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
Action

June 17-21: Call Congress for Assange

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing has been scheduled at the UK High Court for July 9-10 in London. Meanwhile, Julian remains in prison in the UK and faces a life sentence if sent to the United States, so the Mayday for Julian effort has now morphed into Calling Congress for Julian.

As before, this is an action you can do from the comfort of your home. We are again asking you to make 6 calls per week to the House, and we’re adding an additional 6 calls to the Senate. We are focusing on the 5 congresspersons and 5 senators listed below. In addition to them, please include a call to your own Congressperson and Senator.

Congressmembers

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange. And call these U.S, Senators to urge President Biden to drop the charges. Remind them that once Julian is extradited, and this could be as soon as his new trial is completed, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.

It is now more important to halt this extradition and your calls can make the difference.

When you speak to each office please remember to be polite and brief. If they tell you that the representative only accepts calls from their constituents politely tell them that protection of the 1st Amendment is something that is important to all of us. Politely remind them of the oath of office that they took to protect our constitution and that is the reason for this call from a non-constituent.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Representatives:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you!”

Senators

Now, please call the following members of the Senate. Ask them to urge President Biden to drop the charges against Julian Assange and to drop the request for his extradition.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Senators:

“My name is ____ and I would like Senator ____ to stand up for press freedom and Julian Assange.

“I am hoping that _______will urge President Biden to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.”

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Thank you!”

Look for a new list each week until Julian is free. Thank you for all your efforts for Julian Assange!

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange’s appeal hearing scheduled for July 9-10

On the 9th and 10th of July, Julian Assange will face a two day appeal hearing in the UK Courts.

Last month, the High Court in London granted him permission for an appeal on the grounds that the United States has failed to properly assure the British courts that Assange would get adequate freedom of expression protections if he were extradited.

Free press groups welcomed the High Court’s decision to allow Julian Assange to appeal his extradition, stressing once more the indictment’s disastrous implications for press freedom and calling on the U.S. government to finally end this dangerous prosecution.

Stay tuned for more information and how you can get involved in the fight to free Assange.

Categories
Press Release

IBAHRI urges Biden to drop all charges against Julian Assange

June 7, 2024 — The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges United States President Joe Biden, to drop all charges against Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in relation to the Wikileaks publication, in 2010, of more than 250,000 leaked classified documents – exposing alleged human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the US army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Given the inherent risks posed in extraditing Mr Assange to the US, where a prison sentence of up to 175 years could be imposed under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the IBAHRI has closely followed the case.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, stated:

The IBAHRI reiterates the concerns of United Nations Experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, who have emphasised that if Mr Assange were to be extradited, his case would set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in the US and beyond. (…) President Biden is urged by the IBAHRI to drop all charges against Mr Assange.’

IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy LT KC commented:

The IBAHRI reiterates that the potential extradition of Mr Assange from the UK to the US, where he may face a prejudicial and potentially politically motivated trial, would be in contravention with the Extradition Treaty between the two countries, not least a violation of international laws and standards concerning the extradition of accused individuals. Further, it would make Mr Assange the first publisher extradited under the Espionage Act, setting a dangerous precedent for media freedom globally.

Categories
Action

June 10-14: Call Congress for Assange

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

Though he was granted permission to appeal last month, Julian remains in prison under the threat of extradition, so the Mayday for Julian effort has now morphed into Calling Congress for Julian.

As before, this is an action you can do from the comfort of your home. We are again asking you to make 6 calls per week to the House, and we’re adding an additional 6 calls to the Senate. We are focusing on the 5 congresspersons and 5 senators listed below. In addition to them, please include a call to your own Congressperson and Senator.

Congressmembers

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange. And call these U.S, Senators to urge President Biden to drop the charges. Remind them that once Julian is extradited, and this could be as soon as his new trial is completed, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.

It is now more important to halt this extradition and your calls can make the difference.

When you speak to each office please remember to be polite and brief. If they tell you that the representative only accepts calls from their constituents politely tell them that protection of the 1st Amendment is something that is important to all of us. Politely remind them of the oath of office that they took to protect our constitution and that is the reason for this call from a non-constituent.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Representatives:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you!”

Senators

Now, please call the following members of the Senate. Ask them to urge President Biden to drop the charges against Julian Assange and to drop the request for his extradition.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Senators:

“My name is ____ and I would like Senator ____ to stand up for press freedom and Julian Assange.

“I am hoping that _______will urge President Biden to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.”

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Thank you!”

Look for a new list each week until Julian is free. Thank you for all your efforts for Julian Assange!

Categories
Action

June 3-7: Call Congress for Assange

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

Your phone calls are working! On June 3, 2024, Rep. Pramila Jayapal signed on to cosponsor H.Res. 934, after supporters made calls to Rep. Jayapal’s office in back to back weeks. Let’s keep it up!


Though he was granted permission to appeal last month, Julian remains in prison under the threat of extradition, so the Mayday for Julian effort has now morphed into Calling Congress for Julian.

As before, this is an action you can do from the comfort of your home. We are again asking you to make 6 calls per week to the House, and we’re adding an additional 6 calls to the Senate. We are focusing on the 5 congresspersons and 5 senators listed below. In addition to them, please include a call to your own Congressperson and Senator.

Congressmembers

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange. And call these U.S, Senators to urge President Biden to drop the charges. Remind them that once Julian is extradited, and this could be as soon as his new trial is completed, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.

It is now more important to halt this extradition and your calls can make the difference.

When you speak to each office please remember to be polite and brief. If they tell you that the representative only accepts calls from their constituents politely tell them that protection of the 1st Amendment is something that is important to all of us. Politely remind them of the oath of office that they took to protect our constitution and that is the reason for this call from a non-constituent.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. RepresentativeWashington Office Phone
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)(202) 225-2006
Tony Gonzales (R-TX)(202) 225-4511
Andre Carson (D-IN)(202) 225-4011
Judy Chu (D-CA)(202) 225-5464
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)(202) 225-3965
YOUR REPRESENTATIVE(202) 224-3121

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Representatives:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you!”

Senators

Now, please call the following members of the Senate. Ask them to urge President Biden to drop the charges against Julian Assange and to drop the request for his extradition.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. SenatorWashington Office Phone
Lindsey Graham202-224-5972
Richard Blumenthal202-224-2823
Tim Scott202-224-6121
Ted Cruz202-224-5922
Tim Kaine202-224-4343
YOUR SENATOR202-224-4024

If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Senators:

“My name is ____ and I would like Senator ____ to stand up for press freedom and Julian Assange.

“I am hoping that _______will urge President Biden to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.”

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Australians, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese have forcefully called for this extradition to be dropped as well. That is because they all understand our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Thank you!”

Look for a new list each week until Julian is free. Thank you for all your efforts for Julian Assange!

Categories
Action

May 28-31: Call Congress for Assange

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

May 28, 2024 — Julian Assange won a small victory in the UK High Court last week, as the two-judge panel granted Assange permission to appeal his extradition on free expression grounds. However, Assange remains in prison, and the threat of extradition and an attack on our press continues to loom large.

So we continue to ask you to call your Congressmembers, and urge them to support Assange, and this week, we’re asking you to call Senators too. We are focusing on the 5 congresspersons and 5 senators listed below. In addition to them, please include a call to your own congressperson and senator.

Week of May 28-31: Congressmembers

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange, and call the following U.S, Senators to urge President Biden to drop the charges. Remind them that once Julian is extradited, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. RepresentativeWashington Office Phone
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)(202) 225-3106 (again!)
Jim Jordan (R-OH)(202) 225-2676 (again!)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)(202) 225-2906 (again!)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)(202) 225-2661
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)(202) 225-3965 (again!)
YOUR REPRESENTATIVE(202) 224-3121


If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Representatives:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. They know that our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you!”

Calling the Senate for Assange

Now, please call the following members of the Senate. Ask them to urge President Biden to drop the charges against Julian Assange and to drop the request for his extradition.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. SenatorWashington Office Phone
Bernie Sanders202-224-5141
Elizabeth Warren202-224-4543
Chuck Grassley202-224-3744
Ron Wyden202-224-5244
Rand Paul202-224-4343
YOUR SENATORS202-224-3121


If you prefer to use a script, here is one for contacting U.S. Senators:

“My name is ____ and I would like Senator ____ to stand up for press freedom and Julian Assange.

“I am hoping that _______will urge President Biden to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.”

“All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition. They know that our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

“Protect press freedom! Thank you!”

Look for a new list each week until Julian is free. Thank you for all your efforts for Julian Assange!

Categories
Press Release

Free press organizations welcome the High Court ruling

May 20, 2024 — Free press, civil liberties and human rights organizations around the world welcomed the High Court’s decision to allow Julian Assange to appeal his extradition, stressing once more the indictment’s disastrous implications for press freedom and calling on the U.S. government to finally end this dangerous prosecution.

Reporters Without Borders

“This decision marks an important milestone in Julian Assange’s legal case, opening up a vital new path to prevent extradition. The two grounds for appeal that have been granted mean that, for the first time in three years, the UK courts will consider the issues at the very heart of this case, related to freedom of expression and the First Amendment. We urge the UK to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom and refuse to further enable this dangerous prosecution.”

Rebecca Vincent, RSF Director of Campaigns

Amnesty International

“The USA’s ongoing attempt to prosecute Assange puts media freedom at risk worldwide. It ridicules the USA’s obligations under international law, and their stated commitment to freedom of expression. In trying to imprison him, the US is sending the unambiguous message that they have no respect for freedom of expression, and that they wish to send a warning to journalists and publishers everywhere: that they too could be targeted, for receiving and publishing classified material — even if doing so is in the public interest.”

Simon Crowther, Amnesty International Legal Advisor

Article 19

The decision by the United Kingdom High Court to allow Julian Assange to appeal against his extradition to the United States is a welcome step forward but US President Joe Biden should take action to free Assange now, underlines the statement from Australia’s Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance

“MEAA welcomes the decision of the High Court, but we remain concerned that there is no guarantee of success. The appeal may not be heard until late this year or even next year. In the meantime, his mental and physical wellbeing is deteriorating. The only clear path to freedom is for the US to drop the charges, end its prosecution and allow him to be released from jail. President Biden has the power to do this by the stroke of a pen. Last month, he said his administration was ‘considering’ Assange’s case. It is now time to resolve it.”

Karen Percy, MEAA Media Federal President

UK’s National Union of Journalists

“At this crucial juncture, this judgment serves as a positive step forward for Assange and for every journalist seeking to reveal truths through their reporting. With each passing day, the US government’s relentless pursuit contributes to Assange’s worsening health whilst displaying a disregard for practices adopted by journalists globally, during their investigative journalism. We welcome today’s judgment and hope it is the first step in victory for Assange. The Department of Justice can still seize the opportunity to end this legal battle and the chilling impact his extradition would have.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary

Committee to Protect Journalists

PEN International, English PEN, PEN Norway

“As the implications of this decision reverberate globally, reminding us of the critical importance of defending free speech, we remain acutely aware that Assange’s fight for freedom continues. The US authorities’ judicial harassment of Assange must stop at once. We urge them to drop all charges against Assange and to withdraw their extradition request. The UK authorities must release him from prison immediately and refrain from extraditing him.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation

“On appeal, we urge the court to refuse to extradite Assange. But better yet, the Biden administration can and should end this case now. If Biden continues to pursue the Assange prosecution, he risks creating a precedent that could be used against any reporter who exposes government secrets, even if they reveal official crimes. If the Biden administration cares about press freedom, it must drop the Assange case immediately.”

Caitlin Vogus, FPF Deputy Director

International Federation of Journalists

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange granted permission to appeal

May 20, 2024 – The UK High Court has granted Julian Assange permission to appeal his extradition order, specifically on the grounds that the United States has failed to properly assure the British courts that Assange would get adequate freedom of expression protections if he were extradited.

The appeal permission is narrow but provides the first real chance for the substantive issue of whether the First Amendment would protect Assange can be aired in court. The parties have been given until May 24 to submit a proposed outline for how such an appeal hearing would be argued.


Beginning early this morning, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Royal Court of Justice, along with free press groups, journalist unions, and other public figures in attendance.

Live stream from outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Edward Fitzgerald KC opened the proceedings for the defense by announcing that the defense accepts the U.S. assurance regarding the death penalty, because it is unequivocal and would be binding on U.S. courts — the U.S. simply stated clearly that Assange would not be charged with a death penalty offense.

As to the assurance regarding Julian Assange’s right to assert protections guaranteed under the First Amendment, Fitzgerald maintained it offers no guarantee whatsoever. The assurance given “does not promise that the applicant can rely on the First Amendment. Merely that he can raise and seek to rely on it.”

Furthermore, Fitzgerald argued,

“The court has made a finding on the basis of Mr Kromberg’s statement that ‘concerning any First Amendment challenge, the United States could argue that foreign nationals are not entitled to protection under the First Amendment, at least as it concerns national defense information’”

“The court’s express finding was that ‘If such an argument were to succeed, it would (at least arguably) cause the applicant prejudice on the grounds of his non-US citizenship (and hence, on the grounds of his nationality)’”

There is a wide range of cases in which U.S. prosecutors have given clear, express, and unequivocal assurances when they want to. “We have nothing of that sort here,” Fitzgerald said. “All we have is ‘he may raise and seek to rely on’.” He went on to cite specific promises common to assurances.

“The U.S. states that the so-called assurance is adequate because the judges will take ‘solemn notice’ of it. But the U.S. accepts that the assurance ‘cannot bind the court’ ‘Taking solemn notice’ of an assurance that was expressly stated not to bind the courts cannot operate as a guarantee that the court will apply U.S. law in a way that permits the Applicant to rely on the First Amendment, despite his foreign citizenship.”

Mark Summers KC continued for the defense, warning the court that the U.S. will try to raise that nationality and citizenship are different, a new argument that they should have raised beforehand, and in court, which they did not.

As anticipated by Summers, James Lewis KC for the prosecution argued that the assurance regarding Julian Assange’s First Amendment rights is that Julian will not be discriminated against based on his nationality, but instead on his citizenship. He argued, for the first time, that this is an important distinction.

He claimed that “the applicability of the Applicant’s First Amendment argument requires inter alia the components of (1) conduct on foreign (outside the United States of America) soil; (2) non-US citizenship; and (3) national defense information.”

“Its restriction in scope [of the assurance] is not by reason of his [Julian’s] nationality, but by virtue of the fact that he is a foreigner, carrying out actions on foreign soil,” Lewis argued.

As to the ‘scope’ of the protection, Lewis maintained that “this court has already observed that the counts are of a different nature”, which implies that the First Amendment protections can be selectively applied, depending on the count in question.

He tried to substantiate this argument by saying that Chelsea Manning had no First Amendment protection, so therefore anyone complicit with her would not have First Amendment protection either.

After Lewis concluded, the lawyer for the UK Home Secretary, Ben Watson, addressed the court briefly, only to convey that Home Secretary, who has the final say on extraditions, accepts the diplomatic assurances provided by the United States and says the court should do the same.

Summers returned to address Lewis’s arguments regarding nationality vs citizenship. “Nationality is wider,” he said. “You can be a national without being a citizen, you cannot be a citizen without nationality.”

“In addition to being a non-US citizen Mr Assange is a non-US national as well. Whatever the distinction may be, and we don’t accept that there is any… it has no bearing whatsoever”

“The exclusionary rule has a number of limbs to it… Mr Lewis said in terms he will be excluded because he is a foreigner, carrying out acts on foreign soil concerning national security… Well, he is being excluded in part because he is a foreigner [as opposed to if he were a US citizen]”

Concerning the question of scope, Summers concluded that it’s not arguable that it is allowed to violate people’s rights under certain conditions. The protection is an absolute. If Assange would be discriminated against at trial, the extradition must be barred.

The proceedings were completed with the address from Fitzgerald, who stressed once more the wording of the assurance: “He will be permitted to raise and seek to rely on it.” This is not the same as granting Mr Assange the right to raise First Amendment arguments, Fitzgerald concluded.

The proceedings adjourned for 20 minutes, after which the judges returned with a ruling.

The High Court ruled that it is unsatisfied with U.S. assurances and granted Julian Assange leave to appeal on grounds 4 (violation of free speech rights) and 5 (prejudiced at trial due to nationality). The other ground (related to the death penalty) has been rejected.

Stella Assange’s statement after the Court’s ruling

The lawyers will have until 2pm on May 24 to file an agreed case outline.

Rebecca Vincent of RSF addresses the crowd upon hearings conclusion

Free press organizations around the world welcomed the High Court’s decision, stressing once more the prosecution’s disastrous implications for press freedom and calling on the U.S. government to finally end it.

Categories
Past Events Video Series

May 20: Our right to know is on trial

May 18, 2024 — The latest installment in our “Start with the Truth” partnership with Stella Assange, an ongoing webinar series featuring discussions among experts on key aspects of Julian Assange’s case, gives a preview of the upcoming May 20th hearing in London.

Our panelists this month are:

  • Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author and journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, and now an independent journalist on Substack
  • Jesselyn Radack heads the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. As Director of WHISPeR, her work focuses on the issues of secrecy, surveillance, torture and drones, where she has been at the forefront of challenging the government’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers, which has become a war on journalists, hacktivists and those who reveal information that the public has right to know but the government wants kept secret.
  • Carey Shenkman is a human rights attorney specializing in freedom of expression and technology. He is co-author of “A Century of Repression: The Espionage Act and Freedom of the Press” (2022)
Categories
Press Release

31 MEPs write an open letter to UK Home Secretary

May 17, 2024 — Ahead of the upcoming High Court hearing on May 20th, 31 members of the EU Parliament from several political groups, have sent an open letter to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly, urging him to stop the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.

The letter calls on the British government to assume its responsibilities with regard to human rights and press freedom. The letter was initiated by MEP Patrick Breyer, who said:

“The British government is spreading the myth that it is exclusively for the courts to decide on Assange’s extradition. Section 70 (2) of the UK Extradition Act however gives the Home Secretary the power to refuse extradition if it would violate the right to life or the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, as stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights. Julian Assange’s mental health, the potential conditions of detention in the US and the real risk of suicide upon extradition mean that extradition would constitute such inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Patrick Breyer, MEP

In their letter, the MEPs emphasize that the persecution of Julian Assange is politically motivated. The provisions of the British-American extradition treaty rightly prohibit extradition for political crimes. The clearly political nature of this case is made clear by numerous and highly biased statements from leading US political figures who have called for the extrajudicial punishment or assassination of Mr. Assange since at least 2011.

MEPs also stress the total lack of any guarantee on behalf of the US government that Assange would receive the same rights in court as a US citizen.

“Proceedings against a publisher in a country that may not recognize or apply fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press is unacceptable.”

Patrick Breyer, MEP
Categories
Press Release

What to expect at Julian Assange’s appeal hearing on May 20th

May 17, 2024 — On Monday, May 20th, the UK High Court will decide whether Julian Assange will be allowed to appeal the decision allowing his extradition before the UK Courts. The High Court will first hear arguments from the defense and the prosecution regarding the “assurances” provided by the U.S.

Julian Assange’s final appeal hearing was held on February 20th​ and 21st​ this year, upon which the judges made a ruling on March 26th​, provisionally allowing Julian Assange to appeal the decision to extradite him to the U.S., but only if the U.S. doesn’t provide sufficient assurances that he will not be sentenced to death and that he will be allowed to rely on the First Amendment that is, his right to free speech.

On April 16th, the U.S. issued “assurances” as to how Assange would be treated both in court and in prison. Julian’s wife, Stella Assange explained,

“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty. It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a U.S citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can “seek to raise” the First Amendment if extradited. The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism. The Biden Administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late.”

Now, the High Court will convene again to hear defense and prosecution arguments to decide whether the U.S. assurances are sufficient to allow Julian Assange’s immediate extradition.

If the High Court rules that the assurances are sufficient and rejects the appeal, that will be the end of the road for Julian Assange in the UK courts. The defense will then attempt to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, though that is not guaranteed. If the High Court allows the appeal to go ahead, this will mean another British appeal process with the right to First Amendment protections at the heart of it.

Ahead of the hearing Amnesty International legal advisor Simon Crowther, who will attend on 20 May to monitor the proceedings, stated:

“As the court reconvenes to determine Julian Assange’s fate, we repeat the enormous repercussions at stake if he is extradited to the USA: the risk that he would be subjected to human rights violations and the long-lasting damage that would be done to global media freedom.”

We will report on the proceedings here.

Categories
Press Release

PACE rapporteur visits Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison, expresses deep concern for his well-being

May 14, 2024 — The rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “The detention of Julian Assange and its chilling effects on human rights”, Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), has concluded a two-day fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom, during which she met Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison and spoke to him in confidence.

Ms Ævarsdóttir has said:

“As noted in the motion underlying my mandate, Julian Assange’s harsh treatment risks deterring others who wish to report truthful information pertaining to armed conflicts. Whether or not he is extradited, his prosecution and lengthy detention already risk deterring other whistle-blowers and journalists from reporting on various transgressions of governments or powerful private parties.”

She has also conveyed a message from Mr Assange who welcomed Ms Ævarsdóttir’s work regarding his detention and its chilling effects on human rights in Europe, and praised Council of Europe as the most important guardian of human rights in Europe.

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Action Press Release

May 13-17: Call on your reps to free Assange!

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

You can take action to free Julian Assange from the comfort of your own home. Call the 5 Congressmembers listed below and your own Congressperson, and urge them to save journalists’ right to publish and our right to know.

We have just one week left until what could be Assange’s final appearance in a UK courtroom on May 20, as the High Court will decide whether the U.S.’s so-called “assurances” are good enough to sign off on trampling the First Amendment.

Week of May 13

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange.  Remind them that once Julian is extradited, and this could be as soon as May 20, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.  As Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said last week on the Washington Post’sWorld Press Freedom Day panel,

… I would use this opportunity to encourage the U.S. to drop its charges against Julian Assange. If he is brought here and he is convicted, that will send–that will create a terrible precedent for press freedom everywhere. It’s really important that the U.S. upholds its commitments to press freedom, and that includes dropping the charges against Assange. Governments have to realize that press is not there to make lives more difficult for governments. It’s there so that we can make sure that we are all–we all have access to the information that we need to live freely, safely, and it’s essential that it is protected.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. RepresentativeWashington Office Phone 
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)(202) 225-3106
Jim Jordan (R-OH)(202) 225-2676
Mark Pocan (D-WI)(202) 225-2906
Andy Biggs (R-AZ)(202) 225-2635
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)(202) 225-3965
YOUR REPRESENTATIVE                  (202) 224-3121

This week’s script

Here is a sample of the kind of messaging we encourage. Please make it your own but always be respectful:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.  

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.  

All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition.  They know that our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, reminded us of this last week on World Press Freedom Day. She said that extraditing and convicting Julian Assange “will create a terrible precedent for press freedom everywhere. It’s really important that the U.S. upholds its commitments to press freedom, and that includes dropping the charges against Assange.”

Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you for all your efforts to free Julian Assange!

Once you’ve made your calls this week, encourage friends to do the same, and post about your calls on social media.

Categories
Action

May 6-10: Call on your reps to free Assange!

This week’s installment of Call Congress for Julian Assange 

You can take action to free Julian Assange from the comfort of your own home. Call the 5 Congressmembers listed below and your own Congressperson, and urge them to save journalists’ right to publish and our right to know.

We have just two weeks left until what could be Assange’s final appearance in a UK courtroom on May 20, as the High Court will decide whether the U.S.’s so-called “assurances” are good enough to sign off on trampling the First Amendment.

Week of May 6

Please call these U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor H. Res. 934 to drop the charges and extradition of Julian Assange.  Remind them that once Julian is extradited, and this could be as soon as May 20, the ability of journalists to expose government crimes will be forever compromised.  As Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said last week on the Washington Post’sWorld Press Freedom Day panel,

… I would use this opportunity to encourage the U.S. to drop its charges against Julian Assange. If he is brought here and he is convicted, that will send–that will create a terrible precedent for press freedom everywhere. It’s really important that the U.S. upholds its commitments to press freedom, and that includes dropping the charges against Assange. Governments have to realize that press is not there to make lives more difficult for governments. It’s there so that we can make sure that we are all–we all have access to the information that we need to live freely, safely, and it’s essential that it is protected.

You can reach all of them through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the numbers below:

U.S. RepresentativeWashington Office Phone 
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)(202) 225-3106
Jim Jordan (R-OH)(202) 225-2676
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)(202) 225-5635
Matt Gaetz (R-FL)(202) 225-4136
Harriet Hageman (R-WY)(202) 225-2311
YOUR REPRESENTATIVE                  (202) 224-3121

This week’s script

Here is a sample of the kind of messaging we encourage. Please make it your own but always be respectful:

“My name is ____ and I would like Congressperson ____ to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange.  

I am hoping that _______will add (his or her) name to the bipartisan House Resolution 934 to drop the charges and extradition request for Assange.  

All major press freedom and human rights organizations are opposed to this extradition.  They know that our ability to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars is essential to our democracy – and that this can only occur with a free press.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, reminded us of this last week on World Press Freedom Day. She said that extraditing and convicting Julian Assange “will create a terrible precedent for press freedom everywhere. It’s really important that the U.S. upholds its commitments to press freedom, and that includes dropping the charges against Assange.”

Protect press freedom! Please sign on to H. Res. 934. Thank you for all your efforts to free Julian Assange!

Once you’ve made your calls this week, encourage friends to do the same, and post about your calls on social media.

Categories
Press Release

WPFD: Australian lawmakers send letter to Biden as press freedom groups call for the release of Julian Assange

May 3, 2024 — On World Press Freedom Day, a group of Australian lawmakers wrote to President Biden urging him to drop the charges against Julian Assange while press freedom groups have reiterated their call for his immediate release.

The co-chairs of the “Bring Julian Assange Home” Parliamentary Friendship Group – MPs Andrew Wilkie, Josh Wilson, Bridget Archer and Sen. David Shoebridge – called on Biden to end the prosecution of Assange, who is in a U.K. prison fighting extradition to the U.S.

“We write in the hope that Mr. Assange, who has endured maximum security imprisonment in the United Kingdom’s Belmarsh Prison for more than five years without conviction on any substantial charge, can go free, can go home, can be reunited with his wife, children, and family.”

Press freedom groups, politicians and activists have used World Press Freedom Day to shine light on Julian Assange’s case, and again call for his immediate release.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

U.S. continues its pursuit of Julian Assange

April 16, 2024Invited by the U.K.’s High Court to give assurances that would address those grounds of appeal which have been found to have “real prospect of success”, the U.S. has today issued a diplomatic note in which it gives a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty.

On the matter of Julian Assange’s First Amendment rights, which the prosecutor asserted he does not enjoy because he is not a U.S. citizen, the U.S. has said that could “seek to raise” them, i.e. argue that the rights should not be disallowed.

Julian’s wife, Stella Assange said:

“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty. It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a U.S citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can “seek to raise” the First Amendment if extradited. The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism. The Biden Administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late.”

Media organizations and their representatives have criticized the U.S. decision to continue its pursuit of Julian Assange and called on President Biden to end the prosecution.

As previously announced a hearing will be held on May 20, 2024 to decide whether these U.S. “assurances” are sufficient and to give a final ruling on permission to appeal.

Categories
Past Events Video Series

Debunking the ‘WikiLeaks Harm’ smear

April 13, 2024 — Continuing our new monthly webinar series, ‘Start with the Truth,’ in partnership with Stella Assange, this month we present ‘Debunking the ‘WikiLeaks Harm’ smear,” an investigation into WikiLeaks’ redaction process, particularly around the Iraq and Afgan War Logs, and the U.S. government’s evidence-free claim that Julian Assange intentionally published names and put sources in danger.

Our panelists this month are:

  • Hamit Dardagan is co-founder with John Sloboda of the NGO Iraq Body Count, where he is the lead analyst. From 2007 he was the Consultant on Civilian Casualties in War for the UK think-tank Oxford Research Group. He has written and co-written a number of analytical papers on casualties in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, including for the New England Journal of Medicine, PLoS Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal. He earlier undertook research for a number of organisations including Greenpeace and chaired Kalayaan, a human rights campaign for unauthorised overseas domestic workers in the UK.
  • Matthew Hoh is the Associate Director of the Eisenhower Media Network. Matt is a former Marine Corps captain, an Afghanistan State Department officer, a disabled Iraq War veteran, and a Senior Fellow Emeritus with the Center for International Policy. In 2009, Matt resigned his post with the State Department in Afghanistan over the escalation of the war by the United States. Matt is an advisory board member for the Assange Defense Committee.
  • Ann Wright has been a part of the peace community for 20 years and serves as a member of the CODEPINK Board of Directors. Before that, she was in the US Army/Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. She was also a US diplomat and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the US government in March 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.
Further reading:
Categories
Press Release

Julian Assange’s half a decade in prison

April 11, 2024 — As of today, the award-winning journalist and publisher Julian Assange has been incarcerated in UK’s maximum security Belmarsh prison for five years, on no conviction and for publishing truthful information in the public interest.

Marking the occasion, Julian Assange’s wife Stella Assange has called on US President Joe Biden, who suggested the US is “considering” dropping the case, to “do the right thing” and “drop the charges”. At the same time, Australian PM Anthony Albanese has noted the Biden comment, calling it an “encouraging statement”.

The anniversary was marked by supporters and free press organizations, which reiterated their calls for Julian Assange to be freed immediately.

Categories
Press Release

US ‘considering’ dropping prosecution of Julian Assange, Joe Biden says

April 10, 2024 — Ahead of the fifth anniversary of Julian Assange’s incarceration in London’s Belmarsh prison, US President Joe Biden said the US is “considering” dropping the case.

When asked by reporters at the White House whether he had a response to Australia’s request – which in February this year passed a resolution, backed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, calling for Mr Assange’s release, Mr Biden replied: “We’re considering it.”

The statement comes two weeks after UK High Court decided it could grant Julian Assange limited permission to appeal his extradition, but only if the US government fails to offer adequate “assurances”.

5 Years imprisonment without a conviction- Reflections on the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange

April 11 @ 10:00 am 11:00 am America/Los Angeles

Please join Journalists Chris Hedges, Abby Martin, Stefania Maurizi and Chip Gibbons with Vinnie De Stefano, National Organizing Director at Assange Defense, as Moderator. We will discuss and reflect on the sad anniversary of 5 years of imprisonment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison. Part of the discussion will include the fact that he has yet to be convicted on anything. We will look at the implications for press freedom, the public’s right to know and what you can do to help us end this nightmare once and for all

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84403333734?pwd=DXEVw468bg1q1Z9ROHVHPIWN7wbY3J.1

Assange Defense in collaboration with Defending Rights & Dissent

View Organizer Website

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Recap and reactions to High Court appeal ruling

April 6, 2024 — Last month, the UK High Court issued a judgment that could grant Julian Assange limited permission to appeal his extradition to the United States but first gives the U.S. government an opportunity to give “assurances” to potentially head off an appeal altogether.

Press freedom organizations and journalistic unions welcomed the decision to avoid extradition for now, but they reiterated their calls for the U.S. to drop the charges.


UK High Court ruling

In the judgment issued on March 26, the UK High Court decided that three of Assange’s requested nine grounds of appeal have merit and invited the U.S. government and U.K. Home Secretary to offer “assurances” to address those grounds before giving its final ruling.

Stella Assange addressing the press after the court was adjourned

The court has ordered assurances be made that Assange will be granted First Amendment protections, that he will not be prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality, and that he will not receive the death penalty.

The ruling gives the U.S. three weeks to provide assurances that would address these grounds. If the U.S. declines to do so, the court will grant Assange right to appeal on those grounds. If, as is expected, assurances are given, there will be a hearing on May 20, 2024, to decide if the assurances are sufficient and to give a final ruling on permission to appeal.


Press freedom groups warn threat to journalism remains

The court’s decision to avoid extradition for now was welcomed by press freedom organizations and journalistic unions across the globe, which reiterated their calls for the U.S. to drop the charges.

Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), said:

“We are glad Julian Assange is not getting extradited today. But this legal battle is far from over, and the threat to journalists and the news media from the Espionage Act charges against Assange remains”.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalistssaid:

“It is time that the U.S. Justice Department put an end to all these court proceedings and dropped its dogged pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institutesaid:

“The UK High Court’s ruling presents the U.S. government with another opportunity to do what it should have done long ago—drop the Espionage Act charges. Prosecuting Assange for the publication of classified information would have profound implications for press freedom, because publishing classified information is what journalists and news organizations often need to do in order to expose wrongdoing by government.”

Simon Crowther, Legal Adviser at Amnesty Internationalsaid: “Instead of allowing this protracted legal process to continue, the US should drop all charges against Assange”.

Whistleblower and source protection group WHISPeR urged the British court not to trust U.S. assurances:

“As attorneys who have represented several defendants under Espionage charges in media leak cases, we can speak to these issues from direct experience. Our clients have been denied both the right to present a First Amendment defense and the supposedly humane prison conditions promised by the Department of Justice. The U.S. government simply cannot make any meaningful assurance that any defendant can rely on First Amendment protections under an Espionage Act prosecution, much less a foreign citizen.”

Alice Jill EdwardsUN Special Rapporteur on Torturesaid:

“Irrespective of any assurances that may soon be provided by the US authorities, many of the questions that have been raised are within the ambit of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Karen Percy, Media President at MEAAsaid:

“We remain concerned that there is still no certainty an appeal against his extradition will proceed, and even if it goes ahead that only a small number of grounds of appeal are possible. (…) The only clear path to freedom is for the US to drop the charges.”


Expert panel reacts to appeal decision

Assange Defense convened a panel of experts to discuss the court’s ruling, which delayed Assange’s extradition, but only to allow the U.S. government to give assurances as to how Julian would be treated if he were extradited.

Panelists Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild; Kevin Gosztola, journalist and author of “Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case against Julian Assange”; Stephen Rohde, constitutional lawyer and author; and Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights & Dissent discussed the ruling, what it means, and what comes next.

Lunch With Gabriel Shipton

May 24 @ 12:15 pm 2:00 pm America/Washington DC

As the brother of renowned journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Gabriel brings a unique perspective on the importance of truth-telling and the challenges faced by whistleblowers in the modern world. Join us for an engaging afternoon as Gabriel shares his insights into the vilification of truth-telling and the vital role of transparency and accountability in society. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from a courageous advocate for freedom of information and the protection of whistleblowers. Secure your spot at the lunch session and prepare to be inspired by Gabriel Shipton!

The discount code is “EatCheap” at checkout for savings on the lunch event

Convention Tickets: https://lnc2024.com/#tickets
Lunch Tickets: https://lnc2024.com/product/gabriel-shipton-lunch/

$125.00 Lunch

Libertarian National Committee

(800) ELECT-US

Washington Hilton

1919 Connecticut Avenue Northwestern
Washington, District of Columbia 20009 United States
+ Google Map

Boston Rally To Free Assange

April 8 @ 11:00 am 12:30 pm America/Boston

Come to Boston Area Assange Defense’s next rally to defend press freedom and fight for journalist Julian Assange’s freedom. We are gathering once again to share the threat to our constitutional that the extradition and prosecution of Julian Assange represents for all of us around the world. Come and join us as we stand up for everyone’s right to a free and open press and the very right to dissent

Boston Area Assange Defense

617-501-9125

View Organizer Website

Washington Hilton

1919 Connecticut Avenue Northwestern
Washington, District of Columbia 20009 United States
+ Google Map
Categories
Past Events Press Release

VIDEO: Expert panel reacts to Assange appeal decision

March 26, 2024 — This morning in London, the UK’s High Court ruled on Julian Assange’s request to appeal his extradition to the United States. The ruling delayed Assange’s extradition, but only to allow the U.S. government to give assurances as to how Julian would be treated (in court and in prison) if he were extradited.

Assange Defense convened a panel of experts to discuss the ruling, what it means, and what comes next.

Panel: Assange Appeal Decision Reaction

March 26 @ 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

Today the UK’s High Court ruled to grant in part Julian Assange’s request to appeal his extradition to the U.S., pending “assurances” from the United States. Join us for an expert panel discussion on the ruling, what it means and what comes next.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange appeal partially allowed, pending U.S. ‘assurances’

Supporters outside the courtroom awaiting Assange’s appeal decision (Source)

March 26, 2024 — The UK High Court has issued a judgment that could grant Julian Assange limited permission to appeal his extradition to the United States but first gives the U.S. government an opportunity to give “assurances” to potentially avoid an appeal.

The court found that Assange has a “real prospect of success” on 3 of the 9 grounds of appeal:

  • Ground iv) that Extradition is incompatible with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression); “If (as might be the case) Mr Assange is not permitted to rely on the First Amendment then it is arguable that his extradition would be incompatible with article 10 of the Convention.”
  • Ground v) If extradited, Mr Assange might be prejudiced at his trial by reason of his nationality, as “foreign nationals are not entitled to protections under the First Amendment”.
  • Ground ix) Extradition is barred by inadequate specialty/death penalty protection: “The Secretary of State agrees that, if he is extradited, Mr Assange could be charged with offences that carry the death penalty and that there is nothing then to prevent the death penalty from being imposed.”

The ruling gives the U.S. three weeks to provide assurances that would address these grounds. If the U.S. declines to do so, the court will grant Assange right to appeal on those grounds. If, as is expected, assurances are given, there will be a hearing on May 20, 2024, to decide if the assurances are sufficient and to give a final ruling on permission to appeal.

Julian’s wife Stella Assange spoke outside the court following the announcement:

The court’s decision to avoid extradition for now was welcomed by press freedom organizations and journalistic unions, which reiterated their calls for the U.S. to drop the charges.

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said:

‘The UK High Court’s ruling presents the U.S. government with another opportunity to do what it should have done long ago—drop the Espionage Act charges. Prosecuting Assange for the publication of classified information would have profound implications for press freedom, because publishing classified information is what journalists and news organizations often need to do in order to expose wrongdoing by government. It’s long past time for the U.S. Justice Department to abandon the Espionage Act charges and resolve this case.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:

“A temporary reprieve is clearly preferable to an extradition that would have taken place in the coming days. However, the conditionality around the grounds of appeal, which are contingent on the examination of US government assurances that he will not face the death penalty and has the right to free speech, mean the risks to Assange and press freedom remain stark.

“Assange’s prosecution by the US is for activities that are daily work for investigative journalists – finding sources with evidence of criminality and helping them to get their stories out into the world. If Assange is prosecuted, free expression the world over will be damaged.”

Whistleblower and source protection group WHISPeR urged the British court not to trust U.S. assurances:

We regret that the Court declined to properly consider the political nature of this prosecution under what is a textbook case of a political crime, and continues to take a blinkered approach on the remaining questions it has left open for the May 20th hearing. We again strongly urge the High Court to apply the greatest possible skepticism of U.S. assurances. The U.S. government has certainly not earned a presumption of credibility on these issues.

As attorneys who have represented several defendants under Espionage charges in media leak cases, we can speak to these issues from direct experience. Our clients have been denied both the right to present a First Amendment defense and the supposedly humane prison conditions promised by the Department of Justice.

The U.S. government simply cannot make any meaningful assurance that any defendant can rely on First Amendment protections under an Espionage Act prosecution, much less a foreign citizen. The legal question is at best unresolved by U.S. courts, and the precedent is ominous. The Pentagon Papers case, the fullest test of the Espionage Act against the First Amendment to date, resulted in a Supreme Court opinion that pointedly left open the possibility that the U.S. government could punish the publication of government documents.  Any assurance that Assange would be allowed to mount a meaningful First Amendment defense would be diametrically opposed to the U.S. Justice Department’s own position in previous media leak cases: that the Espionage Act does not allow a jury to even consider a First Amendment defense. In Thomas Drake’s case, the government sought to ban the use of words like “whistleblowing” in front of a jury. In prosecuting Daniel Hale, the government argued that his appeals to the First Amendment were merely “academic musings,” and “interesting thought exercises, but irrelevant to the case at hand”.

Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), said:

“We are glad Julian Assange is not getting extradited today. But this legal battle is far from over, and the threat to journalists and the news media from the Espionage Act charges against Assange remains. Assange’s conviction in American courts would create a dangerous precedent that the U.S. government can and will use against reporters of all stripes who expose its wrongdoing or embarrass it. The Biden administration should take the opportunity to drop this dangerous case once and for all.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said,

“We are glad that the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States will be delayed. His prosecution in the U.S. under the Espionage Act would have disastrous implications for press freedom. It is time that the U.S. Justice Department put an end to all these court proceedings and dropped its dogged pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder.”

PEN International and English PEN cosigned a statement,

Journalists and publishers sometimes risk their lives to uncover truths that powerful entities seek to conceal. By recognising that the UK and the US have not provided sufficient assurances, the High Court has proven that the concerns and fears expressed by Assange, his family and his legal team are well-founded.

Yet the court rejected some of Assange’s arguments, including that his extradition was political. We remain deeply concerned by the fact that the US was granted more time to make diplomatic assurances – despite Assange facing the risk of serious human rights violations if extradited to the US – and of the dangerous prospect of Assange’s extradition going ahead.

Once again, we urge the US authorities to drop all charges against Assange and withdraw their extradition request. We further call on the UK authorities to refrain from extraditing Assange, to release him from Belmarsh prison immediately, and to ensure he is reunited with his family.

We stand unwaveringly alongside Assange and fellow publishers and journalists around the world who courageously defend truth and justice in the face of adversity.

Simon Crowther, Legal Adviser at Amnesty International, said:

“The High Court’s decision today leaves in limbo Julian Assange and all defenders of press freedom — but the fight continues. The US lawyers now have a second opportunity to make diplomatic assurances which the court will consider in May. Instead of allowing this protracted legal process to continue, the US should drop all charges against Assange.

“The UK remains intent on extraditing Assange despite the grave risk that he will be subjected to torture or ill-treatment in the US. While the US has allegedly assured the UK that it will not violate Assange’s rights, we know from past cases that such ‘guarantees’ are deeply flawed — and the diplomatic assurances so far in the Assange case are riddled with loopholes.

“Unfortunately the court rejected some of Assange’s arguments, notably that the extradition was political. The court paused proceedings on the other grounds so that the US can make diplomatic assurances which it will then reconsider.

“The US must stop its politically motivated prosecution of Assange, which puts Assange and media freedom at risk worldwide. In trying to imprison him, the US is sending an unambiguous warning to publishers and journalists everywhere that they too could be targeted and that it is not safe for them to receive and publish classified material — even if doing so is in the public interest.”

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

We are glad Assange will have another opportunity, however narrow, to appeal his extradition. We share the UK Court’s concern over comments from US prosecutors that Assange may be denied First Amendment protections on the basis of his nationality. This is the press freedom case of the 21st century and a verdict against Assange will have an impact on press freedom broadly. The idea of putting him on trial for newsgathering and then saying he can’t rely on the First Amendment is an unacceptable prospect.

We are nonetheless disturbed that the UK courts have failed to recognize this is a case about press freedom and political expression, as well as granting the US government yet another chance to amend its flawed, defective extradition request.

Assange’s persecution for his journalistic activities is not only an affront to our First Amendment, it is a clear violation of international human rights law. It constitutes an attempt to extradite an individual for a purely political offense, something that should be impermissible. The extradition should be rejected on these bases, yet Assange has been refused an appeal on these grounds.

The ball is, yet again, in the Biden Administration’s court. They should uphold the First Amendment by dropping the charges. As the party driving the extradition hearings, they can at the very least walk away from the lengthy legal processes in the UK, ending this once and for all.

We are at a critical stage in the Assange case and we will be escalating our calls for the Biden Administration to uphold the First Amendment and defend global press freedom by dropping this Trump-era prosecution of a journalist for journalistic activities.

Karen Percy, media federal president of the leading Australian journalism union Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, said,

Julian Assange’s bid to overturn the extradition order is still alive but his legal limbo continues.

We remain concerned that there is still no certainty an appeal against his extradition will proceed, and even if it goes ahead that only a small number of grounds of appeal are possible.

Julian Assange needs more than assurances from the US about how he will be treated. The only clear path to freedom is for the US to drop the charges, end its prosecution and allow him to be released from jail.

Next month will mark five years of detention in Belmarsh Prison, where his health and mental wellbeing has worsened recently.

Media freedom continues to be imperilled the longer this case drags on.

The stories published by WikiLeaks and other outlets more than a decade ago were clearly in the public interest. The ongoing prosecution is politically motivated with the intent of curtailing free speech, criminalising journalism and sending a clear message to future whistleblowers and publishers that they too will be punished if they step out of line.

If the US government can extradite a citizen of another country, from anywhere in the world for publishing factual information it sets a dangerous precedent that will have a profoundly chilling effect on investigative journalism, discouraging journalists and whistleblowers from exposing vital information in the public interest.

We call on the Australian government to keep up the pressure on the US to drop the charges so Julian Assange can resume life as a free man.”


Expert panel reacts to High Court announcement

Assange Appeal Decision Reaction

Boulder, CO: Film screening, Juan Passarelli’s “The War on Journalism”

April 11 @ 6:30 pm 9:00 pm America/Denver

Boulder Action for Assange will host a screening of Juan Passarelli’s “The War on Journalism” followed by Q&A with David Barsamian, award winning journalist and author with Alternative Radio & Kendra Christian, founder of Denver Action to Free Assange. The event will also include a special musical performance by local Denver band, RollerCoaster.

Boulder Action for Assange

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Denver Postcard Campaign on HR 934

March 23 @ 9:30 am 11:30 am America/Denver

DenverAction2FreeJAAttachmentsMar 19, 2024, 5:35 PM (17 hours ago)
to DenverAction2FreeJA@protonmail.com

Dear Friends of Assange,

This Saturday  Denver will take part in a nationwide postcard campaign urging Congress to sign on to House Resolution 934 to free Julian Assange. We will send postcards to all members of Congress. .Please join us to send as many postcards as is possible to Free Julian Assange and save Freedom of the Press

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Press Release

Remembering Marty Goodman (1949-2024)

Marty Goodman at a rally for Julian Assange in NYC (Photo by Pamela Drew)

March 18, 2024 — We are very sad to announce the passing of Marty Goodman, a devoted member of Assange Defense since its inception in our New York City branch. Marty was a tireless activist for Julian Assange as he was for political prisoners everywhere. He was 74.

Marty was a retired station agent in the New York City subway system and a former executive board member in the Transport Workers Union. The TWU 100 published an obituary:

“Marty cut a wide swath as a progressive activist not only in the labor movement but also in the fight against imperialism in Haiti and in favor of the rights of Palestinians.…He embraced rank and file activism, and could always be found on the front lines where working people needed a voice. Stations VP Robert Kelley expressed his sorrow over Marty’s passing and said he would organize a memorial for him.”

Marty’s Memorial

Remembering Marty

Everyone who worked with Marty could attest to his relentless commitment. 

Jeff Mackler, another originating activist with Assange Defense, knew Marty well through their work with Socialist Action,

“Marty was a rare kind of revolutionary socialist, a comrade who devoted his every moment to party-building, to attending endless movement events, to selling our press and setting up Socialist Action literature tables to being an activist participant in countless movements… Haiti, Assange Defense, UNAC, Mumia, union-organizing, strike solidarity, Cuba, climate, etc.”

Specifically on Marty’s work with AD, Jeff said,

“Marty’s active participation in Julian’s free speech, free press and dedication to truth telling was fully consistent with his lifelong commitment to every cause that advances humanity’s striving for a world of freedom equality.”

Marty Goodman at a rally for Julian Assange in NYC (Photo by Pamela Drew)

Patricia Dahl cofounded Stand with Assange NY with Marty, a local branch of the Assange Defense network. She remembered Marty: “Political protest was a way of life for Marty. No oppressed group was outside of his vision. He identified the apparatuses that linked them all. His legacy is immeasurable.”

Bernadette Evangelist, a founding member of NYC Free Assange and fellow activist with Assange Defense, said, “Marty Goodman was tireless. Always present. Always working for justice.”

Chuck Zlatkin, also with Assange Defense in NYC, remembered Marty’s indefatigable effort, 

“I knew Marty first from the labor movement. When the postal union was fighting to keep post offices open in NYC, Marty went up to the Bronx GPO and tabled for hours every Saturday for months in that struggle. Marty was a transit worker. That typifies Marty, he was there for every struggle, not with just words, but by putting his body on the line. He was totally committed to freeing Julian Assange. It was an honor to work with him.”

Activist Zool Zulkowitz, who worked alongside Marty at antiwar demonstrations and other actions for years in New York City, said, 

“There are a few activists I’ve worked with over decades in NYC or DC or Cuba or Palestine, who connected all the dots from Assange to Mumia, and linked the issues of supremacy, inequity, militarism and sustainability across generations and identities. Our sweet and cantankerous Marty was one of those. One of the great ones. Marty lives on!”

Assange Defense director Nathan Fuller said,

“Marty was one of a kind, lovably irascible, cantankerous for the cause, and we will really miss him. He was in the streets every single week, for Haiti or Palestine or Assange — if there was an injustice, Marty was rallying against it. Rain or sleet or snow, even if he’d be the only one there, Marty didn’t care. His principles told him to get out in the street and so he did. I’m grateful for his work with us and his example as an activist.”

Information about a memorial for Marty will be forthcoming. 

Photo by Pamela Drew
Photo by Pamela Drew

Correction: a previous version of this post listed Marty’s age as 68. His union updated their post correcting that error. Marty was 74.

Boston: Free Assange rally and postcard-writing party

March 16 @ 11:00 am 12:30 pm EDT

Our next rally for Julian Assange will be Saturday, March 16 at 11am at Park St Station on the Boston Common. We’re hosting an H.Res.934 postcard-writing party directly after the rally at 12:30 at the Black Seed Restaurant.

We continue advocating for publisher, Julian Assange who is being persecuted and prosecuted in the UK at the behest of the US – simply for publishing truthful documents that embarrassed and exposed US government wrongdoing. This ongoing legal and human rights travesty threatens our First Amendment and undermines our judicial system and moral authority on the world stage.

Thanks to everyone who attended our rally on February 20 – the first day of Assange’s hearing. Channel 7 came and put it on their 4:00 news. We are waiting for a link to their report! A thread on our February 20 action at the State House.

There will be a second postcard-writing party directly after the rally at the Black Seed. The cards already have the message printed on the back asking reps to sign on to H. Res. 934 which calls for the extradition and prosecution of Assange to be dropped, so signers just add their signature, address and a short “Free Assange”! message.

On February 20 and 21, his last extradition hearing, two UK High Court judges heard the Assange defense’s arguments. It seems inconceivable that the UK will extradite Assange to the country that plotted to kill him. Assange was too ill to attend his own hearing, and couldn’t even watch remotely – this is very concerning.

Assange’s final UK court hearing, as the 2020 extradition hearing, had major technical issues. The audio was so poor in both the court and overflow rooms that journalists found it nearly impossible to hear the proceedings to report on them.

Good news was that the defense was able to, for the first-time, put on court record the WikiLeaks’ publications (showing evidence of war crimes that were in the publics’ interest), cover the evidence of the CIA plot to kill Assange, and make the case that this prosecution is a threat to press freedom if Assange is extradited.

It was also reported that the hearing was conducted more like a court of law rather than a ‘show trial.’ The UK High Court judges asked questions respectfully and appeared to be listening to the defense’s arguments. We are cautiously hopeful that Assange’s appeal will be granted.
Jacobin article on the UK two-day hearing.

Informative video with discussion by lawyers, journalists (who reported on the two-day hearing) and one activist who were inside or outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

On February 26, there was an important congressional briefing on Capitol Hill with an international panel of experts on the Assange case presenting to and answering questions from the reps’ staffers.

Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, was invited by Kentucky Rep Thomas Massie to attend the recent State of the Union Address.

We encourage people to continue writing and calling our reps to get Julian Assange free. Contact House representatives and ask them to sign on to H.Res.934 which calls for the Biden administration to drop the extradition and prosecution of Mr. Assange. House switchboard: 202-224-3121.

Write: Your rep’s name, at US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515, or email: WhiteHouse.gov/contact.
Info on HRes934: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/118/hres934/text

Please join us at Park St Station on March 16 11:00am to continue speaking out for Julian Assange and our First Amendment!
(We may have an update on the status of Assange’s appeal.)

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Rep. Thomas Massie brings Julian Assange’s brother to State of the Union

March 7, 2024 — Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie is bringing Julian Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, as his guest to the State of the Union address in Washington D.C. tonight. Shipton is in town this week meeting with Congressmembers to talk about Assange’s prosecution.

In a press release announcing his plus-one, Massie said,

“The U.S. government’s ongoing effort to prosecute Julian Assange threatens the First Amendment rights of Americans and should be opposed. During his term in office, I asked President Trump to pardon Mr. Assange, and I was disappointed by his failure to do so. President Biden should drop the criminal charges currently being pursued by the Department of Justice. I am pleased Mr. Shipton has accepted my invitation to join me at the State of the Union.”

Shipton, who said he was honored to be Massie’s guest, added:

“The prosecution of Julian Assange is a direct attack on the 1st amendment and the freedom of the press to publish information in the public interest. Rep. Massie is a fierce defender of these rights having introduced legislation that would protect my brother Julian and put an end to the espionage act being weaponised against publishers. I hope President Biden, can take a new look at the indictment and see it for the threat to democracy that it is.”

Shipton also met with Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern, who is a co-leader on House Resolution 934, which calls for dropping all charges against Assange.


Washington DC: SOTU actions

March 7 @ 12:00 pm 11:00 pm EST

Gabriel Shipton to attend State of the Union address, as guest of KY Congressman:

Julian Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton, who is in DC this week lobbying Congress for Assange’s unconditional release, will attend the SOTU in the House Gallery. Gabriel is the guest of Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Look for Gabriel on SOTU broadcasts!

Max Blumenthal to speak at Women’s National Democratic Club, prior to SOTU:

Max Blumenthal: Commentary On the Role of US Foreign Policy in the Current Crises in Ukraine and Gaza

Thursday March 07, 2024

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm EST

Hors-d’oeuvres and bar at 5:30 pm, program is 6:00 pm -7:00 pm EST

Guests are welcome to attend Max’s talk; email Patricia Fitzgerald (pfitzgerald@democraticwoman.org) to register as a non-member. May also register to watch the program on-line. (The WNDC is at 1526 New Hampshire Ave NW, near Dupont Circle; it will be convenient to go to SOTU activities, after Max speaks.)

People’s State of the Union rally begins at 6 pm, in Lafayette Park:

A coalition of groups will hold a permitted rally in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, prior to the State of the Union address. Bring signs & banners – issues range from peace, labor, pro-Palestinian rights – and Free Assange!

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Press Release

German chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks out against the extradition of Julian Assange

March 4, 2024 — Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has called on British judges to rule against the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States.

“I’m of the opinion that it would be good if the British courts granted him the necessary protection, since he must indeed face persecution in the US given the fact that he gave away American state secrets.”

The statement has come two weeks after 75 German MPs published an open letter urging the US to abandon the “show trial” and suggesting that he be tried before the European Court of Human Rights instead.

The Chancellor’s comments were since welcomed by The German Association of Journalists (DJV). “The fate of Julian Assange has finally arrived at the top of the government’s agenda,” said DJV federal chairman Mika Beuster.

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Past Events Video Series

Start with the Truth: So, what now?

March 2, 2024 — Assange Defense and Stella Assange present a new monthly webinar series, “Start with the Truth.”

The topic for March is, “So, what now?”, a recap of Julian Assange’s latest extradition hearing in the UK and a look at what’s next.

This month’s panelists are Marjorie Cohn, a Professor of Law Emerita and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, Kevin Gosztola, journalist and author of “Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange”, and Stephen Rohde, a constitutional scholar, lecturer, and writer.

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Press Release

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression: Time to end prosecution of Julian Assange

March 1, 2024 — UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, issued a statement expressing concern that the possible extradition and imminent prosecution in the United States of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could have serious implications for freedom of expression.

“Gathering, reporting and disseminating information, including national security information when it is in the public interest, is a legitimate exercise of journalism and should not be treated as a crime.”

She noted that if extradited, Julian Assange would be the first publisher to be prosecuted in the US under the Espionage Act.

“It would set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in the United States and possibly elsewhere in the world.”

The expert urged the UK authorities not to extradite Assange and the US Government to drop the charges.

“I call on the United States and the United Kingdom, which profess to uphold the right to freedom of expression, to uphold these international standards in the case of Julian Assange.”

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Press Release

Amnesty, CPJ brief Congress on dangers of Assange case

February 28, 2024 — Days after Julian Assange returned to court in London for what could be his final hearing in the UK legal system, where he attempts to appeal his imminent extradition, leaders of Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists joined Assange’s lawyer in a briefing on Congress hosted by Defending Rights & Dissent.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard and CEO of CPJ Jodie Ginsberg spoke alongside Assange lawyer Jen Robinson in the conversation moderated by DRAD policy director Chip Gibbons.

As Defending Rights & Dissent said,

“Callamard told the capacity crowd, mostly made up of Congressional staff, that Amnesty International vehemently opposes the Assange prosecution because it violates the right to freedom of expression, the right of the public to know, freedom of information, and is politically motivated.”

Watch the full briefing here:

See a transcript of the entire conversation at DRAD’s website.

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 

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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.

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

Washington Hilton

1919 Connecticut Avenue Northwestern
Washington, District of Columbia 20009 United States
+ Google Map
Categories
Past 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.

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Join us for the 24-hour Countdown to Day X

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Res. 934!

House 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.Res. 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!