Assange in Court 856


UPDATE I have received scores of requests to republish and/or translate this article. It is absolutely free to use and reproduce and I should be delighted if everybody does; the world should know what is being done to Julian. So far, over 200,000 people have read it on this blogsite alone and it has already been reproduced on myriad other sites, some with much bigger readerships than my own. I have seen translations into German, Spanish and French and at least extracts in Catalan and Turkish. I only ask that you reproduce it complete or, if edits are made, plainly indicate them. Many thanks.

BEGINS

I was deeply shaken while witnessing yesterday’s events in Westminster Magistrates Court. Every decision was railroaded through over the scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening.

Before I get on to the blatant lack of fair process, the first thing I must note was Julian’s condition. I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought.

Until yesterday I had always been quietly sceptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and sceptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.

I had been even more sceptical of those who claimed, as a senior member of his legal team did to me on Sunday night, that they were worried that Julian might not live to the end of the extradition process. I now find myself not only believing it, but haunted by the thought. Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable. Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport. She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.

The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election; a simple clarification the mainstream media appears incapable of understanding.

The purpose of yesterday’s hearing was case management; to determine the timetable for the extradition proceedings. The key points at issue were that Julian’s defence was requesting more time to prepare their evidence; and arguing that political offences were specifically excluded from the extradition treaty. There should, they argued, therefore be a preliminary hearing to determine whether the extradition treaty applied at all.

The reasons given by Assange’s defence team for more time to prepare were both compelling and startling. They had very limited access to their client in jail and had not been permitted to hand him any documents about the case until one week ago. He had also only just been given limited computer access, and all his relevant records and materials had been seized from the Ecuadorean Embassy by the US Government; he had no access to his own materials for the purpose of preparing his defence.

Furthermore, the defence argued, they were in touch with the Spanish courts about a very important and relevant legal case in Madrid which would provide vital evidence. It showed that the CIA had been directly ordering spying on Julian in the Embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide security there. Crucially this included spying on privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers discussing his defence against these extradition proceedings, which had been in train in the USA since 2010. In any normal process, that fact would in itself be sufficient to have the extradition proceedings dismissed. Incidentally I learnt on Sunday that the Spanish material produced in court, which had been commissioned by the CIA, specifically includes high resolution video coverage of Julian and I discussing various matters.

The evidence to the Spanish court also included a CIA plot to kidnap Assange, which went to the US authorities’ attitude to lawfulness in his case and the treatment he might expect in the United States. Julian’s team explained that the Spanish legal process was happening now and the evidence from it would be extremely important, but it might not be finished and thus the evidence not fully validated and available in time for the current proposed timetable for the Assange extradition hearings.

For the prosecution, James Lewis QC stated that the government strongly opposed any delay being given for the defence to prepare, and strongly opposed any separate consideration of the question of whether the charge was a political offence excluded by the extradition treaty. Baraitser took her cue from Lewis and stated categorically that the date for the extradition hearing, 25 February, could not be changed. She was open to changes in dates for submission of evidence and responses before this, and called a ten minute recess for the prosecution and defence to agree these steps.

What happened next was very instructive. There were five representatives of the US government present (initially three, and two more arrived in the course of the hearing), seated at desks behind the lawyers in court. The prosecution lawyers immediately went into huddle with the US representatives, then went outside the courtroom with them, to decide how to respond on the dates.

After the recess the defence team stated they could not, in their professional opinion, adequately prepare if the hearing date were kept to February, but within Baraitser’s instruction to do so they nevertheless outlined a proposed timetable on delivery of evidence. In responding to this, Lewis’ junior counsel scurried to the back of the court to consult the Americans again while Lewis actually told the judge he was “taking instructions from those behind”. It is important to note that as he said this, it was not the UK Attorney-General’s office who were being consulted but the US Embassy. Lewis received his American instructions and agreed that the defence might have two months to prepare their evidence (they had said they needed an absolute minimum of three) but the February hearing date may not be moved. Baraitser gave a ruling agreeing everything Lewis had said.

At this stage it was unclear why we were sitting through this farce. The US government was dictating its instructions to Lewis, who was relaying those instructions to Baraitser, who was ruling them as her legal decision. The charade might as well have been cut and the US government simply sat on the bench to control the whole process. Nobody could sit there and believe they were in any part of a genuine legal process or that Baraitser was giving a moment’s consideration to the arguments of the defence. Her facial expressions on the few occasions she looked at the defence ranged from contempt through boredom to sarcasm. When she looked at Lewis she was attentive, open and warm.

The extradition is plainly being rushed through in accordance with a Washington dictated timetable. Apart from a desire to pre-empt the Spanish court providing evidence on CIA activity in sabotaging the defence, what makes the February date so important to the USA? I would welcome any thoughts.

Baraitser dismissed the defence’s request for a separate prior hearing to consider whether the extradition treaty applied at all, without bothering to give any reason why (possibly she had not properly memorised what Lewis had been instructing her to agree with). Yet this is Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty 2007 in full:

On the face of it, what Assange is accused of is the very definition of a political offence – if this is not, then what is? It is not covered by any of the exceptions from that listed. There is every reason to consider whether this charge is excluded by the extradition treaty, and to do so before the long and very costly process of considering all the evidence should the treaty apply. But Baraitser simply dismissed the argument out of hand.

Just in case anybody was left in any doubt as to what was happening here, Lewis then stood up and suggested that the defence should not be allowed to waste the court’s time with a lot of arguments. All arguments for the substantive hearing should be given in writing in advance and a “guillotine should be applied” (his exact words) to arguments and witnesses in court, perhaps of five hours for the defence. The defence had suggested they would need more than the scheduled five days to present their case. Lewis countered that the entire hearing should be over in two days. Baraitser said this was not procedurally the correct moment to agree this but she will consider it once she had received the evidence bundles.

(SPOILER: Baraitser is going to do as Lewis instructs and cut the substantive hearing short).

Baraitser then capped it all by saying the February hearing will be held, not at the comparatively open and accessible Westminster Magistrates Court where we were, but at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, the grim high security facility used for preliminary legal processing of terrorists, attached to the maximum security prison where Assange is being held. There are only six seats for the public in even the largest court at Belmarsh, and the object is plainly to evade public scrutiny and make sure that Baraitser is not exposed in public again to a genuine account of her proceedings, like this one you are reading. I will probably be unable to get in to the substantive hearing at Belmarsh.

Plainly the authorities were disconcerted by the hundreds of good people who had turned up to support Julian. They hope that far fewer will get to the much less accessible Belmarsh. I am fairly certain (and recall I had a long career as a diplomat) that the two extra American government officials who arrived halfway through proceedings were armed security personnel, brought in because of alarm at the number of protestors around a hearing in which were present senior US officials. The move to Belmarsh may be an American initiative.

Assange’s defence team objected strenuously to the move to Belmarsh, in particular on the grounds that there are no conference rooms available there to consult their client and they have very inadequate access to him in the jail. Baraitser dismissed their objection offhand and with a very definite smirk.

Finally, Baraitser turned to Julian and ordered him to stand, and asked him if he had understood the proceedings. He replied in the negative, said that he could not think, and gave every appearance of disorientation. Then he seemed to find an inner strength, drew himself up a little, and said:

I do not understand how this process is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t even access my writings. It is very difficult, where I am, to do anything. These people have unlimited resources.

The effort then seemed to become too much, his voice dropped and he became increasingly confused and incoherent. He spoke of whistleblowers and publishers being labeled enemies of the people, then spoke about his children’s DNA being stolen and of being spied on in his meetings with his psychologist. I am not suggesting at all that Julian was wrong about these points, but he could not properly frame nor articulate them. He was plainly not himself, very ill and it was just horribly painful to watch. Baraitser showed neither sympathy nor the least concern. She tartly observed that if he could not understand what had happened, his lawyers could explain it to him, and she swept out of court.

The whole experience was profoundly upsetting. It was very plain that there was no genuine process of legal consideration happening here. What we had was a naked demonstration of the power of the state, and a naked dictation of proceedings by the Americans. Julian was in a box behind bulletproof glass, and I and the thirty odd other members of the public who had squeezed in were in a different box behind more bulletproof glass. I do not know if he could see me or his other friends in the court, or if he was capable of recognising anybody. He gave no indication that he did.

In Belmarsh he is kept in complete isolation for 23 hours a day. He is permitted 45 minutes exercise. If he has to be moved, they clear the corridors before he walks down them and they lock all cell doors to ensure he has no contact with any other prisoner outside the short and strictly supervised exercise period. There is no possible justification for this inhuman regime, used on major terrorists, being imposed on a publisher who is a remand prisoner.

I have been both cataloguing and protesting for years the increasingly authoritarian powers of the UK state, but that the most gross abuse could be so open and undisguised is still a shock. The campaign of demonisation and dehumanisation against Julian, based on government and media lie after government and media lie, has led to a situation where he can be slowly killed in public sight, and arraigned on a charge of publishing the truth about government wrongdoing, while receiving no assistance from “liberal” society.

Unless Julian is released shortly he will be destroyed. If the state can do this, then who is next?

——————————————

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856 thoughts on “Assange in Court

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  • Njegos

    I was present in the public gallery and I greatly appreciate Craig’s observations which are enormously helpful in grasping the totality of yesterday’s events especially regarding the American presence which of course was totally invisible to an outsider like myself. And surprise – no mention of it in the Guardian either.

    I had the fortune to sit next to Vaughan Smith and I asked him how Luke Harding gets away with his torrent of lies. He smiled and said that Guardian’s early cooperation with Julian had given way to fear of the government. Which government did he have in mind, I thought mischievously.

    Our justice is transaltantic. Our media is transatlantic.

    Let’s get it over and done with and start sewing stars onto the Union Jack.

  • Gavin Harris

    This is a particularly distressing read for anyone concerned with justice in the UK.

    Regarding the February date, two thoughts come to mind. One is the need to maintain a defendable pretense of justice being served and this is the minimum time that they could reasonably defend. The other is Brexit related. Johnson has asked for an extension to Jan 31, if Brexit does occur at this time then the UK justice system will no longer be under the ECJ, This may be relevant for any attempts at appeal.

    • gyges

      what has the ECJ got to do with anything? Don’t you mean the ECrtHR which is not affected by Brexit?

  • barkbat

    Thank you for this report on the hearing, Craig. I found it incredibly sad, doubly so with the realisation that this blog is probably the only place anyone will read about it. How do the rest of the media stay so silent when this is one of their own? Something has gone very very wrong.

    • Guy THORNTON

      There is a flaw in your question The rest of the media stay silent about it precisely because Assange is not one of their own. If he was one of their own he would not have stepped out of line. As far as TPTB are concerned, something, far from having gone very wrong….has gone very right.

      That said, I hope he’s shamming so as to bolster his medical grounds for non extradition….Cotard delusion, or something along those lines.

  • Athanasius

    I love all the wailing and trumpeting you hear from the Brexiteers about gaining “independence” from the EU when the very dogs in the streets know that the UK is the bee itch of the US and has been for seventy years. Now and then, such as with this case, you see the mask drop away. It can be quite shocking to witness.

    • Matt

      Those of us who voted “leave” on the basis of sovereignty generally do not support this kind of relationship with USA; certainly I don’t. Leaving the EU is an irrelevance, we’ve been USA’s bee itch (nice term) despite being an EC/EU member for the last half a century. There’s this belief that the EU is a force for good. It do not think that is the case, which is why I voted to leave. I’m not interested in a long discussion about this matter, but I will say that just because I voted for us to leave the EU, does not mean I voted for what we are witnessing here at home.

      Frankly, your comment comes across as a bitter cheap shot at Brexiteers, it’s a ridiculous “blame game” and moral snobbery. This is not about Brexit, this is about the rise of neofascism in the UK. I’m very much concerned about the fact that political fascism disguised as “liberalism” (sick joke) is on the rise yet the electorate don’t seem to recognise it for what it is. Being an EU member is not a barrier to being a fascist state, see Spain.

      People are so distracted by Brexit that they fail to see what’s actually happening.

      • Brian c

        The comment is too close to the bone for you. The whole world sees that the Tories’ utter subjection to Washington makes a mockery of their claims to be passionate about “sovereignty”. The one object of the hard right free marketeers who have always led the push for Brexit was to reduce British workers to the same special relationship with capital as the British state’ has with Washington. They’ve conned your arse.

        • Matt

          The Tories utter subjection to Washington? I guess you have forgotten who led the government during the Iraq war.

          I am actually at the point where I feel Corbyn is our best hope when it comes to foreign policy. You can assume Brexiteers are all hardline Tory supporters if it makes you feel better, but it’s not true. Pointing out how utterly submissive to USA the UK is does not make me wish I voted to remain.They are completely separate issues.

      • Paul Lockwood

        Matt, I couldn’t agree more. I voted Brexit and for exactly the same reasons as you. The whole Brexit saga is a ‘weapon of mass distraction’, and it has succeeded admirably in ousting any debate about the real political issues facing us.

        • Brian c

          So you voted for it but now want to claim it’s become a distraction from the political issues that actually matter..!! Anyone with a brain has been telling you forever that the hard right crusade to leave the EU was a distraction from all the issues that actually matter to working people in neoliberal Britain.

          • gyges

            The only campaign I’ve seen to leave the EU has been from the left … in fact, I see the secession of the UK from the EU as a left wing policy.

            The distortion of the Assange case through the Brexit lens is a distraction. All of this is going on while the UK is in the EU and hence the institution guaranteed no rights to him or anyone else. Assange’s misfortune began in a fellow EU member State (Sweden).

  • Keith Fletcher

    Shocking reading, but sadly not surprising. Where has the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” gone in this case? And where are the protections that should be available to his legal team to defend such abuses of legal power? As I doubt either of these will be made available to Julian by this corrupt state, then a massive public campaign should be attempted to try to bring pressure on those in power and shine a light on the dirty tricks being played.

  • Roger Ewen

    It might have something to do with the military.
    The contractors commissioning the aircraft carrier, based presently at Invergorden are being rushed so much to finish commissioning of the Prince of Wales to be ready for February 2020. Even those on the vessel are astounded at the rush and cannot understand why America is putting so much pressure to be ready for this date.
    The Aircraft carrier prince of Wale like the Queen Elizabeth are both leased to America but crewed by U.K. nationals.

    • Tom Welsh

      Washington has a long and vile history false flags – I think we can all reel them off by now.

      We are all probably aware, too, the modern hypersonic missiles – fielded in large numbers by Russia, China, Iran and other nations – render aircraft carriers futile death traps.

      Burt Washington wouldn’t really like to lose one of its own carriers. It would provide a casus belli, but the deaths of over 4,000 sailors might provoke some political blowback.

      How much better for a British carrier to be sunk – still with thousands of deaths, but not one of them American.

      • Dungroanin

        None of our carriers are active. Bolton and Pompeo tried to get a uk naval ship into a suicidal situation, with the Tory lackeys (in Downing Street), luckily the British captain decided not to sacrifice his ship and crew, having been explicitly warned in clear english by the Iranians not to face certain destruction.

        But i know what you mean – the warmongers have set up a conclave in the Syrian desert with 200 US personell and 400 private military company ’employees’ (mercenaries) to ‘guard’ the Syrian oilfields from … Syrians!

  • Teo Blas

    Congratulations, you have just graduated to the 2nd stage of grief and loss – Anger. I have already moved forward to the 5th stage which is acceptance. Julian Assange is almost surely a dead man walking and future martyr whose only two remaining tasks are 1)to continually remind us of the fundamentally unjust nature of Western “justice” institutions and 2) waiting to prematurely decline and die in the U.S. prison complex.

    The crusade of Assange and others like him was to expose government and corporate corruption as well as violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes through the release of classified information.
    However, it is also possible to expose government and corporate corruption, violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes with openly available information by opening your eyes, paying attention and speaking up. It is possible to operate in the shadows or to do the same in broad daylight.

    The battle to save Assange from a corrupt justice system has been lost for quite a while. Humanity’s crusade against unjust, illegitimate and corrupt regimes will go on irregardless of the fate of Julian Assange.

    The clear and obvious Yemen war crimes and the complicity of the governments and contractors of the West and elsewhere could be the chief weakness and point of venerability used for confronting and defeating unjust, illegitimate and corrupt regimes here and now. The UNHRC Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen continues to document the case for war crimes and complicity in those war crimes if anyone cares to pay attention, raise their voice and collectively apply the will of the people to genuinely care for neighbors across the street, across their country and around our world…

    • Theo

      I agree with all your text, except your 5th stage of acceptance.
      Never in the history anything changed for the better by acceptance.
      I suggest you go back to the stage of anger.

      • Teo Blas

        Staying stuck on stage 2 defeats the concept of there being 5 stages of processing grief and loss in order to move forward with life.

  • Bemildred

    I have assumed the hurry to get Assange was to prevent Corbyn pardoning him or the like. I’m Amurkin, so I don’t try to understand UK politics, but there is an election coming isn’t there?

    • Njegos

      No election scheduled but many people think one is around the corner. Bear in mind, however, that any decision to extradite will certainly be appealed so the process will likely drag on for years. A sympathetic Labour government could have come and gone by then.

      • lysias

        If a Labour government drops the charges, wouldn’t that be the end of the matter? Could a successor government reintroduce them?

        • Andrew Mcguiness

          The indictment comes from the US, that’s why it’s an extradition matter. The UK has no charges against Assange. A new government could choose to un-approve the extradition, on the grounds that it is political.

    • Tom Welsh

      There should be a general election, because Parliament has clearly proved that it in no way represents the wishes of the voters. They chose to leave the EU three years ago; Parliament has spent the intervening period desperately trying to avoid implementing Brexit. (Although the May or Johnson “deals” are merely continued EU membership with some punishment added).

      But thanks to a certain Anthony Lynton Blair (remember him?) UK Parliaments must now run for five years unless two thirds of MPs vote for an election. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-term_Parliaments_Act_2011

      • Mr Shigemitsu

        “But thanks to a certain Anthony Lynton Blair (remember him?) UK Parliaments must now run for five years unless two thirds of MPs vote for an election.”

        Eh? Tony Blair resigned as PM and left his parliamentary seat in 2007.

        The fixed Term Parliaments Act was passed under Tory PM David Cameron in Sept 2011, in an attempt to stabilise the potentially fragile Tory/LibDem coalition govt.

        Nothing whatsoever to do with Blair.

        • Tom Welsh

          Sorry, my mistake. I don’t know how I could have been so careless, unless I somehow came to believe that David Cameron was merely Tony Blair with a thin layer of blue paint.

    • lysias

      Tulsi, who has already said she doesn’t want Assange extradited, has the power to make his case a more prominent issue in the presidential race. Sanders has the same power, but I would be very surprised if he does anything.

  • Colin Goodayle

    Thank you for this commentary Craig. Truly shocking. The depth of state wrongdoing is laid bare. Independent, outside observation is now an essential element of Mr. Assange’s procession through this process. Disgusting.

  • eoin

    “all his [Julian Assange’s] relevant records and materials had been seized from the Ecuadorean Embassy by the US Government”

    First I’ve heard of that. Mind you, it’s also the first time I’ve heard of the Madrid case.

    As for the US pushing for a February hearing, that may be just eagerness to have this case dealt with as soon as possible and not see procedural delays push the hearing date out further.

    Thank you for the above detailed report. Do our courts really allow armed foreign agents, as you suggest above, in our courts?

  • AliB

    Is it possible for Magistrates to be prosecuted for not upholding proper standards? Seems from this account that this magistrate was totally failing in their job.

  • Bill Boggia

    This is a harrowing and distressing read and I share many of the thoughts n te injustice expressed in your blog comments. Vanessa Baraitser sounds like a total Nazi. Scarey shit.

  • Paul Barbara

    I forgot the date, as I was intending to try to get to the Court.
    As this case has relied so much on a lying, cowardly MSM, people will be glad to know that Udo Ulfkotte’s book Gekaufte Journalisten is at long last available in English.
    I received this email today from the printer:
    ‘Good news, Gekaufte Journalisten English edition is finally in Print.
    https://off-guardian.org/2018/01/19/bought-journalists-an-introduction-to-ulfkottes-censored-book/
    I just posted there
    “Thank you, Chris G, for a truly outstanding introduction to the book, and thanks to Paul Barbara for bringing the book to my attention. This is JP Leonard, publisher at Progressive Press.
    I bought the lapsed rights to Gekaufte Journalisten from Kopp Verlag last year and have just now, “Better Late than Never,” published the book in English, under the title, Presstitutes, Embedded in the Pay of the CIA, ISBN 1615770178 .
    It…’
    ‘…The translator Andrew Schlademan and I are working on getting some reviews, mentions and interviews about the book. Do let us know if you have any possibilities in that direction.
    Thanks again and Best wishes
    JP’

    This book shows how the CIA and other ‘Security Agencies’ pull so many MSM senior journalists’ strings, it ain’t funny.

    • Node

      Well done, Paul. Your persistence paid off. Sure, it’s no surprise to learn the extent to which the CIA control the news media, but to have it confirmed by a senior journalist insider is very valuable.
      Keep up the good work, PB, it is much appreciated.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Don’t see why you were skeptical of Assange being tortured.,and might well die before the hearing is completed.

    Should have taken photos of him when you allegedly had the chance for others to determine his condition.

    Given what happened to others who spoke out, and threatened to go to other authorities, like Gareth Williams, these spooks don’t kid around

    • glenn_uk

      Take a picture inside the court? Yes, great idea.

      https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/86/section/41

      —–
      41 Prohibition on taking photographs, &c., in court.F4

      (1)No person shall—

      (a)take or attempt to take in any court any photograph, or with a view to publication make or attempt to make in any court any portrait or sketch, of any person, being a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a party to any proceedings before the court, whether civil or criminal; or

      (b)publish any photograph, portrait or sketch taken or made in contravention of the foregoing provisions of this section or any reproduction thereof;

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Trowbridge H. Ford October 22, 2019 at 12:04
      Are you trying to get Craig put in an adjoining cell?

  • yesindyref2

    Worth writing, as people do read it. I have no opinion of Assange and all that stuff. With an interest in security (as well as military) it’s something I stay out of.

    But your account of the court proceedings make me think back to Megrahi and his mercy release, and Kenny MacAskill. WIth the then head of the FBI frothing at the mouth and insisting Scotland keep Megrahi locked up. To no avail, MacAskill and Salmond – and Holyrood – stood firm. It was the Law, Scots Law, which allowed for a mercy release. Scotland did not meekly kiss the ass of the US, by breaking our Law.

    • Tony

      I read somewhere that onboard the plane that was blown up over Lockerbie were some disgruntled CIA personnel who were about to expose its drug-dealing activities.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Tony October 22, 2019 at 13:50
        I read that too. It was probably expected to come down over the Atlantic, but the FBI were extremely quick on the scene, almost as though they were in Scotland already, just in case. I wonder if they had naval units on the route?

        • Pyewacket

          I too read that, IIRC, in a book titled The Trail of the Octopus, the author was said to have worked for the DIA. Apparently, he alleged that heroin shipments were packaged inside brown Samsonite suitcases, and allowed through. The bombers knew about this, and used the same gype of suitcase in the knowledge it would not be scrutinised. From what I remember the Author fled to, I think Sweden, as following his revelation he was a marked man. Btw: John Ashton’s book on the Megrahi case and trial makes no mention of this, so who knows.

        • Tony

          Here it is:

          “Charles McKee and other CIA operatives on Pan Am Flight 103 died when the plane was blown apart over Lockerbie, Scotland. McKee’s CIA team was returning to Washington, in defiance of CIA orders, to give testimony to Congress on the CIA’s drugs-for-hostages operation by another CIA faction. ”

          (Defrauding America by Rodney Stich, 2nd edition, p445).

  • Republicofscotland

    For all intents and purposes, it sounds like Assange was deliberately drugged up for his court appearance so that he could not argue his points in the English kangaroo court.

    It could also be as you said in your article that Assange is undergoing physical and mental torture to break him, or at the very least prime him for his unjust US extradition, where if he survives to get there in the first place, will see him undergo an unimaginable ordeal.

  • antoon van maris

    Now we know for sure, this proofs once and for all, they Really want him dead and they Really are killing him !
    From now on, we should not only, fight with everything we got, to get him out and healthy again, but also fight with everything we got, to get these criminal state officials, judges, lawyers, prosecuters, civil servants and, do not forget, politicians, before a international court of human-rights and have them tried themselfs ! For now we also know for sure, they are after our skins aswell, as sure as, any dictatorial left- or rightwing state would be ! I thruly pity those of us, who have, soon to be orphins for children, if we don’t win this battle !
    antoon van maris.

  • Sopo

    The, cough, liberal newspaper is presently more upset about the death of Deborah Orr than the plight of Julian Assange.

  • Andrew F

    I doubt there is any reason for the US/UK wanting the hearing ASAP other than simply wanting to get on with it. They fully expect to get an extradition order and they fully expect the decision to be appealed – so they’d like to get things moving along.

    Julian’s lawyers have had 7 years to prepare for an extradition fight. As a lawyer myself I’m very concerned that this case appears to be dictated by “PR” concerns rather than legal ones. By all means, feel free to criticize your legal system and judges in a general sense – but I probably wouldn’t be doing that if I was running this case, and I’d be furious if someone was doing it purportedly on my client’s behalf.

    This will go on for years by the look of it.

    Why haven’t Julian’s lawyers even bothered applying for bail yet? Under the extradition rules he must be brought before the Court every 4 weeks and a decision made about whether he should be granted bail or not. “You don’t ask, you don’t get”! And not only that, if bail is refused he has an automatic right of appeal to the High Court to try to get bail.

    There is a presumption that all people on remand should be granted bail. There are reasons that it can be refused of course. But if there are conditions that can be placed on the person under bail then they should always be released. Why haven’t they even applied yet?

    The next biggest concern is the gagging of Julian. He can now have 2 social visits per week and virtually unlimited legal visits. There is a parade of people going in and out (just like in the embassy since 28 March 2018) and yet there is never a direct message out from Assange to us the general public.

    Craig has previously referred to this “PR strategy”. In my view it may appear to somebody to be great “PR”, but it is highly destructive of Julian’s cause. The gag must end immediately and we must be able to hear from him directly. The gatekeepers are the ones we should be scrutinizing at this point.

  • cimarrón

    I wondered where Amal Clooney is in all this.

    Nowhere, apparently:

    In April this year, ‘She was appointed by the UK government as special envoy to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In her latest role, the international human rights specialist will chair a panel of legal experts who will support countries to repeal “outdated and draconian laws” and “strengthen legal mechanisms” to protect journalists.’

    One commenter says:
    ‘Politically and strategically, her appointment makes total sense, and it’s likely no coincidence that this comes before Julian Assange’s arrest. Just find it ironic and interesting that her former client gets arrested today while she gets appointed as the PR face of “media freedom.” Why aren’t journalists asking Clooney about Julian Assange and media freedom?’

    Another commenter says:
    ‘Good point about Assange! Surely he needed the greatest humanitarian lawyer ever to walk the earth when he was arrested today! When he was a “cause celebre”, he was repeatedly used to bolster Clooney’s underwhelming CV, but she has now bought her way up thanks to her husband’s PR people, and so he is yesterday’s news.

    The FCO role is a disgrace. It certainly does not make total sense. It’s a specially-tailored job which was never advertised, because Hunt has been courted and flattered by celebrity…’

    https://www.legalcheek.com/2019/04/doughty-streets-amal-clooney-lands-uk-foreign-office-role/

  • Forthestate

    Thank you for this very shocking and distressing account not only of Julian Assange’s tragic condition, but also of the total abuse of our system of justice by the powers of the state, and by a magistrate, a servant of that judicial system, Vanessa Baraitser, acting as their agent. That, at the very least, is now a matter of record. I hope with all my heart that those responsible for this abuse will be made accountable, and Assange restored to health and freedom, and whatever little I can do, I will.

  • Peter Presland

    Thank you for a deeply disturbing account of what happened at Westminster magistrates court yesterday. For a State that is forever trumpeting the alleged moral high ground of its so-called “British Values” this is just the latest – if most egregious to date – public manifestation of its legal systems corrupt subservience to “Deep State” (for want of a better euphemism) imperatives. Like you, I am outraged, but sad to say, not in the least surprised. The latter-day orwellian title of the department responsible for the court system employing Vanessa Baraitser says it all really – “Ministry of Justice”. I could not believe it when Jack Straw proposed the name change way back when – but change it he did.

    Your last sentence asks “If the state can do this, then who is next?”

    Given the perennial ‘thorn in their side’ nature of most of your published output, it must surely have crossed your mind that the answer to that question might very plausibly turn out to be “Craig Murray”. As you must well understand by now, the methodologies of our esteemed state security service protectors have been honed to an exquisitely fine art over the past couple of decades or so. My guess is that a high public profile would represent but a minor matter, should those who cannot be named ask “Will no one rid us of this turbulent priest”

  • Robyn

    I fear that even if, by some miracle, Julian were released tomorrow and he could be assured that all threat of extradition or imprisonment had been removed, he would remain a broken man. Living for years with uncertainty and fear of a life sentence in a US prison, first in very confined sunless quarters and now in even worse conditions in Belmarsh will leave him permanently scarred. Beyond sad. Beyond disgusting.

  • Dee Drake

    Thank you, Craig, for this painfully comprehensive report on the latest hearing in an ongoing travesty of justice. Julian’s caught in the absurdity and evil of a Lewis Carroll nightmare with the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser standing in for the Queen of Hearts. With her smirking contempt for justice and her obsequiousness to the US overlords, it’s apparent that her role model is Killary Clinton. But let us follow the example of Tulsi Gabbard who fearlessy smacked down Clinton. I encourage everyone to insist on taking up the discussion of why freeing Assange is absolutely essential for our insanely troubled times. And do write to Julian at Belmarsh!

  • Katherine Da Silva

    ‘what makes the February date so important to the USA? I would welcome any thoughts’…..don’t know if it’s something of the ol’ cabal theory.. but look at the date it’s a ‘7’.(2 + 5= 7)… someone else is making these decisions…weird world we are living in..but, best defense for Assange is all the criminal activity around the ‘war on terror’…events… some things are so hidden, it is a miracle you managed to write about the torture you witnessed as part of the extraordinary rendition…. I bought a copy of your book hard copy but on Ebay..but, it’s a miracle that you have kept your integrity and are in support of the whistleblower website. Back when Demotix.com operated as a photojournalism site.. probably around 2013 autumn, 250 Iranian dissidents were massacred in a detention site in Iraq. The Ayatollah of Iran had labelled them all ‘terrorists’… because they disagreed with the Iranian system.. only that .. the worst part of George W Bush’s war on ‘terror’.. was that it did not really define who the ‘enemy’ was at all, so and like Erdogan in the last few weeks, is still fighting some personal war against the Kurdish people.. so they let off phospheros and it burned the skin of Kurdish young people… we call them children… yes a human rights issue.. surely.. America who walked away from the only peace keeping United Nations table… needs to repent of its sin. There is nothing wrong with keeping the peace. But, you can see now, how Trump is heralded as a weird saviour but, why?.. Because he is doing the weapon sales..pitch especially to the Arabs … it is all so dark, .. and very frightening that there is no power… to stop these ‘illegal’ wars..

  • eddie-g

    “what makes the February date so important to the USA?”

    Best guess, there’s a statute of limitations they are working against. The major Wikileaks publications happened in 2010 – presumably that was around the time Chelsea Manning provided the information to them.

    Generally the US has a 5 year statute of limitations on filing federal charges, but it’s a very complex area of the law depending on the specific charges and who’s filing them. I do however think there’s a good chance that the 10 year mark since leak/publication is significant.

  • Goose

    If this is anything, it is a testament to the fact that we have no free media in this country. That Julian Assange is being screwed over by the western establishment is not really news, they have always done this and will continue to do so. Whats disconcerting is the apparent apathy amongst the well to do liberals who always bang on about “freedom” of thought etc. We live in an age where Assanges guilt was written years ago with the Swedish case, and any sympathy for him died then. Forget facts, its all about feelings. People will largely ignore this and within themselves, they will probably think he deserves it. Of course ignoring that it could happen to them.

    Our self professed defenders of human rights such as Amnesty, HRW etc have largely remained ineffective and silent.

    • David

      apathy amongst the well to do liberals nudged by a powerful weaponised media , reading from someone’s script

      human rights such as Amnesty, HRW etc have largely remained ineffective infiltrated, bribed, corrupted by a matrix of intelligence agencies – NSA whistleblowers have mentioned that they similarly never took “No” as an answer from someone with access, and had a whole bag of tricks to ensure that they got access –

      As for UK justice, just look at who UK SB/ special demonstration squad and similars infiltrated in order to control sectors of the public, how’s that public inquiry going on….? Feb 2020 too?

  • Sarah

    Mr Murray,
    Have you approached the Good Law Project for ideas on how to push this case further up the chain from Magistrates Court level? And how to get Bareitser’s performance challenged?

    Everything possible must be tried in order to prevent the State getting away with this. It is appalling and cruel. What about Human Rights legislation? No-one should be treated like this.

  • ReM

    Well, arbitrary power is what it is – arbitrary. The question that we should now ask ourselves, like Caratacus, is: if they “choose to lord it over the world, does it follow that the world is to accept slavery?”

    • Tom Welsh

      The whole world will definitely not accept slavery. If they try to enslave Russia or China, the best outcome they can get (in terms of game theory) would be a draw with whole world burned to a crisp and everyone dead.

      The dawning perception that as many as a quarter of the human species are permanently beyond their control, with many more being added to that figure every year, may help to explain their revolting, insanely violent thrashing around in the countries they do control… for now.

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