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Press Release

12 years since Cablegate – Media groups urge US to drop Julian Assange charges

Marking the 12th anniversary since the publication of Cablegate, first outlets to publish WikiLeaks material, including the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, come together to oppose the US prosecution of Julian Assange.

Media organizations that first helped Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange publish leaked diplomatic cables, pen an open letter telling the US government it must drop his prosecution because it is undermining press freedom.

The letter reads:

“Cablegate”, a set of 251,000 confidential cables from the US state department, disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.

For Julian Assange, publisher of WikLeaks, the publication of “Cablegate” and several other related leaks had the most severe consequences. On April 12th 2019, Assange was arrested in London on a US arrest warrant, and has now been held for three and a half years in a high-security British prison usually used for terrorists and members of organised crime groups. He faces extradition to the US and a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison.

This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press.

Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.

Twelve years after the publication of “Cablegate”, it is time for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.

Publishing is not a crime.

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Press Release

Wikileaks delegation touring Latin America to raise support for Julian Assange

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador are touring Latin America, meeting with seven heads of state to discuss Julian Assange’s extradition battle and raise support for his release.

On November 21st Hrafnsson and Farrell met with the President of Colombia Gustavo Petro and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Álvaro Leyva Duran in Bogota. President Petro promised to help “put pressure on the Biden government” to drop the charges against Julian Assange, expressed his commitment to fight for his freedom, and encouraged political leaders around the world to do the same.

“They’ve shown a clear commitment to support the fight for Julian Assange’s freedom, and strongly recognized the implications for press freedom worldwide that his extradition would set”, Hrafnsson said in a statement after the meeting.

After their meeting with President Petro, Hrafnsson and Farrell attended an event with Colombian NGO’s where they discussed Julian Assange, human rights and how to defend freedom of the press.

On November 22nd, WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson took part in the event “Assange, Wikileaks and journalism: freedom of expression imprisoned” at the National University of Colombia together with representatives of academia and freedom of expression organisations.

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Press Release

Assange doc Ithaka makes North American premiere 

Ithaka, the new documentary recounting the efforts of John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, to campaign for his son’s freedom around the world, has made its North American premiere at the DOCNYC film festival in New York City on Sunday. 

The film was produced by Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton and directed by Ben Lawrence, who participated in a Q&A session following the film screening. 

Ithaka is currently available for limited streaming online until November 27. Filmgoers reacted to the screening outside of SVA Theatre following the premiere:

Vote for Ithaka for the Audience Award!

Here’s how:

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Past Events Press Release

VIDEO: Oct. 8 DOJ rally to Free Assange

Video credit: Joe Friendly // October 8, 2022, at the Department of Justice

Speeches by Jill Stein, Chip Gibbons, Rev. Annie Chambers, Ben Cohen, Chris Hedges, and dozens more followed a march around the DOJ.

Protests around the country to free Assange

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Press Release

Critically acclaimed Assange film ‘Ithaka’ gets North American premiere at DOC NYC

★★★Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
★★★★ Sandra Hall, Sydney Morning Herald
★★★★★ Margaret Pomeranz

Ithaka, director Ben Lawrence’s feature documentary about the determined public advocacy by Julian’s father, John Shipton, in the face of legal battles and media glare, will have its North American premiere at DOC NYC on November 13.

The film’s US premiere at this prestigious documentary festival comes as Assange continues to be incarcerated in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh Prison as he fights extradition from Britain to the US.

Assange married his partner Stella Moris in Belmarsh earlier this year in a ceremony attended by their two children, Assange’s father John Shipton and his brother Gabriel Shipton, who is producer of Ithaka.

Ithaka film still: John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father

Gabriel Shipton and Ben Lawrence will attend the New York City screening.

Ithaka is Writer/Director Ben Lawrence’s return to documentary after the success of his earlier film Ghosthunter.

Ithaka was previously selected to screen at the Sydney Film Festival, SheffieldDoc/Fest and Doc Edge NZ, has been shortlisted for a Walkley Award, nominated for an AWG Award and nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Documentary.

Producer Gabriel Shipton said: “At a time when the space for documentaries that challenge the political status quo is harder and harder to find, we applaud DOC NYC for programming Ithaka. The story of my brother’s fight for freedom against the might of the US Government and our family’s continued efforts to secure his release is a wake-up call for people of the world to defend their democratic rights and to insist on the freedom of the press.

“It’s also a timely call to documentary filmmakers to agitate for their art form, before it is lost.”

The film begins on April 11th 2019, when images of Julian Assange being arrested from the Ecuadorian embassy in London are beamed across the world.  Since that moment Julian has been silenced and into the void have stepped lawyers, advocates, and supporters. Standing unique among them is Julian’s wife, Stella Moris and 76-year-old father, John Shipton – a self-taught builder from Sydney.  Using Julian’s extradition hearing as a framework, this intimate story of a family’s crisis traces moments from the trial and its aftermath, underscoring how Julian’s story is emblematic of a decade of uncertainty and volatility.

With this period of upheaval as a backdrop, the film frames John and Stella’s campaign and Julian’s motivations as an echo to the disquiet taking place across this increasingly partisan world – and explores this global cry for justice through the story of a family at the centre of the fight.

Music is by Brian Eno.

Ithaka film still
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Press Release

Assange shortlisted for prestigious European parliament Freedom of Thought award

This was originally published by the European Parliament

MEPs have shortlisted WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, the Ukrainian people and their representatives and the Colombian Truth Commission for the 2022 Sakharov Prize.

On Thursday 13 October, MEPs on the Foreign Affairs and Development committees held a joint vote to choose the finalists for the European Parliament’s 2022 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. They selected:

  • Julian Assange, Imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher;
  • The brave people of Ukraine, represented by their president, elected leaders, and civil society;
  • Colombia’s Truth Commission.

Read more about all the nominees here.

Next steps

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the winning laureate on Wednesday 19 October. They will receive the prize itself at a ceremony in the European Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 14 December.

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50,000 euros.

Last year, Parliament awarded the prize to Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

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Commentary Press Release

Alice Walker pens Kansas City Star op-ed: Biden must end Trump’s war on the press. Drop the Julian Assange case

October 10, 2022 — Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple and Assange Defense co-chair Alice Walker has written a new opinion piece on the importance of freeing Julian Assange, published in the Kansas City Star on Sunday, October 9.

Walker takes aim at the contrast between the Biden Administration’s rhetoric of major changes from the Trump Administration and the continuation of Assange’s prosecution.

What did Assange do to provoke the Trump administration’s ire? In 2010 and 2011, he embarrassed the U.S. government by exposing truths about civilian casualties, war crimes and abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama-Biden administration was in power then, and set its sights on Assange. But officials had the wisdom and restraint to conclude that prosecuting Assange would create a dangerous precedent called “The New York Times problem.” Simply put, there is no way to prosecute Assange without criminalizing the same newsgathering and publishing practices used at The Times, The Kansas City Star and every other news outlet.

Surely, reasonable leaders such as Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland would not allow the prosecution — condemned by journalism and human rights groups around the world — to go forward. Right?

The Biden team inherited this debacle. Instead of abandoning Trump’s war on journalism, they have continued it. They have chosen the politics of “nothing will fundamentally change,” instead of correcting the injustices of a rogue administration.”

Read the full piece here.

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New Events Press Release

Oct. 8th Assange rallies across the U.S.

On October 8, 2022, supporters of Julian Assange in London, where Assange is imprisoned, are forming a human chain to surround Parliament in a demonstration of mass support for the jailed journalist. Supporters around the world are holding rallies locally in solidarity with the London action. See this thread from @Candles4Assange for more actions outside the U.S.

In Washington D.C., Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Ben Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adepayo, and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou are among dozens of speakers who will call for an end to the persecution of Julian Assange.

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Commentary Press Release

Chicago Tribune op-ed: Biden’s efforts to have Julian Assange extradited should be called out

September 27, 2022 — Stephen Rohde, a former Constitutional lawyer, a past chair of ACLU of Southern California, and a member of Assange Defense-Los Angeles, has written a new op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, urging the Tribune and other editorial boards across the country to recognize the threat to their profession posed by the prosecution of Julian Assange.

“It is called ‘the New York Times problem,'” Rohde writes, “but it could just as easily be called ‘the Tribune problem.'”

“News media outlets should be unanimous in their outrage that President Joe Biden has followed in Trump’s footsteps and continued to pursue this dangerous case.”

Rohde concludes by warning that the threat to press freedom doesn’t require a conviction — in fact it’s already begun:

“Attorney General Merrick Garland’s failure to reject the Trump-era indictment against Assange risks the erosion of the First Amendment safeguards that protect reporters and publishers. Even if Assange is never convicted, the chilling effect on investigative journalism increases with each day that Assange remains locked in a maximum-security London prison fighting extradition. If he were to be flown to the United States for trial, the damage to press freedom would be immeasurable.

Biden backers often portray the president’s legacy in opposition to Trumpism, and Biden himself has called journalists “indispensable to the functioning of democracy.” With the midterms approaching, if Biden truly wishes to roll back the authoritarian abuses of the Trump era, he should have a problem with “the New York Times problem.”

Outlets such as the Tribune must follow the lead of the Times and the Guardian, increasing the pressure on Biden to dismiss the charges against Assange and to return us to safer, saner territory.”

Read the full piece here.

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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
Categories
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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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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Press Release

AD Co-Chairs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker React to the Assange Extradition Sign Off

June 17

“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?

The U.S. government argues that its venerated Constitution does not protect journalism the government dislikes, and that publishing truthful information in the public interest is a subversive, criminal act. This argument is a threat not only to journalism, but to democracy itself. 

The UK has shown its complicity in this farce, by agreeing to extradite a foreigner based on politically motivated charges that collapse under the slightest scrutiny.”

– Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker

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Press Release

***MEDIA ALERT***

FRI June 17, 12:30 PM ET

UK Home Secretary Orders Julian Assange Extradition, Assange Family To Hold Press Conference at the British Consulate

Open to all media, Julian Assange’s Father and Brother Respond to Extradition Decision and take questions today at 12:30 PM ET

NEW YORK CITY — Julian Assange’s father and brother will hold a press conference today in front of the British Consulate to respond to the decision from UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to extradite Assange to the United States. 

Press freedom and human rights groups have condemned the U.S. extradition efforts. If extradited, Julian Assange faces unprecedented charges that carry up to 175 years in prison. This is the first time in history that the U.S. Justice Department has charged a journalist under the controversial Espionage Act of 1917. The United Nations has declared Assange “arbitrarily detained” since 2010. Assange will appeal the decision.

WHEN: Friday, June 17, 2022 at 12:30pm EST

WHERE: In front of the British Consulate 

885 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017

WHO

  • John Shipton & Gabriel Shipton, father and brother of Julian Assange

BACKGROUND: For more information visit the Assange Defense website or our social media pages.

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

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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

Categories
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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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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)
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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.

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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

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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

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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
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
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.”

Categories
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 

Categories
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.”

Categories
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:

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
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.

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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

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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.”

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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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Press Release Video Series

Assange Support Video Project

Film your own brief testimonial video and we’ll edit it and share it on social media! Here are some examples — below we explain how to create and submit your own.

Boots Riley

Medea Benjamin

Max Blumenthal

Submit your own!

Parameters: Please limit your video to 40 seconds (20-30 is ideal) and film it horizontally, not vertically!

Sign: If you can, print out a sign (8.5” x 11” or A4 size paper). Your sign should either read #FreeAssange or summarize your argument in a word or phrase (e.g., “PRESS FREEDOM,” “STOP THE WARS,” “DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER”). Make the words as large as possible!

Script: Focus on making one brief argument.

  • Begin with “Because…” or “I care because…” (this answers the question “Why should I care about Julian Assange?” which will be graphically added to the video).
  • End with the words Free Assange (you can work them into a sentence if you prefer, such as “That’s why we President Biden should Free Assange” or “If we want a free press, we need to Free Assange”).

Submit: Email your video to VideoContact@AssangeDefense.org and we’ll add graphics and promote it! 

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Commentary Press Release

Two Years of Assange’s Extradition Detention

Exactly two years ago today, the 50-week jail sentence for a bail violation ended for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, but he has yet to be released from prison. For the last two years, Assange has been detained at the maximum-security HMP Belmarsh in southeast London, solely at the behest of the United States government, which is continuing to seek his extradition.

Even when the U.S. extradition request was defeated earlier this year, Assange was not released from prison, with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejecting his bail application two days after ruling he should be discharged from detention. 

The continued imprisonment has only further worsened Assange’s mental and physical health. Nearly two and a half years ago, in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer found that Assange, who had spent the previous seven years without sunlight in the limited space of Ecuador’s Embassy in London—had suffered psychological torture.

In January 2021, Baraitser ruled that sending Assange, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and suffering from clinical depression, to the United States would put him at an oppressively high risk of suicide. The U.S. government, which has indicted Assange for publishing on charges carrying 175 years in prison, immediately appealed the ruling to the UK’s High Court. 

The High Court will hear the appeal, which was recently expanded to allow the U.S. to argue five lines of argument, on October 27-28 in London. The U.S. government is attempting to undermine the testimony of renowned psychiatrist Michael Kopelman, an effort which Assange’s partner Stella Moris described as “the latest move by the US government to try to game the British legal system.” 

Furthermore, she writes,

“The U.S. government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: aggressive tactics and subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment.”

The process is costing the British public as well. Declassified UK reports that FOIA-released documents show that the extradition case and Assange’s ongoing imprisonment have cost British taxpayers more than £300,000 (over $400,000).

John Rees, heading the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign in the UK, told Declassified,

“The human and financial cost of this inhuman treatment is entirely the fault of the US and UK governments. Justice delayed is itself injustice. This costly tragedy needs to end now and Julian Assange needs to be set free.”

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Featured Press Release

Press freedom groups renewed calls for Biden administration to free Assange

Amnesty International reiterated their call for the U.S. government to end the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange ahead of Wednesday’s preliminary appeal hearing.

This disingenuous appeal should be dismissed by the court and President Biden should take the opportunity to drop these politically motivated charges which have put media freedom and freedom of expression in the dock.

Amnesty’s legal advisor Simon Crowther explains the importance of journalists’ right to freedom of expression and that no journalist or publisher should face charges simply for publishing information that governments don’t want in the public domain.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Director of International Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, was observing the preliminary hearing in London’s High Court:

We call again for the Biden administration to drop its appeal and close the case against Julian Assange, which has alarming implications for journalism and press freedom. Assange should be immediately released and certainly not extradited to the United States

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined the call asking the Biden administration to drop the politically motivated charges and for Assange’s immediate release.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said:

President Joe Biden must end the years of politically motivated prosecution of Julian Assange by finally dropping the charges against him. The criminalisation of whistleblowers and investigative journalists has no place in a democracy. Condemning Assange would not only endanger his life but also fundamental principles of press freedom.

Freedom of the Press Foundation was also among the organizations who monitored the hearing remotely:

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement after the High Court’s decision to allow the United States government to expand its appeal. CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said:

A successful prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder, which hinges on an allegation of conspiracy between a publisher and sources, would hamper reporters’ ability to work with sources and whistleblowers and unearth information that the public should know. The Biden administration should stop trying to extradite Assange and drop all charges against him.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) continues to support Julian Assange and urge for his immediate and unconditional release.

PEN International and English PEN issued a joint statement following the outcome of the preliminary appeal hearing. Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

“The charges faced by Julian Assange in the US represent a huge threat to media freedom and investigative journalism everywhere. Our position is clear. Espionage laws should not be used against journalists and publishers for disclosing information of public interest. We once again urge the US authorities to drop the case against Assange and to withdraw their extradition appeal.

Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:

“The UK authorities must uphold their commitment to press freedom and prevent Julian Assange’s extradition to the US. Assange has been held in Belmarsh High Security Prison for over two years. This case has deeply concerning implications for press freedom and as such he should be released as a matter of urgency.

Rune Ottosen, head of the Norwegian PEN, was also part of the remote monitoring groups during Wednesday’s hearing. He said:

“Loss for freedom of expression. We are talking about a publisher who risks 175 years in prison for documenting facts about war crimes.

The Global Network for Press Freedom (IPI) reiterated their call for Biden administration to drop the charges and end the prosecution.

Amnesty International – The US diplomatic assurances are inherently unreliable. Julian Assange must be released;

USA/UK: US authorities must drop politically motivated charges against Assange

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – UK: High Court begins consideration of Assange extradition appeal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) – IFJ backs calls to drop charges against Julian Assange

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) – UK court allows expanded US appeal for Assange extradition

PEN International – United Kingdom/USA: Immediately release Julian Assange and drop extradition case

English PEN – United Kingdom/USA: Immediately release Julian Assange and drop extradition case

PEN Norway – Skuffende tap for Assange og ytringsfriheten i retten 

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Featured Hearing Coverage Press Release

Preliminary Assange Appeal hearing scheduled for August 11

The United States government has been given limited permission to appeal the District Court’s decision to block the extradition of Julian Assange from the UK to the U.S. Britain’s High Court ruled that the U.S. government could appeal on some but not all of their requested points. Now a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for August 11th, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to argue the scope of that appeal, and whether the U.S. government will be allowed to appeal on its other two proposed lines of argument. Assange is expected to attend in person.

Following that hearing, the High Court will schedule a date to hear full appeal arguments.

Grounds for Appeal

The U.S. government set forth five lines of argument for its appeal of the extradition ruling, and two of them were denied. It will be allowed to argue that the judge misapplied section 91 of the 2003 Extradition Act, which says someone can’t be extradited if the “physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him,” and that the judge should have notified the prosecution that she found extradition would be unjust or oppressive so that it could have provided “assurances to the Court” ahead of time. Finally, the High Court will allow the U.S. to put forth said assurances in the appeal hearing.

The High Court denied the U.S. government’s request to appeal on the grounds that the testimony of Professor Michael Kopelman should have been ruled inadmissible. Professor Kopelman is a psychiatrist who evaluated Assange and determined that he would be at risk of suicide if his extradition were ordered. The court also denied the U.S. government’s request to argue that the judge erred in her overall assessment of evidence that Assange would be at risk of suicide.

On August 11th, the High Court will hold a preliminary hearing for the parties to argue these last two grounds.

Assange’s fiancé Stella Moris explained what the U.S. government is attempting to do with this move:

Any losing party, the US in this case, is allowed to attempt to have different judges review the grounds that they have lost on. But the US government’s attack on Dr. Kopelman is particularly vexatious. The US government will try to re-run arguments that have already been settled by two different judges. It is the latest move by the US government to try to game the British legal system. The US government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment.

However much the prosecution plays to the gallery on August 11th in its efforts to attack the reputation of one of the most well-respected neuropsychiatrists in Britain, the real substance of the appeal will take place when the main appeal hearing will be heard in full later this year. But the scope of that hearing, three or five grounds, will be determined on the 11th of August.

U.S. “Assurances”

The U.S. government purports to give “assurances” that if Assange is extradited to the United States, he won’t be placed in the highest-security prison, Supermax ADX Florence, and he won’t be subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). But these assurances include caveats that render them meaningless: according to its own filing, 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 news of so-called “assurances,” Moris said, “What the US is proposing is a formula to keep Julian in prison effectively for the rest of his life.”

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Featured Press Release

Germany: Letter of 120 politicians, artists and journalists, calling for the freedom of Julian Assange

12 July 2021

Dear Madam Chancellor,

We are extremely concerned about the health and life of the journalist Julian Assange, and are writing to you in advance of your planned visit to US President Joe Biden in Washington this month.

For eleven years now, Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing platform Wikileaks, has been deprived of his liberty. Since April 2019, he has been in detention at Belmarsh high-security prison in London, where he must await the decision on whether he is to be extradited from the United Kingdom to the USA. There, he faces the threat of a 175-year prison sentence for his work as a journalist, including his exposure of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like many well-known human-rights organisations and journalists’ organisations, we view the persecution of Julian Assange as an attack on press freedom and freedom of speech, which must be decisively rejected. Anybody committed to human rights and democracy must work to achieve Julian Assange’s freedom.

Madam Chancellor, we request your assistance in ensuring that Julian Assange does not have to remain in detention, where his health is being systematically destroyed through continued isolation. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, has been warning for some time that Julian Assange shows signs of exposure to psychological torture and that he must be immediately released. His fiancée, Stella Morris, reported after her last visit to Belmarsh that his imprisonment was driving him into a “deep depression and despair”, after she and their two young children had previously been refused any direct contact for eight months.

Julian Assange’s poor state of health was the main argument made in the ruling by a British judge on 4 January 2021, disallowing his extradition to serve a lengthy prison sentence of unknown duration in the US. Against this background, the fact that the journalist is still imprisoned in Belmarsh under extremely harsh conditions is even more incomprehensible. Julian Assange is still being deprived of his freedom in the UK, for the sole reason that the US government has appealed against the ruling for political reasons, and is still insisting on Assange’s extradition, which would be life-threatening for him.

The treatment of Julian Assange contradicts principles of the rule of law; the harsh conditions of his detention constitute a humanitarian scandal. In view of his critical state of health, urgent action must be taken.

It is now up to Joe Biden to end the judicial process against Julian Assange begun by his predecessor in office and drop the charges against him. A new turn of events may be brought about by the most recent revelations of the key US prosecution witness, Icelander Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, who admitted in an in-depth interview with the international press having lied in his accusations incriminating Julian Assange and that he was paid for doing so. We ask you to take into account these exonerating statements.

Madam Chancellor, we urgently appeal to you to build bridges in the case of Julian Assange. Please make clear in your discussions with US President Joe Biden in Washington how important the dropping of the charges against the Wikileaks founder is in terms of defending press freedom – in order for him to return to good health in liberty in the company of his family.

We know what great hopes are resting on you – on the part of Julian Assange’s family, as well as numerous international supporters of the journalist. We ask you to find a humanitarian solution for Julian Assange which is also face-saving for the US President.

This would be a striking and enduring humanitarian gesture at the end of your time in office and would after all offer Joe Biden and opportunity to now break with the era of Donald Trump in defending press freedom and freedom of expression.

We hope for your support.

Yours sincerely,

Günter Wallraff

Further signatories:

Jakob Augstein (journalist, publisher), Berivan Aymaz (Member of the North-Rhine Westphalian Landtag), Dietmar Bartsch (Member of the Bundestag, chairman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Gerhart Baum (former Federal Minister of the Interior), Canan Bayram (Member of the Bundestag), Markus Beckedahl (journalist), Rolf Becker (actor), Konrad Beikircher (satirist), Sibylle Berg (author), Roswitha and Erich Bethe (Bethe Foundation), Paul Böhm (architect), Nora Bossong (author), Micha Brumlik (writer), Anke Brunn (former State Minister of Science for North-Rhine Westphalia), Frank Castorf (theatre director), Sevim Dagdelen (Member of the Bundestag), Herta Däubler-Gmelin (former Federal Minister of Justice), Fabio de Masi (Member of the Bundestag), Hans Demmel (media manager), Bijan Djir-Sarai (Member of the Bundestag), Petra Erler (former Head of Cabinet at the EU Commission), Lisa Fitz (satirist), Sigmar Gabriel (former Federal Foreign Minister), Kerstin Gleba (publisher), John Goetz (journalist), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group), Anselm Grün (Benedictine monk, author), Serap Güler (State Secretary for Integration), Gregor Gysi (Member of the Bundestag), Hektor Haarkötter (media scientist), Robert Habeck (chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens), Lutz Hachmeister (film producer), Heike Hänsel (Member of the Bundestag), Frank Heinrich (Member of the Bundestag), Monique Hofmann (General Secretary of the German Journalists’ Union), Elfriede Jelinek (author, Nobel Laureate in Literature), Hans Jessen (journalist), Tilo Jung (journalist, Jung & Naiv), Barbara Junge (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Markus J. Karsten (publisher), Navid Kermani (author), Markus Kompa (lawyer), Reiner Kröhnert (satirist), Gabriele Krone-Schmalz (writer), Sebastian Krumbiegel (musician), Wolfgang Kubicki (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Friedrich Küppersbusch (television producer), Oskar Lafontaine (former Federal Minister of Finance), Karl Lauterbach (Member of the Bundestag), Klaus Lederer (Deputy Governing Mayor and State Senator for Culture and Europe for Berlin), Hans Leyendecker (journalist), Volker Lösch (theatre director), Albrecht von Lucke (writer), Markus Meckel (theologian), Jeanine Meerapfel (President of the Akademie der Künste), Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), Eva Menasse (author), Franz Meurer (Catholic priest), Robert Misik (author), Amira Mohamed Ali (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Hans Mörtter (Protestant pastor), Andy Müller-Maguhn (IT expert), Albrecht Müller (writer), Linus Neumann (Chaos Computer Club spokesperson), Wolfgang Niedecken (musician), Bahman Nirumand (author), Max-Jacob Ost (journalist, podcaster), Cem Özdemir (Member of the Bundestag), Osman Okkan (filmmaker), Pagonis Pagonikas (filmmaker), Claus Peymann (theatre director), Fritz Pleitgen (journalist, former WDR Director-General), Dagmar Ploetz (translator), Emitis Pohl (entrepreneur), Sabine Poschmann (Member of the Bundestag), Christine Prayon (actor, satirist), Anja Reschke (journalist, editor and host of Panorama), Georg Restle (journalist, ARD Monitor), Rezo (Youtuber), Moritz Rinke (author), Claudia Roth (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Eugen Ruge (author), Susana Santina (journalist), Joachim Sartorius (former Director of the Berliner Festspiele), Frank Schätzing (author), Volker Schlöndorff (film director), Gerhard Schmidt (President of the German Televison Academy), Renate Schmidt (former Federal Minister of Health), Wolfgang M. Schmitt (film critic), Wolfgang Schorlau (author), Matthias Schreiber (pastor), Ingo Schulze (author), Frank Schwabe (Member of the Bundestag), Gesine Schwan (political scientist), Alice Schwarzer (writer, editor of “Emma” magazine), Winfried Seibert (lawyer), Martin Sonneborn (Member of the European Parliament), Michael Sontheimer (journalist), Klaus Staeck (poster artist), Bernd Stegemann (dramaturge), Uli Stoll (author), Hans-Christian Ströbele (former Member of the Bundestag), Margit Stumpp (Member of the Bundestag), Wolfgang Thierse (former President of the Bundestag), Valentin Thurn (filmmaker), Uwe Timm (author), Ilija Trojanow (author), Georg Stefan Troller (author), Max Uthoff (satirist), Günter Verheugen (former Minister of State, former Vice-President of the European Commission), Antje Vollmer (former Vice-President of the Bundestag), Sahra Wagenknecht (Member of the Bundestag), Jörg Wagner (media journalist), Norbert Walter-Borjans (chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany), Harald Welzer (sociologist), Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (former Federal Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation), Ulrike Winkelmann (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Ranga Yogeshwar (physicist, scientific journalist)

German version https://assange-helfen.de/ 

Categories
Featured Hearing Coverage Press Release

US government given limited permission to appeal January decision that Assange should not be extradited

A Court has notified the parties involved in Julian Assange’s extradition case that the United States government’s appeal will be listed for a hearing.

The decision by the High Court simply gives permission for the US government to attempt to challenge the ruling, but it does not reflect the merits of the US arguments.

Permission has been granted on a limited basis, allowing only narrow, technical grounds to form the basis of the appeal. Crucially, the High Court did not allow the United States to appeal any of the factual findings concerning Assange’s condition. No date has been set for the hearing.

Assange’s extradition was blocked in January on the grounds that it would be “oppressive”, citing the circumstances of the extradition, as well as his clinical history and Autism Spectrum disorder diagnosis, which, combined, would drive him to suicide. The High Court affirmed Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s conclusions concerning his clinical condition, as well as the independent expert evidence on which she relied.

Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in prison if extradited.

The appeal was lodged by the Trump Administration, just two days before President Biden took office, but revelations reported last weekend dealt a new blow to the credibility of the Department of Justice case.

Icelandic investigative journalists revealed that the DoJ’s lead witness, an Icelandic man convicted of sex crimes against minors, fraud and embezzlement, who is also a diagnosed sociopath, now admits that he fabricated allegations against Assange in exchange for immunity from US prosecutors. Those discredited allegations form the basis of the Second Superseding indictment against Assange and were even cited in the extradition judgment delivered on January 4th.

Julian Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, said:

“Six months ago, Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked the extradition of my partner, Julian Assange, because consigning him to the US prison system would have amounted to signing his death warrant. That should have been the end of it.

“The new revelations concerning the DoJ’s lead witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, confirm what we all knew: that the case against Julian has been built on lies. The case is rotten to the core, and nothing that the US government can say about his future treatment is worth the paper it is written on.  This is a country whose agents plotted to kill Julian on British soil; who harried his solicitors and stole legal documents; who even targeted our six-month-old baby.

This entirely baseless, abusive, anti-First Amendment case was driven by the previous administration for nefarious reasons. The administration instrumentalised the law to pursue the political objective of disappearing Julian as a deterrent to journalists in the United States and elsewhere.

“I am appealing directly to the Biden government to do the right thing, even at this late stage. This case should not be dragged out for a moment longer. End this prosecution, protect free speech and let Julian come home to his family.

“The current administration admits that the Trump Department of Justice lacked independence. It seems inconceivable that President Biden would want to continue with this case – because Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms and no democratic society can ever make journalism a crime.

“If the Biden Administration does not end this now, the case will limp through the courts while Julian remains in prison indefinitely: unconvicted, suffering and isolated, while our young children are denied their father. Julian spent his 50th birthday on the 3rd of July behind bars in Belmarsh prison, where he has been on remand since April 2019. He is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.

“This case shows nothing but contempt for the First Amendment. Repressive regimes welcome the Biden administration’s prosecution of Julian because it signals that imprisoning the press and silencing political dissent is practised and endorsed by the United States. Bringing this shameful prosecution demeans the values that the United States says it stands for. It reduces trust in both the US and the UK legal systems.

“Julian’s prosecution is vigorously opposed by The New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as the National Union of Journalists, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and virtually every press freedom and human rights organisation in the West, together with parliamentarians from around the world”.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Australia have renewed their calls for the Biden Administration to abandon the prosecution as international political pressure grows. A group of German MPs have written to Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to raise the issue with President Biden during her forthcoming trip to Washington.

Categories
Press Release

Cornel West and Ryan Grim join Julian Assange’s father & brother at National Press Club

Renowned academic Dr. Cornel West and Intercept reporter Ryan Grim spoke alongside John and Gabriel Shipton in the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington D.C., concluding their tour of the United States, calling on the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange.

Transcript

RYAN GRIM – I will speak really briefly about the latest, potentially explosive news development in this case. And then we’re gonna hear from Gabriel Shipton the brother of Julian Assange, and John Shipton, his father, and an academic, one of the towering intellectual figures of our of our time, Dr. Cornel West will also be sharing some thoughts with us. 

So the news over the weekend if folks hadn’t seen it, is that a young man named Sigurdur Thordarson, who had been a central witness that the Department of Justice is using against Assange has told reputable press in Iceland that he lied to the FBI. And it appears also, that the FBI lied to Iceland, as part of its effort to extradite Assange and why this revelation is so important is because of what exactly he was saying. So, Assange is effectively being prosecuted here for publishing evidence of war crimes. But because of our remaining reverence for the First Amendment here in the United States, the Department of Justice can’t just come out and say that he’s being prosecuted for publishing evidence of war crimes, because then you have to prosecute the New York Times, you have to prosecute The Intercept, you have to prosecute the Washington Post, you have to prosecute all of media that publishes classified information. They don’t want to do that. So they want to say, ‘No, no, no, in fact, he’s actually a hacker. So he’s working with hackers, and he’s hacking into classified systems, and he’s extracting information.’ 

So a key piece of evidence they had was this witness from Iceland, who said that Assange was directing hackers in Iceland to hack into the bank of Iceland. And otherwise kind of operating this hacker syndicate. That turns out, as we as many people knew already, but now he’s confirming on the record, not to be true, that it was a lie. Now, the reason they needed this claim in their indictment, even though he’s not being charged, with those particular crimes is that it buttresses what they’re trying to say about his relationship with his source, Chelsea Manning. What they’re trying to say is that it wasn’t that Chelsea Manning, based on her conscience leaked information about war crimes to Julian Assange in his role as a publisher and a journalist published. No, in fact, what they’re trying to say is that there was a hacking conspiracy here. And they back it up with this evidence from Iceland. 

So with that gone, all they have is the relationship between Manning and Assange. And when you look closely at it, you see a source and journalist relationship. In fact, in the chat logs that have been released, you see Assange being rather careful to make sure that he’s not soliciting, soliciting any specific information from Manning, even one quote where he says, something like, you might remember the exact quote, but something like ‘curious eyes are always interested in more information that the public ought to learn about.’ So he’s very careful never to say, “Go look, in this particular file for this particular information, the only thing he does is help Manning with confidentiality and source protection. And the Department of Justice has tried to flip that into some sort of a hacking charge. When if you step back, Bob Woodward, when he’s working with Deep Throat, and telling him we’re gonna put the plants on this side of the door, and that’s your signal to me that you have information that will meet in the parking garage. That’s, that’s the same, that’s functionally the same thing. That is that Assange was helping Manning with trying to make sure that the source could leak information and retain anonymity. The Washington Post, The New York Times do that every single day. There’s nothing wrong with that. I would also argue there’s nothing wrong, constitutionally, with leaking, that there’s no classification exception in the First Amendment. That’s a separate question that we could talk about later, if we have time. But with Sigurdur Thordarson new allegation or new admission that he lied to the to the FBI, the case is falling apart. And so the only case they’re left with is that they’re prosecuting a publisher for publishing information that the US did not want to be published. Gabriel, if we could start with you. I’m curious to know, how has the tour been going so far? What’s the reception been like around the country? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON : Yeah, so the tour has been absolutely incredible. The reception that we’ve been getting across the country, the outpouring of support, and this upwelling of people who’ve been coming out to talk to us about why they care about this case, why they care about the press freedom implications, the dangers to press freedom that this case represents, and why they care about their First Amendment rights. We’ve literally spoken to thousands and thousands of people across the country. 

We started off in Miami at the Bitcoin conference of primarily technologists, people who are really, really interested in a free internet and how this case constrains internet freedom. We moved on to Boston, where we received a Sacco and Vanzetti award on Julian’s behalf. We stopped in New York, and we had to expand the capacity of the venue three times, that was the amount of people that wanted to come down and hear about this case, to get updated and find out more about this case. In New York, Roger Waters ended up going viral. He had a deal offer from Instagram for use of his song. He tore it up at the event and called Mark Zuckerberg a prick. That went totally viral online, over a million hits, and that sort of feeds into this. Julian saw the internet as for its emancipatory value, whereas others like Zuckerberg, see it as a tool of control or a tool to make money from people. Then we went on to Washington, where we stopped at the Jefferson Memorial. One thing that really struck us there was a quote from Jefferson, which says, “were it left to him to have a government without newspapers or, or newspapers without a government, he would choose the latter.” I had never heard that quote before. 

We then headed west, down to Columbus and onto Chicago where we marched through the streets with about 70 people cheering for Julian and a free press. From there to Denver. What was surprising about Denver is that so many young people, very active activists, were all interested solely in their First Amendment rights. In places like Minneapolis and St. Paul, we had a huge turnout of very antiwar people, very interested in transparency specifically military transparency. And then we went on to Oakland, which was a huge event. But everywhere we went, we were always just blown away by the outpouring of support that we saw. And as we moved across the country, the media interest increased. We’ve had 30 plus articles, some even in mainstream media. We were able to do the Amy Goodman show and we were able to do Tucker Carlson’s show. A couple of days ago, we were on [Mehdi] Hassan’s show. So the media interest has developed. This issue is not a left or right issue. If Amy Goodman and Tucker Carlson agree that this prosecution is a danger to press freedom, and there are not many issues that they can agree on, I think it’s beyond left and right. Wherever we go, local radio is always interested in talking to us. It’s just been incredible, we are just absolutely blown away by the people of the US. 

A lot of the persecution of Julian originates from here, which is why we’ve come here. This is where the decisions are made. But we had this impression that maybe we would have some trouble, people might abuse us, or we might get arrested. We didn’t know what would happen. It’s been the exact opposite. The hospitality has been incredible. The people are amazing. Every day we were just so surprised about how much Americans care about their First Amendment, their democratic rights, and even about Julian Assange. 

RYAN GRIM: And John, has any of this momentum translated into anything tangible from the administration? You know, Joe Biden, I think famously called Julian a high-tech terrorist or something a long time ago. And secondly, when was the last time you got you had any communication with Julian? How is he doing personally? 

JOHN SHIPTON: We were here in January, had some communication with part of the Biden administration. They asked us to wait till after the inauguration, but since the inauguration, as you can see, there’s been a turmoil of demands upon the administration. And consequently, I don’t think we would be rewarded by making approaches, but we are feeling — and it’s demonstrated by the phenomenon of what we call, an upwelling in support — our feeling is that it begins with people. And the concerns of the people rise up in the Congresspeople and the administration. That’s particularly in our case, because this is a worldwide phenomenon. In the Western world, we travel to every country, and there is support there. There are cross party groups in many Parliaments supporting Julian Assange, so that in Spain, France, particularly Germany, Australia, is quite big in Australia and the United Kingdom. Yesterday in the United Kingdom, on behalf of the 21 members of the cross-party group, three MPs went out to Belmarsh prison in a protest and delivered a letter to the governor, because parliamentarians have been unable to get access to the jail to see Julian. 

To the second part of your question, Julian has permission to ring externally international calls, as long as his account is in credit, since the jail was fully locked down, about a year ago. He rings me for 10 minutes each day, and then at the guillotine, we are cut off. He would like to ring more. sometimes he does, but it depends upon the availability of access, because there are 800 prisoners there, all of them wishing to use the telephone to ring their loved ones or the lawyers or whatever. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West, could you put the prosecution of Assange into some context for us with a goal of giving people some sense of how he can actually be freed through public pressure? 

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, let me first say that it is a blessing, honor and privilege to sit here with my dear brother Gabriel and brother John, who are biologically and lovingly connected to my very dear brother, Julian. I have a deep love and respect for him. I had dialogue with him when he was there in the Embassy of Ecuador back eight years ago. And we appreciate the work that you’ve done with The Intercept, and another’s brother Ryan, and the great Jeremy Scahill. 

I understand the predicament of our brother Julian Assange as part of the legacy of all the great journalists who tried to raise their courageous voices and vision in the face of forms of terrorism. That Ida B. Wells Barnett, one of the great journalists, a black woman dealing with American terrorism at home on lynching. Seymour Hersh, Jeremy Scahill trying to tell the truth about American lies and crimes. That is a tradition that my dear brother Julian Assange is a part of. And one of the reasons why I would not miss this moment of not just being in solidarity with him and brother john and Julian, but also raising my voice is to accent the degree to which the vision, courage, the willingness to serve and sacrifice in the name of being a truth seeker. And a judge, Justice witness, sir, that’s what brother Julian is. And one of the reasons why the various administrations, be it Obama, be it Trump, be it Biden, have yet to fully come to terms with who he is, and what his witness is all about, is an attempt to try to hide and conceal the American Imperial crimes based on the lies told, and we know that every nation, every government, every Empire, tells lies, to conceal its crimes. 

And therefore, we have to be in genuine solidarity based on a moral consistency. And myself, as a revolutionary Christian part of the legacy of Dr King Jr. is a spiritual constancy for those who have been victimized by American terrorism and crimes, drones and a variety of other mechanisms. And so anytime I get a chance to say a word about my brother Julian be that on television, radio, with the father or the son, or the journalist, I come running. So I was blessed to drive down from New York, and we drive right back to New York with smiles on our faces. I do want to point out brother Randy, and Randy Credico was unique in the culture, the legacy of the Richard Pryor’s and the George Carlin’s, who, as activists, and we’ve been in jail together on many occasions, concerned with the kinds of things that brother Julian is concerned about. The ability for the wretched to live lives of dignity and decency. And that truth ought to resonate, no matter how many of the mainstream press show up, no matter how many politicians show up, because truth, crushed earth will rise again. And the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, not just brother Julian suffering, but the suffering of those who have been killed, murdered, brutalized by American terrorism here, be it in Ferguson, or abroad, be it as victims of us drones. And that’s what we’re talking about. That’s why this is a life and death issue. This is why it’s an issue of press freedom, it is an issue of trying to preserve the conditions for the possibility of democracies here and abroad. That’s what’s at stake here. And it is never a matter of numbers and quantity. So matter of the quality of the issues raised, that’s what’s at stake when we talk about my dear brother, Julian Assange.

RYAN GRIM: I like that you mentioned the concept of moral consistency. I’d like to get everybody’s response to this because Gabriel, when we spoke last in Washington, several weeks ago, there were several people in the audience, who said I’m with you, and I’m with this cause, but whenever I tried to spread it, I get pushback from my normie Democratic friends who are still bitter, about 2016 and the email leaks. Everybody should know, and it matters, that this has nothing to do with these charges. Assange has not been charged related to anything in 2016. A journalist job if they get a leak is to authenticate it and publish it. If it comes from a hack, if it comes from a conscientious, conscious-driven leaker. That’s not the point. The point is, is the information valuable to the public? If it is, the public ought to have a right to review it. But the question of moral consistency comes in because as soon as the principle becomes hard to defend, and as soon as that there’s a person that you’re still angry at over the 2016 grievance, you see people start to shrink away from the principal. Have you confronted much of that on the road? And what have you found as a way to get through to people that that the principle is far more important than your small grievance here? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: Yeah, we haven’t confronted that a lot, as much as we expected we would. And when we do, we explain its about the Chelsea Manning leaks and the publication of those leaks. It’s about explaining to people what it’s about, what Julian’s being prosecuted for and how this precedent is dangerous. I think this is a real problem that people feel that they can excuse this prosecution. It is the first of its kind against a publisher. They might have a disagreement with that person, but when you talk to people and explain this is the first time that this has ever been done to a publisher, and affects people not just here, but around the world. People in other countries, journalists in other countries where they don’t have the same rights that they do here or in Australia, or Britain, journalists who live in totalitarian states, or authoritarian states. This prosecution and persecution of Julian Assange affects them when the United States State Department goes and confronts, say, China about their human rights record, and their press freedoms. China says to them, well, who are you to lecture us? Look what you’re doing to judge Julian Assange! The Russian ambassador to the UK was confronted about the treatment of Nalvany, and he was able to turn around and say, “You can’t lecture us, down the road, you’ve got a publisher and a journalist locked in prison for publishing.”

Another example is the dictator of Azerbaijan being interviewed by the BBC, confronted about his record on torturing journalists, jailing journalists, killing journalists, was able to say to the BBC, “Who are you to lecture me? Look, what you’re doing the Julian Assange! You’re claiming moral superiority over us, but you’re doing the exact same thing to a publisher and a journalist.” 

I think it’s very important to realize that it doesn’t just affect people here in the US, or the Western countries like Australia or the UK, but it affects people who have a lot less rights and freedoms than we do. That message for me, really takes it out of that local political message and puts it on a broader scale that people can understand that if the Biden administration were to end this prosecution, they would be able to reclaim that moral high ground and pressure on them once again, without the Assange problem that they now have. Thinking about those people in those countries who have a lot less rights than, than Australia, or or here in the States, I think that’s very important. 

JOHN SHIPTON: The Collateral Murder video was released here, in this room, the First Amendment room, by Julian Assange. Julian’s birthday is next week, he’ll be 50. Since that day, the prosecution and persecution, this deluge of madness has continued like a Niagara Falls until, as was just mentioned, Sigurdur Thordarson put up his hand to criminal conspiracy entered into with the FBI, nine FBI officers, till eventually in Iceland in Reykjavik, the appropriate minister of government in Iceland told the FBI to withdraw, realizing what was being done. 

This is a disgrace brought upon the Department of Justice, indelible, upon the administration of justice in the United States by William Barr and the Trump administration. Indelible. Railroading an innocent man, getting a pedophile, a convicted fraudster and thief, bribing him and flattering this damaged human being in order to bring a witness, because they realized that their case under the first indictment was just falling away, falling to bits. So they issued a superseding indictment, a second indictment in July 20, six weeks before the hearing. The defense found out about this matter in the newspapers. But still, the show trial continued and brought disgrace upon the administration of justice in the United Kingdom. The judge Baraitser, quoted Sigurdur Thordarson in her summary. Both sides knew that it was rubbish and that this man was damaged. The defense submitted an affidavit that they didn’t have time, that Julian was inaccessible because of a Covid lockdown. They needed more time, the judge refused. The judge agreed with every single aspect of the United States submission, despite the fact that the First Amendment and despite the fact that the treaty obligations for extradition between the United States and the United Kingdom, states specifically, that there will be no extraditions for political matters. As a consequence, they cooked up this damaged human being and they brought disgrace upon themselves in their society. The United States disgrace indelible equally. The magistrate of the magistrate’s court Arbuthnot saying that Julian ought to go out and get a bit of sunshine on the balconies as he is fond of going out there to speak. He can go and stand in the sun. The callousness of these people. How do they get jobs to judge people? Judge Tyler said Julian was a narcissist. Julian had just been three hours before dragged out of the embassy by six policemen. Despite the fact that Julian was an asylee, the judge said Julian’s a narcissist, I thought that such a woman would have a law degree, not a degree in psychology. She’d only seen Julian for five minutes. Julian had to correct her in court where she declared that the charges, she said the charges but there were no charges, but allegations. Julian had to correct her in court. The inaccuracy.

Anyway, the moral impediment to Julian has now spent well moving to the 12th and 13th year of arbitrary detention. Arbitrary detention declared by the United Nations working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2017 and February 2018. The 2018 Report used even firmer language because the United Kingdom had appealed against the decision and failed. They took no notice, the judge said I don’t take any notice of them, trashing the United Nations. That’s the greatest civil accomplishment of the post war period, the United Nations, where nations can amongst themselves sort out their differences through negotiation, through debating their interest in the best way possible because states naturally compete. The United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer professor of law at Glasgow International University, made his 36-page report after seeing Julian for four hours with two experts on psychological torture, published the report that Julian had undergone years of psychological torture, lies, smears, and endless deluge from judicial officers, from newspapers, from executives of government. To the extent that one newspaper published that Julian had had a visitor just simply wasn’t true. It just wasn’t true, this particular visitor, but it had an important reverberation into the United States because of their concerns, concerns over 2016. It’s just a lie, the second most surveilled person in the world, Julian Assange, after the President of the United States easily demonstrate the proof. 

On it goes until the other day, it was revealed that they used a damaged human being, because their case is in trouble. They bring disgrace upon themselves. That’s a moral question, as Cornel says, and a moral question is continuous. Julian will have his 50th birthday next week in jail. 

Anyway, I’m starting to rant a bit, you’ll forgive me that there’s a lot more that I can offer you in this ongoing injustice. In 1200, the Magna Carta came about when the barons said, we’re not having any more of this. There’s got to be laws. As a consequence of that growth in Western societies, and other societies copying this wonderful civic gift of the English, that there had to be a law between the sovereign and the people, with the sovereign obeying the law as well as the people. In 1793, in the Enlightenment period, the Constitution of the United States understood this and brought about a wonderful thing we call the First Amendment based upon the understanding, implicit in the First Amendment, is that there’s only one road to freedom. And that’s knowledge. 

To get this gold in human affairs, you’ve got to grind up a lot of sand, and all you get is a fleck, the First Amendment being one, the Bill of Rights another, the Magna Carta being another. You’ve got to grind up so much to get the conventions of asylum and other United Nations instruments. 1000s of years of experiment go by, and these flecks of gold accumulate, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, the first president of the united Nations, Herbert Doc Evatt, an Australian. But they trash it all in the case against Julian Assange. They trash all of the treasures that guarantee us that there will be some negotiation and moral impulse, imprimatur some gift that we can give to each other that holds us within a bound, whereby we don’t embark upon murderous escapades and millions and millions die. And according to Brown University, 37 million people wander the earth seeking refuge for the 20 years destruction in the Middle East. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West, how do you respond to that point and the question of how do you reach people who will stipulate a principle of free expression, free speech, free Press, but shrink from it, in cases where it’s inconvenient for them in that moment? 

CORNEL WEST: I just want to say I’m just so deeply moved by my brother, because he speaks with power. And eloquence. Also his brother Gabriel. July 3 is a very special birthday because it’s the birthday both of my dear brother Julian Assange, 1971, and that of my beloved mother, who just died just a few days ago, July 3 1932. And mom was an exemplar of what Jane Austen called constancy. She wasn’t pure pristine. But she was a woman of great moral consistency. And that’s where I come from. And so when I hear people say, if the New York Times had done it, then the First Amendment protects them. But when my dear brother Julian Assange, does it, and WikiLeaks does it, it doesn’t protect them. That’s a home of hail. That’s hypocrisy. I learned that from Irene v. West on the chocolate side of Sacramento, California, coming out of Shiloh Baptist Church in the West family. I have no monopoly on truth, the goodness of beauty. You could look at me and see that, but they live their hypocrisy as mendacity. And in hide criminality. I learned that from Irene B West. 

And so when I say brother Julian, concerned about the lies and the crimes, and I’ll see when he reveals it, he’s not protected. But when the New York Times and Washington Post and others cooperate with it, they are protected. And that’s the only reason why the Obama administration tried to bring my dear brother into incarceration in the name of the Espionage Act. But when it came to their friends in the New York Times, they began to pull back. That’s moral inconsistency and hypocrisy of the highest level. We are not here to assess or evaluate the character, full-fledged character of brother Julian. He’s like me, he is a cracked vessel. He is a human being. But when it comes to the vision, when it comes to courage, when it comes to the willingness to expose lies and crimes, I am in deep solidarity with my dear brother Julian. And that’s why we drove down from New York today and driving back to night with smiles on our faces. And we will celebrate both birthdays on Friday. Julian 50. Mom, now gone, would have been 89. 

RYAN GRIM: I think it’s important to add to that for people who are still not persuaded that governments, when they’re trying to roll back powers that people have accumulated to themselves are always going to try to find the case that they think they can move on. They’re not moving on the columnist for The New York Times, who was popular around the country. You have to be on guard for that. Because you have to know that it’s going to be those more difficult questions, not difficult questions for most people here. But we have to understand that there’s an entire country out there. And so you have to understand that when those questions are most difficult, that’s when you have to have the courage to say no, this violates the principle and you have to stand up against that. Otherwise, the precedent is set, the government has done its job of encroaching and pushing back. And the next time they’re going to push back a little further. They always are going to make that same play. Gabriel what in particular, are you asking people to do? Who wants to be involved? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: John mentioned the significance of this location. Here on [5] April 2010, when Julian was here literally in this room, he showed the Collateral Murder video, which showed a helicopter gunship that killed, gunned down, Reuters journalists and then the people who came to save their lives. Since the since that day, almost 11 or so years ago, Julian has been pursued by one force or another. The people who are responsible for those killings have never been pursued. This is a very important point. I think that all of these revelations that Julian has brought to us about all these wars, corruption, lies, laws, but for elected officials there’s little to no repercussions for them. Julian is the one who’s suffering. Julian is the one who was imprisoned. 

RYAN GRIM: And can I interrupt you to add one thing, that nobody’s journalism over the past 10 years has been under as fine a microscope as his because you have the most powerful people and forces in the world looking for any slip up to take him down. There were extensive efforts to try to show that something he revealed had led to some type of death somewhere in Afghanistan or somewhere. Nothing. There were undoubtedly many efforts to get him to publish things that were untrue in an effort to discredit him. But like a good journalist does, he authenticated documents before he published them to have a record over a decade plus, that’s impeccable under that type of a microscope is an incredible journalistic achievement. 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: So I just wanted to point that out that Julian has been the victim in this whole situation that John outlined. What we’ve been asking people to do across the country is get in touch with their representatives, and tell them how concerned they are about their democratic rights that are under threat through this prosecution of Julian Assange. That’s what we’ve been sort of imploring people to do across the country, to stand up for their democratic rights and their free press until their representatives that they really care about their First Amendment, their free press, and so they want this prosecution dropped.

JOHN SHIPTON: How do you go about redemption? The burden of bad conscience that Washington has placed on the people of the United States, this interests me because to alleviate that suffering is such an important thing. So those revelations 10 years ago, Iraq War, Afghan War files, the cables, the Collateral Murder video, the Guantanamo Bay detainees files have seeped in to the consciousness of the people of the United States, in a thin band, that’s not as you would expect, like holding knowledge in the head. It’s a historical phenomenon. So it’s hard for us to read, but we can read the results. They’re out of Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay closure is, well, on the cusp. People can’t bear it anymore and understand that Washington put it in Guantanamo Bay, because it wouldn’t be covered by the decency of the laws of the United States. Its closure is imminent. They’re out of Iraq and just have a few troops in Syria, causing a little bit of trouble and discomfort, but they’ll be added to it really important to understand that those leaks ended wars, in specific examples I can give you the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States in Iraq was refused by the Iraqi government. And as a consequence, there’s troops of the United States were an allies, my country, were withdrawn. They’re gone, they’re out. Such an enormous Empire takes a bit of turning around, but it has an excuse. 

What I intend is to alleviate a burden of consciousness that that accusation places upon the United States and accompany that the realization that the redemption has been and gone, it’s there. All you have to do is partake of the understanding that the revelations have worked their course. In my imagination, Chelsea Manning is a historic historical figure none less than Joan of Arc and is a treasure of the United States. Her rise to the pantheon of gods will continue in my view. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West,, Gabriel, anything else before we open it up for questions? 

CORNEL WEST: I was blessed to be at a trial of Chelsea with Chris Hedges and to witness the unbelievable courage of this Chelsea. Let me say this about journalism that we’re living in a moment of such a massive spiritual decay and moral decrepitude. By spiritual decay, I mean indifference toward the suffering of weakened vulnerable people and by moral decrepitude, I mean the relative eclipse of integrity and honesty and decency. So when it comes to journalism, there is a dearth of quality journalism in the American Empire. And there’s a near death of genuine journalism. And what that means then, is that you got levels of careerism, opportunism, the cronyism between the owners of newspapers with the powers that be so, that truth seeking and witness bearing is an afterthought. And journalism is reduced to superficial PR relations and strategy and tactics that have little to do with the truth. Because the condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak of everybody no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation or nation. 

So when we hear the US government bring critiques to bear on journalists in China, and China’s authoritarian, journalists in Iraq, Iraq, authoritarian, Haiti, Haiti, authoritarian, and then come back to the States, and can’t say, a mumbling word of support for the release of my dear brother Julian. That’s true for Chelsea. That’s true for a whole host of whistle blowers, then that is hypocrisy. And the inconsistency and the inconstancy comes to the surface. And that’s why the Amy Goodmans, the Intercepts, the Black Power media, the Black Agenda Report, WBAI, brother Randy Credico, and the others make a difference. And this is no small talk. Because in the end, it becomes the very grounds upon which you lose any sense of your democracy, any sense of press freedom, any sense of individual liberty. And I come from a black folk in this belly of the American beast, whose history bears witness to that loss of liberties and democracies. It is celebrating itself with forms of national idolatry as the misery continued day in and day out. And that’s what my brother Julian and I talked about, the legacy of Martin Luther King, we talked about the legacy of Ella Baker, we talked about the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer. All the way down from Australia, that opened his heart, and opened his mind and say, lo and behold, brother, Wes, given whatever differences we have, we are committed to press freedom, and democratic flourishing. And I said to him, my dear vanilla brother from Australia, I am in solidarity with you, because I’m committed to press freedom, individual liberty, democratic, flourishing, and keeping track of the victims of the war crimes of the largest empire in the history of the species called the American Empire.

RYAN GRIM: Again, that’s assangedefense.org for anybody who needs to find out how to get involved or get any more information. We do have a little more time. If there are any questions. 

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I just wanted to start out by thanking Ryan and Cornel for showing up. Because when I met Gabriel, and John, on their first leg on their trip in DC, there was a lack of interest of the media. In what I think is the trial of the century. And look at this room. I mean, I feel like Robert Byrd, why is this chamber empty? Where’s the press? I mean, look at the remarkable people on stage. Where’s the press? Why is it up to us? Where’s the press now that the case is totally falling apart? When it’s been revealed that the US government was basically rehabilitating a child molester diagnosed sociopath and a liar to put together a failed case? Where was the press? When files, text messages, emails came tumbling out of a Spanish court showing that CIA assets from UC global had plotted to poison Julian Assange, while the press was reporting on Nalvany in Russia. It was up to us at the Grayzone to report on that incredible story. It should have been on the front page of the New York Times that CIA assets had stalked the partner of Julian Assange, that they had tried to steal the diaper of his child to prove it was his child, that they had robbed his legal counsels office. That they had broken into the cameras in the embassy, that they had subverted the Ecuadorian security services to do so that they had actually hacked into the devices of the Washington Post’s national security correspondent, Ellen Nakashima. And she said nothing. Anthony Lowell Bergman. His devices were hacked in from NPR when he visited Assange, he said nothing. No one said anything.

So I guess my question for Gabriel, and John is on your ability to get any interest from the legacy press, in this incredible case at a very momentous time when it’s clearly falling apart. And Cornel as well, I mean, you’ve been on Anderson Cooper a lot recently in the last year. I mean, Have there been any request to talk about this? And, and for Ryan, I mean, you’re here. You’re putting yourself out there. But Kevin Gostzola said that the Intercept rejected his request to cover the trial in London of Julian Assange. And I don’t believe the Intercept assigned anyone. I mean, you’re the Washington bureau chief, it’s not necessarily your fault. But the Intercept seems to have strayed from its original mission to take on the national security state in so many ways. So my question for you is what is the Intercept planning to do to focus more on this crime? This this fact huge violation of international law, but also this huge violation of press freedom? Because you have a platform that we don’t have at the Grayzone, you have resources that we don’t have. So what are you all planning to?

GABRIEL SHIPTON: Yeah, big thanks to you, Max. I mean, without a lot of your coverage, no one would know. Thank you. Independent media led the way, they’ve been the tip of the spear. With all these dominoes that just keep dropping, from the arbitrary detention decision in 2015, to the two Nils Melzer torture decisions, to the Swedish allegation just evaporating, to the embassy spying, to the extradition rejection, at each stage of the way independent media really led the way in the coverage. I think what we’re seeing now is that it’s having an effect. The independent media is seeping into the mainstream media. It’s this sort of shame effect, like Julian did with the revelations through WikiLeaks, they could not not report on it. I think that’s what we’re seeing now, the independent media is growing so much stronger, and the mainstream media are going to have to figure out how they’re going to catch up, basically.

RYAN GRIM: It’s a really good question. Kevin, I’m a fan of his journalism. He’s appeared on our podcast to talk about his coverage of the trial. We did assign somebody to it who ran into some serious health difficulties. That led to a lot of internal delays in the coverage, which did eventually run, but I would have liked to see us doing daily dispatches, treating it as a trial of the century type of event. This is a trial of the century. Everything, everything rests on this. I’ve done a lot of questioning why it is that exactly, here we are in the National Press Club, why are there not free Assange signs? Why isn’t there a drumbeat from the American press or around this, and I have not been able to get beyond basic pathologizing, the kind of armchair psychoanalysis. 

Assange was such a dominant journalistic presence for the last generation really. The number of stories that Wikileaks broke that impacted the world that we’ve all we’ve all forgotten about, outnumber the number of consequential scoops that some of the best journalists will have in their entire careers. It’s just a staggering record of achievement. So there may be some professional jealousy there and some wish to solve that by saying, well I didn’t get beaten, because that’s not actually journalism. I don’t know what exactly it is, but it’s something else. Because if it’s journalism, then I’ve been getting my hat handed to me by this weirdo Australian out here with this website. So it can’t be that, that just doesn’t comport with my worldview and my understanding of myself. So then you start inventing rationalizations for that that allow you to then separate him from your field, because you don’t want him in your field. There might also be some thought of a winning favor, with sources who are hostile to him by not speaking up or losing favor by speaking up. 

CORNEL WEST: The consequences of living in a decadent Empire is that the virus of cowardliness and hypocrisy is manifest in every sphere, including the professional managerial classes, including journalism, including the Academy. I won’t go into that right now. I was blessed to break bread with ___. He was writing his book on Socrates. We talked week after week. I love my brother. And he told me he said journalism is experiencing his way back 30 years ago and experiencing the captivity of the right-wing politicians and the neoliberal emerging politicians. The cronyism at the top of journalism is now accommodating itself to those politicians, which means that the patrons will choose that brother Ryan is talking about they’re not interested in doesn’t generate money, then generate revenue generate profit. So who does accrue? Well, sometimes a dose of vulgar Marxism is useful. Sometimes a dose of understanding class dynamics is very useful and doesn’t matter what color they are. They could be careers, they can be opportunities, they can be cronyism they can be nepotistic. That’s part of it. So that the relative paucity of the courage, which is manifest in Julian Assange, is more and more rare thing. The willingness to take a risk manifest in Assange and Chelsea and others, more and more rare thing is, so I think that’s part of it. That’s not the definitive explanation. But I do think that’s part of it. And I think that’s something that we have to acknowledge that sooner or later these truths will be manifest. 

My brother Randy Credico always reminds me when the abolitionists came to Washington, DC in the 1840s. How many journalists showed up? For Theodore Parker, Lydia, Maria Chow, Frederick Douglass, how many showed up? It was a paucity but they were talking about the possibility of a civil war if you don’t come to terms with this catastrophe called white supremacist slavery. They said, Oh, these journalists don’t know what they talking about. 15 years later, you got a whole different situation only because we’re talking about something as real. We’re talking about suffering of human beings. We’re talking about structures and institutions that are deteriorating, and therefore don’t want to come to terms with the kind of questions you’re asking my brother. And so we shouldn’t be discouraged. I’m not discouraged, not at all. When I look in the sparkling eyes of a precious child, we go fight for you. That’s who Julian is also fighting for, the preciousness of this little one, so they live in a world in which liberty and democracy can flourish, and people don’t have to sacrifice,

JOURNALIST QUESTION: Belmarsh is a dungeon. I visited Winston Silcock there 30 years ago. It’s a terrible place. Can you talk please about the conditions of Julian’s confinement? And how much contact does he have with, with outsiders? I mean, in person, is he allowed to get visits? And, just how’s he doing, you know, like, in himself personally. 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: I’m not sure if you’re aware that Julian won his extradition case on 4 January this year. The US DOJ immediately signaled they would appeal. And then a couple days later, Julian’s bail was rejected. So he’s now in his third year of prison in Belmarsh as a remand prisoner. Belmarsh is full of the most violent criminals in the UK. It’s not a nice place. The last time I saw him was in October last year. After I saw him, they shut down visits, and he wasn’t able to get a visit for eight months. So he has had no contact, no contact whatsoever with his family, lawyers, or friends or loved ones, no physical contact for eight months. Luckily, last week, he had his first visit with his family after eight months. We are very happy about that. But he is suffering in there. It’s been years. He is strong, he is very strong, a very courageous person. But after years of attacks, spending 23 hours a day in a small cell, by yourself, it has an effect on someone. And seeing him over the years, you can really see the change in him, which is quite frightening to me. 

JOHN SHIPTON: Thank you. There’s a bitter irony that Julian few months ago got permission to have a visit. The jail was in lockdown, and then it was sort of lifted. They allowed a family visit. They cut down the time, so it was about 40 minutes with the children. The instructions from the guard were this: that should the children embrace you, (Julian was in full PPE by the way), should the children embrace you, you will have to spend two weeks in isolation. Should Stella embrace you, you have to spend two weeks in isolation. That’s a bit mad isn’t it? He’s already 23 hours a day in isolation. But Nils Melzer who went there, he’s brave and brainy, he’s characterizes this as before our eyes, a slow motion murder. I use those dramatic turns to make the point so that it is not reduced to the ordinariness. These people deliberately, consciously, constantly, continuously, think of ways. 

So when they visited last week, the guard attempted to stick his finger in the little boy’s mouth, tracking for drugs or something, a little boys mouth of just over two years of age. Of course, the boy went into meltdown, his father has to sit there in the chair, or otherwise be brought low and the visits finished. What I mean by brought low is they bundle on. If you go against the rules, they bundle on, six of them, push you down, put the handcuffs on, throw you through the door. He has to sit there, watch his child go into meltdown as a guards tries to stick his finger in his mouth, in the little boy, in the little boy’s mouth. That’s the circumstance. I won’t make it easy for you. That would be a pleasure and an end. For the crown prosecuting serves the Department of Justice and certain disgruntled, miserable elements of the State Department. And certain, probably vicious members of the CIA who hate it when the finality of their authority is evaded. It upsets their guts, because they exercise the power of life and death over many people every day. So that’s the circumstances Forgive me. I can’t make it easy for you. They would be delighted if his end came now.

JOURNALIST QUESTION: I feel like it’s one of the most important aspects of the case that isn’t talked about enough. Randy did on one of the episodes of Assange Countdown to Freedom when talking to Ben Wizner about the global precedents that this case sets with having a non US citizen charged with breaking US law. Why is there not more focus on that? What if China says, this US journalist broke our laws, send them over? Are we going to do that? I just wish there were more talk about that, I would think that may get through to some people that are still hung up on the 2016 election. 

RYAN GRIM: I’m pessimistic that it could break through. What on earth is going on with an Australian being accused of treason in the United States? And what precedent does that set around the world? Am I right now breaking laws in Azerbaijan or, or China or, or Peru by what I’m reporting and can I then be extradited to one of one of those countries? —which is not an idle concern when the global regime for extradition, Interpol, is controlled by the United Arab Emirates. I think UAE owns like half of the Interpol foundation or invests in half the Interpol foundation, so what if the UAE says I violated some of their journalism laws, which I no doubt have? So the next time that I fly through a country where somebody from Interpol pick me up and send me to the UAE to face charges for a crime that they say I committed in their country, even though I was not even in their country, it’s true that he released the evidence of the war crime right in this room, but otherwise, he has spent very little time in the United States. Am I right, Gabriel? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: He hasn’t spent much time here at all. 

RYAN GRIM: This isn’t an American citizen. This wasn’t a crime that happened on American soil. And it’s not a crime period. What have your attorneys said about that part of this case? 

JOHN SHIPTON: William Barr, under the first Bush administration had the nickname “the snatcher” because of his capacity to manipulate extradition treaties for the judicial abduction into the United States, of those people that the United States determined were necessary to come here for whatever reason. Over the last 10 years, the treaties between the United States and whomever was willing have been rewritten to the advantage of the United States, in particular, my country has less restrictions on extradition to the United States than the United Kingdom. United Kingdom at least has ‘not for political purposes,’ and ‘not if a death penalty is involved.’ 

So it’s a policy of Washington to be able to judicially abduct whomever it wants to bring to the United States. Ola Bini, an AI expert; the CEO of Huawei is under threat of extradition into the United States from Canada. There are many, many, many, I can’t remember them all. Somebody the other day, I met in Minneapolis had a list of them. Extraordinary list. There’s one just happened last week, the man was on an airplane, the airplane was diverted, upon request of the United States in an extradition order to lodge in a third country. He is dying of cancer in a jail in a third country, not his country, the plane was diverted. It’s a technique or tool of policy. 

JOURNALIST QUESTION: John, you mentioned I believe that the Biden administration gave you a message or someone told you that they wanted you to wait until after the inauguration to begin pressure campaign. I hope that you could elaborate a little on who told you that and what they told you and what kind of communication you may still have. 

JOHN SHIPTON: Our communication was through the Human Rights Division. At that time, in January, the inauguration hadn’t happened. So it was with the potential team. After that, we changed our tact and rather than move, I found that approaching politicians with Julian’s matter, they will take a position which fits in with the current, what they imagined policies or what the current atmosphere of government is, and then it’s very hard work to change their mind. So the best thing, we evaluated, Gabriel and myself, was to approach staffers and to approach people. Get the assistance of people to approach staffers and continue to approach staffers, because the staffers are the people who formulate and draw in the ideas to put to their political masters. We came to the view that we were building something, and that approaching the administration saying, “Well, what about Julian” was a falsity. 

First you had to come here and build support, and then come again and build support. And finally, you might be able to do something, also taking advantage of the unfolding of time, because the world is in a parlous state at the moment, there’s a lot of tensions around. And as we saw last week, with new revelations, changes are coming quite rapidly. So being able to skate or utilize those changes was very, very important. And then another thing is that Merrick Garland is manifesting an interest in changing the perception and actions of the DoJ, the Department of Justice. He had a meeting with the executives of The Washington Post and the New York Times over the four journalists that were under investigation by the Department. Also, USA Today had a subpoena against it for the IP addresses of those people who had gone online to USA today and looked at a particular video, that subpoena has been withdrawn. 

The Supreme Court over the Computer Fraud act made a decision that the interpretation of the Act was far too broad, which assists us because part one of the cooked up charges against Julian, was a broad interpretation. So the nature of things are changing. And consequently, we want to be able to make the decisions very quickly appropriate to the unfolding of information, as the times produce new ideas and new elements constantly. As you see with the Biden Putin meeting, everybody was relieved that this strategic stability was discussed. And then now there’s 30 ships in the Black Sea on an exercise which is reintroduce tension. So we have to be adroit. 

CORNEL WEST: I just wanted to say that we have just been so blessed and graced by the presence of brother Gabriel and brother John, on behalf of our dear brother Julian, to come to the United States, and to bear witness with such integrity, such quality, such eloquence. And we want you to know that there’s fellow citizens in the midst of this empire, that fellow human beings in this country are in solidarity with you, with your son and your brother, and that no matter what you see at the top, there’s a whole wave of us who will be resilient, who will be resisting and who will fight in the name of principle. You need to know that as you make your way back and we bid you a safe trip, farewell, but no goodbyes, because we are in this struggle together all the way down. 

RYAN GRIM: Thank you, Gabriel. Thank you. Thank you, John. Thank you for I know what you’re doing is for Julian but thank you too, for what you’re doing for the press. And thank you all for coming out here today, and go to AssangeDefense.org to find out more.

Categories
Commentary Featured Press Release

How Will Merrick Garland’s Justice Department Handle the Assange Case?

The U.S. Senate is reportedly on the verge of confirming President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland.

The next Attorney General will have a major influence on many important matters, including the fate of the U.S. government’s case against Julian Assange.

Unlike many prominent officials from the Trump administration, Garland hasn’t made any public comments about Assange or the case. But it’s worth looking into Garland’s record and what he’s saying about his nomination for insight on how he’ll handle what has been described as the most important press freedom case in a generation

Garland’s First Amendment Record 

Garland spent 23 years as a federal appellate judge, seven of those as chief judge of the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Press freedom groups have delved into his judicial opinions for insights into how he might handle First Amendment issues as Attorney General.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press found some cause for optimism, noting that Garland “has taken strong stands on First Amendment issues” in a number of cases. Specifically, RCFP notes, Garland defended the media’s right to publish questionably obtained information, supported a stronger reporter’s privilege, and showed a commitment to government transparency in his decisions on FOIA cases.

What happened at Garland’s confirmation hearing?

Garland’s nomination passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a 15-7 vote after a relatively routine process. Press freedom issues were not a major theme of Garland’s confirmation hearing, and the Assange case was not brought up at all, but a few things stood out as potentially relevant to how Garland would act as Attorney General.

Garland testified that he would not allow politics to influence decisions about prosecutions and would resist pressure from the White House. On its face, that’s a welcome change of tone. It was the Trump Justice Department that politicized the Assange case after the Obama DoJ had previously decided that prosecuting Assange would create a “New York Times problem.”

How might this be a cause for concern? We want the Attorney General to ignore political concerns when making prosecutorial decisions, right? Yes. But coming on the heels of the precedent-shattering Trump administration, there are a lot of injustices that need to be undone. Simply letting bad cases play out allows injustice to fester.

Garland’s message here isn’t completely clear. One could interpret Garland’s words as an assurance that he will be independent, and not as an indication that he will allow his prosecutors to unjustly continue bad cases. Or one could extend that logic in the other direction: Garland might give Justice Department attorneys significant leeway to continue their work. He specifically mentioned allowing “ongoing cases” to play out, and attempted to contrast himself with predecessor William Barr’s willingness to intervene in criminal cases.

The Bottom Line

In all likelihood, Garland will be confirmed without ever being directly pressed on the Assange case. So we are unlikely to have clarity on how he’ll handle the matter in the near future.

We should be cautiously optimistic about Garland’s pro-transparency and pro-First Amendment record. And his promise to be independent should count as a plus — if true, it means he would be more resistant to other voices in the administration who might have animosity toward Assange.

There’s reason to believe Garland will arrive at a similar conclusion as former Attorney General Eric Holder — that, as the ACLU notes, “there is no way to prosecute [Julian Assange] for publishing classified information without opening the door to similar prosecutions of important investigative journalism.”

But Garland’s “by-the-book” ethos suggests he will likely defer to staff prosecutors who have already invested significant time and resources into pursuing Assange — at least for the time being. Being a deliberative leader is usually a good thing, but dragging your feet when confronted with manifest injustice isn’t. In this case, Garland might ultimately arrive at the right conclusion, but take his time getting there if he is hesitant to overrule his prosecutors and bring a swift end to Assange’s case. 

In other words, Garland’s deference may trigger the old legal maxim: “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Categories
Featured Press Release

Will the US appeal Assange’s extradition?

 

On January 4, UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against the U.S. government’s extradition request. Baraitser’s ruling was not a stunning victory for press freedom — she agreed with most of the U.S. government’s dangerous arguments. But she ruled against extradition because she determined that Assange would be at risk of suicide should he be sent to American prisons. The U.S. has until tomorrow, February 12, to appeal that decision.

But since that ruling, a new president has taken office in the U.S., and that means a new Department of Justice. There are rumblings that the new administration plans to appeal, but the Attorney General, who should break with the politicized nature of the previous administration and make a determination based on the facts, has yet to be confirmed.

President Biden nominated Merrick Garland for that job. Garland is a longtime federal judge, who has taken some solid positions on the First Amendment. Will he take a renewed look at the prosecution and drop the case?

Here’s why he ought to: The Assange case represents the gravest threat to press freedom in a generation. It’s not about Julian Assange as a person. It’s about whether the U.S. government will respect the role journalism plays in democratic life (as a check on powerful institutions), or whether they will take “direct aim at previously sacrosanct protections for the news media.” The indictment “characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take.”

That’s why the Obama-Biden administration chose not to pursue charges against Assange back in 2013. They called it “the New York Times problem.” They knew that if they went after Assange, it would be a press freedom nightmare.

This did not worry the anti-press folks in the Trump administration. After unsuccessfully trying to force Assange to reveal his sources, they aggressively pursued him — even sending Vice President Mike Pence to pressure the Ecuadorian government to withdraw Assange’s asylum.

President Biden’s Justice Department has an important choice to make. Will the new administration restore sanity and show deference to press freedom and the First Amendment, as President Obama did? Or will it continue President Trump’s dangerous war on journalism?

Stay tuned.

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Featured Press Release

Press freedom groups call on Biden DOJ to drop Assange charges

Two dozen major human rights and press freedom organizations are calling on the new Department of Justice to drop the charges against Julian Assange. The cosigners have written to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson in a letter warning that “the proceedings against Mr. Assange jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy.”

The letter was organized by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and signed by leading rights groups including Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and PEN America.

The cosigners 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.”

The letter comes just days before the United States’ deadline to appeal the ruling in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing. On January 4, British Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked Assange’s extradition last month on medical grounds, and the U.S. announced its intent to appeal that decision. It has until February 12 to file its appeal.

The New York Times’ Charlie Savage writes, “The litigation deadline may force the new administration to confront a decision: whether to press on with the Trump-era approach to Mr. Assange, or to instead drop the matter.”

Then-President Trump’s Department of Justice requested Assange’s extradition and indicted him on unprecedented charges for the 2010 publication of the Iraq and Afghan war logs, the State Department cables, and Guantanamo Bay Detainee Assessment Briefs. The indictment threatens Assange with 175 years in prison, and it would mark the end of the First Amendment’s protection of the right to publish. 

But Trump’s outgoing prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said he wasn’t sure if his successors in President Biden’s Department of Justice would keep up the prosecution. Biden’s nomination for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, is a longtime federal judge who has taken strong positions in favor of robust press freedom. Garland’s confirmation hearing has been delayed.

If the U.S. submits its appeal application in the UK this Friday, a High Court judge will review the submission, decide whether to grant the appeal, and then schedule oral arguments. The rights groups’ write,

“We urge you to drop the appeal of the decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to reject the Trump administration’s extradition request. We also urge you to dismiss the underlying indictment.”

The Obama-Biden Justice Department looked into charging Assange back in 2013 for the same publications, but decided against doing so due to the dangers such a prosecution would pose to press freedom.

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Featured Press Release

Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeals Process

Almost immediately upon District Judge Vanessa Baraitster’s ruling that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange would not be extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States on medical grounds, lawyers representing the U.S. announced their intent to appeal that decision. Two days later, Judge Baraitser denied Assange’s bail application, meaning he will remain in the freezing cold, COVID-infected maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London as he waits for the appeal process to unfold. That process could take weeks, months, or longer if the U.S. refuses to drop the case altogether. 

Will the U.S. drop the charges?

Despite the prosecution’s declaration of intent to appeal, it’s unclear how much appetite there is in the U.S. for continuing the prosecution. The ruling and notice of appeal came in the final days of the Trump administration, and the day after the verdict, the U.S.’s outgoing lead federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger told NPR that he wasn’t sure if the Biden administration would continue to fight for Assange’s extradition.

“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.”

President Biden was Vice President when the Obama administration explicitly decided not to prosecute Assange.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

Press freedom organizations and newsrooms agree that the prosecution of Assange puts all journalists at risk, by criminalizing basic newsgathering activity as well as the publication of truthful information in the public interest. “Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First Amendment,” writes the New York Times editorial board.

Appealing on Medical Grounds

The U.K.’s lawyers (the Crown Prosecution Service, or CPS) representing the U.S. confirmed to reporters that the United States officially filed its intent to appeal the ruling on Friday, January 15. They then have two weeks to file grounds for appeal, notifying the court of the types of arguments they intend to raise later. 

In her verdict, Judge Baraitser ruled that sending Assange to the U.S. would violate Section 91 of the U.K.’s 2003 Extradition Act, which bars extradition if the “physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

Medical experts testified throughout the hearing that Assange has Asperger’s syndrome, that he has clinical depression, and that his specific condition and history combined with his prospective treatment in any U.S. prison all create a dangerously high risk of suicide.

Prison experts testified about the types of conditions Assange would likely face if he were extradited. The experts agreed that he would likely be held in solitary confinement, which the U.N. has deemed psychological torture; that he would get an extremely long prison sentence; and that he’d be held under Special Administrative Measures which render a prisoner effectively incommunicado, even further isolating him from his family, friends, and the rest of his support system. 

But even without these additional harsh measures Assange could expect, the mere ordering of his extradition from the U.K. would trigger this suicide risk. “I am as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr. Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide,” testified Dr. Michael Kopelman. 

High Court

Once the U.S. files its grounds for appeal, Assange’s defense team has 10 days to respond to that filing. These appeal submissions are then sent to a single High Court judge, who must decide whether the grounds are reasonably arguable and therefore whether to grant permission to appeal. If the judge rules to allow the appeal, the case is then scheduled to be heard by the High Court, a panel of two judges.

If the High Court refuses to hear the appeal, which is rare, it will be the end of the road for the United States and Julian will be released. If the High Court allows the appeal, a date for an oral hearing will be set.

It is at the High Court stage where Courage Foundation beneficiary Lauri Love, a U.K. national accused of computer crimes in the U.S., successfully defeated an extradition request from the United States. In Love’s case, whose appeal Judge Baraitser referred to in her own ruling, the District Judge ruled he should be extradited, but on appeal, the High Court ruled that the United States could not guarantee adequate mental health care in its prison system and Love, who (like Julian) has Asperger’s syndrome, could not be protected from the high risk of suicide. 

Potential further appeals

If the case were successfully appealed beyond the High Court, it could theoretically (though not automatically) be sent up to the U.K.’s Supreme Court and even higher to the European Court of Human Rights. 

While these proceedings take place in the United Kingdom, Assange is only detained and at risk because of the U.S.’s prosecution, and the new Justice Department could simply drop the indictment and extradition request at any time.

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Featured Press Release

Rights groups react to Assange verdict

Press freedom, human rights, free speech, and digital privacy organizations have been sounding the alarm over the prosecution and attempted extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ever since his arrest in April 2019. Now a district court judge in London has ruled against extraditing him from the United Kingdom to the United States purely on medical grounds, while accepting nearly all of the U.S.’s dangerous arguments that would criminalize basic journalistic activity — the very arguments these rights groups have warned about. Just two days later, the same judge denied bail for Assange, so he remains in British custody as the U.S. appeals the verdict.

Amnesty International

On the extradition ruling:

We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA, but this does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial.

On the subsequent denial of bail for Assange:

“Today’s decision to refuse Julian Assange’s bail application renders his ongoing detention ‘arbitrary’, and compounds the fact that he has endured punishing conditions in high security detention at Belmarsh prison for more than a year,” said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

“Rather than finally going home with his loved ones and sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost ten years, Julian Assange will be driven back to his solitary cell in a high security prison.”

Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia

Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director:

“This is a victory for Assange, but it’s not an uncomplicated victory for press freedom. The court makes clear that it would have granted the U.S. extradition request if not for concerns about Assange’s mental health, and about the severe conditions in which the U.S. would likely imprison him. In other words, the court endorses the U.S. prosecution even as it rejects the U.S. extradition request. The result is that the U.S. indictment of Assange will continue to cast a dark shadow over investigative journalism. Of particular concern are the indictment’s counts that focus on pure publication—the counts that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified secrets. Those counts are an unprecedented attack on press freedom, one calculated to deter journalists and publishers from exercising rights that the First Amendment should be understood to protect.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Executive director Trevor Timm:

Today’s ruling is a huge sigh of relief for anyone who cares about press freedom. While the judge’s opinion contains many worrying assertions that disregard journalists’ rights, her rejection of the Trump administration’s extradition request means the US government likely won’t be able to obtain any precedent that would criminalize common newsgathering and publishing practices. And that is a very good thing.

American Civil Liberties Union

Ben Wizner, director of the speech, privacy and technology project:

“National security investigative journalism in the crosshairs. The job of an investigative journalist is to publish government secrets,” Ben Wizner, the director of the speech, privacy and technology project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

“I think what hasn’t gotten enough attention is this idea that the US secrecy laws can bind foreign journalists and publishers,” Wizner added. “That’s a very, very dangerous precedent. I hope that this court’s decision on the charges doesn’t become the decision that people look to in future cases.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Executive Director Cindy Cohn:

“We are relieved that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the right decision to reject extradition of Mr. Assange and, despite the U.S. government’s initial statement, we hope that the U.S. does not appeal that decision. The UK court decision means that Assange will not face charges in the United States, which could have set dangerous precedent in two ways. First, it could call into question many of the journalistic practices that writers at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, and other publications engage in every day to ensure that the American people stay informed about the operations of their government. Investigative journalism—including seeking, analyzing and publishing leaked government documents, especially those revealing abuses—has a vital role in holding the U.S. government to account. It is, and must remain, strongly protected by the First Amendment. Second, the prosecution, and the judge’s decision, embraces a theory of computer crime that is overly broad — essentially criminalizing a journalist for discussing and offering help with basic computer activities like use of rainbow tables and scripts based on wget, that are regularly used in computer security and elsewhere.

While we applaud this decision, it does not erase the many years Assange has been dogged by prosecution, detainment, and intimidation for his journalistic work. It also does not erase the government’s arguments that, as in so many other cases, attempts to cast a criminal pall over routine actions because they were done with a computer. We are still reviewing the judge’s opinion and expect to have additional thoughts once we’ve completed our analysis.”

Categories
Press Release

Verdict First, Then the Trial: 1st Amendment, Political Prisoners, Assange Extradition

Tuesday, January 12th 2021 |   5pm PT / 8pmET
Online Event: Register here

Hosted by the Los Angeles Branch of the Assange Defense Committee

Speakers:

  • Jody Armour—Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law, University of Southern California, and author of N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law
  • Marjorie Cohn—Professor Emerita, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Past President, National Lawyers Guild; and editor and contributor to Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law

Moderator:

  • Sharon Kyle, LA Progressive

Julian Assange, founder of the international nonprofit WikiLeaks, awaits an extradition decision scheduled for January 4th in the United Kingdom. Much hangs in the balance with this decision—not just for Assange’s potential trial and possible conviction and incarceration in the United States, but for freedom of the press and transparency activists everywhere.

On January 12, the Los Angeles Branch of the Assange Defense Committee (AssangeDefense.org) will host a discussion on this issue with University of Southern California law professor, Jody Armour, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor emerita, Marjorie Cohn, moderated by Sharon Kyle, publisher of the LA Progressive.

If British courts send Assange to face U.S. prosecutors, no journalist and indeed no one can feel safe calling authority to account. America’s much-vaunted First Amendment rights hang in the lurch.

Our discussion—“Verdict First, Then the Trial”—centers on the cost of transparency activism, who bears it, and when. Our discussion will also address the broader issue of America’s dismal record on political prisoners.

As Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, recently told supporters, “This case is already chilling press freedom. It is a frontal assault on journalism, on the public’s right to know, and on our ability to hold the powerful to account.”

Register here

Categories
Press Release

Assange’s Call to the State Department

Audio & transcript of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s call to the U.S. State Department in 2011, warning of the impending public release of unredacted diplomatic cables.

75 Minute call to US State Department – Transcript

26 August 2011

  • Julian Assange
  • Sarah Harrison
  • Chad Thornberry
  • Cliff Johnson

Sarah Harrison

Hello?

Chad Thornberry

Hello is this Miss Harrison?

Sarah Harrison

Speaking.

Chad Thornberry

Hi Miss Harrison this is Chad Thornberry from the State Department Operation Center we spoke yesterday.

Sarah Harrison

Oh yes how are you today.

Chad Thornberry

I’m doing well thank you how are you.

Sarah Harrison

Very good thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Miss Harrison, if Mr Assange is available I have one of the secretary’s lawyers on the line who has been asked to return the call on the Department of State’s behalf.

Sarah Harrison

OK, could I take his name please?

Chad Thornberry

His name is Cliff Johnson.

Sarah Harrison

Cliff Johnson, and he’s a lawyer for the Secretary of State did you say?

Chad Thornberry

Yeah, he’s one of the lawyers here at the Department of State.

Sarah Harrison

OK, one moment please.

Chad Thornberry

OK.

Sarah Harrison

[whispered] It’s the lawyer of the Department of the Secretary of State [inaudible] Cliff Johnson, Cliff.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff.

Chad Thornberry

Hello Mr Assange, this is Chad Thornberry from the Operations Center I’m going to bring Mr Johnson to the line now OK.

Julian Assange

OK thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Introducing Mr Cliff Johnson to the call.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange hello it’s Cliff Johnson.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff, thank you for calling back.

Cliff Johnson

Certainly.

Julian Assange

Have you been briefed?

Cliff Johnson

I believe so. We had understood that you and perhaps Sarah had been trying to reach out but to the Department and some calls put into Embassy London, and I’ve been asked to get back to you with respect to those calls.

Julian Assange

Yes, so the situation is that we have intelligence that the State Department Database Archive of 250,000 diplomatic cables including declassified cables is being spread around and is to the degree that we believe that within the next few days it will become public and we’re not sure but the timing could be imminently or within the next few days to a week. And there may be some possibility to stop it.

Cliff Johnson

And who would be releasing these cables? Is this WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange

No, we would not be releasing them, we are doing our usual thing of continuing on with our redaction plan, but we have in the past 24 hours released a some 100,000 unclassified cables as an attempt to head off the incentives for others to release the entire archive, but I believe that nonetheless while we may have delayed things a little by doing that they will do so unless attempts are made to stop them. We have already engaged in some legal attempts to get them to stop but I think that it will not be enough.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange, who is this, who are these other people.

Julian Assange

This is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a previous employee who we suspended last August.

Cliff Johnson

And he apparently has access to the material that Wikileaks also has?

Julian Assange

Yes that is correct?

Cliff Johnson

And he has access to everything you have is that right?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And that includes classified as well as unclassified cables.

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

So your organization, the recent release of the 100,000 cables that I think were unclassified, that was something that you guys had done but what you’re indicated now is that a broader group of classified ones might be released by this other entity.

Julian Assange

Yes it was in part we have had a program to go through the cables and release them as we can and as the journalism is done so part of that is a natural progression I mean our release schedule. But we have moved forward the unclassified released schedule very significantly in order to deal with this situation whether there is a high demand for the cables and there is an individual who is spreading them around and the particular manner in which they’re being spread means that sort of a greatly increased number of people receiving access to them and we believe that it’s only moments to days until the information is made public which would permit everyone to have access to them. And there are some key details some, there are two key pieces of information which if combined together are enough to give people anyone access to the material. So an encryption key and another piece of information. And this is what has been spread around. And that is why the situation is so delicate because it is extremely easy to spread that information, we have already received it back from at least two relatively minor newspapers, one in Germany and one in Denmark.

Cliff Johnson

Does anybody else besides this group also have access to this same material or at this stage is it just them.

Julian Assange

At this stage we are only aware of other than this group newspapers having access to it. Although of course one might have certain suspicions based upon the demand. But at this stage the only, what one could speculate on intelligence activity but I will not do that, but as far as things that are not matters of speculation we only know of this individual attempting to spread this information around.

Cliff Johnson

And how did that individual get access to it?

Julian Assange

For legal reasons I don’t want to go into the specifics but they were an employee of WikiLeaks last year. We suspended them in August last year and they took a variety of materials and funds with them. They were a rogue, if you like, from our perspective.

Cliff Johnson

I see. And in terms of what they took does that mean that they now have the ability themselves without your control or authorization to make this as available as they want? Is this now entirely under their control?

Julian Assange

That’s correct. They have been doing that for some time, however, in order to sort of gain benefit with various media organizations they wish to collaborate with, and that hasn’t been such a concern to us previously, but the manner in which it is being done now, we believe will lead to imminent release within the week and possibly within the hour to the general public. And at the moment presently within the I suppose, not quite public but within a rather wide journalism or other groups, activist groups in general.

Cliff Johnson

In other words your sense is that they’re trying to reach out to these other media or activist groups themselves to coordinate some sort of release, or?

Julian Assange

I wouldn’t say it’s coordinating a release, rather it is spreading information in such a form, the motivation is to, is to embarrass us, to, and destroy our exclusivity as severely as possible. And the best way to do that is to make the information completely public, and en masse, instead of in an ordered way, and that is what is being done.

Cliff Johnson

And have you made any efforts to try to stop them, or are you…?

Julian Assange

Yes, we have written legal demands to them through our German lawyers and to, and asked the, one of the publications Freitag, who was given them in this manner, to not publicly reveal the key information that would permit them to spread, those publications have been swapping the key information over unencrypted email, which they sent to us, in researching their story, and they’ve made that a story, and also in Denmark it’s been printed, and I would suspect that within the next 24 hours Reuters or a similar news wire will also, if not directly mention the details will mention the factual side. What we want the State Department to do is to step up its warning procedures which it was engaged in earlier in the year, like last year, to a State Department sources to mention it in the cables. I assume but am not sure that all of those individuals at the State Department at risk in despotic regimes have been contacted and certainly they’ve had because of the press significant warning that this sort of thing was coming, but in case they are any individuals who haven’t been warned that they should be warned. Insofar as the State Department can impress upon people within Germany to encourage them to desist that behavior that would be helpful.

Cliff Johnson

And my understanding is that the legal actions you’ve initiated have been in Germany, you don’t have any lawyers in the US, or there’s nothing legal happening on the US side is that right?

Julian Assange

In the US side there’s no point because the individual concerned is in Germany. As far as the law is concerned we do not have standing to initiate such action because the material does not belong to us, and we would be one of its, neither could we say that we were directly harmed by its release, we could only say that we would be reputationally, indirectly, harmed, so it is very difficult for us to take legal action in court. We have issued demands to the individual concerned, legally, but we do not have legal ability, standing to initiate a legal action itself.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And do you have direct contact with this individual, or you’re learning about this from the media circling back to you?

Julian Assange

We’re learning about this from the media circling back to us from Germany and Denmark contacting us from what they had said publicly, publication, yesterday, and we have learned about it from our own sources where this individual has been spreading this information to them and to others and has been inviting over 111 people in Germany on a mailing list to contact him to receive these details.

Cliff Johnson

And by the details, am I right that these are the encryption keys that would…

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

Sort of, and it would permit access to the complete unredacted forms of the materials?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

I see.

Julian Assange

So the material, there is an encrypted version of the materials on the web somewhere, that we do not control. Probably in a rather, number of places, rather, to make sure they don’t disappear, which is fine, because the encryption is strong, but it’s the, the encryption key and the location of the material are the only two things that need to be disclosed. And so that is information that could spread extremely quickly. One doesn’t actually need to convey the material itself, one only needs to convey the location of the material, and its encryption key.

Cliff Johnson

And you believe that this other group is motivated not just to establish some kind of relationship with the media and go about sort of a release of the cables but that they’re also interested in more broadly making the key available on the web as a whole which would give access presumably to anybody?

Julian Assange

That is correct. We can see by their actions they are inviting many people including people not from the media to approach them to get the key. And the level of people is now such that we believe it will very quickly spread outside the media; it has already spread to media such as a computer journal in Denmark, so it has already spread outside investigative journalists.

Cliff Johnson

So it sounds like now that you’ve lost control of this material that [inaudible] that either you or anybody else can do to stop it, unless I guess you’re successful in the legal proceedings in Germany.

Julian Assange

I think it is only, we may be able to slow it down a little.

Cliff Johnson

Oh.

Julian Assange

I do not think it is possible to stop, I think, it may be possible to slow it down, the number of people who have apparently been given access by this individual in Germany that we suspended last year now, I think is at a critical mass. But perhaps it can be slowed down a little bit and during that time anyone who needs to be informed, any say human rights workers who haven’t already been informed who are in contact with US embassies will be informed.

Cliff Johnson

I mean I will certainly pass that message, I mean obviously if we’re talking about a release which you indicated could be happening in an uncontrolled way within 24 hours, there’s real limitations on the ability to do steps beyond what’s been done, and…

Julian Assange

Yes I can see that, but I don’t know that it will be 24 hours. We have been trying to suck the oxygen out of the market demand by releasing all the unclassified cables and that is distracting a bit from market demand but my strong suspicion is once that distraction disappears which will be within the next few days the market demand will just like any demand for an interesting rumor will cause that information to spread, just like interesting rumors do spread.

Cliff Johnson

What do you think the motivation, with this individual having previously been part of your organization what do you think is their motivation at this stage and how does that differ from WikiLeaks’ own motivations with these releases?

Julian Assange

Their motivation appears to be competitive to us, so, because, the information has news value to us, they have started a competing organization although it hasn’t published anything yet, but, so their motivation is to compromise our reputation as much as possible.

Cliff Johnson

I guess from, I mean from the State Department’s perspective, it sounds like, what we’re dealing with is another WikiLeaks in a sense. I mean that they’re…

Julian Assange

Well, it is, they won’t actually be publishing it you see, so it’s not like they’re actually standing up and saying we believe in what we’re doing and it has value to historic record and value to potential political reform, they’re doing it under the surface. There’s no attempt at redaction program and no attempt at harm minimization.

Cliff Johnson

I’m not at all a computer or an encryption expert but am I right that this encryption key issue, it has two parts and they have both of them or it’s a single key or…

Julian Assange

There is the location of the file on the internet, or rather, locations, there are several locations, and the key, which decrypts the file. One needs both of these pieces of information. The key has been disclosed, a violation of our agreements, by a mainstream media organization

Cliff Johnson

Disclosed to who?

Julian Assange

Disclosed to the public, but I won’t mention other details because it will enable anyone listening to the call to know how to get it. But the public doesn’t know that that key is meaningful. All one needs to do, the information that is being spread is the meaning of that disclosure, by that mainstream media organization, together with the location of the file.

Cliff Johnson

I see. So the key is out there but it was out there before in a way that people might not know

Julian Assange

Yes, they definitely would not know the key to the particular file that exists presently.

Cliff Johnson

Isn’t this something that you can change? The key or the location of the files?

Julian Assange

No, because the files, we do not control. There are not so many, perhaps 5 locations, although we haven’t researched for all of them. But we do not control these encrypted files, other people have placed them there as backups, to prevent censorship, without knowing that this particular file is included in their collections.

Cliff Johnson

But these different locations where the files were… Weren’t those ones that WikiLeaks had placed earlier? Although you retained the key but now what has changed is…

Julian Assange

No, the key, we had some others that we used to prevent censorship of our up and coming publications.

Cliff Johnson

And you still retain control over those?

Julian Assange

We don’t retain control over the files but we retain control of the key, so that is not a problem for those and they’re working the way that they’re meant to, that is the encrypted information is very widely distributed but uses top secret ciphers and a key that is retained by us and not known to others. So they’re alright, it’s just this one particular file.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And I guess you’d mentioned these new 5 locations, those locations were recently created or is this something that has been out there for a while?

Julian Assange

I’m not sure how these came to be, they appear to have been out there for a few months, they weren’t there last year, but they retain collections of a number of files we have released, maybe several thousands of files that we have released, and this file is one that is included in those several thousands of files, so unless you know to look for which particular collection and which particular file then the information is hidden, but if you know the precise file location and you know the key then that is an option. And that is the information that is being deliberately spread.

Cliff Johnson

Doesn’t it… I mean I guess I’m just trying to think as you are what their next steps or motivations might be, but why would it be in their interest to make all of this available worldwide to everybody if part of what they’re trying to do is position themselves as an organization that has control of the material.

Julian Assange

Ah, because they understand that we and others already have that material, and it is a reputational asset for us to gradually roll it out in a safe way. And we are the organization that is most strongly associated reputationally with the material. And the current attack that is being used is that we cannot keep control of our own materials, and therefore we are an insecure organization and therefore sources can’t give us material. And the best way to demonstrate that is this current approach which is to hand over the material to various organizations and spread these two pieces of information and when the material all becomes public, that will permit the attack, the reputational attack, to say that we had put people in harm by permitting such information to become public in unredacted form to the public.

Cliff Johnson

OK, I understand.

Julian Assange

So without that information spreading, at least for us it was secure. There are certain views about what certain handling procedures of some of the mainstream media organizations has been a violation of our agreement, that they not store it on any internet-connected computer, The Guardian for instance. But we don’t have any proof that information has been smuggled out by any third parties, from those media organizations. But from this particular case we can see it going, that invitations are being made to collect the key and the location from this individual and it is being rapidly spread to very minor media players together with this particular story. So it is not just to give them the information, it is also to give them the statement that we are an insecure harmful organization, as proven by the information this individual is conveying to them. So it’s actually a rather sophisticated spin. But because we’ve been seeing this develop behind the scenes for about a month now we can see what it’s motivated by.

Cliff Johnson

Well I appreciate your thoughts on that and I appreciate that you’ve recognized that these kinds of releases absolutely can pose a threat to the very sources reflected in the material, and I think without belaboring the point I think you know from the statements our government has made the grave concerns we’ve had with this kind of dissemination and the potential for it, and the fact that this material has now spread farther, obviously, and I share your concerns here, just exacerbates the concerns that we had originally with the danger it can pose – is there other material that WikiLeaks has that these groups do not have, or that similarly could be compromised?

Julian Assange

There are some possibilities, but I would have to think carefully about that. At the moment I am only dealing with this particular issue.

Cliff Johnson

OK. Cause I think, particularly in light of this latest chapter, I think that’s worth considering because…

Julian Assange

We have tremendously, we have undergone a lot of internal changes as a result of this insider last August but I have to say from our perspective a lot of this happened as a result of the overbearing pressure by the United States; if the United States, the State Department had responded to our overtures to meet and discuss the matter, and not made such threatening statements that put the safety of our individuals, our employees at risk, we would have been able to manage the internal dynamics a lot better, and so, this is an example of when you push people into a corner, they stop behaving in a step-by-step methodical manner, because of the threats that they are under. If it hadn’t been for those sorts of threats, the internal stability of our organization would be more coherent and we wouldn’t have had to suspend this individual.

Cliff Johnson

Well, I don’t know how productive it is to go back to that stage but truly you can understand when the department is confronted with a situation where very sensitive national security material is being compromised, at risk and at threat to national interests as well as individuals, that it would be understandable that we would react to that and take…

Julian Assange

I understand of course there’s the pressures, but we had a publication scheduled that was not going to be until January and everything would be much more ordered and the newspapers as a result of the pressure that they were feeling decided to rush that forwards against our wishes, to November 4, and we had to take legal action to get it extended to November 29, so just for your own information and how the State Department may handle such a similar situation in the future, if you can’t actually stop someone from publication, if you threaten them legally, although it’s not only the State Department who’s at fault here, the Pentagon made a 40 minute press conference threatening the organization and me personally, with various measures, the result is that people feel that they must publish or perish, that they must act extremely quickly within the threats that are made towards them.

Cliff Johnson

But Mr Assange does this suggest that your efforts in Germany to pursue litigation and pressure against this group will result in their doing exactly what you just laid out and accelerating the release and doing it in this uncontrolled way.

Julian Assange

I don’t think so because their motivations are different, their motivations are to keep their own reputation and to damage us, their motivations are as far as I can determine and other people who are involved can determine are not higher than that. We have been involved in 11 months of negotiation with them through a mediator, so it is not like we have rushed him into pushing him to do something, this has been 11 months of negotiation.

Cliff Johnson

And with a mediator, is that a kind of process where if the mediator decides a certain way they would be bound to proceeding accordingly, or do you feel that that process has run its course and…

Julian Assange

The mediator pulled out about 2 weeks ago because of the amount of lies that were being made by this individual, so they said they would return the information, return the information, made many promises, and it was eventually viewed by the mediator that the mediation was impossible under those circumstances so they pulled out.

Cliff Johnson

From your knowledge of this individual do you see any path for persuading them not to proceed do they seem intended to proceed, or?

Julian Assange

Well they’re proceeding under the surface, so they have a cover for what they are doing, they are proud of what they are doing. They are not admitting that they are spreading information this way but we know and it is abundantly apparent to anyone who reads even the public newspaper stories by information.dk and Freitag in Berlin and from the last information from the media. So I’m not certain that they are, that it is impossible to stop them from the path that they’re conducting, they’re engaged in the path that they’re going down because they believe it to be efficient to meeting their desires, rather than it being an ideological committed goal.

Cliff Johnson

During the course of this long mediation, what was it that they thought they were seeking from you that would stop this process, I mean was there some, presumably there was some effort during the course of that mediation for you to get back control of the material, were there indications that they were prepared to do that, or that there was something they were seeking in order to do that?

Julian Assange

They, the only leverage we had in the mediation was that they had made a previous public statement that they would return all of the material, so it was only a reputational issue that permitted the mediation to occur. That is, they faced a potential reputational loss by not returning the material. And possibly, we also started an initial legal process back in February and stopped that to conduct the mediation. So there was a reputational motivation and a motivation to stave off court action.

Cliff Johnson

And they have a legal entity in Germany that is the subject of your legal efforts or… Julian Assange No, they did not have a legal entity, it is just an individual although they say that they intend to form a legal entity.

Cliff Johnson

Are there any other individuals or groups that we should also be concerned about that either may now have or in the future have access to this information – and I realize that all of that is to some degree moot if this broad release happens that you’ve alerted us to.

Julian Assange

There are individuals who have been transferring information, but they, for instance the Guardian gave all the cables to Haaretz in Germany, sorry in Israel, but these are moves that are done by individuals within those newspaper institutions as a competitive play to other newspapers where they have arrangements. For example the Guardian gave them against our agreement to the New York Times, a violation of our written contract, and to a number of other groups, but as far as we are aware, we don’t know, it’s hard to be aware of other groups but as far as we are aware they are giving them to other news organizations as a competitive maneuver in relation to us.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange is there anything else at this stage which you think would be useful for us to know.

Julian Assange

Well there are these two key details I would like to convey in person, not over an unencrypted connection.

Cliff Johnson

I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

Julian Assange

The two key pieces of information, which are necessary, the location and the information about the passphrase, and these I obviously cannot convey over an insecure connection.

Cliff Johnson

Right but you would be prepared to provide those to us.

Julian Assange

I would be prepared to encourage someone to provide you with that information.

Cliff Johnson

And how would that play out? What would the next step be?

Julian Assange

There are two possibilities. One is to encourage the individual in Germany to desist in their activities, if you – because they are concerned about the reputational risk, if they are told that if they continue their activities it may lead to people coming to harm, then that is possible leverage to get them to stop, although we have tried, we have made those statements, it may be viewed as more serious if it comes from the US or a Human Rights Organization or the German Government.

Cliff Johnson

I guess earlier in our discussion you seemed to suggest that given their motivation they wouldn’t care about that kind of concern.

Julian Assange

They care about reputational risk. They’re not going to care about that, clearly by the behavior, but they may care about reputational risk. They know about it because we’ve informed them about it and made a demand through our lawyers to stop doing it but they may care about the reputational risk. So if it becomes public that they were asked to desist, they may desist. If there is another possibility which is the taking down of those files, that is a degree of research and effort that we do not have the capacity to do. There are not so many of them.

Cliff Johnson

And you know all the locations of them, do you think?

Julian Assange

We know several and it’s probably not that hard to find the others – they are not viewed by the public as important files. There are some important encrypted files that we have released which there, some 100,000 people have copies to them but the keys are well secured.

Cliff Johnson

Can you provide us with that location information?

Julian Assange

I can encourage other people to do so.

Cliff Johnson

OK. I mean in terms of your suggests that we make clear the harm that could follow from the release of such information, I mean that’s almost the response we had in our public statement from when we tried to dissuade WikiLeaks from doing its releases on the same ground, and I don’t know why we would fare any better with, you…

Julian Assange

Well I mean, I don’t suggest that it is a result of those public statements but we released cables slowly, to media partners, and went through every cable and redacted source identities accordingly. The differences between that scenario of journalists and human rights activists reading cables, redacting them and putting them out through us, which is what has been happening, and all of them, all 250,000, including all the classified cables, going out without any redaction at all. So there is quite a degree of difference between these two scenarios. Yes, we were not influenced to do more than what we had planned to do but I think of course there are always compromises to make in this sort of thing but they are, at least as far as publication was concerned, while it might have been politically annoying, we acted as other media organizations acted; in fact, it was mainstream media organizations who were redacting our cables for us and