Categories
Press Release

A resolution campaign is being launched across the labour movement in solidarity with Assange

03. 06. 2020

A new call for solidarity with Julian Assange has been issued as his extradition hearing is set to resume in September. Following motions in support of Assange at Birmingham TUC and from the National Union of Journalists a resolution campaign is being launched across the labour movement. The comprehensive resolution adopted by the NUJ is to be circulated for other trade unions, Labour Party bodies, and campaign organisations to adapt for thier own use.  

‘Please put this resolution to your next meeting’, said John Rees from the Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign, ‘this is the defining free speech case of the 21st century. Freedom of information, free from government censorship, is the lifeblood of an effective labour movement. The NUJ have made a stand. Follow their example’.

The NUJ resolution is reproduced in full below and can be found here.

Please adapt it as required for your own organisation and let us know when it passes at: office@dontextraditeassange.com

Here are four other useful campaigning tools. 
Our petition: https://www.change.org/p/release-julian-assange-from-belmarsh-prison-before-covid-19-spreads
Write to your MP: https://assangedefense.org/mp 
Donate: https://assangedefense.org/donate
For the full breadth of support for Julian Assange: https://assangedefense.org/statements




National Union of Journalists’ resolution notes:

1. That WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is held in Belmarsh prison awaiting United States extradition proceedings, a process that can take many years.

2. If Assange is successfully prosecuted in the US he faces 175 years in prison.

3. That the extraterritorial application of the Espionage Act in the indictment of Assange criminalises journalistic activities, in this case activities carried out on UK soil by a non-US national, in collaboration with numerous UK media (including The Guardian, Channel 4 and The Telegraph).

4. That previous statements by the General Secretary of the NUJ, by the Australian Journalists Union MEAA, and by the International Federation of Journalists’ organisations have supported Assange. 

5. That there is a political dimension to extraditions and that the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US makes the extradition of Assange more likely to go ahead.

Believes:

1. That Assange’s indictment comes at a time of heightened threats to the press in Western countries in the form of raids on newspapers and broadcasters, government claims that the press are ‘the enemy of the people’, and actual prosecutions involving life-long sentences for publishing accurately.

2. That Assange’s extradition to the United States would establish a dangerous precedent with regard to the prosecution of journalists in this country under the UK Official Secrets Act given the requirement for the UK courts to accept US arguments as to dual criminality for the extradition to go ahead. 

3. That press freedoms in this country will be weakened if the courts accept that NUJ members’ publishing activities in this country can give rise to criminal liability in foreign states and to their consequent lawful extradition.

4. That the publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs and other material by WikiLeaks that are the subject of the US indictment revealed important information that has benefitted the public.

5. Disclosing information to the public should never be equated with espionage 

Resolves

1. To campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.

2. To write to the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, and the Shadow Justice Secretary making the union’s case on this issue.

Categories
Press Release

Supporters around the world demand a free Assange

February 22, 2024 — Demonstrations were held, speeches were made, and banners were dropped in major cities across the United States and around the world as Julian Assange returned to court in London for what could be his final hearing in the United Kingdom, requesting permission to appeal his extradition to the United States.

Support videos from around the world

Part 1

Part 2

Washington DC

New York City 

Susan Sarandon, Margaret Kimberley, Margaret Kunstler, and many more

Denver

Boston

Raleigh/Durham

Milwaukee

London 

Categories
Hearing Coverage

 Julian Assange could face death penalty in US, High Court hears 

This is a synopsis of day 2. Read the full play-by-play here and our hearing highlightFind all extradition coverage here.


February 21, 2024 — Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could face the death penalty for a prosecution based on ‘state retaliation ordered from the very top’, the High Court heard today. 

Assange is accused by the US government of conspiring with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified military documents online between January and May 2010. 

The Australian is seeking permission to appeal a 2021 decision by a UK court to approve his extradition to the US, where he faces charges under the country’s 1917 Espionage Act. 

The 52-year-old had initially won his fight against extradition on the grounds he was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions. 

But in December 2021 judges found the US authorities had given sufficient assurances to the UK that Assange would be treated humanely in an American prison, and overturned the decision. 

Assange appealed against that ruling, but last June High Court judges upheld the decision to approve the US extradition order, which was signed by then UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2022. 

If he is refused permission to bring a further appeal, Assange is likely to be extradited in the coming weeks to face trial for 18 charges, 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act. The charges include conspiracy to receive, obtain, and disclose classified diplomatic and military documents. 

Assange’s lawyers say he faces up to 175 years in jail if convicted, but the US government claimed the sentence would probably be between four and six years. He has spent the last five years at Belmarsh maximum security prison in southeast London. 

The charges against Assange relate to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and secret cables about Guantanamo Bay. 

This included the notorious ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which showed the July 2007 killing by an American Apache helicopter crew of eleven civilians, including Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and Saeed Chmagh, 40. 

The video, recorded by the helicopter gunsight, showed the helicopter crew firing into a group of Iraqi civilian men in Baghdad after being given permission from a commanding officer, killing 11 men and seriously wounding two children. 

Joel Smith, representing the US, disputed the claim from Assange’s legal team that the sentence Assange would face in the US would be ‘disproportionate’ and a breach of his human rights. 

He dismissed the 175-year prison sentence Assange’s barristers said he would face if extradited as ‘calculated by simply totting up the maximum sentence for every single offense.’ 

Mr Smith added that Assange’s barristers had said he would face a sentence of 30-40 years. 

He said: ‘Other cases involving unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the media have led to significantly lower sentences.’ 

He gave three examples where defendants were given sentences of 42, 48, and 63 months, despite the ‘maximum exposure’ in these cases running to as many as 130 years. 

The maximum sentence given for the same offenses Assange is facing under the Espionage Act was 63 months. 

He added that sentencing would follow guidelines, and would reflect consideration of aggravating and mitigation factors. 

Mr Smith said the alleged offences were ‘extremely serious’ and that if the sentence was a lengthy one ‘that would reflect the fact his conduct had been aggravated.’ 

He added: ‘Looked at through an American lens the offense is grave. 

‘Looked at through a UK lens the offence is grave. And entirely unprecedented.’ 

He gave a list of Assange’s alleged offending, including ‘the accusation of encouraging others to circumvent legal safeguards on information to provide information to WikiLeaks for dissemination. 

‘The continuing pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information to WikiLeaks for distribution to the public. 

‘The recruitment of Manning and other hackers, the encouragement of Manning who was subject to the American equivalent of the Official Secrets Act, assisting her to crack a password. 

‘The obvious point of naming sources, who were put in danger.’ 

He added: ‘That’s a sweep of offending. It’s beyond the scope of anything that any of the criminal courts in this country have had to grapple with.’ 

Mr Smith said that given ‘such grave and unprecedented criminality’ it could not be said that a lengthy sentence would be disproportionate. 

Responding to the US case, Edward Fitzgerald, KC, repeated that Assange was being prosecuted on political grounds and that it was not legal to extradite him on this basis. 

He said the absence of any mention of the political offense exception in the 2003 Extradition Act did not amount to disapplying it from individual treaties that include it. 

He said: ‘The act is silent. You can’t read into that act a deliberate omission. You cannot say the act disapplies a provision that’s in every treaty we sign with other countries. 

‘You can’t say the silence means it expressly disapplies its appearance in a treaty.’ 

He said the political offenses exception was included in almost every treaty the UK had signed, and that US, UN, and Interpol treaties always include this provision. 

‘In what sense can it be properly said this [exception] is out of date? It’s not out of date.’ 

He also said that as a non-US citizen, Assange risked being denied rights available to a US citizen. 

He said: ‘Mr [Mike] Pompeo said Assange wouldn’t have these rights because he’s a foreigner, and that’s evidence he might be prejudiced in the USA.’ 

This included, he said, US constitutional rights, including the First Amendment right which guarantees freedom of the press, which US citizens are entitled to. 

He continued: ‘So there is a real risk, said to be 15 percent, he may well be prejudiced by that approach and put in a position where he’s discriminated against because of his status and loses his right that US citizens would have.’ 

Mark Summers, KC, another member of Assange’s legal team said there had been no reference to the fact the material he published exposed war crimes. 

The barrister said this was ‘the exposure of a state-level crime’. 

He said the barristers for the US authorities were dodging the issue when they accused Assange of questioning the probity of US prosecutor Gordon Kromberg when they alleged the extradition was politically motivated. 

He said: ‘We don’t suggest that Mr Kromberg is a lying individual or that he’s personally not carrying out his prosecutorial duties in good faith. 

‘We say that the prosecution and extradition is a decision taken way above his head. You can’t focus on the sheep and ignore the shepherd. 

‘What happened is state retaliation ordered from the very top.’ 

Mr Summers said this was reflected in the fact Assange had been denounced at senior government level, and then-president Trump was drawing up plans to assassinate him. 

He said: ‘It was submitted to you that the US government has acted at all times in good faith in bringing this prosecution. 

‘We don’t understand how that can be advanced with a straight face in the face of evidence the president was planning on kidnapping and killing him.’ 

He also reiterated that Assange had gone to ‘extraordinary’ lengths in the year prior to publication to redact names from the documents and that he could not be held responsible for their eventual publication. 

The barrister said the eventual publication of the names by third parties who gained access to the encrypted files was ‘Unintended, unforeseen and unwanted. 

‘At best Mr Assange could be alleged to have been reckless in the provision of the key to Mr Lee. It would be an absurd allegation to make but that’s the highest anyone could place it.’ 

He added that there was ‘no proof at all that any harm actually eventuated’ to any of the people named in the leaked documents. 

Mr Summers also returned to what he described as the ‘horrendous punishment’ awaiting Assange were he to be extradited to the US. 

He said Assange would be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life, a punishment, he said, ‘that would shock the conscience of every journalist around the world.’ 

He said the courts in the UK should have carried out a balancing exercise on Assange’s actions to determine the public interest in the disclosures. 

He noted that the Strasbourg court deemed ‘exposure of state-level crimes as the very highest level of public interest.’ 

‘The crimes being discussed here were real and ongoing and were happening then to real people. And the disclosures had the capacity and capability of stopping that happening, and they did. 

‘Drone killings in Pakistan came to an end, the war in Iraq came to an end’. 

He said that in a balancing exercise on whether the disclosures were in the public interest ‘colossal, ongoing, real criminal wrongdoing outweighs the risk of some harm to some of the criminals performing or facilitating the criminality.’ 

Judge Dame Victoria Sharp challenged him on whether all the people named in the leaked documents were criminals. 

Mr Summers replied that ‘their names are in there because they have engaged in the criminality that’s been exposed. 

‘The fact is there’s context to these names. They are the names of people who have facilitated America doing what the disclosures reveal them to have been doing.’ 

He added that even if they were innocent, the fact the disclosures protected people against practices like rendition and war crimes would outweigh the potential harm to them. 

Mr Summers said there was no guarantee the US would not subject Assange to the death penalty in the event of his extradition. 

He said: ‘We don’t understand why there is no usual death penalty assurance in this case.’ 

‘The consequences of it are that discharge must follow if they continue to decline to give it.’ 

The judges have reserved their decision.

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Hearing Highlight: Assange Is Not a Journalist, Manning Is Not a Whistleblower, Up Is Down, and Night Is Day 

Read the full report from day 2 of Julian Assange’s final bid to appeal his extradition here. Find all extradition coverage here.


Supporters outside the courtroom in London (FreeAssangeNews)

February 21, 2024 — In order to avoid the pesky press freedom issues that rights groups and media outlets everywhere are warning its Assange prosecution poses, the U.S. government has to claim all kinds of extraordinary falsehoods that fall apart under the mildest scrutiny.

Representing the U.S. today, CPS barrister Clair Dobbin had to argue that Julian Assange is not a journalist, that Chelsea Manning is not a whistleblower, and that the indictment of Assange is a narrowly focused punishment of the release of sources’ names rather than a wholesale assault on the freedom of the press.

Anything but a journalist 

The U.S. is desperate to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist. The prosecution of Assange has garnered global attention for many reasons, including that major media outlets around the world have condemned the charges as landmark threats to the First Amendment, so the U.S. needs to fix that image. The tactic they’ve chosen is to try to separate Julian Assange from other journalists. To keep mainstream journalists happy, but also to keep them from paying too much attention to the Assange case because it might threaten their jobs, the U.S. goes to great lengths to suggest Assange is anything but a journalist — a hacker, a spy, an activist, whatever it may be. 

“The district judge rejected outright that [Assange] was to be treated as a journalist or akin to a publisher,” Dobbin declared.

“He solicited the bulk disclosure of classified information and was party to Ms. Manning’s theft of classified information,” Dobbin said, “and then indiscriminately and knowingly published to the world who acted as sources of information to the United States. It is these key facts that distinguish [Assange] from the New York Times and other media organizations; it is these facts that distinguish him.”

Assange’s press cards (via Stella Assange)

Julian Assange has a press card. He has many press cards — from the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, and the Australian Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance. He has written and edited books and articles, he’s hosted an interview television show, and he’s published carefully redacted databases in close partnership with other media outlets around the world to break news in those outlets’ local regions. 

He’s also won scores of journalism prizes, including the Walkley Award, the most prestigious award in Australian journalism and frequently referred to as the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.

But even this misses a bigger point. The First Amendment isn’t just for journalists. Meaning it isn’t just for whomever this or that judge determines is a journalist either. The First Amendment protects types of activity, not types of people. It protects the freedom of the press, which includes newsgathering, reporting, and publishing alike. 

Press freedom experts have warned time and again that the charges against Assange present a direct threat to this journalistic work. The New York Times, which hasn’t always been Assange’s most ardent defender, said the indictment “aims at the heart of the First Amendment.”

Mainstream reporters have said the indictment terrifies them. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman said:

I am very much worried that the precedent that the present US administration is trying to set with Assange is dangerous, and quite new in the American legal tradition. Assange is charged with asking for information, with receiving information, and with publishing information. And I don’t mind saying that those are exactly the things that I do. And there has never been a prosecution for espionage based entirely on publication. If that’s allowed to stand, there’s absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be used against the Washington Post or the New York Times or CNN.

Dobbin again tried to separate Assange from other journalists by focusing on his alleged agreement with source Chelsea Manning to uncover more abuses, publish more documents, and allegedly conceal her identity. “Entering into this agreement is what takes Assange well outside the activities of a responsible journalist.”

But other journalists do this kind of thing all the time. Journalism professor Mark Feldstein testified in 2020:  

Feldstein confirmed that soliciting information is “standard journalistic behavior.” When teaching journalism, Feldstein talks about asking sources for evidence, actively seeking information, working with them to find documents that are newsworthy, and directing them as to what to find out. “It’s all routine,” he said.

Also routine are efforts to conceal sources’ identities. “Trying to protect your source is a journalistic obligation” Feldstein said, adding, “We use all kinds of techniques to protect them, including payphones, anonymity, encryption, removing fingerprints from documents, reporters do this all the time.”

As Gellman told the Committee to Protect Journalists, “If asking questions and protecting a source are cast as circumstantial evidence of guilt, we’ll be crossing a dangerous line.”

Chelsea Manning’s motives

Dobbin said it was “unrealistic to submit that” Chelsea Manning “gave any thought to specific disclosures she wanted to raise.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Though the Espionage Act charges against her afforded no public interest defense during the merits stage of her court martial, Manning made a point to submit a personal statement to the court, in which she expounded at length on her crisis of conscience, her ultimate decision to make certain documents public, her desire for change and her careful selection of which databases would give the public the best window into the war on terror without putting her fellow soldiers at risk.

On her decision to release the Collateral Murder video, Manning said, 

I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public, who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled – if not more troubled that me by what they saw.

The State Department diplomatic cables were the only set of documents that Manning worried, initially, had the potential to cause damage. “Of the documents released, the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn’t harm the United States,” she said at first. She kept reading.

The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other.

I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy.

She knew exactly which cables had which sensitivity levels, and she knew that it would be safe to release them. She acknowledged that “exposing this information might make some within the Department of State and other government entities unhappy,” but she knew that it wouldn’t cause actual harm.

Given all of the Department of State cables that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption, I believed that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.

Manning’s motive could hardly be clearer. But the government has to portray this desire to stop war crimes as a random act of anarchy — anything to take our eyes off of what was actually in those documents. 

Will the High Court see through it?

Every major media outlet, press freedom group, and civil liberties organization can see the obvious: Assange is a journalist, Manning was a whistleblower, and the charges against Assange are dangerous. So far though, British courts have been willingly led astray, taking U.S. prosecutors at their word and plugging their ears to the world’s laments. 

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s 2021 ruling, though it narrowly blocked extradition for the time being on health grounds, otherwise took every U.S. argument at face value and ignored the testimony of experts. Since then, even more evidence has come in revealing U.S. intentions. Eight months after Baraitser’s ruling, more than 30 former U.S. intelligence and national security officials confirmed to Yahoo News that the CIA had drawn up plans to kidnap and kill Julian Assange.

The story also revealed that the DOJ hurried a legal case against Assange just to get out ahead of a rogue CIA.

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.

Three years have passed since Baraitser’s ruling. Assange’s health, which prevented him from even attending this week’s proceedings by video link, has deteriorated greatly. The indictment has already had a chilling effect, as journalists worry they could face charges and prospective whistleblowers with even fewer places to turn with their evidence of abuse.

The British High Court has a chance now to take another look at the facts in front of them, and to take an honest look at what they’ve been hearing from the prosecution and whether it passes the smell test. 

This award-winning publisher, who painstakingly redacted names, worked with local outlets to ensure accuracy, and published evidence of war crimes…is just a reckless hacker?

This intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, who combed over databases to select the documents most important for the public interest, and knew that doing so would put herself at great personal risk…gave no thought to what she released? 

Does that sound right?

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Assange Final UK Appeal Request: Hearing Day 2

This is a blog post of our live tweets. See our report from day one as well as our hearing highlight. Find all extradition coverage here.


WikiLeaks editor Kristin Hrafnsson outside the courtroom in London

February 21, 2024 — Today is the second and final day in publisher Julian Assange’s final UK bid to appeal his extradition. Yesterday, the defense explained to the 2-judge panel why the High Court should reassess the District Judge’s ruling. The defense argued that the judge had failed to adequately assess whether Assange has been charged with a “political” offense and whether extradition should be barred on those grounds.

Another principle against extradition is “unforeseeable prosecution”; you cannot be prosecuted for a crime that you couldn’t be expected to know was a crime. Because the U.S. had never prosecuted a journalist for publishing truthful information in the public interest before, how could Assange have known that his journalism would be against the law?

Yesterday’s recap

Today we hear the U.S. case in response, arguing against Assange’s right to appeal his extradition order.

Judge Sharpe opened this morning by acknowledging audio and microphone issues: “We are aware there were technical issues that affected the ability for those in court to listen. This is extremely regrettable and is being investigated. If there are issues today that affect members of the press or in court or on a remote link, please do let us know so they can be investigated without delay.”

Claire Dobbin is the British prosecutor arguing on behalf of the United States. She said, “A refrain from yesterday is that much of the defense case was unanswered [by the district judge]. But the affidavit submitted by the U.S. addressed every aspect of the defense; his prosecution is based on the rule of law and evidence.”

“The charges might be unprecedented but what he did was also unprecedented.”

Dobbin: He solicited the bulk disclosure of classified information and was party to Ms. Manning’s theft of classified information, and then indiscriminately and knowingly published to the world who acted as sources of information to the United States.

Dobbin: It is these key facts that distinguish the appellant from the New York Times and other media organizations; it is these facts that distinguish him – not his political opinions. 

Judge Sharp interrupts, says we’re going to have to pause the proceedings to ensure that the people in court 3 can hear. (Journalists and observers complained of audio issues again.)

Court resumes. Dobbin again for the U.S.: ‘The district judge rejected outright that the appellant was to be treated as a journalist or akin to a publisher, and she did so considering at length the evidence marshaled on behalf of the appellant about the value of some of the disclosures.’

Dobbin rejects the suggestion that this case is about punishing Assange for his political opinions. Says that the U.S. admin changed during this case but nonetheless, it remains on foot because the prosecutor in charge of the prosecution insists it is based on evidence, not politics.

Prosecution claims Assange isn’t a journalist, Manning isn’t a whistleblower

Review key arguments from the 2020 extradition hearing

Dobbin, trying to refocus judges after the defense case yesterday, notes the second superseding indictment expands the allegations against him to encompass the additional allegations of hacking 

Assange published information that he knew was stolen classified information, Dobbin said. These documents disclosed to the world the names of human sources who provided information to the US, many of whom lived in war zones and authoritarian countries. 

The effect of disclosure of unredacted names created “a grave and imminent risk” that people would suffer physical harm or arbitrary detention, she said. Damaged the work of security & intelligence services, & damaged the capability of U.S. forces, thereby endangering the interest of the U.S.

Dobbin spent much of the morning attempting to paint Assange as recklessly endangering sources, repeating over and over the hypothetical harm that they have never been able to prove when actually asked in court. 

The prosecution elides some basic facts about how the unredacted cables came about, WikiLeaks’ redaction process, and efforts to protect sources.

Dobbin instead returns to the U.S.’s arguments from the initial extradition hearing, and attempts to portray Chelsea Manning as a nefarious hacker with Assange’s help, rather than a conscientious whistleblower.

Dobbin: The Department of Justice and presidents of both parties have long viewed the outing of intelligence sources as outside the scope of the First Amendment.

Dobbin trying to paint a picture of a narrow, restrained indictment that only deals with unredacted names.

Dobbin, returning to the alleged attempt to crack a password, says: ‘Entering into this agreement is what takes Assange well outside the activities of a responsible journalist.’

Dobbin: The material he published attracts no public interest whatsoever; his publication, as alleged, of the unredacted material wasn’t inexorable, it didn’t have to happen and that is what he is being prosecuted for. 

Judge Johnson stops Dobbin before she moves on, and notes, ‘By the time he had published them – they had already been published by others.’

Dobbin: The allegation is that he was responsible for having material in the hands of others in the first place, and the district judge makes the point that he is free to litigate in the U.S. 

Dobbin, not answering the question, said, “This court must proceed on the basis that these are the allegations against him.” The U.S. is blaming Assange for the actions of David Leigh & Luke Harding at the Guardian.

Dobbin moves on to arguments over the Extradition Treaty vs Act. Says the 2003 Act entirely reformed extradition legislation in this jurisdiction; it expressly removed the political offense exception, provides no provision for it. 

Dobbin: If a statute is clear, then it applies regardless of the terms of any treaty.

Dobbin spending a long time on case law to insist the Treaty should be ignored in favor of the Act.

Judge Johnson warns she’s running low on time. 

Dobbin arguing against the defense case that Assange is targeted for his political views or actions. Says the case “Does not permit a simplistic analysis – ‘my acts were political, therefore I am being sought for prosecution on account of my political opinion’.” 

Dobbin effectively says that U.S. and UK governments/courts should just trust each other: ‘The starting position must be that the fundamental assumption of good faith with states where the UK has long relationships on extradition – US as one of the most longstanding partners of the UK.’ 

Dobbin again refers to Trump saying he loved WikiLeaks at one point, undermining the allegation that pressure was brought on prosecutors. (That was in 2016; in 2010 he said Assange should get the death penalty and in 2019 he indicted him) 

Dobbin says the Yahoo News article on the CIA’s plans to kidnap/kill Assange is not “fresh evidence” because there was evidence before the judge about plots and plans at the embassy already and she rejected them.

Dobbin: ‘What was the nexus between the surveillance plans of the appellant and this extradition request? The appellant only comes before the UK courts upon Ecuador having rescinded diplomatic protection. He was only arrested upon the UK being invited into the embassy in order to do so and only comes before this court because of lawful proceedings instituted after. He is subject to these proceedings because of due process and ordinary process.

Dobbin, having it both ways with CIA spying: In any event [even if the CIA did spy], says nothing about the motivation for prosecution – even if there was a concern [i.e., spying] for the appellant in the Embassy, this does not detract from the objective basis for this prosecution.”

Of the Yahoo story, Dobbin said, ‘It’s not witness statement evidence or anything like that and in many respects, I am hesitant to address it.’

Dobbin notes “Article 10, which I am conscious is the key aspect of the application for permission.” (Article 10 of the ECHR)

On the defense point that Assange couldn’t foresee an unprecedented prosecution, Dobbin says, ‘Even if you were to take this at face value that it’s ordinary journalistic activity to solicit this information’, should reject the revelation of the classified names of sources 

Dobbin focusing on the expanded computer intrusion charge in 2nd superseding indictment, effectively saying they needed that newer indictment to get away from the journalism issues of the case 

Dobbin trying to paint Julian as different from a normal journalist: ‘It’s his complicity…going beyond receipt – it’s the encouragement and incitement to steal the material that puts the appellant at one end of the spectrum of gravity’ 

Once again, Feldstein in 2020: “Trying to protect your source is a journalistic obligation. We use all kinds of techniques to protect them, including payphones, anonymity, encryption, removing fingerprints from documents, reporters do this all the time.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman, who led the Washington Post‘s reporting on the Snowden documents, has long said that the Assange prosecution criminalizes activity that he engages in regularly:

“Assange is charged with asking for information, with receiving information, and with publishing information. And I don’t mind saying that those are exactly the things that I do.” 

Gellman told CPJ, “If asking questions and protecting a source are cast as circumstantial evidence of guilt, we’ll be crossing a dangerous line.”

Dobbin claims that Chelsea Manning wasn’t a whistleblower because she responded to solicitation and just gave bulk datasets. Says it’s “unrealistic to submit that she gave any thought to specific disclosures she wanted to raise.” 

That couldn’t be more wrong. Chelsea Manning has always been clear about her motives. In 2013, she said: “I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members.”

U.S. Espionage Act and UK Official Secrets Act

A key point of law in extradition cases: The prosecution needs to prove dual criminality, meaning that the allegations against Assange in the US would constitute crimes in the UK. 

Dobbin: ‘This could be charged as conspiracy and aiding and abetting and under section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, which can apply to publishers; but the burden of proof is higher – must prove it was damaging and the person publishing had cause to believe it was damaging’ 

Judge Johnson queries her: If in this country, a journalist had information of very serious wrongdoing by an intelligence agency and incited an employee to provide that information, and it was provided and published carefully, would a prosecution be compatible with Article 10? 

Dobbin: I’m not sure that it would give way to a straightforward answer…. There is no public interest defense and it’s not incompatible with Article 10 

Dobbin effectively says that regardless of the public interest in such a case, if it was damaging then it would be prosecuted. 

Dobbin: It is true the US authorities are careful about prosecuting when First Amendment rights are implicated this much…. Free speech is highly prized in America, which is why the US has gone a long way to distinguish the appellant’s prosecution from other media. 

Dobbin: Those media outlets who went through the redaction processes have not been prosecuted.

[Note: this elides the fact that U.S.-based website Cryptome published the unredacted cables (even before WikiLeaks) and has never been asked to take them down or been prosecuted.] 

Dobbin lengthily defends the district judge’s handling of issues with Article 7 of the ECHR (which says you can’t be charged with crimes that weren’t crimes at the time they were committed). 

The discussion moves to whether Assange would be afforded First Amendment protections If sent to be tried in the United States. Judge notes that US Attorney Kromberg said he wouldn’t, which could conflict with Section 81b of the UK Extradition Act:

Dobbin: ‘We are not in any position to assess whether this is established [that it would conflict] as a matter of case law; it refers to a possible argument rather than a foundation that reaches the threshold in 81b.’ 

Judge Johnson: Do we have any evidence that a foreign national is entitled to the same First Amendment rights as a U.S. citizen?

Dobbin: I don’t think so, there was a lot of case law referred to but I don’t think there was case law on that point. 

Barrister Joel Smith arguing for the US on sentencing enhancements in a potential U.S. trial.

“The evidence is that the applicant will be entitled to a fair and public hearing, within a reasonable time, before an independent and impartial tribunal” 

Smith: Another matter, wasn’t developed orally but in writing, that is the possibility of aggravating evidence being placed before the court that the applicant would never have seen.

Seems to suggest we can’t decide sentencing issues now with the possibility of more evidence.

Moving on to Section 103 of the UK Extradition Act, which says, “If the judge sends a case to the Secretary of State under this Part for his decision whether a person is to be extradited, the person may appeal to the High Court against the relevant decision.”

Discussion on this matter deals with the creation of the 2003 Extradition Act, and contemporaneous discussion of the ‘political offense’ exemption in the US/UK Treaty 

The prosecution argues, ”There is no free-ranging discretion for the Secretary of State to refuse extradition” if they determine it to be a political offense 

Judge: The US/UK treaty says you cannot extradite for political offenses. Hypothetically, if the Sec. of State finds it’s in violation of Article 4, they’re still required to certify it as valid?

Barrister acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department: Yes 

Prosecution now turns to the death penalty. Yesterday, the defense pointed out that more charges could be added that carry the death penalty, & that Chelsea Manning was charged with “aiding the enemy,” a death penalty offense (even though the US didn’t seek the death penalty for her) 

Prosecution: Assange is not charged with treason or any such charge. Manning, who was, received a determinate sentence and nothing in her case suggests that the applicant here faces the genuine risk of the death penalty. 

Judge Johnson: If the appellant is extradited, is there anything to prevent the charge of aiding and abetting treason from being charged?

Counsel: No

Judge: So if there is nothing to prevent it, do you accept that the sentence could be the death penalty?

Counsel: Yes 

Judge Johnson: could there be any assurance to protect against that?

Counsel: Why should the prosecutors give an assurance when there is no real prospect it would happen? We say there must be a threshold reached otherwise in any case people could raise this in any technical case 

SSHD barrister cont’d: … Here the evidence suggests a 30-40 year sentence. It would be difficult to offer assurances to prevent the death penalty from being imposed. But that still doesn’t mean the Secretary of State was wrong in refusing to prevent extradition. 

Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defense, pushing back against the prosecution’s attempt to just focus on the 2003 Extradition Act. “There is powerful abuse jurisprudence that also allows us to look at this Treaty point,” he says. 

Discussion continues over the 2003 Act’s omission of the Treaty’s political offense exemption: ‘They claim that the omission of the political offense was deliberate; it’s simply not the way an important issue like this can be determined – there can be all sorts of reasons’ 

Fitzgerald quotes the language used: “‘Extradition will not be allowed of people being prosecuted…accounted for by their race or political opinions.’ It’s the textbook definition of a relative political offense. He is saying there will be a pardon for a relative political offense” 

Fitzgerald says it’s “ludicrous” to suggest the UK just stopped caring about political offenses when they made the 2003 Act because the UK “continues to implement this specific safeguard over and over again in treaties” with other countries. 

Fitzgerald: When we are dealing with the right to life, the court should adopt an anxious scrutiny approach.

It is consistent with Article 5 to consider the Treaty.

We cannot say the courts are powerless to develop the law. 

Mark Summers QC for the defense: “It is a feat for the US counsel to be on her feet for two and a half hours advocating for the prosecution for disclosure of this material without once referring to the fact that the material disclosed war crimes.” 

Summers responds to Dobbin: ‘We don’t suggest that Kromberg is lying or that he is not personally carrying out his duties in good faith.

The decision to prosecute is a decision taken way above his head. What happened is state retaliation ordered from the very top.’ 

Summers on Dobbin’s response to the defense’s 3 points from yesterday:

  •  That the prosecution was part of a state-level practice to secure impunity for unlawful conduct – you heard no answer for that
  • The US didn’t prosecute until the ICC took interest – no submission on that 
  • Condemnation from the President – well the answer was that President Trump praised WikiLeaks, ignoring completely what we now know is that he was plotting to kill Assange 

Summers, to the judges: It was submitted to you that the U.S. has acted in good faith and we don’t understand how that submission can be made with a straight face when there is evidence of plans drawn to kidnap and kill Mr Assange. 

We pointed out the fresh evidence that the charges that were brought were done so to facilitate the secret rendition, Summers said. It was submitted that Mr. Assange is before the court because he has been subject to the due process of the law – doesn’t sound much like it to us 

Summers comes back to Article 7:

“Espionage cannot be used to attack the press for publishing state secrets.”

“There is no suggestion anywhere in any authority that everyday journalistic activity was going to prompt criminal prosecution.” 

On the password hash: If you engage in theft, you as a member of the press could be prosecuted for it, but nothing suggests anything to the effect that also renders publication unlawful or ‘out with the First Amendment’ or renders someone ‘not a journalist’. 

‘All of those authorities say that you could be prosecuted for theft, but it doesn’t say — and no authority has ever said — that that takes out outside the scope of protection for publication.” 

Discussion between Judge Sharp and Summers over which charges the defense is arguing engage Article 10 — Summers says the Manning-related charges, i.e. all except the non-Manning parts of count 2 (computer intrusion) 

Summers: ‘If at the end of this process, count 2 is left standing, shorn of the Manning allegations, as it were, what will happen is an Article 8 submission’ because Assange has already served a sentence as long as that charge (5 years) 

Defense: Can I ask why [the prosecutor] had such difficulty in answering [the judge’s] question when pressed on the implications of this decision for the press? 

Summers: There must be proportionality in relation to the publications – all of the cases talk about the duty of the court to engage with the public interest of the publication itself 

Summers: The US submission completely ignores the extraordinary efforts by WikiLeaks to redact – with partners – followed a year later by one of the media partners, not Assage, deliberately publishing in his book, the key to the encrypted internet file where the names existed. 

That was followed by Mr Assange scrambling around to try to protect the names of those published, including calling the State Dept to put in place urgent and immediate measures to protect people named.

Then the fact that others published the material. 

Summers, envisioning a case before the ECHR: This is how the harm would happen; unintended, unforeseen, unwanted – at worst, he could be reckless in giving the key to Mr Leigh; the Strasbourg court would recognize that there is no proof at all that any harm actually eventuated. 

Says the court would accept there was damage [in giving the keys to Leigh], but that would be weighed against the other side of the scales, which is what Assange faces for publishing: 30-40 years (in the words of the prosecutor) 

The Manning sentence (35 years) should be seen as a floor, not a ceiling, for what Assange would face. 

That is a sentence that shocks the conscience of every journalist around the world 

The vast public interest in the exposure and prevention of harm on a titanic scale – rendition, torture, murders, black sites, drone strikes, war crimes. Strasbourg regards the disclosure of state-level crimes as a matter of immense public interest. 

All of the European cases protected by Article 10 involved state officials. 

Crimes disclosed here were real, ongoing, and happening to people and the disclosure had the capacity of stopping that happening. Drone killings in Pakistan came to an end, and the war in Iraq came to an end. 

Summers: the district judge failed to even undertake that analysis, and said this isn’t about journalism. 

The role of the court on appeal is significant: there is no evaluative conclusion for the court to pay deference to; the restrictions on review of such decisions have no application here. You must assess it de novo. Mr Assange is entitled to a court that will make that assessment 

That’s the close of the defense submission in court.

Judge Sharp: We will reserve our decision, pending written submission from the parties. 

The U.S. has until 4:30pm tomorrow for a submission on Manning’s sentence. The defense has until March 4 to submit its speaking note though it’s requested asap.

Court is adjourned.


Categories
Hearing Coverage

Julian Assange revealed US criminality in the public interest, High Court is told

This is a synopsis of day 1. Read the full play-by-play here and our hearing highlight: ‘U.S. silencing Assange for threatening its immunity.’ Find all extradition coverage here.


February 20, 2024 — Julian Assange’s barrister told the High Court, ‘It’s difficult to conceive of a disclosure of greater public interest’ than the information the Wikileaks founder is accused of unlawfully disclosing.

Assange is accused by the US government of conspiring with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified military documents online between January and May 2010.

The Australian is seeking permission to appeal a 2021 decision by a UK court to approve his extradition to the US, where he faces charges under the country’s 1917 Espionage Act. The 52-year-old had initially won his fight against extradition on the grounds he was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions.

But in December 2021 judges found the US authorities had given sufficient assurances to the UK that Assange would be treated humanely in an American prison, and overturned the decision. Assange appealed against that ruling, but last June High Court judges upheld the decision to approve the US extradition order, which was signed by then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2022.

If he is refused permission to bring a further appeal, Assange is likely to be extradited in the coming weeks to face trial for 18 charges, 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act. The charges include conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified diplomatic and military documents. Assange’s lawyers say he faces up to 175 years in jail if convicted.

Mark Summers KC, representing Assange, told the court that the material published on WikiLeaks exposed ‘state-level criminality’ by the US. This included, he said, exposing practices like extraordinary rendition, torture, and war crimes. ‘Exposure of criminality is obviously in the public interest,’ Mr Summers said. He told the court that Chelsea Manning had been acting as a whistle-blower when she passed the documents to Assange, and that the underlying leak was therefore ‘specially protected’ under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Article 10 protects an individual’s right to freedom of expression. Mr Summers said the publisher of that material should be afforded similar protection, and that Assange, as a member of the public who was simply handed the material by Manning, should not face prosecution.

He said: ‘The court is clear that there can be cases of exposing criminality where the interest and need for the public to know the content of the disclosure is such as to outweigh the duty of confidentiality for Article 10 purposes.’

‘The sheer weight of the public interest means the disclosure in this case eclipses all else. It eclipses secrecy, and eclipses the high risk of harm to those doing this.’

He added: ‘It’s difficult to conceive of a disclosure of greater public interest than that which occurred in this case. ‘That public interest would eclipse all else, and in Mr Assange’s case all the more easily than for Ms Manning because of course Mr Assange is not under the duty of secrecy.

‘He never signed the Official Secrets Act, or American equivalent, and Strasbourg clearly recognizes the difference between those who are and are not under secrecy.’

Mr Summers said that in her original January 2021 decision the judge had ‘failed to undertake the Article 10 balance. She didn’t, and it’s a glaring legal error.’ He conceded that the leaks did result in three individuals being named, but described ‘the extraordinary steps that were taken to redact, and the unforeseeable escape from that net that occurred.’

He added that not only did the disclosures not result in any actual harm to any of the individuals named, but by contributing to the ending of the Iraq war they had a positive impact overall.

Mr Summers also told the court that a prosecution on the basis of publication of state secrets was unprecedented. He said there were numerous examples of state secrets being published in the US, including disclosures that included the names of individuals, but that publishing these had never before resulted in prosecution in the US.

‘There is a practice in the US of national security journalism. ‘It is concerned on occasions with the publishing of names, and it’s never been met with prosecution before so far as publishers were concerned.’

He added that this was also the case even where the disclosure resulted in ‘actual violence’ to people named within it. The barrister said as a result ‘if somebody had asked in 2010 if this was going to result in an espionage prosecution, the answer is there has been no prior prosecution for any publishing of state secrets, on that or any other ground.’

He said Assange faces ‘an allegation of engaging in criminality in order to extract state secrets. That’s happened plenty of times before. It’s never attracted prosecution’.

As a result, he said it would have been ‘wholly unforeseeable’ that Assange might have been opening himself up to prosecution under the Espionage Act when he published the material on Wikileaks in 2010.

This meant, he said, that the prosecution was a ‘flagrant violation’ of Article 7 of the ECHR, which stipulates that ‘no one shall be held guilty of any criminal offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offense under national or international law at the time when it was committed.’

Mr Summers told the court: ‘On the state of the evidence the judge had as to American law, American prosecutorial practice and American non-prosecutorial practice, there was a flagrant violation of Article 7 before her. It was her duty to engage with it and she didn’t’ In summary, he said that ‘above all Strasbourg will record Mr Assange was exercising Article 10 rights of the Council of Europe area, where these alleged offences occurred, carrying out journalistic work of the highest importance.’

‘The court will have regard to the sheer magnitude of the sanction he faces for doing that. He now faces the sentence of imprisonment that will last the rest of his natural life.

‘The court will have regard to the sheer chilling effect that that the kind of treatment will have on others. ‘Had the District Judge engaged with that at all we would respectfully submit that the result would have been different.’

He added: ‘For the avoidance of doubt, we also say that the penalty in this case is so off the scale that of itself it engages Article 3 as a grossly disproportionate sentence.’ Article 3 of the ECHR states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. Mr Summer told the court this includes disproportionately long prison sentences.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

Seattle: Day X protest to Free Assange

February 20 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm Pacific

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Categories
Hearing Coverage

Hearing highlight: U.S. silencing Assange for threatening its immunity

Read the full report from day 1 of Julian Assange’s final bid to appeal his extradition here. Find all extradition coverage here.


February 20, 2024 — The prosecution of Julian Assange should be seen within the context of the United States’ efforts to prevent its own war crimes from being investigated and prosecuted. It’s an extraordinary effort to silence a critic for taking evidence of the crimes of war out of the SCIFs and into the ICC. 

Mark Summers QC, arguing for the defense, pulled no punches in describing the importance of the documents WikiLeaks revealed. “These were the most important revelations of criminal U.S. state behavior in history,” he said, referring to the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, the State Department Cables, and the Guantanamo Bay Detainee Assessment Briefs published in 2010 for which Assange is now being tried. 

The Collateral Murder video, documenting U.S. Apache helicopter fighters gunning down reporters and children in Iraq, is “the most important revelation since Abu Ghraib.”

“The cables Assange published disclosed extrajudicial assassinations, rendition, torture, dark prisons, and drone killings,” Summers said. The Guantanamo Bay files, showing the treatment of detainees, were described to the court as a “colossal criminal act.” On the Afghan and Iraq documents, the evidence showed allegations of “extraordinary seriousness.”

“What was being disclosed by the publications,” Summers said, “was criminality which permeates, was tolerated by and was facilitated by the American government.”

But Summers’ key point was not merely that these documents have been used to inform the public, though they have certainly done that, about the nature and detail of the horrors of these wars the United States worked to keep secret. Just as importantly, Summers argued, these documents have been used in other courtrooms, in foreign courts where they’ve been used to establish that war crimes have been committed and to find evidence of rendition and torture. 

Recall Assange’s initial extradition hearing, in which we heard testimony about the extensive and unprecedented usefulness of WikiLeaks’ releases in finally bringing justice in courts around the world.

Human rights attorney Clive Stafford-Smith testified in September 2020:

Clive Stafford Smith, a U.S.-U.K. dual national and the founder of Reprieve, which defends prisoners detained by the U.S. at Guantánamo Bay and others in secretive detention localities around the world, testified about the importance of WikiLeaks material in their litigation. He first discussed the utility of WikiLeaks disclosures in litigation in Pakistan relating to drone strikes and the “sea change” in attitudes towards US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Regarding rendition, assassinations, torture exposed in WikiLeaks documents, Stafford-Smith said, “Speaking as a U.S. citizen, it is incredibly important that it stopped … I feel that my country’s reputation was undermined and criminal offenses were taking place.”

“The litigation in Pakistan would have been very, very difficult and different” if it weren’t for WikiLeaks disclosures.

John Goetz testified about using the documents to confirm CIA torture:

Giving an example of the types of stories that WikiLeaks releases assisted with, Goetz explained had been investigating the story of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia, extraordinarily rendered to a black site in Afghanistan where he was detained and tortured in 2004. This wasn’t known at the time, so Goetz searched the documents for el-Masri’s name, saw that he had been brought to Afghanistan, and found the CIA kidnappers “who’d forced el-Masri onto a military plane, sodomized him and sent him” to Afghanistan.

Goetz tracked down the CIA agents responsible in the United States, interviewed them, and reported the story. Following that broadcast, a Munich state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for the 13 CIA agents. But, Goetz said, “It turns out the arrest warrant was never actually issued to the United States.” When he saw the State Department cables, he discovered that the U.S. had pressured the German prosecutor to issue the warrant in a jurisdiction where the perpetrators didn’t live, threatening “repercussions” otherwise.

There are many more examples from the initial extradition proceedings:

Summers also said that the disclosures brought about the “cessation of some of the practices that they revealed,” potentially referring to the 2011 revelation that after WikiLeaks cables in 2010 documented war crimes by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the Iraqi government refused to grant the U.S. military immunity going forward, leading the U.S. troops to ultimately withdraw from Iraq entirely.  

Because the U.S. refuses to operate without impunity. Look no further than its actions at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first time the court looked into crimes committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan. International human rights lawyer Susan Akram wrote in September 2020, 

Claiming the ICC’s investigation into alleged war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses a national security threat, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on June 11 effectively criminalizing anyone who works at the ICC. Its lawyers, judges, human rights researchers and staff could now have their U.S. bank accounts frozen, U.S. visas revoked and travel to the U.S. denied.

The following October, the new chief prosecutor at the ICC “deprioritized” the investigation of U.S. offenses in the conflict, deciding to instead focus only on crimes committed by the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Summers referenced these actions specifically. “The UK and the U.S. have taken very different paths since the end of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “The UK has engaged in a public inquiry. The U.S. has taken another path. It has insulated officials from the ICC, it has conferred immunity from prosecution within the U.S., and it has classified such evidence as it exists under state secrecy laws.” 

The documents that Assange and WikiLeaks made public provide evidence for potentially hundreds of criminal actions like those investigated by the ICC.

“The fact that the U.S. had been seeking to impose global impunity should be a red flag for the motives for the prosecution of the person who disclosed those very crimes,” Summers said. This is a paradigmatic example of state retaliation for the exercising of political opinion. 

The U.S. considered going even beyond prosecution. As Yahoo News reported in September 2021, more than half a year after the district judge’s January 2021 ruling — meaning this is new evidence since then, all the more reason to grant an appeal for judges to properly assess it in context — the CIA drew up plans to kidnap and even kill Julian Assange while he was under political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Against the background of obstructing anyone investigating these disclosures, the ICC investigation, and U.S. efforts to obstruct it, Summers said, “the evidence now shows that the U.S. developed a plan to either kill or rendition Mr. Assange to the USA.”

“There was a plan to kidnap and poison Mr. Assange from within the embassy. There were red flags everywhere.”

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Assange Final UK Appeal Request: Hearing Day 1

This is a blog post of our live tweets. See our synopsis of the day, ‘Julian Assange revealed US criminality in the public interest, High Court is told‘ and our hearing highlight. Find all extradition coverage here.


February 20, 2024, — Julian Assange’s two-day hearing at the UK High Court begins today, as a two-judge panel will listen to arguments as to whether Assange should be allowed to appeal his extradition on the grounds that his prosecution is politicized and unprecedented and would prevent a fair trial. 

Foreign journalists barred from UK proceedings

AD Executive Director Nathan Fuller, who has been accredited to cover each previous portion of the hearing, was denied remote access. He will provide coverage here based on updates from our team on the ground:

For this hearing, potentially Julian Assange’s last in the United Kingdom, the Courts have denied access to all reporters outside of England and Wales, despite the fact that this case has implications for journalists in every country around the world.

We weren’t sure if Julian would be appearing in court today. His barrister Edward Fitzgerald confirms he will neither attend in court nor watch by videolink, as he is too ill.

Defense: politicized prosecution is barred by the Extradition Treaty

Fitzgerald outlines the chief arguments he’ll make in this 2-day hearing

Fitzgerald: Assange faces real risk of grossly “disproportionate penalty” if sent to the United States, with total potential imprisonment at 175 years. The Extradition Treaty would allow the US to amend or add charges which could expose Julian Assange to the death penalty.

We are back to some of the very first arguments made in this extradition hearing back in February 2020, about extradition and political offenses. The US/UK Treaty (PDF) bars political offenses. The 2003 Extradition Act does not do so explicitly. 

Fitzgerald has been reviewing cases where the Treaty (as opposed to the Act) has been applied to give “justiciable rights” in the past 

Fitzgerald has been explaining that the U.S. use of the Espionage Act is a classic “political” offense, and so should be barred under the Treaty. All of the charges allege he “obtained, received and disclosed national defense information”, making this a clearly political case. 

Fitzgerald has been taking the court through case law in extradition cases between the UK and various other countries, all finding that variations on accusations of espionage have all been deemed “pure political offenses” 

In any event, Fitzgerald says, the charges are clearly at least “relative political offenses” because of the “political motivation” attributed to Assange, seen in the phrases “non-state hostile intelligence service”, “waging cyber war against the United States”, etc. 

Fitzgerald notes that the District Judge accepted that Assange had “relevant political opinions” as testified to the court by defense witnesses Prof. Rogers, Noam Chomsky, and Daniel Ellsberg, with Rogers testifying that Assange did in fact induce a change in government policy 

The crucial question is whether to rely on the Treaty, which bars extradition for political offenses, or the Act, which doesn’t. Fitzgerald notes the Act does not explicitly allow them either; it’s simply silent on the question. Reviews case law on conflicts between Treaty & Act. 

Assange being punished for exposing war crimes

Courtroom sketch by Matt Ó Branáin

Mark Summers now arguing for the defense. Journalists and observers in the overflow room complain of extremely poor audio quality and occasional interruptions to the video feed. 

Summers reviews the accepted evidence. The cables Assange published disclosed extrajudicial assassinations, rendition, torture, dark prisons, and drone killings. 

These cables have been relied upon by foreign courts to establish war crimes for government officials and have been relied upon by Strasbourg to find evidence of rendition and torture. 

Summers: The evidence before the judge is that the disclosures brought about the cessation of some of the practices that they revealed. 

Collateral Murder, which was described to the judge in unchallenged evidence, is “the most important revelation since Abu Ghraib”, and sparked international outrage 

The Guantanamo Bay files show the treatment of detainees, described to the court as a “colossal criminal act” 

On the Afghan and Iraq documents, the evidence showed allegations of “extraordinary seriousness” and Mr Assange was invited to address the UN about this. 

“These were the most important revelations of criminal U.S. state behavior in history” – unchallenged evidence before the court. 

Summers: The district judge acknowledges none of this evidence in her judgment. 

There is an extensive case law on exposing state criminality, which qualifies as a political act where that criminality is endemic, is directed from the highest levels of society and enjoys political protection within that society. 

Summers: The disclosures in this case satisfy every single iteration of the test – what was being disclosed by the publications was criminality which permeates, was tolerated by and facilitated by the American government 

Summers: The district judge did rule out personal or financial motives – she recognized that what was going on here was the intentional exposure of criminality. See page 147 of her judgment (PDF).

That equates in law to opposition to the machinery, authority, or government of the state – see case references. 

Note for example the authorities are not concerned solely with corruption; exposing the complicity of government officials in murder; the case law understands that you can expose the crimes against others – you don’t have to be the victim of the crimes yourself. 

Summers warns that the US is going to argue that this is all prohibited territory – because there is no evidence the crimes were actually committed. He makes four points in response: 

1. Not a reflection of the judge’s decision
2. Doesn’t reflect the law
3. Doesn’t reflect any logic – this was the US’s own material about their own conduct
4. The courts have found these allegations to be true, including European Court 

The evidence before the district judge went one way: Mr Assange is being prosecuted for those exposures, and they are seeking to prosecute him to silence him.

There is a class of cases where state retaliation is straightforward – they use the criminal justice system to prosecute those disclosing. (Cites 5 cases.)

All of them concerned various states where the state retaliated by using the criminal justice machinery to silence them. 

Reviews the case of Yu, a union worker who exposed corruption in the state-run Chinese airplane factory where she worked. She was as a result arrested, forced to admit she organized workers, charged, and detained until she refused to refrain from any future revelations. 

Summers: The Court grappled to whether what she had done had amounted to the expression of a political opinion and, without doubt, found that it had 

Yu showed she had been charged because the police had imputed political opinions.

Yu is reflective of all cases in which the nature of the state retaliation is a prosecution for the disclosures in which it is assumed as axiomatic that that is connected to the disclosures 

Summers: While some cases may be difficult and some require inferential reasoning between exposure and state retaliation on the other, these cases aren’t. This is a paradigmatic example of state retaliation for the exercising of political opinion. 

Summers: Unfortunately the district judge addressed none of this evidence. She only briefly engaged with the compelling circumstantial evidence as to the US motivations lying behind this prosecution, called it “pure conjecture” without addressing or considering evidence 

Summers: the UK and the US have taken very different paths since the end of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The UK has engaged in a public inquiry.

The US has taken another path: it has insulated officials from the ICC, it has conferred immunity from prosecution within the US, and it has classified such evidence as it exists under state secrecy laws. 

Of course, seeking impunity for torture and war crimes is in violation of customary international law.

The fact that the US had been seeking to impose global impunity should be a red flag for the motives for the prosecution of the person who disclosed those very crimes. 

Summers: the language of US officials that they would take any measures necessary to protect that impunity – is another red flag.

But the district judge didn’t mention any of this. 

CIA targets Assange for attempting to hold US accountable

Nor did she mention the US stance when the ICC opened the formal investigation, which prompted a string of attacks on states who might cooperate with the ICC; including threats by the US national security advisor to prosecute anyone who cooperated with the ICC’s investigation. 

Summers: 6 years went by (since WikiLeaks’ disclosures) without prosecution. The judge did not consider what specifically triggered the government into action after those years of non-prosecution 

The judge knew US officials denounced Mr Assange as a ‘political actor.’

Memorably, they include the director of the CIA describing WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence agency; saying Assange had made common cause with dictators, and accused him of taking down America.

The judge did acknowledge that the CIA had been hostile to Mr Assange but dismissed it on the grounds that the CIA doesn’t speak for the administration. Of course, the director of the CIA is a member of the executive. 

In fairness to the judge – when she dismissed the suggestion of a hostile non-state intelligence agency – she like everyone else, had no idea it was a phrase with legal significance; no one in the defense team had any reason to suggest that the term had legal significance 

Yahoo News revealed later that it did have legal significance. 

She went on to conclude there was no presidential animosity (she had ignored Trump’s 2010 “death penalty” comment) – that conclusion is almost laughable now that we know from the evidence that President Trump had sought detailed options on how to kill Mr Assange in 2017. 

Against the background of obstructing anyone investigating these disclosures, the ICC investigation and obstructing it, the evidence now shows that the US developed a plan to either kill or rendition Mr Assange to the USA 

Summers: There was a plan to kidnap and poison Mr Assange from within the embassy.

There were red flags everywhere. 

The judge thought there was nothing fishy about the timing of the extradition request. Whether she was wrong or not on the evidence she had, new evidence (the Yahoo News story) shows that prosecution was commenced to provide a framework for the proposed kidnap and rendition of Mr Assange 

Unprecedented prosecution of a publisher

Summers moves on now to Article 7 of the ECHR.

The thrust of this argument is that Assange could not have been reasonably expected to know that he could be prosecuted for publishing in the public interest because no one has been prosecuted for publishing in the public interest before. 

Related reading: testimony on press freedom

Journalists had never before been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.  Entirely unpredictable that a member of the press would be prosecuted contrary to longstanding practice. Judge’s analysis of entirely flawed because, contrary to authority, she passed the issue over to the US. 

This was wrong for 2 reasons:

1. It was her duty to decide whether Article 7 was violated;

2. And even if she could abrogate that to the US, she had to be satisfied that the Fifth Amendment operates in the same way as Article 7 – and it does not. 

Summers: Law must be foreseeable and it must protect against arbitrary prosecutions 

Summers: National security leaks to the media are routine in Washington – this was the unchallenged evidence the judge had.

The publishing of those national security leaks is equally routine. There are reporters in Washington who only report on national security matters. 

Leakers and whistleblowers have been prosecuted – see the case of Morrison, for example, just as here journalists have been prosecuted. But there has never been a prosecution for the obtaining or publishing of state secrets. 

Summers: According to the evidence of a witness that had been agreed, this prosecution crosses “a new legal frontier” – and this was the tenor of all of the evidence that the judge heard. 

Witnesses told the judge that even when the act was amended in 1950, nothing in the Espionage Act infringes upon freedom of the press. 

There had in fact never been a prosecution of anyone from outside of the government for obtaining and publishing state secrets 

Judge: Was there evidence of the publication of large names of human sources?

Summers: Yes, there is an individual called Mr Hay who had done precisely that. It is one of the cases relied upon by the US in their grounds of opposition. 

That case concerned the revocation of his passport.

That was the limit of state action taken against him. 


Court is back in session. Summers still arguing for the defense. Says he’s been asked for examples of where anyone had been prosecuted for revealing the names of individuals. 

Summers notes the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, and the judge in this case actually heard from the whistleblower in that case, and he told her that that publication had included names and he had taken the decision not to redact those names. 

Summers: [Ellsberg] was prosecuted because he was a state agent; the Times were never prosecuted 

Summers: In the 6 years of inactivity (non-prosecution of Assange) 2010-2017, many outlets published this very set of publications & materials. In particular, Cryptome published this material in the US and it’s still there, and they’ve never been prosecuted or asked to remove. 

There is a statute that addresses the deliberate disclosure of US intelligence sources and it is deliberately restricted to state officials; you cannot be prosecuted under it as a non-state official. 

There has never been a prosecution of someone for revealing names — cites one case, says and in that case, there was evidence of violence against those whose names were exposed. 

The primary point there is no American case which has sought to prosecute publishers who publish state secrets.

The Times case was a civil action where the Supreme Court held that they could not be restrained from publishing state secrets – even stolen state secrets 

Summers: In the district judge’s view, this was a matter to be determined by the American courts under the 5th Amendment. We disagree. It was her duty to determine if Article 7 was engaged, and if so, not to extradite. 

Summers says that since the district judge’s decision in this case in 2021, there have been other cases with clear guidance from this court about decisions such as this.

The notion of “leave it all to the requesting state” was rejected in these cases. 

Article 10: Freedom of Expression

Moving on to Article 10 of the ECHR

Judge Sharp asks: Are you saying that Article 10 applies to all acts in the indictment?

Summers: Yes – I will take them each in turn

Article 10 protects freedom of expression. Case law has established some national security exceptions. Some back and forth, with judge first asking about how Article 10 applies to Chelsea Manning as the whistleblower.

Summers says whistleblowers like her do get Article 10 protection 

The judge asks if the defense argues that Article 10 applies to Manning here only when balanced against the state’s legitimate security interest or that Article 10 covers any publication at all.

Summers says there’s a balance at play, and if appropriate, the whistleblower is protected.

Discussion moves to a whistleblower’s choices for disclosure, ‘official’ or ‘internal’ channels contrasted with ‘alternative’ ones. 

The expectation of the court is that the whistleblower will use internal channels that are realistically available to them. But the court recognizes that there are circumstances where “direct external reporting” is justified 

Summers: Ms Manning was exposing apex-level crimes which were condoned by the US military, and only direct reporting would work 

Satisfying the other criteria for Article 10 protection, that the information be true: Ms. Manning revealed her information unedited and it was authentic – and was true and not only believed it to be true but has been verified to be true by courts around the world 

Third, on motive: Manning was acting in good conscience. No one has ever suggested anything other than good conscience. 

Exposing crimes is in the public interest

As to whether the information is truly in the public interest: the information in question documented abuse of office, illegal conduct, or wrongdoing – all obvious issues of public interest. Exposure of state criminality is squarely at the highest level of public interest disclosures 

The court at this stage will balance the interest in your [the whistleblower’s] disclosure against the duty you have violated. 

It’s a balance between the importance of the disclosure & the obligation to protect secrets, like with Manning, and the court is clear that there can be cases where the interest and need for the public to know the content of the disclosure outweighs the duty of confidentiality. 

The court talks about a democratic system where the government needs to be subjected to public scrutiny. 

Summers: As far as Manning was concerned, the public interest in her disclosures outweighed the obligation.

Judge: You argue that with regard to the names of sources?

Summers: Yes and I will get there. 

The evidence in this case is that no harm has actually been proved to have occurred – there is no allegation that anyone named has actually come to harm. This is an important matter so far as this balance is concerned for Strasbourg. 

The sheer weight and monument of the disclosures in this case, it eclipses the duty of secrecy and the hypothetical risk of harm to those who were doing all of this. 

Related reading: testimony on WikiLeaks releases in bringing justice and accountability around the world

Showing how important these documents are: Pakistan High Court relied on this information, and the ICC is utilizing these disclosures to investigate war crimes. 

Summers says the defense believes the court would strike this balance in favor of Ms Manning in a whistleblower context if the question was legally before them. 

So the question follows if Article 10 protects the disclosure of Manning to Mr Assange, despite her obligations of secrecy and risk of harm, how can Article 10 prohibit Assange from receiving and publishing that material to the public? 

What would the European Court of Human Rights think?

If it was ever seriously ventilated, the ECtHR would look at special protections for whistleblowers, but then also for publishers.

It would recognize the constitutional watchdog role of the free press; the right of the public to receive and the press to impart information. 

It would recognize the importance of accountability for government action in secrecy.

It would recognize the scope of public interest and ensure proper functioning of political democracy.

Exposures in this case, in addition to risking harm to those undertaking all of this criminal activity, brought about the end of drone killings in Pakistan; & brought change to the rules of engagement in Iraq to prevent the kind of machine gun killing we saw in Collateral Murder. 

The [ECHR] court would understand that these disclosures in the end contributed to the end of the Iraq war. All of that would play into the balance and the outcome would be precisely the same [for Assange] as it had been for Ms Manning. 

It is difficult to conceive of a disclosure of greater public interest than that that took place in this case. That public interest would eclipse all else.

All the more easily for Mr Assange than Ms Manning — because he was not under any duty of secrecy. And Strasbourg clearly recognizes the difference, 

Then there was a back and forth between High Court Judge Sharp and defense lawyer Summers about whether the district judge addressed these issues or not — she addressed Article 10 but not the public interest. 

Judge says the public interest could have been taken into account with these disclosures but without the inclusion of names — basically says WikiLeaks didn’t have to release unredacted names to achieve this public interest. 

Summers: Strasbourg [meaning ECHR] can look at that and consider that it was never intended; there was a huge amount of evidence of how that disclosure happened as a result of the unforeseeable action of one individual journalist at the newspaper that was involved 

Judge Sharpe mentions indiscriminate disclosure which was condemned by the Guardian and others.

Summers says the problem is that the judge never undertook this balancing act which would weigh these issues against each other, including the fact no harm has come from the disclosures. 

What the judge did acknowledge, Summers notes, is that Mr Assange was publishing and seeking to bring about change – and Strasbourg would recognize this as well. 

ECHR would recognize that soliciting leaks (“curious eyes never run dry”) is protected newsgathering activity.

Countless examples of ‘most wanted lists,’ and witnesses said that is normal, unobjectionable newsgathering activity; an inherent part of protected press freedom 

Summers continues, imagining for the court what the European Court of Human Rights would say about aspects of the allegations. Concludes that the only balance in this case is public interest in disclosure against risk of harm if the crimes are disclosed.

End of Article 10 discussion and the end Summers’ submissions. Ed Fitzgerald continues for the defense. 

A fair trial in the United States?

The defense argues for many reasons that Assange can’t get a fair trial in the United States.

US prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said that the government may argue at a trial for Assange in the US that “foreign nationals are not entitled to protections under the First Amendment” 

Fitzgerald notes that it’s not just the prosecutor; Pompeo said it too: he has no First Amendment rights.

It’s a chilling prospect – if you are a foreigner then you don’t have any rights. 

Moved on to a discussion of potential sentencing in the US, including the question of whether ‘enhancement’ could be applied (such as a ‘terrorism enhancement’ like the one given to alleged WikiLeaks Vault 7 source Joshua Schulte, leading to his 40-year prison sentence).

Related reading: US government officials’ bias against Assange

The bigger point is that Vault 7 was what led to Mr. Pompeo going off the deep end on 7 March 2017, saying WikiLeaks is a non-state hostile intelligence agency, saying Assange’s arrest is a priority, initiating surveillance through UC Global, & on 21 December they request his provisional arrest. 

This is all a hectic and angry reaction to the publication of Vault 7 for which Mr Schulte received a sentence of 40 years in prison. It is clear, we say, that the publication of Vault 7 was of particular concern to the US authorities. 

Fitzgerald argues that a US court may increase a sentence up to the statutory maximum even in relation to other conduct that is not charged or relied on in the current indictment — for example, Vault 7 publications.

Fitzgerald then returns to the revelations that the CIA considered killing or kidnapping Assange. He stressed the importance of looking at this plot in the context of Pompeo calling Assange and WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence agency,” and that viewed together there is sufficient evidence to suggest Assange could be targeted in this way.

Finally, Fitzgerald argues that these facts should also be considered in the context of the so-called “assurances” the U.S. has given the courts about what type of conditions Assange could face if extradited, including that he won’t face the death penalty and that he could potentially serve out his sentence in an Australian prison. These “assurances” contain their own caveats that undermine them, and the U.S. has reneged on such promises in the past. 

The U.S. could potentially add charges, related to Vault 7 or otherwise, that could expose Assange to the death penalty. The government “assuring” the court it would never do that is the same one that drew up plans to poison him. 

With that, the court adjourned for the day. Court returns tomorrow at 10:30am GMT.


AD organizing director Vinnie DeStefano speaks outside the courtroom in London
Categories
Press Release

Milwaukee Democratic Party calls for Assange’s freedom

Assange supporters hang an Assange Defense banner in Milwaukee

February 19, 2024 — At a special session of the Milwaukee Democratic Party to vote on a set of submitted resolutions, the Milwaukee Democratic Party, on Sunday, February 18 voted to affirm,

“THEREFORE, RESOLVED, the DPMC endorses House Resolution 934 which calls for all charges against Mr. Assange to be dropped and the extradition request to be rescinded.”

The vote was 33-Yes to 9-No.

The entire resolution is indented below:

Endorse U.S. H. Res. 934

WHEREAS, the Biden administration continues to hold Julian Assange at the high security Belmarsh Prison in the U.K., solely on remand for extradition to the U.S.

WHEREAS, he is being held for the crime of journalism by the government whose war crimes he exposed.

WHEREAS, Joe Biden on World Press Freedom Day, 2023 stated, “No journalist – American or not – should have to risk their lives and livelihoods in pursuit of that truth.”

THEREFORE, RESOLVED, the DPMC endorses House Resolution 934 which calls for all charges against Mr. Assange to be dropped and the extradition request to be rescinded.

By Ann Batiza, 200 S. Water Street #205, Milwaukee 53204, 414-238-3903

In addition, a “Banner Drop for Assange,” supported by Peace Action of Wisconsin, will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. at the Brady Street footbridge over Lincoln Memorial Drive in Milwaukee.

This event is in conjunction with the “DAY X” Assange hearing in London this Tuesday and Wednesday, February 20 and 21. A 24-hour livestream of events starting Monday, Feb. 19 in London (with some contributions from Milwaukee) can be viewed here:

Categories
Hearing Coverage

What to expect in Julian Assange’s hearing this week

February 19, 2024 — Julian Assange returns to court tomorrow and Wednesday, Feb. 20-21, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, as a two-judge panel on the UK High Court listens to his final plea to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States.

The judges’ ruling will not approve or deny Assange’s extradition but rather it will decide whether Assange should be granted a full appeal hearing on these issues at all.

Over the course of the two-day hearing, Assange’s lawyers will present the arguments that they believe are worthy of reevaluation, and the Crown Prosecution Service barristers acting on behalf of the U.S. government will be given time to respond. While previous appeal hearings dealt with Julian’s mental health, his likely prison conditions, and whether extradition would put him at unjust risk of suicide, this appeal will deal much more with the nature of the charges against him and what he would face in the courtroom if sent to the United States. 

The defense team intends to argue that this is a politicized prosecution, that Assange couldn’t receive a fair trial in the U.S., and that the charges against him are unprecedented.

Stella Assange has detailed these arguments in this thread

 1. Julian Assange should not be extradited to face prosecution and punishment for his political opinions exposing state criminality. Assange is being prosecuted for exposing US government criminality including war crimes and torture. There is extensive evidence of Assange’s political opinions on the importance of transparency in being able to hold governments accountable to deter future abuses. Extradition for political opinions is not allowed. The new evidence which emerged since the hearing of the C.I.A. plans to kidnap and/or kill Assange further supports this ground.

2. Julian Assange should not be extradited to face prosecution where the criminal law is being extended in an unprecedented and unforeseeable way. This is the first time in US history that a publisher has been prosecuted for obtaining or publishing (as opposed to leaking) US state secrets. The drafters of the Espionage Act did not intend for publishers to fall within its ambit, unchallenged expert evidence showed that receipt and publication of state secrets is routine, and that there was an ‘unbroken practice of non-prosecution’ of publishers. 

The prosecution ‘crosses a new legal frontier’ and ‘breaks all legal precedents’. Extradition would therefore expose Assange to a novel and unforeseeable extension of criminal law. To extradite Assange would be a grave violation of Article 7 ECHR.

3. Julian Assange should not be extradited because his prosecution amounts to a grave violation of his right to free speech. Publishing state secrets can play a vital role in a democratic society and criminal prosecution and conviction for such publications will deter the press from playing this ‘public watchdog’ role. The US indictment against Assange criminalizes essential journalistic practices and imposes a disproportionate sentence (175 years). To extradite Assange would be a grave violation of Article 10 ECHR.

4. Julian Assange should not be extradited given that the US affirms that he may not be granted any First Amendment protections at all. The US said it would argue at trial that Assange would not get First Amendment protection (Free Speech protections) as he is not a US national (he is Australian). In other words, as a defendant he would be prejudiced at a trial as he is not a US citizen.

5. Extradition should be barred because Julian Assange will not receive a fair trial. He cannot mount a public interest defense. In the US system, there is a tradition of coercive plea bargaining via overcharging to secure a conviction. Julian Assange faces 175 years for his journalism. The jury pool will be drawn from people connected to US Government national security agencies and contractors, and therefore likely to be prejudicial to Julian Assange. They will also be sensitive to public comments made by the US President and C.I.A. Director, tainting the presumption of innocence. Evidence obtained through the inhuman and degrading treatment of Chelsea Manning, spying on his lawyers and the illegal removal of Julian Assange’s legal files from the Ecuadorean Embassy mean there is no prospect for a fair trial. To extradite him would be a grave violation of Article 6 ECHR.

6. The US-UK Treaty prohibits extradition for political offenses meaning Mr Assange’s extradition would violate the treaty, international law and amounts to an abuse of process (including Article 5 ECHR). The offenses with which Assange is charged are all formally “pure political offenses” and therefore are extradition-barred under article 4(1) of the US-UK Extradition Treaty. It is an abuse of process for the US to make an extradition request which is prohibited under the terms of the Treaty.

7. Renewed application to admit fresh evidence about US plans to kidnap/render/assassinate Mr Assange in 2017 – relevant to his Article 2 and 3 ECHR rights. The C.I.A. planned to kidnap and assassinate Assange. This indicates that he will be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment if extradited to the US. To extradite Assange would mean delivering him right into the hands of the very people who plotted to assassinate him.

8. The Extradition Treaty would allow the US to amend or add charges which could expose Julian Assange to the death penalty. Under the same facts alleged in the extradition request, Julian Assange can be recharged under provisions of the Espionage Act which carry the death penalty. It is noteworthy that Chelsea Manning was charged with ‘aiding the enemy’, which carries the death penalty and US government officials have publicly labelled the allegations against Assange as treason and called for the death penalty.”

Check back here for continued coverage of Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings

Washington DC: Day X protest to Free Assange

February 20 @ 12:00 pm 2:00 pm EST

Organized by DC Action for Assange

UW HUB

4001 E Stevens Way NE
Seattle, Washington 98195 United States
+ Google Map
Categories
New Events Press Release

Day X protests to Free Assange

Day X is here: February 20-21, imprisoned publisher Julian Assange returns to court in London for his final bid to appeal his extradition to the United States where he would face life in prison for publishing truthful information in the public interest.

Human rights leaders and civil liberties groups around the world are again warning that the prosecution of Assange threatens journalism everywhere. In this month alone, a UN Special Rapporteur, leading press freedom groups, over 35 U.S. law professors, and the Australian Parliament have called for an end to the prosecution of Julian Assange. 

February 19 livestream

The day before the hearing, Stella Assange and Assange Defense will co-host a 24-hour video countdown. Tune in below:

Protests February 20-21

Supporters around the world are planning demonstrations in solidarity with Assange. See Candles4Assange’s thread for global demonstrations. U.S. demonstrations can be found here:

Boston: Day X protest to free Assange

February 20 @ 12:00 pm 2:00 pm Eastern Time

Boston area activists will join in a worldwide show of support for Julian Assange and press freedom on Tuesday, Feb 20th, noon, at the MA State House. This is the first day of Assange’s final 2-day UK extradition hearing, referred to on social media as #DayX. It is the last chance for justice in the UK courts. Thousands will rally outside of the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Feb 20th and 21st and in many locations in the US and beyond. Contact: Boston Area Assange Defense, AssangeBoston@gmail.com or 617-501-9125.

UW HUB

4001 E Stevens Way NE
Seattle, Washington 98195 United States
+ Google Map

Join us for the 24-hour Countdown to Day X

February 19 @ 3:30 am February 20 @ 5:00 pm EST

Categories
Press Release

Australia passes motion demanding Assange’s freedom

February 14, 2024 — The Australian Parliament, with the support of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion calling for an end to Assange’s prosecution and for him to return home to Australia. The motion was introduced by Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, who warned in his opening remarks that “we’ve just about run out of time to save Julian Assange.”

The motion affirms that “both the Australian Government and Opposition have publicly stated that this matter has gone on for too long” and it “underlines the importance of the UK and USA bringing the matter to a close so that Mr Assange can return home to his family in Australia.”

PM Albanese’s vote in support is his strongest public message to date. The Sydney Morning Herald said that the “vote signalled a new federal government stance by going beyond past statements from Albanese about the need to bring the matter ‘to a conclusion’ in some way.” As The Guardian put it,

Anthony Albanese’s government has repeatedly said that “enough is enough” and that it is time for the Assange matter to be “brought to a conclusion”.

But the motion on Wednesday removed the ambiguity about what that conclusion should entail: allowing him back to Australia.

Wilkie underscored that a conviction would set a precedent that puts every other journalist at risk. Assange is an Australian publisher who was working in Europe at the time of the disclosures; the United States is claiming global jurisdiction. Wilkie said,

“The injustice of all this is absolutely breathtaking—absolutely breathtaking—as much as the attack on journalism is terrifying because if this matter runs to its shameful conclusion, then it will have set a precedent that applies to all Australian journalists. If ever any Australian journalist annoys a foreign government in any way, and if that government is a government that the Australian government is hoping to curry favour with, then who’s to say that the Australian government won’t be complicit in the extradition or the transport of that Australian journalist to that country?”

The resolution passed with a tally of 86 votes to 42, with MPs across the political spectrum signing on in support. Read the resolution and accompanying discussion in full here.

Categories
Press Release

U.S. law professors call on DOJ to drop Assange prosecution

February 14, 2024 — More than 35 American law professors have co-signed a letter imploring U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to “uphold the First Amendment” and drop the DOJ’s efforts to extradite Julian Assange. The letter comes less than a week before Julian Assange returns to court in London as the UK High Court considers his final attempt to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom. Press freedom organizations and human rights groups have been sounding the alarms over the prosecution as a landmark threat to the First Amendment right to publish.

“We are united in our concern about the constitutional implications of prosecuting Assange,” the law professors write. “We believe the Espionage Act charges against him pose an existential threat to the First Amendment.”

Signatories include both active and retired law professors from across the United States, including Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur, and James Goodale, former lead counsel at the New York Times.

Goodale told the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which helped organize the letter:

“Based on my experience, which includes serving as The New York Times’ general counsel when the Nixon administration tried to indict a journalist under the Espionage Act for publishing the Pentagon Papers, I am confident that a successful prosecution of Julian Assange would lead to similar charges against journalists from newspapers like the Times when they uncover secrets that embarrass officials. This would be absolutely disastrous for press freedom in the United States.”

Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation, said,

“Scholars, lawyers, media publishers and activists all agree that the prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is sure to lead to prosecutions of journalists for doing their jobs. It seems the only people who disagree are the DOJ. It’s time for them to finally drop this dangerous prosecution. Whether you love or hate Julian Assange, if he comes first, a journalist you do like may come next.”

Read the full letter here.

Categories
Press Release

Press freedom and human rights groups call for Assange’s freedom ahead of final UK appeal hearing

February 14, 2024 — With less than a week to go until Julian Assange’s final bid to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom in a London courtroom, press freedom and human rights organizations are once again sounding the alarm over Assange’s prosecution and the threat it poses not only to Assange’s due process and First Amendment rights but to investigative journalists around the world.

On February 14, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists issued a joint statement, in which they warned that ”the ongoing prosecution of Julian Assange jeopardizes media freedom everywhere in the world.”

Dominique Pradalié, IFJ president says: “I have twice met with Julian Assange in Belmarsh and it is clear to me that he has suffered grievously for far too long. In April he will have spent five years in a British prison despite having been convicted of nothing. The actions for which the US is seeking prosecution are clearly journalistic. The conviction of Julian Assange would threaten us all”.

Maja Sever, EFJ president said: “Journalists and their unions have recognised since the outset that Julian Assange is being targeted for carrying out tasks that are the daily work of many journalists – seeking out a whistleblower and exposing criminality. We stand with journalists of every political persuasion and nationality and say that Assange should be freed at once”.

The same day, Reporters without Borders dispelled some of the most common misconceptions about Assange and his persecution. 

Misconception: If I don’t believe Julian Assange is a journalist, I can’t defend him.

Correction: Many different views are held about Assange’s status as a journalist, a publisher, or a journalistic source, but what matters most is why Assange has been targeted and the implications of his extradition and prosecution. RSF defends Assange because of his contributions to journalism, as WikiLeaks’ publication of the leaked classified documents informed extensive public interest reporting around the world. His prosecution would have alarming implications for the future of journalism and would represent an unprecedented blow to press freedom.

Misconception: If Julian Assange is convicted, it won’t have a wider impact.

Correction: Assange’s conviction would impact the future of journalism around the world and all of our right to know. He would be the first publisher tried under the US Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defence and is in dire need of reform. His conviction would pave the way for similar prosecutions of others who publish stories based on leaked classified information, setting a dangerous precedent for journalism. This would put many media organisations and journalists at risk, and create a distinct chilling effect on public interest reporting. The ultimate impact would be on the public’s right to know.

On February 13, Amnesty International issued a renewed warning: ‘Global media freedom at risk as Julian Assange back in UK court facing possible extradition to USA’

“The risk to publishers and investigative journalists around the world hangs in the balance. Should Julian Assange be sent to the US and prosecuted there, global media freedoms will be on trial, too,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and criminal justice in Europe.

“Assange will suffer personally from these politically-motivated charges and the worldwide media community will be on notice that they too are not safe. The public’s right to information about what their governments are doing in their name will be profoundly undermined. The US must drop the charges under the espionage act against Assange and bring an end to his arbitrary detention in the UK.”  

On February 12, PEN International wrote, ‘Stop the Extradition and Release Julian Assange’

‘Using espionage laws to target journalists and publishers who disclose information in the public interest infringes fundamental rights of press freedom and freedom of expression, both safeguarded within the legal framework of the UK. Assange’s case is politically motivated and challenges the core of investigative journalism and democratic principles, necessitating the protection of these rights for the broader preservation of a free and responsible press. PEN International and PEN Centres around the world have repeatedly called on the US authorities to drop the charges against Assange and to withdraw their extradition request. With the prospect of his extradition alarmingly close, we call on the UK authorities to urgently refrain from extraditing him and to release him from prison immediately’, said Burhan Sonmez, PEN International President.

On February 6, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture urged the UK government to halt imminent extradition of Julian Assange

“The risk of being placed in prolonged solitary confinement, despite his precarious mental health status, and to receive a potentially disproportionate sentence raises questions as to whether Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States would be compatible with the United Kingdom’s international human rights obligations, particularly under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as respective articles 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Jailing Journalists: The Assange case and the threat to press freedom

February 15 @ 12:30 pm 2:30 pm EST

Whether you love or hate Julian Assange, the United States’ prosecution of the Wikileaks publisher under the Espionage Act for printing government secrets in 2010 poses an extreme risk to press freedom. With the U.K. high court scheduled later this month to hear what could be Assange’s final appeal before he’s extradited to the U.S., the threat to journalists is high.

NEW: We are honored to have U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., join Freedom of the Press Foundation for this important discussion. Don’t miss his opening remarks!

Join us on Feb. 15, 2024, at 12:30 p.m. EST for a virtual discussion explaining how the Assange prosecution endangers all journalists.

Speakers:

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass
  • Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Carrie DeCell, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute
  • Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

And stay tuned for the world premiere of a Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) video urging the Biden administration to drop this dangerous prosecution.

Categories
Press Release

Amnesty International: “The US must drop the charges” against Julian Assange

February 13, 2024 — One week ahead of Julian Assange’s final bid at the High Court in London to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States, Amnesty International has reaffirmed its warning that press freedom is at risk around the world if Assange is extradited.

Julia Hall, Amnesty’s expert on counter-terrorism and criminal justice in Europe, said,

“The risk to publishers and investigative journalists around the world hangs in the balance. Should Julian Assange be sent to the US and prosecuted there, global media freedoms will be on trial, too.

Assange will suffer personally from these politically-motivated charges and the worldwide media community will be on notice that they too are not safe. The public’s right to information about what their governments are doing in their name will be profoundly undermined. The US must drop the charges under the espionage act against Assange and bring an end to his arbitrary detention in the UK.”  

Julia Hall, Amnesty International

Hall went further to explicitly address so-called ‘assurances’ the U.S. has given the UK about the type of treatment Assange would endure if extradited and prosecuted.

“The US assurances cannot be trusted,” she said. “Dubious assurances that he will be treated well in a US prison ring hollow considering that Assange potentially faces dozens of years of incarceration in a system well known for its abuses, including prolonged solitary confinement and poor health services for inmates. The US simply cannot guarantee his safety and well-being as it has also failed to do for the hundreds of thousands of people currently imprisoned in the US.”

The prosecution is not only a danger to Assange — Amnesty warns that a conviction would set a precedent that would criminalize basic journalistic practices that reporters around the wor;d undertake every day.

“Julian Assange’s publication of documents disclosed to him by sources as part of his work with Wikileaks mirrors the work of investigative journalists. They routinely perform the activities outlined in the indictment: speaking with confidential sources, seeking clarification or additional documentation, and receiving and disseminating official and sometimes classified information.”

This aggressive nature of this unprecedented prosecution may already be having a chilling effect on journalists and their sources alike, as the U.S. government claims global jurisdiction as to what can and cannot be published about it. Hall said,

“The US’ efforts to intimidate and silence investigative journalists for uncovering governmental misconduct, such as revealing war crimes or other breaches of international law, must be stopped in its tracks.

“Sources such as legitimate whistle blowers who expose governmental wrongdoing to journalists and publishers must also be free to share information in the public interest. They will be far more reluctant to do so if Julian Assange is prosecuted for engaging in legitimate publishing work.

“This is a test for the US and UK authorities on their commitment to the fundamental tenets of media freedom that underpin the rights to freedom of expression and the public’s right to information. It’s not just Julian Assange in the dock. Silence Assange and others will be gagged.”

Read Amnesty’s full press release here.

Los Angeles: It’s Now Or Never For Julian Assange’s Fate

A Two Day Event by Free Assange in LA

Come for a Banner Drop. Come to send Postcards to all 435 Congresspersons. Come to Ride in the Assange Mobile. Come to see and hear the live stream direct from the Royal court in London. Come for the Refreshments. But come to Free Assange Now!

February 20 @ 5:00 pm February 21 @ 5:00 pm America/Los Angeles

Free Assange LA is hosting a two day banner drop and postcard event in Highland Park

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Join us for the 24-hour Countdown to Day X

Join us on Monday, February 19, 2024 at 8:30am GMT | 7:30pm AEDT | 3:30am EST streaming only on Stella Assange’s and Assange Defense’s YouTube channels.

Julian Assange is arguably the most significant journalist and publisher of our time. He is currently in his fifth year in the high security prison of Belmarsh, South East London for exposing accurate and damning accounts of US war crimes.

Day X is the new public hearing date for Julian Assange. This could be the last chance to stop his extradition to the United States where he faces a 175 year sentence. An effective death sentence.

In this countdown, we will be providing you with a complete overview of what Julian Assange is facing at the two-day public hearing which starts on the February 20 at 8:30 am GMT. We will then be going live from outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Join us in person or send pics and video of your local actions to our dedicated Telegram channel. For participating locations go to https://www.StellaAssange.com and AssangeDefense.com/events.

It’s Now or Never. Free Assange Now.

Milwaukee: Day X protest to Free Assange

February 20 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm CT

What: Join your local Assange Defense branch for a protest at the Brady Street Bridge over Lincoln Memorial Drive to demonstrate your support for the freedom of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange, who will be in court in London attempting to appeal his extradition to the United States.

When: February 20 at 4pm CT

Where: Brady Street Bridge over Lincoln Memorial Drive (photo)

Who: Assange Defense Milwaukee, contact here

Chicago: Day X Protest for Assange

February 20 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm CT

What: Join your local Assange Defense branch for a protest at the Tribune Tower to demonstrate your support for the freedom of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange, who will be in court in London attempting to appeal his extradition to the United States.

When: February 20 at 4pm CT

Where: The Tribune Tower, 435 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Who: Assange Defense Chicago, contact here

Denver: Free Assange Now!

February 20 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm America/Denver

Day X is almost here! We hope to see you all at our rally on Tuesday 2/20 from 4-6pm at the Colorado State Capitol. We need to make a good showing, as this could be the end of the road for Assange in the UK courts and our government needs to see public support. Two judges in the UK will decide whether to afford him his last appeal. This has already been denied once, and if denied again, the order from the UK will be to grant extradition to the US.

Special Guests MC’s Drew with Spyderland and Sleepy Ray with Blackbird Media

DenverAction2FreeJA

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Geneva Press Club: Julian Assange’s final bid to appeal against extradition

February 14 @ 10:00 am 12:00 pm Geneva

The Geneva Press Club, the Wau Holland Foundation, the Courage Foundation and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Switzerland invite you to a press conference on February 14 at 10:00am Geneva time, featuring Stella Assange, wife and defender of Julian Assange, and Denis Masmejan, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Switzerland. Please register below to participate:

On February 20-21 in London, a panel of two judges of UK High Court will hear Assange’s final bid to appeal against extradition. This two-day public hearing may be the final chance for Julian Assange to prevent his extradition to the United States. If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of 175 years for exposing war crimes committed by the United States in the Afghan and Iraq wars. The upcoming public hearing will be held before a panel of two judges who will review an earlier High Court decision taken by a single judge on 6 June 2023 which refused Mr Assange permission to appeal. His wife and mother of their children Stella Assange will explain how this decisive stage in Mr Assange’s appeals will determine his future and the future of the press. Stella Assange is also calling for an immediate ending to the persecution of the innocent journalist, Wikileaks editor in chief and publisher. Assange’s campaign for freedom is supported by Amnesty International, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and virtually every civil rights, press freedom and journalists’ unions in the world.

More information about this event can be found at the Geneva Press Club.

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UN Special Rapporteur on Torture urges UK government to halt imminent extradition of Julian Assange

February 6, 2024 — The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, today urged the Government of the United Kingdom to halt the possible extradition of Julian Assange to the United States of America.

She called on British authorities to consider Julian Assange’s appeal based on substantial fears that, if extradited, he would be at risk of treatment amounting to torture or other forms of ill-treatment or punishment.

“The risk of being placed in prolonged solitary confinement, despite his precarious mental health status, and to receive a potentially disproportionate sentence raises questions as to whether Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States would be compatible with the United Kingdom’s international human rights obligations, particularly under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as respective articles 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

She stressed that diplomatic assurance provided by the US, on the basis of which Britain’s High Court ruled to approve the United States’ appeal and sent the case back down to the Magistrate’s level for the extradition to be ordered, are not a sufficient guarantee to protect Mr. Assange against such risks.

“I call on the Government of the United Kingdom to carefully review Mr. Assange’s extradition order with a view to ensuring full compliance with the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of refoulement to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to take all the necessary measures to safeguard Mr. Assange’s physical and mental health.”

Read the whole letter here.

NYC: Day X Action at the UK Consulate

Protest to Defend a Free Press

February 20 @ 12:00 pm 2:00 pm EST

This is the last chance to stop the extradition of Julian Assange. The UK court has confirmed that a public hearing will take place at the Royal Court of London on February 20th till the 21st. If he is successfully extradited he faces 175 years in a US prison for exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet those who committed these crimes walk free. Come to call for his immediate release and save Freedom of the Press

NYC Free Assange

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Law, Democracy & Human Rights: The Case of Julian Assange

February 21 @ 5:30 pm 7:00 pm GMT

On 20-21 February, Julian Assange returns to the courtroom in London to appeal his impending extradition to the United States where he could face life in prison for publishing. Join Professor Mads Andenaes, former UN special rapporteur on arbitrary detention; Prof. Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and Dr. Deepa Driver, as well as former Guantanamo Bay detainee and poet Mohamedou Ould Salahi, for a discussion on Assange’s case and what it means for human rights around the world.

Free Assange Rally Park St Station

January 27 @ 11:00 am 12:30 pm EST

Our next rally for Julian Assange will be on Saturday, Jan 27, 11-12:30pm at Park St Station on the Boston Common.  Our next one after that will be on the day of Assange’s final extradition hearing – Tuesday, February 20 at noon at the State House.  We hope to have a specially big showing for this important date.

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Australian parliamentarians send letter to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly

In the light of the approaching pivotal UK court hearings for Julian Assange on February 20 and 21, conveners of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group have written to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly asking him to “undertake an urgent, thorough and independent assessment of the risks to Mr Assange’s health and welfare in the event he is extradited to the United States.”

The signatories to the letter remind the Secretary of the UK Supreme Court decision which finds “that courts in the United Kingdom cannot just rely on third party assurances by foreign governments but rather are required to make independent assessments of the risk of persecution to individuals before any order is made removing them from the UK.”

This reasoning clearly has direct relevance to the extradition proceedings involving Julian Assange and the joint decision of Lord Justices Burnett and Holroyde in USA v Assange [2021] EWHC 3313 (Admin). In that case their Lordships expressly relied on the “assurances” of the United States as to Mr Assange’s safety and welfare should he be extradited to the United States for imprisonment and trial. These assurances were not tested, nor was there any evidence of independent assessment as to the basis on which they could be given and relied upon.

They stress that “both the Australian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have stated publicly that Mr Assange’s case has gone on for too long. This is a position with which we wholeheartedly concur.”

The letter is signed by MPs Andrew Wilkie, Bridget Archer, Josh Wilson and David Shoebridge.

Read the letter here.

Will We Let a Publisher Go to Prison?

January 14 @ 10:00 am 11:15 am Milwaukee

Ray McGovern, CIA Soviet Foreign Policy Branch (retired) and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

This winter, freedom of the press is in serious danger as publisher Julian Assange languishes in prison. As the extradition process of Julian Assange winds down in the UK, it is clear that this political case is now in our hands. The founders of the U.S. knew that tyranny is inevitable without a free press and so we have the first amendment. Can we muster the courage to safeguard it? Mr. McGovern will discuss Julian Assange’s case and its implications for our free press.

Ray McGovern led the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch in the 70s; in the 80s, he prepared and briefed The President’s Daily Brief. Awarded the Intelligence Commendation Medallion at retirement, Ray returned it in 2006 explaining, “I do not want to be associated with an agency engaged in torture.”

In January 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to warn George W. Bush that intelligence on Iraq was fraudulent. Later, Ray took advantage of a unique chance to question Donald Rumsfeld on that issue.

Host: Ann Batiza

In-Person or Online

In-Person: In Max Otto Hall First Unitarian Society.

Via

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Call Congress: Support H. R. 934!

January 9, 2024House Resolution 934 calls for an end to the prosecution of Julian Assange and affirms the First Amendment rights for journalists. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Gosar in December, needs cosponsors to be introduced to the House floor for a vote — so we need to urge our representatives to support H.R. 934 right away!

“First Amendment freedom of the press promotes public transparency and is crucial for the American Republic”

House Resolution.934 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that regular journalistic activities are protected under the First Amendment, and that the United States ought to drop all charges against and attempts to extradite Julian Assange.

“Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that— 
(1) regular journalistic activities, including the obtainment and publication of information are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States;

(2) First Amendment freedom of the press promotes public transparency and is crucial for the American Republic;

(3) the Federal Government ought to drop all charges against and attempts to extradite Julian Assange; and

(4) the Federal Government allow Julian Assange to return home to his native Australia if he so desires.”

Call your congressmembers!

Note: This resolution follows a November 8th letter to President Biden from a bipartisan Congressional group calling for Biden to withdraw the US extradition request, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Presley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal, Greg Cesar, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman , and Chuy Garcia.

The letter stated:

“It is the duty of journalists to seek out sources, including documentary evidence, in order to report to the public on the activities of government. The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalizing common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the free press. We urge you to ensure that this case be brought to a close in as timely a manner as possible.”

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Lawsuit Against Alleged CIA Spying On Assange Visitors Allowed To Proceed

December 19, 2023 — Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled that four American attorneys and journalists, who visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was in the Ecuador Embassy in London, may sue the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for its role in the alleged copying of the contents of their electronic devices.

Rejecting the arguments of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean-David Barnea, who neither confirmed nor denied that the CIA had targeted Americans without obtaining a warrant at the first hearing in November, the federal judge has now ruled that the plaintiffs are allowed to proceed with the lawsuit.

Kevin Gosztola reports that a prior decision in Amnesty v. Clapper, which challenged the “legality of the bulk telephone metadata collection program” operated by the National Security Agency (NSA), helped Koeltl determine that the allegedly targeted Americans had standing to sue the CIA.

The U.S. government will likely appeal the decision.

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Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange’s Final Appeal to be held in UK High Court 20-21 February 2024

December 19, 2023 — The UK High Court has confirmed that a public hearing will take place on 20-21 February 2024. The two-day hearing may be the final chance for Julian Assange to prevent his extradition to the United States. If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of 175 years for exposing war crimes committed by the United States in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

Immediately after the court date was announced, protestors responded by calling for a mass protest at the court on the days of the hearing at 8:30am. They welcome all those who support press freedom to join them in London and around the world.

The upcoming public hearing will be held before a panel of two judges who will review an earlier High Court decision taken by a single judge on 6 June 2023 which refused Mr Assange permission to appeal.

This decisive stage in Mr Assange’s appeals will determine one of two outcomes: whether Mr. Assange will have further opportunities to argue his case before the domestic (UK) courts, or whether he will have exhausted all appeals without a possibility for further appeal in the UK and thus enter the process of extradition. An application before the European Court of Human Rights remains a possibility.

With the myriad of evidence that has come to light since the original hearing in 2019, such as the violation of legal privilege and reports that senior US officials were involved in formulating assassination plots against my husband, there is no denying that a fair trial, let alone Julian’s safety on US soil, is an impossibility were he to be extradited. The persecution of this innocent journalist and publisher must end.

Stella Assange

Assange’s campaign for freedom is supported by Amnesty International, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and virtually every civil rights, press freedom, and journalists’ union in the world. More than 60 Australian federal politicians have called on the US to drop the prosecution. In the United States, the Congressional representatives calling for the case to be dropped grows steadily, currently H. Res 934 sponsored by Paul Gosar is gathering signatures from all sides of politics.

For more information about the court hearing and subsequent protest, scheduled to commence at 8.30am, and how to participate, please visit freeassange.org

Lanterns 4 Assange Vigil

Denver will hold a Lanterns 4 Assange Vigil this coming Friday, December 22nd from 4-6pm. We will meet at the Voories Memorial on the north side of Civic Center Park. Please join us or help us share our attached flyer & map on social media.

December 22, 2023 @ 4:00 pm 6:00 pm America/Denver

Week of Action on Behalf of Julian Assange

Both Australian and British Parliaments have come together with incredible cross-party cooperation to call for the US Judiciary to drop its illegal and moral extradition against a journalists for the first time in US history whose only crime is telling us the Truth. It is time for US Congresspersons and Senators to do likewise. They all swore an oath when they took office to “Defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. It is our Freedom of the Press that hangs in the balance. Therefore, call every day and encourage everyone you know to do so as well.

December 18, 2023 @ 12:00 pm December 22, 2023 @ 12:00 pm EST

WEEKLY PRIORITY ACTION

UNITED STATES – We need your help.

Call your representatives to sign onto H.Res. 934!

Read more here:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-resolution/934/cosponsors?s=2&r=14

Find your Representative here:

https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member

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Past Events Press Release

The Belmarsh Tribunal returns to Washington D.C.

December 9, 2023 — As the extradition case against Julian Assange is entering its final phase, the Belmarsh Tribunal returns to Washington D.C. Courage Foundation is proud to partner with Progressive International and other media and media freedom organizations to bear witness to the Biden administration’s crackdown on free speech and the First Amendment and demand freedom for Julian Assange. The fourth edition of The Belmarsh Tribunal will take place on December 9 at the National Press Club with the participation of the world’s leading journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders.

This Tribunal will hear testimonies from Marjorie Cohn, professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Sontheimer, journalist and historian (formerly Der Spiegel), Mark Feldstein, investigative correspondent and Chair of Journalism at the University of Maryland, Trevor Timm, co-founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation, John Kiriakou, former CIA intelligence officer, Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders, Ewen MacAskill, journalist and intelligence correspondent (formerly Guardian), Ben Wizner, lawyer and civil liberties advocate with the ACLU, Maja Sever, president of European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Ece Temelkuran, author and journalist, Lina Attalah, Co-founder and Chief Editor of Mada Masr, 2020 Knight International Journalism Award recipient, Sevim Dagdelen, Member of the German Bundestag, Abby Martin, journalist.

The proceedings will be chaired by journalists Amy Goodman and Ryan Grim.

From Presidents and Prime Ministers to Nobel Peace Prize winners, the international community is crying out against the injustice of Assange’s prosecution — and its implication for press freedom worldwide. Join them: Register here to attend the Tribunal in person or follow the proceedings online.

Rally To Free Julian Assange

December 11, 2023 @ 1:00 pm 2:30 pm America/Boston

Come to the Boston Common and Rally for Freedom of the Press and to call for the extradition of Julian Assange to be dropped so that he can be reunited with his family and to continue his work with WikiLeaks. Now, more than ever we need the kind independent and adversarial reporting that he and WikiLeaks provided us all.

We will be asking for calls to Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren Attorney General Merrick Garland and President Biden telling them all to drop Julian’s extradition to save Freedom of the Press

Assange Defense Boston

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First Hearing in the Lawsuit Against Alleged CIA Spying On Assange Visitors

November 16, 2023 — A U.S. court considered a lawsuit against the CIA and former CIA director Mike Pompeo for their alleged role in spying on American attorneys and journalists who visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In August 2022, four Americans — lawyers Margaret Ratner Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, journalist John Goetz and Charles Glass sued the CIA and Pompeo. The lawsuit they brought alleges that as visitors Glass, Goetz, Hrbek, and Kunstler were required to “surrender” their electronic devices to employees of a Spanish company called UC Global, which was contracted to provide security for the Ecuador embassy. Furthermore, UC Global “copied the information stored on the devices” and shared the information with the CIA. The agency even had access to live video and audio feeds from cameras in the embassy.

Now, Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York refused to accept Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean-David Barnea position who neither confirmed nor denied that the CIA had targeted Americans without obtaining a warrant. He also invited attorneys for the Americans to update the lawsuit so that claims of privacy violations explicitly dealt with the government’s lack of a warrant.

In his report about the hearing, journalist Kevin Gosztola notes that “the government effectively asserted in a U.S. courtroom that Americans cease to have constitutional privacy protections from U.S. government intrusion when they travel abroad.”

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Press Release

PEN Norway awards Julian Assange the Ossietzky Prize for 2023

November 15, 2023 — Julian Assange is awarded PEN Norway’s Ossietzky Prize for 2023 in recognition of his critical journalism and his commitment to exposing the abuse of power and war crimes.

Julian Assange’s wife and lawyer Stella Assange received the award on his behalf in a ceremony in Oslo, where she spoke alongside Jørgen Watne Frydnes, PEN Norway General Secretary, Dag Larsen, head of Norwegian PEN’s committee for imprisoned writers, Ann-Magrit Austenå, Norsk PEN’s chairman, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, writer and former Guantanamo prisoner, and Mads Andenæs, member of Norsk PEN’s Assange committee.

The jury’s justification reads:

“Julian Assange has, both as a publisher and editor, been instrumental in revealing severe war crimes committed by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the unlawful imprisonment and abuse of detainees at Guantanamo.

(…)

“Julian Assange’s efforts for the right to information have come at a high personal cost. For the last five years he has been imprisoned in the British high-security prison Belmarsh, with limited contact with his family and inadequate communication with his lawyers. His health has deteriorated significantly during his time in detention.

“The treatment that Julian Assange has been and is being subjected to can amount to violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit any form of torture and inhuman treatment.

(…)

“Citizens’ right to information is a prerequisite for democracy. Without a democracy based on informed citizens, abuse of power and violations of the law cannot be corrected and changed. Julian Assange has defended the core of democracy. Like several predecessors, Julian Assange has made public essential documents in this sensitive area, a role that is often criticized but will be recognized as highly significant when history is to be written.”

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Press Release

16 Congressmembers urge AG Garland to drop the charges against Julian Assange

November 8, 2023 — 16 members of the US Congress have written to president Joe Biden urging him to drop its extradition attempts against Julian Assange and halt any prosecutorial proceedings immediately.

The signatories emphasized their commitment to the principles of free speech and freedom of the press and underlined that the prosecution of Julian Assange significantly undermines them.

“It is the duty of journalists to seek out sources, including documentary evidence, in order to report to the public on the activities of the government”

“The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalising common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the free press. We urge you to ensure that this case be brought to a close in as timely a manner as possible.”

The group also warned that continuing the pursuit of Assange risks America’s bilateral relationship with Australia.

Read the full letter here:

Boston Free Assange Rally and Banner Drop Hamilton Coolidge Sq (Charles Circle)

November 13, 2023 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm America/Boston

Please join us Monday, 4-5:30pm, at Charles Circle, to stand up for Julian Assange. Help spread the word, including with this FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/712849227422806/  Boston Area Assange Defense continues the fight to raise awareness about the unconstitutional prosecution of  publisher Julian Assange under the Espionage Act – by doing so, we defend our First Amendment and the people’s right to know. We will gather at Charles Circle and the Frances Appleton bridge for our #AssangeBannerDrop over Storrow Dr and rally below where we distribute our handouts to the many pedestrians.

Susan McLucas and Paula Iasella,

617-501-9125

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Assange Defense Launches Projection Campaign, Shedding Light on Free Assange Movement

Washington, D.C. — Assange Defense launched a projection campaign last night across the Metro D.C. area, shedding light on the critical push to free Julian Assange. This projection campaign coincides with the state visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. 

The projection campaign hit major locations, including the Washington Post and 555 Penn Ave. The images highlight how “there is no free press without a free Assange.” The projections will continue throughout the scheduled state dinner tonight. Supporters of Julian Assange also plan to hold banners and demonstrate outside the State Dinner, as guests arrive at 17th and Penn Ave NW. They will be there from 5 to 7 p.m.

“Prime Minister Albanese has been clear that ‘enough is enough,’ that Assange’s persecution has gone on far too long, and we want to support that message,” said Nathan Fuller, director of Assange Defense. “The First Amendment is on the line – the Biden Administration must drop these dangerous charges.”

Freeing Assange, who is an Australian citizen, is a priority for the Prime Minister, who has stated there is “nothing to be gained,” as the dangers posed by the charges outweigh the arguments in their favor. Securing Assange’s release is a top concern for Australians, with nine out of ten in support of the action. Albanese is expected to advocate for his release directly with President Biden.

Australia is an important ally to the United States, and critical in America’s plan for peace in the Pacific. The charges against Assange have generated pressure between the two allies. Concerns are mounting that should the Biden administration continue to double down on its prosecution of Assange, the relationship could fracture.

The Obama administration declined to indict Assange because it would risk criminalizing basic journalistic activities that every mainstream media outlet engages in on a regular basis. The Trump administration reversed course, and the Biden administration fell in step, continuing to insist that Assange had “damaged national security.”

There are growing fears amongst both the international community and the American public of rollbacks on freedom of speech. Press freedoms are under attack across the world, and Assange’s imprisonment for publishing documents obtained by a source could trigger a global rollback of protections for these basic journalistic practices. 

A new bipartisan push by American members of Congress to free Assange has also launched to coincide with this state visit, showing that both the American public and their elected officials are paying attention, and will not stand for the rollback of our First Amendment rights.

Photos of the projection campaign can be found here.

Denver Protest to Free Assange

October 24, 2023 @ 4:00 pm

Please join Denver Action 4 Assange as they meet at the office of Congresswoman Diane DeGette and then march to 7News headquarters at 123 E Speer Blvd

Denver Action 4 Assange is calling on all to call on President Biden to drop the extradition in concert with the visit and state dinner for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Washington DC Wednesday Night at the White House starting at 11:00am to 3:00pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (202) 456-1111 and write at whitehouse.gov/contact

Denver Action 2 Free Assange

View Organizer Website

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Milwaukee Banner Drop For Julian

October 23, 2023 @ 12:00 pm 2:00 pm America/Milwaukee

Join Us! Banner drop for #Assange on Monday, October 23 at noon in Milwaukee. At the bridge over Maryland Avenue next to the UWM Union

cc:@GabrielShipton

Call your US Rep to sign bipartisan letter for Assange.

Action Item: To call Congress TODAY to urge your representative to sign onto bipartisan letter to President Biden to drop the extradition of Julain Assange which was created by Jim McGovern (D) and Thomas Massey (R)

The DC switchboard # 202-224-3121

Ann Batiza

414-238-3903

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Revisiting the Case of Julian Assange

Press freedom? Or espionage?

October 23, 2023 @ 6:30 pm 9:00 pm America/Columbia MO

The Missouri School of Journalism will screen “The war on journalism: The case of Julian Assange,” a 40-minute documentary, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A.

The Panelists will be Gabriel Shipton: Brother of Julian Assange and producer of Ithaka, a movie about their father’s effort to free his son

Gabe Rottman: Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Technology and Press Freedom Project

Jared Schroeder: Missouri School of Journalism professor specializing in First Amendment law

Kathy Kiely: Lee Hills Chair in Free Press Studies, Missouri School of Journalism

Mark Horvit: Moderator, chair of the Missouri School of Journalism’s professional practice faculty and past executive director of the Investigative Reporters and Editors

MU Peace Studies, Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mid-MO PeaceWorks, Missourians for Justice in Palestine and PeaceWorks KC

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The War on Journalism

The Case Against Julian Assange

October 22, 2023 @ 7:00 pm October 23, 2023 @ 5:00 pm America/Kansas City

The War on Journalism, a 38-minute documentary film will precede their comments. A Q & A session will follow

Featuring: Gabriel Shipton, brother of Assange and film producer of Ithaka, a documentary chronicling their family’s efforts to free Assange, and Halo Benson, a long-time Assange solidarity activist from Tulsa

Co-sponsored by Friends of Community Media, PeaceWorks KC, Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, Univ. of MO-Columbia School of Journalism, MU Peace Studies and Mid-MO PeaceWorks plus other KC peace groups.

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Boston Area Assange Defense’s Banner Drop

October 23, 2023 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm America/Boston

Boston Area Assange Defense’s next rally in support of Julian Assange will be a banner drop on Monday, October 23, from 4 to 5:30pm at Charles Station on the Red Line, over the Frances Appleton pedestrian bridge.  Activists will also be down below in Hamilton Coolidge Square (commonly called Charles Circle) with signs and handouts. 

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Press Release

Where the 2024 U.S. presidential candidates stand on press freedom and Assange

September 17, 2023 — The New York Times has published the results of its 2024 Executive Power Survey in which Presidential Candidates explain their position on press freedom and specifically on the case of Julian Assange.

The candidates were asked if they think the Espionage Act charges against Mr. Assange are constitutional as a legal policy matter and would their administration keep that part of the case against him. In addition, they were asked if they support and would their administration keep the new rules against compulsory production of reporters’ information in leak investigations.

Democratic candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson spoke strongly in favor of press freedom. Kennedy Jr. confirmed that he will drop all charges against Julian Assange, while Williamson said she would drop the Espionage Act counts against him.

Williamson explained that the Espionage Act “violates freedom of speech and press by criminalizing publications without proof that the disclosures were intended to and did cause material harm to the national security of the United States.”

President Joe Biden avoided directly responding regarding the prosecution of Julian Assange, saying “it isn’t appropriate for me to offer an opinion on an ongoing criminal prosecution that is now pending in court.” Instead he stressed his role in codifying new legislation preventing compulsory seizure of journalists’ records “except in limited circumstances” and thus his commitment to press freedom.

Republican candidates Asa Hutchinson and Francis Suarez said they do not plan to interfere with pending prosecutions, nor that it is appropriate to opine on the issue.

Former Vice-President Mike Pence pointed out the need for balance between national security and the freedom of the press. Alluding to the Assange case he said that the First Amendment “does not protect so-called journalists from breaking the laws necessary to maintain our national security and keep Americans safe”.

Other Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump, did not offer an answer to these questions.

There is bipartisan support for protecting the First Amendment right to publish, joining all relevant media freedom organizations and newsrooms around the world.

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Press Release

More than 60 Australian politicians sign a letter in support of Assange; A group of them is coming to U.S.

September 15, 2023 — More than 60 Australian politicians have called on the United States government to drop the prosecution of Julian Assange, warning of “a sharp and sustained outcry in Australia” if the WikiLeaks founder is extradited. The letter comes ahead of announcements that a contingent of parliamentarians are coming to Washington D.C. this week in hopes of securing Assange’s freedom.

In the letter, the 63 MPs and senators said they were “resolutely of the view that the prosecution and incarceration of the Australian citizen Julian Assange must end”.

Together with a large and growing number of Australians we believe it is wrong in principle for Mr Assange to be pursued under the Espionage Act (1917), and that it was a political decision to bring the prosecution in the first place. In any case, this matter has dragged on for over a decade and it is wrong for Mr Assange to be further persecuted and denied his liberty when one considers the duration and circumstances of the detention he has already suffered. It serves no purpose, it is unjust, and we say clearly – as friends should always be honest with friends – that the prolonged pursuit of Mr Assange wears away at the substantial foundation of regard and respect
that Australians have for the justice system of the United States of America.

The letter will be taken to Washington D.C. where it will be presented to US Congresspeople and others as part of the cross-party delegation made up of Senators Alex Antic, David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson, Barnaby Joyce MP, Monique Ryan MP and Tony Zappia MP.

Their trip, scheduled for September 20-21, is intended to raise the profile of Assange’s plight in the weeks leading up to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first prime ministerial trip to Washington at the end of October.

“There is some urgency to this mission because of the imminent possibility of Mr Assange’s extradition to the US, and his deteriorating physical and mental health”, wrote Monique Ryan MP, one of the members of the Australian parliamentary delegation.

This situation is one of politics, not of law. If the extradition request is approved, Australians will witness the deportation of one of our citizens from one AUKUS partner to another – our closest strategic ally – with Assange facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Read the whole letter here:

Denver: Free Assange Poetry & Songwriting Contest

August 26, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

Calling all Denver writers, Denver bards, songsters, versifiers, tune-smiths, lyricists, laureates, stand-up comics, hip-hop, free association, spoken word, slammers and extempore rappers.

A horror is dangling like the sword of Damocles over all of humanity.

At stake is both a courageous man’s life and, if we remain silent, the conquest of our intellects, our sense of right and wrong, and indeed, our very humanity.

So let us look at ourselves, if we have the courage, to see what is happening to us.

The US, UK, and Australia are colluding to extradite a journalist for exposing the truth.

Their collusion to persecute Assange for exposing uncomfortable truths has revealed their free press and free speech rhetoric to be nothing more than a facade.

Who among us is prepared to stand up rather than remain bystanders to the epic travesty that is the judicial kidnapping of Julian Assange?

Julian Assange has done the greatest public service of any journalist of our times.

He documented repeat lies, callous disregard of human life, rampant corruption and innumerable war crimes.

Freedom of the press is just the tip of the iceberg. All people who oppose empire are at risk.

The corporate, military, and governmental forces imprisoning, torturing, and slowly killing Julian Assange –and many others — are the forces also in the process of destroying life on the planet.

Denver Poets, Denver Songwriters, we ask for your voices and your suffrage’s!

Heed the call!

Employ your skills!

We’ll record the event and send around the world!

6pm sign-in/ 7pm start

$100 first; $50 second; $25 third!

Free entry- each contestant will have 10 minutes.

Topic is free press, free speech, free Assange.

Winners will be decided by the audience!

We all owe this man a tremendous debt.

Even when it was terrifying. Even when it meant being locked away, silenced, smeared, hated, and unable to hold his children, Julian Assange published the truth.

The ruling class is crucifying him for this.

The least we can do is try our best to set him free.

Let’s get him free.

Free Julian Assange

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Ithaka at The Social Justice Film Festival

October 11, 2023 @ 8:00 am October 15, 2023 @ 5:00 pm EDT

ITHAKA will be screening at the 2023 Social Justice Film Festival, held in Seattle, WA, October 11-15.

Boston Rally To Free Assange

August 14, 2023 @ 4:00 am 5:30 pm EDT

We will gather at Charles Circle (aka Hamilton Coolidge Sq) to protest the continued prosecution of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. 

Assange Defense Boston

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Press Release

Bring him home: Australians reject Blinken’s comments

A host of Australian politicians have rejected the comments made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that WikiLeaks’ revelations ‘risked very serious harm’ to national security.

Responding to Blinken, MPs Julian Hill, Andrew Wilkie and Bridget Archer have reiterated that the US needs to get Assange out of prison.

Wilkie stressed that “Antony Blinken’s allegation that Julian Assange risked very serious harm to US national security is patent nonsense.”

Mr Blinken would be well aware of the inquiries in both the US and Australia which found that the relevant WikiLeaks disclosures did not result in harm to anyone.

The only deadly behaviour was by US forces … exposed by WikiLeaks, like the Apache crew who gunned down Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

Senators David Shoebridge, Nick McKim, Peter Whish-Wilson, Gerard Rennick and Malcolm Roberts addressed the Australian Senate on the motion to bring Julian Assange home.

Prime Minister Antony Albanese told reporters that Blinken’s public comments echoed points made by President Joe Biden’s administration during private discussions with Australian government officials. However, he added that Australia will not give up on the issue.

We remain very firm in our view and our representations to the American government and we will continue to do so.

Categories
Press Release

NUJ: The UK must play no part in supporting Assange’s extradition

July 10, 2023 — Reacting to reports that UK police made “voluntary interview” approaches to British-based journalist, UK’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) issued a statement condemning the move and urging the UK government not to allow Assange’s extradition to the US, or assist with information gathering.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

The UK must play no part in supporting Assange’s extradition and journalists should not have to fear being contacted to aid a case that poses considerable threat to media freedom and to journalists worldwide. Nor should they have to worry about potential consequences of refusing to take part in such interviews, in relation to future travel or work in the US.

Categories
Press Release

Julian Assange awarded Konrad Wolf prize

Julian Assange is named winner of the 2023 Konrad Wolf prize, awarded by Germany’s Academy of Arts, for his journalistic work which brought to light “illegal state actions, injustice, murder and war crimes”.

The jury said:

Julian Assange’s Wikileaks publicizes information about this – our – reality, so that we as citizens can recognize this reality and take action. ‘We open governments’ so that we know. It is a democratic act. Assange is a worthy laureate, who with his Wikileaks project has exposed government activity, wartime lies, war crimes and cover-ups. His work embodies journalistic awareness-building at its best, and aims to change the world by democratic means – something that is direly needed.

The Akademie der Künste has in recent years repeatedly called for the German government and political leaders in Europe to secure Julian Assange’s release. Julian Assange is being made an example of in order to intimidate and weaken the fourth estate. Journalists, publicists and whistleblowers must be protected, as they perform an essential service to society.

The award ceremony for the Konrad Wolf Prize will take place at the Akademie der Künste on Friday, 20 October 2023.

Free Speech/Free Press

FREE

JULIAN ASSANGE

***NO EXTRADITION***

 

July 15, 2023 @ 12:00 pm 3:00 pm America/Seattle WA

Join us for a rally on Saturday, July 15th, at 12 noon in Columbia City,

by PCC (corner of Edmunds & Rainier Ave) in Seattle WA

Categories
Press Release

Ben & Jerry’s Co-founder Arrested for Blocking DOJ Entrance While Protesting US Government’s Prosecution of Wikileaks Publisher Julian Assange

Washington, D.C. – Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, and Jodie Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK, have been arrested for blocking the entrance to the Department of Justice. Cohen and Evans arrived in Washington, D.C. to protest the US government’s prosecution of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, who has been indicted on 18 charges for the publication of the Afghan War Diary and the Iraq War Logs, which uncovered war crimes, torture, and civilian deaths perpetrated by the US government. 

“It’s outrageous. Julian Assange is nonviolent. He is presumed innocent. And yet somehow or other, he has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for four years. That is torture….He revealed the truth, and for that he is suffering, and that’s we we need to do whatever we can to help him, and to help preserve democracy, which is based on freedom of the press,” Ben Cohen said during the demonstration. “It seems to me that, right now, unless things change, and unless we change them, freedom of the press is going up in smoke.”  

“Why do we have freedom of press? Because there needs to be someone reporting the truth about the violence of power….When you don’t have freedom of the press and no one’s telling the truth, it weaponizes your capacity to feel, to have compassion and empathy. Because if you don’t have the full story and if your heart is being manipulated with lies, then we’re all lost. How can we have peace in the world if we’re just drowning in lies?” Jodie Evans said

Cohen and Evans asked to enter the Department of Justice to discuss their attack on the freedom of press. Security guards denied them access. They proceeded to sit peacefully in the entrance until DC Metropolitan Police arrested them. 

Members of Congress, world leaders, as well as major publishers, have urged the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Julian Assange due to the threat it poses to the First Amendment and press freedom. 

The Obama administration declined to indict Assange because it would risk criminalizing basic journalistic activities that every mainstream media outlet engages in on a regular basis. 

This month, UK High Court Judge Jonathan Swift rejected Assange’s most recent appeal, pushing him ‘dangerously close’ to extradition. The Australian government, where Assange is a citizen, is currently working through diplomatic channels to end Assange’s incarceration, while his legal team continues the appeal process. 

Julian Assange is currently confined in Belmarsh’s maximum-security prison in London and has been since April 2019. If extradited, he will face up to 175 years in prison. 

###

View photographs of the action arrest here, here, here, here, and here. An original tweet from Ben is here.

Video footage of the action is available here and the full stream of the event is here. The footage is free to use and courtesy of Robin Bell/Assange Defense.

NOTE for producers: 

00:00 – 05:47 Ben’s opening remarks, burning the 1A, approaching the DOJ guard

05:48 – 16:59 Ben Cohen Q&A with press

17:00 – 19:27 Ben Cohen arrest footage For more information about AssangeDefense.org.

Categories
Press Release

Happy birthday Julian!

July 3rd was Julian Assange’s 52nd birthday, his 5th in Belmarsh prison, and 12th without freedom.

Amnesty International Australia released a statement calling on the Australian government to take all necessary measures to ensure Assange’s safe release. This needs to be “Julian Assange’s last birthday without freedom”, they stressed.

Amnesty International Australia calls on the Australian government to demand that the United States drop the charges against Julian Assange and end extradition efforts.

Dominique Pradalié, President of the International Federation of Journalists, congratulated Julian’s 52nd birthday with a blog post recounting his “crimes” and achievements.

Indeed, if an Australian journalist, having published in Europe, were to be brought before an American court, and held subject to US law, who, in this world, would then dare to publicly displease the US administration?

Julian, you must be released, rehabilitated, fulfilled with your rights and returned to your wife and two young children.

To mark the occasion, solidarity rallies and support actions were held across the world.

In the US, Free Assange banners were set up across the country.

Categories
Press Release

Pope Francis holds meeting with Stella Assange

On Friday, June 30th, Pope Francis has met with Julian Assange’s family, his wife Stella and their two children.

After the audience, Stella Assange said the Pope’s gesture in receiving them was evidence of his concern over the suffering of her husband, Julian.

He has provided great solace and comfort and we are extremely appreciative for his reaching out to our family in this way.

She added that the Pope had sent a letter to her husband in March 2021, during a particularly difficult period, and that the visit reflects his “ongoing show of support for our family’s plight”.

Categories
Press Release

Daniel Ellsberg, 1931-2023

Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg at the Frontline Club in 2010 (Photo by Robert Wallis/Corbis/Getty Images)

June 16, 2023 — Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower and an icon of movements for peace and the freedom of the press, has died today at the age of 92. Daniel was a co-chair of the Assange Defense Committee, and he testified in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in 2020.

In 1969, inspired by antiwar draft resisters, Daniel leaked the Pentagon Papers — a damning 7,000-page Top Secret report of the U.S. war in Vietnam exposing the deceit of public rhetoric over the conflict — to the New York Times and Washington Post and was nearly sent to prison for life under the Espionage Act of 1917. Daniel’s case was dismissed in 1973 when the judge learned that prosecutors had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s records in an attempt to discredit his mental state in court.

Daniel has spent the last half century continuing to fight for peace and justice, speaking out against war and attempts to justify it, supporting whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and warning of the dangers of U.S. nuclear war policy.

Assange Defense director Nathan Fuller said,

Ellsberg and Fuller at a rally for WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2012

“We knew it was coming and still I am crushed by the loss of Daniel Ellsberg. The way Daniel chose to live his life, down to his last days, he has left behind a blueprint for the rest of us whose conscience finds us at odds with the world around us. He never gave up in his struggles for peace, for press freedom, and for nuclear disarmament.

His specific contributions to the defense of Julian Assange alone are incredible. Nearing age 90, Daniel became the co-chair of Assange Defense — not just a figurehead, he participated in webinars, authored op-eds, and was a soundboard for ideas and actions. He testified in Julian’s extradition hearing, expertly deconstructing the prosecution’s attempt to disparage Assange and standing up for the right to publish in the public interest.

I am so lucky to have counted Daniel as a friend, let alone to have worked alongside him in the fight for truth and justice. Thank you, Daniel, we will miss you dearly.”

Ellsberg testified in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London in September 2020. In cross-examination, prosecutors attempted to draw a distinction between Ellsberg — who is now widely lauded as a heroic whistleblower — and Assange. Daniel explicitly rejected this false dichotomy and explained how Assange and WikiLeaks’ publications were similarly in the public interest.

“My own actions in relation to the Pentagon Papers and the consequences of their publication have been acknowledged to have performed such a radical change of understanding. I view the WikiLeaks publications of 2010 and 2011 to be of comparable importance.”

Ellsberg explained that this tactic is an effort to turn public opinion against those charged with Espionage for engaging in acts of whistleblowing:

Ellsberg said at the time of his releases, he was harshly criticized, the way Snowden and Manning and Assange are now. Then for a long time he was ignored. And now that these new releases have come out, WikiLeaks’ in 2010 and Snowden’s NSA revelations in 2013, all of a sudden commentators were contrasting them with him, referring to Ellsberg positively “to draw some contrast between us.”

“I totally disagree with the ‘good Ellsberg / bad Assange’ theory,” he said. “Except for the computer aspects which didn’t exist back then, I see no difference between the charges against me and the charges against Assange.”

Ellsberg in support of Julian Assange

Daniel Ellsberg: Espionage Charges Against Assange Are Most Significant Attack on Press in Decades

Indict Us Too: Daniel Ellsberg & Cryptome’s John Young Demand US Drop Charges Against Julian Assange

Daniel Ellsberg on Julian Assange’s Espionage Charges


More remembrances for Daniel Ellsberg

Kevin Gosztola, The Dissenter | The Loving Truth-Teller That Was Daniel Ellsberg

Seeing Dan’s life announcement, and the warm responses to it, made it easier for me to accept that one of the best human beings I have ever known had come to the end of his life.

Dan was not at peace with the world around him. Wars and the threat of nuclear armageddon motivated him to do several more interviews while he could still speak with reporters. But he did feel joy and gratitude having lived his life unapologetically as a peace activist and truth-teller—someone who embodied the idea of the moral imperative.

For the rest of my life, I will cherish the fact that I was one of the first journalists who Dan spoke with on his farewell media tour and that I had the privilege of interacting and sharing his wisdom with the world for over a decade.

Chip Gibbons, Jacobin | Daniel Ellsberg, American Hero

“In his email announcing his terminal cancer, the threat of nuclear war was clearly weighing heavily on Ellsberg’s mind. Stating that the world risked nuclear war over Ukraine or Taiwan, Ellsberg wrote, “It is long past time — but not too late! — for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I’m able, to help these efforts.”

While he viewed the world as close to catastrophe as ever, he noted, “I’m happy to know that millions of people — including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message! — have the wisdom, the dedication and the moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.”

When I interviewed him for the fiftieth anniversary of the Pentagon Papers’ release, it was clear that he was far less interested in reminiscing about the past than carrying forward his urgent work to avert nuclear war and reform the Espionage Act. Honoring Ellsberg requires not just recalling him as a historic figure, but carrying on his work and legacy to dismantle the machinery of war that has claimed far too many lives and end its accompanying regime of secrecy that crushes truth-tellers while granting impunity to war criminals.”

Julian’s Birthday Banner Drop and Letter Campaign

July 3, 2023 All day

Across the nation and around the world activists will be dropping banners reminding the world and the Biden Administration that “Journalism is Not A Crime”. That if we wish to have a free and open press Julian Assange MUST BE FREED NOW!

We are also looking for folks to write letters or birthday cards to Julian in Belmarsh prison

Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming response to this action we have run out of banners and time sufficient to ship any more. Therefore, please find a banner drop near you and show your support by being there as a witness to history being made

Assange supporters and free press defenders are hosting over 150 banner drop actions across the country. Check back soon to find an event near you and join an action on Julian Assange’s birthday!

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

UK Judge Rejects Julian Assange’s Appeal Request

June 8, 2023 — Julian Assange’s legal battle in the UK hit a roadblock this week as High Court Judge Jonathan Swift unilaterally rejected an appeal of Julian’s extradition order on all grounds. This leaves just one avenue at the High Court level remaining for Assange: he now has five business days to submit another request to appeal to a panel of two judges, who will convene a public hearing as to whether they will grant Assange leave of appeal. 

Press freedom groups condemn UK decision

Judge Swift ruled against Julian on all grounds, drawing a harsh rebuke from the globally renowned watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Chip Gibbons, Policy Director of Defending Rights & Dissent, said,

The US government seeks to prosecute Assange for his legitimate journalistic activity that exposed war crimes, corruption, and abuses of power. The prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act is inherently illegitimate. On top of that, the legal case against Assange is irrevocably tainted by the extralegal war multiple intelligence agencies have waged on the Australian publisher. 

The Biden Administration must heed the calls of nearly every human rights and press freedom organization, major newspapers, and members of Congress and drop these charges once and for all.

“The idea of Assange or anyone being tried in a U.S. court for obtaining and publishing confidential documents the same way investigative reporters do every day should be terrifying to all Americans,” said Freedom of the Press Foundation Director of Advocacy Seth Stern.

Final High Court appeal

While this ruling is obviously a major setback, it isn’t the end of the road. RSF explained,

“This leaves only one final step in the UK courts, as the defence has five working days to submit an appeal of only 20 pages to a panel of two judges, who will convene a public hearing. Further appeals will not be possible at the domestic level, but Assange could bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Julian’s wife, Stella Assange, said on Twitter that Assange will submit a renewed appeal request early next week. This request will argue on the same grounds as the previous appeal, which include that the prosecution of Assange is a highly politicized indictment which violates the US-UK Extradition Treaty, which specifically exempts political accusations.

The Solution

The Biden administration can end this case any time it so chooses, and the chorus of voices around the world calling on Biden to #DropTheCharges keeps growing. Australia, a key U.S. ally, has recently reiterated that it wants this nightmare to end; Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese personally raised the issue with President Biden, and Albanese has publicly stated that “enough is enough” when it comes to Washington’s crusade against Julian.

Categories
Press Release

Reports that the FBI has ‘re-opened’ its Assange investigation are incorrect

On Thursday, Sydney Morning Herald incorrectly reported that the FBI investigation into Julian Assange had been ‘re-opened’.

The Herald revealed that the FBI sought to interview a London-based writer about his time working on Assange biography project in 2011. The request was denied by the writer who said he opposes any attempt to punish Assange for publishing classified material.

The FBI’s failed attempt to solicit a new witness, however, does not constitute the investigation’s re-opening, but its continuation. The process, initiated under the Trump Administration in 2017, has since been ongoing.

In their statement Wikileaks emphasized that the move indicates that the persecution has no case.

“The case against Julian Assange has no foundation and is politically motivated. The FBI’s latest move simply highlights the political desperation of his persecutors. The FBI’s efforts to create a case out of thin air include making a convicted fraudster their star witness (who has since recanted his testimony).”

Read the full Wikileaks statement bellow:

On Thursday, the Sydney Morning Herald incorrectly reported in a front-page story that the FBI investigation into Julian Assange had been ‘re-opened’. Since the current process was initiated in 2017 under the Trump Administration after pressure from CIA head Michael Pompeo, the investigation has never been closed. It is therefore nonsensical to suggest it has been re-opened.

The Herald’s story stemmed from an FBI request to a London-based writer to “discuss your experiences with Assange/Wikileaks”. This writer had worked on a project of a biography about Mr. Assange in 2011. The writer told the Herald he would rather go to prison than cooperate with the FBI’s efforts to silence a journalist.The FBI request was sent on the same day that President Biden was scheduled to address the Australian Parliament, before he cancelled his official visit.

That same day, May 23rd, Stella Assange briefed a packed room of Australian members of parliament from all political parties and held a press conference in the Parliamentary building. Her visit came after months of building momentum culminating in a week of unprecedented political unity and supporter engagement in Australia. Recent polls show 89% of Australians want Assange free. An extraordinary and undeniable level of support.

Stella Assange said:

“I wanted my first ever visit to Australia to be with Julian and our children,  but after four years he remains imprisoned in London whilst facing a life sentence in the United States. The solid support of the Australian people who overwhelmingly want to see Julian brought home to Australia has cemented my belief that Julian is closer than he has ever been to returning to his family. The US and Australian governments now have a duty to sit down and draw up a solution given the swell of political and public support in Julian’s home country. The Australian people will be funding the USD 245bn nuclear submarine AUKUS deal over the next thirty years and their opinion on releasing Julian therefore cannot be ignored.”

The case against Julian Assange has no foundation and is politically motivated. The FBI’s latest move simply highlights the political desperation of his persecutors. The FBI’s efforts to create a case out of thin air include making a convicted fraudster their star witness (who has since recanted his testimony).

Kristinn Hrafnsson, Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks said:

“The FBI has reached an alarming new low by asking a journalist (Mr. O’Hagan) to reveal his interactions with his source (Mr. Assange). There can be no doubt that the decisions taken in the case of Julian Assange are having a chilling effect on journalists globally. From spying on Julian’s lawyers, to planning his assassination, the behaviour of his persecutors is opening a Pandora’s box of abuses of power. The message that needs to be sent to the Biden administration and the Attorney General Merrick Garland is, for the sake of press freedom all over the world: Drop The Charges. End this now.”

Categories
Press Release

Stella Assange visits Australia

May 24, 2023 — Stella Assange is in Australia raising support for the release of her husband, imprisoned publisher Julian Assange.

“Although it is my first time coming to Australia, I do not feel like a stranger on these shores,” she said speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, May 22nd. “I have mixed emotions about being here, because I had always imagined my first visit to be with my husband and children.”

She declared that the prosecution of Julian Assange was being used to “bully journalists into submission” and urged the Albanese government to offer a “political solution” and bring her husband home.

“Julian’s life is in the hands of the Australian government”, she stressed.

Mrs Assange added that she believes they are closer than ever to a resolution in Assange’s long-running case, but that securing his release from prison is a matter of life and death.

On Tuesday, accompanied by Assange’s Australian lawyer Jennifer Robinson, and his brother and father Gabriel and John Shipton, she attended a briefing at the Parliament House.

Speaking after the briefing, MP Andrew Wilkie said it was vital for the Australian Government to ramp up its support for Julian. “There has been growing support for Julian in Australia, with politicians from all parties agreeing that the persecution of Julian has gone on too long and must be brought to an end.”

“Proud to stand beside Stella Assange to call for the Australian Government to ramp up its support for Julian Assange”, Wilkie wrote in a Twitter post.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protestors have joined the wife of Julian Assange in Hyde Park, calling on the Federal Government to help secure his release. Next to Mrs Assange, a number of long-time Julian’s supporters, including Scott Ludlum, David McBride, and Stephen Kenny, spoke at the rally. Mr Kenny, a lawyer for former Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks, told the crowd that Assange had committed no crime.

“This is a political matter and it requires a political solution,” he said.

Watch Stella Assange’s speech at the Sydney rally.

Journalism is Not A Crime President Biden

The Biden administration trip to Sydney has been canceled. However, our preplanned actions at the Hyde Park Fountain in defense of Julian Assange and all journalists are going forward regardless. Please join David McBride, Steven Kenny, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Gabriel and John Shipton and many others as they call on Joe Biden and Merrick Garland to drop the extradition of Julian Assange. We are asking all of our supporters to fly their Assange and WikiLeaks wearable’s to show your solidarity with this event regardless of where you are in the world

May 24, 2023 @ 10:00 am 1:00 pm Australia/Sydney

Stella Assange #FreeAssangeNOW

@Stella_Assange

Sydney, Australia: I will join you on Wednesday 24 May. Meet at Hyde Park Fountain at 10am! Make #FreeAssange visible wherever and however you can!

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Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) Movie Committee presents Ithaca

A discussion led by Coleen Rowley and Mike Madden of the Twin Cities Assange Committee will follow the film

Program begins at 6:15 sharp

May 31, 2023 @ 6:00 pm 8:00 pm America/Minneapolis

Weaving historic archive and intimate behind-the- scenes footage, this story tracks John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, alongside Stella Morris, Assange’s wife, as they join forces to advocate for Julian. We witness John embark on a European odyssey to rally a global network of supporters, advocate to politicians and cautiously step into the media’s glare.

Twin Cities Assange Committee, (WAMM) Tackling Torture at the Top Committee, Veterans for Peace Chapter 27, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, Citizens for Global Solutions Minnesota and Anti-War Committee and Assange Defense National

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Categories
Press Release

Julian Assange pens letter to King Charles III

This letter was first published by Declassified UK

May 5, 2023

To His Majesty King Charles III,

On the coronation of my liege, I thought it only fitting to extend a heartfelt invitation to you to commemorate this momentous occasion by visiting your very own kingdom within a kingdom: His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh.

You will no doubt recall the wise words of a renowned playwright: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.”

Ah, but what would that bard know of mercy faced with the reckoning at the dawn of your historic reign? After all, one can truly know the measure of a society by how it treats its prisoners, and your kingdom has surely excelled in that regard.

Your Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh is located at the prestigious address of One Western Way, London, just a short foxhunt from the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. How delightful it must be to have such an esteemed establishment bear your name.

It is here that 687 of your loyal subjects are held, supporting the United Kingdom’s record as the nation with the largest prison population in Western Europe. As your noble government has recently declared, your kingdom is currently undergoing “the biggest expansion of prison places in over a century”, with its ambitious projections showing an increase of the prison population from 82,000 to 106,000 within the next four years. Quite the legacy, indeed.

As a political prisoner, held at Your Majesty’s pleasure on behalf of an embarrassed foreign sovereign, I am honoured to reside within the walls of this world class institution. Truly, your kingdom knows no bounds.

During your visit, you will have the opportunity to feast upon the culinary delights prepared for your loyal subjects on a generous budget of two pounds per day. Savour the blended tuna heads and the ubiquitous reconstituted forms that are purportedly made from chicken. And worry not, for unlike lesser institutions such as Alcatraz or San Quentin, there is no communal dining in a mess hall. At Belmarsh, prisoners dine alone in their cells, ensuring the utmost intimacy with their meal.

Beyond the gustatory pleasures, I can assure you that Belmarsh provides ample educational opportunities for your subjects. As Proverbs 22:6 has it: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Observe the shuffling queues at the medicine hatch, where inmates gather their prescriptions, not for daily use, but for the horizon-expanding experience of a “big day out”—all at once.

You will also have the opportunity to pay your respects to my late friend Manoel Santos, a gay man facing deportation to Bolsonaro’s Brazil, who took his own life just eight yards from my cell using a crude rope fashioned from his bedsheets. His exquisite tenor voice now silenced forever.

Venture further into the depths of Belmarsh and you will find the most isolated place within its walls: Healthcare, or “Hellcare” as its inhabitants lovingly call it. Here, you will marvel at sensible rules designed for everyone’s safety, such as the prohibition of chess, whilst permitting the far less dangerous game of checkers.

Deep within Hellcare lies the most gloriously uplifting place in all of Belmarsh, nay, the whole of the United Kingdom: the sublimely named Belmarsh End of Life Suite. Listen closely, and you may hear the prisoners’ cries of “Brother, I’m going to die in here”, a testament to the quality of both life and death within your prison.

But fear not, for there is beauty to be found within these walls. Feast your eyes upon the picturesque crows nesting in the razor wire and the hundreds of hungry rats that call Belmarsh home. And if you come in the spring, you may even catch a glimpse of the ducklings laid by wayward mallards within the prison grounds. But don’t delay, for the ravenous rats ensure their lives are fleeting.

I implore you, King Charles, to visit His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, for it is an honour befitting a king. As you embark upon your reign, may you always remember the words of the King James Bible: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). And may mercy be the guiding light of your kingdom, both within and without the walls of Belmarsh.

Your most devoted subject,

Julian Assange

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Past Events Press Release

Julian Assange, World Press Freedom Day, and U.S. Hypocrisy 

May 4, 2023 — Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, a day in which the United States’ hypocrisy over its stated support of freedom of the press was on full display. U.S. officials held events and press conferences to claim they support protections for journalists around the world, even condemning adversarial countries for their treatment of their reporters, but activists reminded them that these words ring hollow as long as the U.S. continues to persecute and prosecute imprisoned journalist Julian Assange.

Activists take to the streets for Julian Assange and the First Amendment

Chicago: Press Freedom Webinar
DC: Funeral March for the Death of Press Freedom
NYC: Press Freedom Rally
Los Angeles: Hollywood die-in

U.S. officials confronted over hypocrisy on press freedom

CodePink protests Sec. State Blinken
Press Sec. Jean-Pierre refuses to engage

“Advocates on Twitter today have been talking a great deal about how the United States has engaged in hypocrisy by talking about how Evan Gershkovich is held in Russia on espionage charges but the United States has Espionage Act charges pending against Julian Assange.  Can you respond to that criticism?” asked Portnoy.

“What is the criticism?” asked Jean-Pierre. 

“Well, the criticism is that — the argument is that Julian Assange is a journalist who engaged in the publication of government documents,” Portnoy replied. “The United States is accusing him of a crime under the Espionage Act, and that, therefore, the United States is losing the moral high ground when it comes to the question of whether a reporter engages in espionage as a function of his work. So can you respond to that?”

“Look, I’m not going to speak to Julian Assange and that case from here,” said Jean-Pierre.

State Dept. dodges Associated Press on Assange

Associate Press reporter Matt Lee

“So then can I ask you, as was raised perhaps a bit abruptly at the very beginning of his comments this morning, whether or not the State Department regards Julian Assange as a journalist who would be covered by the ideas embodied in World Press Freedom Day?” asked Lee.

“The State Department thinks that Mr. Assange has been charged with serious criminal conduct in the United States, in connection with his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in our nation’s history,” Patel replied. “His actions risked serious harm to US national security to the benefit of our adversaries. It put named human sources to grave and imminent risk and risk of serious physical harm and arbitrary detention. So, it does not matter how we categorize any person, but this is – we view this as a – as something he’s been charged with serious criminal conduct.”

“Well, but it does matter actually, and that’s my question. Do you believe that he is a journalist or not?” asked Lee.

“Our view on Mr. Assange is that he’s been charged with serious criminal conduct in the United States,” said Patel.

“Yeah, but anyone can be charged with anything,” Lee replied. “Evan Gershkovich has been charged with a serious criminal offense in Russia, and you say that he is a journalist, and he is obviously. And I just want to know whether or not you, the State Department – regardless of any charges that he faces – believe that he is a journalist, or he is something else.”

“The United States doesn’t go around arbitrarily detaining people, and the judicial oversight and checks and balances that we have in our system versus the Russian system are a little bit different,” said Patel, before again repeating his line that Assange has been charged with a very serious crime.

“Okay. So, basically, the bottom line is that you don’t have an answer. You won’t say whether you think he is a journalist or not,” Lee replied.

Sam Husseini follows up with State Department

Independent journalist Sam Husseini

“You refer to WikiLeaks allegedly damaging US national security,” said Husseini. “People might remember that WikiLeaks came to prominence because they released the Collateral Murder video. And what that showed was US military mowing down Reuters reporters – workers in Iraq. Reuters repeatedly asked the US Government to disclose such information about those killings, and the US government repeatedly refused to do so. Only then did we know what happened, that the US helicopter gunship mowed down these Reuters workers, through the Collateral Murder video? Are you saying that disclosure of such criminality by the US government impinges US national security?”

“I’m not going to parse or get into specifics,” Patel said, before again repeating his line that Assange stands accused of serious crimes in a way that harmed US national security.

Further coverage

Trevor Timm in The Guardian | If you care about press freedom, make some noise about Julian Assange

If Assange is extradited, his case will go from being ignored in the United States to an absolute circus. The justice department will dig its heels in even further to avoid the embarrassment of dropping the charges during a media firestorm. By then it may be too late anyway. A new president may be in office, who would not only ignore pleas from journalists but may revel in them.

Ask yourself: do you trust Donald Trump not to turn around and use this precedent on the reporters he considers the “enemies of the people” and has previously wanted thrown in jail? If not, then now is the time to make your voice heard about the dangerous case against Julian Assange.

John Nichols