguments in London on October 27-28.

Yahoo News: 5 big takeaways from an investigation into the CIA’s war on WikiLeaks

Followup

Yahoo News: “‘I make no apologies’: Pompeo says Trump administration was protecting sensitive information”

In his first public comments since a Yahoo News investigation revealed discussions within the Trump administration in 2017 about kidnapping or even killing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he makes “no apologies” for the Trump administration’s actions to protect “real national security secrets.”

Pompeo declined to deny the individual allegations in the story, saying only that Yahoo News’ “sources didn’t know what we were doing.”

Pompeo disparaged one of the co-authors of the Yahoo News investigation during his interview with Beck and in response to a question about the Yahoo News story at an appearance at Hillsdale College on Monday.

Reactions

Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer:

“As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, told Yahoo News.

“My hope and expectation is that the U.K. courts will consider this information and it will further bolster its decision not to extradite to the U.S.,” Pollack added.

“the extreme nature of the type of government misconduct that you’re reporting would certainly be an issue and potentially grounds for dismissal.” He likened the measures used to target Assange to those deployed by the Nixon administration against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers, noting the charges against Ellsberg were ultimately dismissed as well.

Laura Poitras

“In a statement to Yahoo News, Poitras said reported attempts to classify herself, Greenwald and Assange as “information brokers” rather than journalists are “bone-chilling and a threat to journalists worldwide.” 

“That the CIA also conspired to seek the rendition and extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange is a state-sponsored crime against the press,” she added.

Glenn Greenwald:

“I am not the least bit surprised that the CIA, a longtime authoritarian and antidemocratic institution, plotted to find a way to criminalize journalism and spy on and commit other acts of aggression against journalists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News.

Freedom of the Press Foundation: “After shocking story about CIA illegal acts, Biden admin must drop Assange charges immediately”

“The CIA is a disgrace. The fact that it contemplated and engaged in so many illegal acts against WikiLeaks, its associates, and even other award-winning journalists is an outright scandal that should be investigated by Congress and the Justice Department. The Biden Administration must drop its charges against Assange immediately. The case already threatens the rights of countless reporters. These new revelations, which involve a shocking disregard of the law, are truly beyond the pale.” — Trevor Timm, Executive Director

Defending Rights & Dissent: DRAD Condemns Outrageous CIA Attacks on Assange and Press Freedom

“Regardless of the targets, such actions are illegal and immoral. That the CIA seriously considered resurrecting some of its most criminal tactics of the Global War on Terror and Cold War is cause for serious alarm. That the target was an award winning journalist, however, makes these revelations all the more chilling.” — Chip Gibbons, Defending Rights & Dissent’s Policy Director.

International Federation of Journalists: CIA reportedly plotted to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange

“If these accusations are true, it would cast a long shadow over all independent journalism and they would once again prove that extraditing Assange to the United States would put his life at serious risk. We are calling for a full investigation and for the British authorities to release him immediately.” — Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary

National Union of Journalists: CIA reportedly plotted to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange

“The suggestion that US security services even considered kidnapping and murder on the streets of a trusted ally is chilling. That such acts might have been contemplated as a reaction to an individual who had simply published inconvenient truths is all the more troubling.

“At Assange’s extradition hearings, the US government did not contest evidence that individuals allegedly working on its behalf had bugged the Ecuadorian embassy in London, followed Assange’s family and associates, and burgled the office of his lawyer. That context makes these fresh allegations all the more difficult to dismiss.

“If true, the story from Yahoo! News’ blows a hole in the case made by the US government that its attempt to extradite Assange is not politically motivated.

“I am calling on the UK home secretary to explain whether the security services had any involvement in, or knowledge of, these plans.

“Furthermore, it is clear that when the US appeal against the dismissal of its extradition application in respect of Assange is heard in October, it should be dismissed out of hand and its subject released at once.”

Reporters without Borders: “Alarming reported CIA plot against Julian Assange exposed”

“If true, these allegations of a CIA threat to Assange’s life are alarming, and underscore the very serious risk he remains at in detention, which would be exponentially heightened if the US is successful in securing his extradition. The exposed alleged plots that could cause severe harm or loss of life to Assange or his associates are threats to press freedom itself. The Biden administration must act immediately to distance itself from these shocking reports of the Trump administration’s actions, close the case against Assange once and for all, and allow for his release from prison before any further harm is caused.” — Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s Director of International Campaigns.

American Civil Liberties Union

Parliamentary Assembly Council on Europe: “PACE General Rapporteur expresses serious concern at reports that US officials discussed assassinating Julian Assange”

“If these reports are true, I am horrified,” said Mr Omtzigt. “To kidnap or kill a civilian who published leaked documents would be a gross violation of basic Council of Europe human rights principles – and, one would hope, unthinkable in the world’s most powerful democracy. Reports that high-level US officials may have considered such an option are deeply worrying.”

Mr Omtzigt pointed to a 2020 resolution of the Assembly which called for Mr Assange’s extradition to the US to be barred, and urged his prompt release. “The Assembly has already made clear that the detention and criminal prosecution of Mr Assange sets a dangerous precedent for journalists. These reports only reinforce our concern that Mr Assange could be treated most unfairly.”

He added: “I am confident that the British courts will take these reports into consideration when ruling on Mr Assange’s extradition, and I call on the US authorities to clarify whether such appalling ‘options’ really were considered, and if so how to prevent this from happening again.”

Coverage

Yahoo reporter Michael Isikoff spoke to MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin

Isikoff was also interviewed by radio host Randy Credico:

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, responded to the story:

The Hill’s Rising covered the new report as well:

The Intercept: “Assange kidnapping plot casts new light on 2018 Senate Intelligence maneuver”

a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 stated: “It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

This kind of text doesn’t necessarily have a formal impact on policy, but the language was so alarming to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that he opposed the bill in a 14-1 panel vote in July 2017. “My concern is that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets,” he explained in a press release at the time.

the final compromise bill, which included the new identification for WikiLeaks, was wrapped into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed in December 2019. By that time, according to Yahoo News, members of the intelligence panels had already learned about the CIA’s proposals targeting the group. Yet no lawmaker publicly raised concerns about endorsing the “non-state hostile intelligence service” label.

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