Your Man in the Public Gallery: the Assange Hearing Day 6 134

I went to the Old Bailey today expecting to be awed by the majesty of the law, and left revolted by the sordid administration of injustice.

There is a romance which attaches to the Old Bailey. The name of course means fortified enclosure and it occupies a millennia old footprint on the edge of London’s ancient city wall. It is the site of the medieval Newgate Prison, and formal trials have taken place at the Old Bailey for at least 500 years, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. For the majority of that time, those convicted even of minor offences of theft were taken out and executed in the alleyway outside. It is believed that hundreds, perhaps thousands, lie buried under the pavements.

The hefty Gothic architecture of the current grand building dates back no further than 1905, and round the back and sides of that is wrapped some horrible cheap utility building from the 1930’s. It was through a tunnelled entrance into this portion that five of us, Julian’s nominated family and friends, made our nervous way this morning. We were shown to Court 10 up many stairs that seemed like the back entrance to a particularly unloved works canteen. Tiles were chipped, walls were filthy and flakes of paint hung down from crumbling ceilings. Only the security cameras watching us were new – so new, in fact, that little piles of plaster and brick dust lay under each.

Court 10 appeared to be a fairly bright and open modern box, with pleasant light woodwork, jammed as a mezzanine inside a great vault of the old building. A massive arch intruded incongruously into the space and was obviously damp, sheets of delaminating white paint drooping down from it like flags of forlorn surrender. The dock in which Julian would be held still had a bulletproof glass screen in front, like Belmarsh, but it was not boxed in. There was no top to the screen, no low ceiling, so sound could flow freely over and Julian seemed much more in the court. It also had many more and wider slits than the notorious Belmarsh Box, and Julian was able to communicate quite readily and freely through them with his lawyers, which this time he was not prevented from doing.

Rather to our surprise, nobody else was allowed into the public gallery of court 10 but us five. Others like John Pilger and Kristin Hrafnsson, editor in chief of Wikileaks, were shunted into the adjacent court 9 where a very small number were permitted to squint at a tiny screen, on which the sound was so inaudible John Pilger simply left. Many others who had expected to attend, such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, were simply excluded, as were MPs from the German federal parliament (both the German MPs and Reporters Without Borders at least later got access to the inadequate video following strong representations from the German Embassy).

The reason given that only five of us were allowed in the public gallery of some 40 seats was social distancing; except we were allowed to all sit together in consecutive seats in the front row. The two rows behind us remained completely empty.

To finish scene setting, Julian himself looked tidy and well groomed and dressed, and appeared to have regained a little lost weight, but with a definite unhealthy puffiness about his features. In the morning he appeared disengaged and disoriented rather as he had at Belmarsh, but in the afternoon he perked up and was very much engaged with his defence team, interacting as normally as could be expected in these circumstances.

Proceedings started with formalities related to Julian’s release on the old extradition warrant and re-arrest under the new warrant, which had taken place this morning. Defence and prosecution both agreed that the points they had already argued on the ban on extradition for political offences were not affected by the superseding indictment.

Magistrate Baraitser then made a statement about access to the court by remote hearing, by which she meant online. She stated that a number of access details had been sent out by mistake by the court without her agreement. She had therefore revoked their access permissions.

As she spoke, we in the court had no idea what had happened, but outside some consternation was underway in that the online access of Amnesty International, of Reporters without Borders, of John Pilger and of forty others had been shut down. As these people were neither permitted to attend the court nor observe online, this was causing some consternation.

Baraitser went on to say that it was important that the hearing was public, but she should only agree remote access where it was “in the interests of justice”, and having considered it she had decided it was not. She explained this by stating that the public could normally observe from within the courtroom, where she could control their behaviour. But if they had remote access, she could not control their behaviour and this was not in the “interests of justice”.

Baraitser did not expand on what uncontrolled behaviour she anticipated from those viewing via the internet. It is certainly true that an observer from Amnesty sitting at home might be in their underwear, might be humming the complete soundtrack to Mamma Mia, or might fart loudly. Precisely why this would damage “the interests of justice” we are still left to ponder, with no further help from the magistrate. But evidently the interests of justice were, in her view, best served if almost nobody could examine the “justice” too closely.

The next “housekeeping issue” to be addressed was how witnesses should be heard. The defence had called numerous witnesses, and each had lodged a written statement. The prosecution and Baraitser both suggested that, having given their evidence in writing, there was no need for defence witnesses to give that evidence orally in open court. It would be much quicker to go straight to cross-examination by the prosecution.

For the defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC countered that justice should be seen to be done by the public. The public should be able to hear the defence evidence before hearing the cross-examination. It would also enable Julian Assange to hear the evidence summarised, which was important for him to follow the case given his lack of extended access to legal papers while in Belmarsh prison.

Baraitser stated there could not be any need for evidence submitted to her in writing to be repeated orally. For the defence, Mark Summers QC was not prepared to drop it and tension notably rose in the court. Summers stated it was normal practice for there to be “an orderly and rational exposition of the evidence”. For the prosecution, James Lewis QC denied this, saying it was not normal procedure.

Baraitser stated she could not see why witnesses should be scheduled an one hour forty five minutes each, which was too long. Lewis agreed. He also added that the prosecution does not accept that the defence’s expert witnesses are expert witnesses. A Professor of journalism telling about newspaper coverage did not count. An expert witness should only be giving evidence on a technical point the court was otherwise unqualified to consider. Lewis also objected that in giving evidence orally, defence witnesses might state new facts to which the Crown had not had time to react. Baraitser noted that the written defence statements were published online, so they were available to the public.

Edward Fitzgerald QC stood up to speak again, and Baraitser addressed him in a quite extraordinary tone of contempt. What she said exactly was: “I have given you every opportunity. Is there anything else, really, that you want to say”, the word “really” being very heavily emphasised and sarcastic. Fitzgerald refused to be sat down, and he stated that the current case featured “substantial and novel issues going to fundamental questions of human rights.” It was important the evidence was given in public. It also gave the witnesses a chance to emphasise the key points of their evidence and where they placed most weight.

Baraitser called a brief recess while she considered judgement on this issue, and then returned. She found against the defence witnesses giving their evidence in open court, but accepted that each witness should be allowed up to half an hour of being led by the defence lawyers, to enable them to orient themselves and reacquaint with their evidence before cross-examination.

This half hour for each witness represented something of a compromise, in that at least the basic evidence of each defence witness would be heard by the court and the public (insofar as the public was allowed to hear anything). But the idea that a standard half hour guillotine is sensible for all witnesses, whether they are testifying to a single fact or to developments over years, is plainly absurd. What came over most strongly from this question was the desire of both judge and prosecution to railroad through the extradition with as little of the case against it getting a public airing as possible.

As the judge adjourned for a short break we thought these questions had now been addressed and the rest of the day would be calmer. We could not have been more wrong.

The court resumed with a new defence application, led by Mark Summers QC, about the new charges from the US governments new superseding indictment. Summers took the court back over the history of this extradition hearing. The first indictment had been drawn up in March of 2018. In January 2019 a provisional request for extradition had been made, which had been implemented in April of 2019 on Assange’s removal from the Embassy. In June 2019 this was replaced by the full request with a new, second indictment which had been the basis of these proceedings before today. A whole series of hearings had taken place on the basis of that second indictment.

The new superseding indictment dated from 20 June 2020. In February and May 2020 the US government had allowed hearings to go ahead on the basis of the second indictment, giving no warning, even though they must by that stage have known the new superseding indictment was coming. They had given neither explanation nor apology for this.

The defence had not been properly informed of the superseding indictment, and indeed had learnt of its existence only through a US government press release on 20 June. It had not finally been officially served in these proceedings until 29 July, just six weeks ago. At first, it had not been clear how the superseding indictment would affect the charges, as the US government was briefing it made no difference but just gave additional detail. But on 21 August 2020, not before, it finally became clear in new US government submissions that the charges themselves had been changed.

There were now new charges that were standalone and did not depend on the earlier allegations. Even if the 18 Manning related charges were rejected, these new allegations could still form grounds for extradition. These new allegations included encouraging the stealing of data from a bank and from the government of Iceland, passing information on tracking police vehicles, and hacking the computers both of individuals and of a security company.

“How much of this newly alleged material is criminal is anybody’s guess”, stated Summers, going on to explain that it was not at all clear that an Australian giving advice from outwith Iceland to someone in Iceland on how to crack a code, was actually criminal if it occurred in the UK. This was even without considering the test of dual criminality in the US also, which had to be passed before the conduct was subject to extradition.

It was unthinkable that allegations of this magnitude would be the subject of a Part 2 extradition hearing within six weeks if they were submitted as a new case. Plainly that did not give the defence time to prepare, or to line up witnesses to these new charges. Among the issues relating to these new charges the defence would wish to address, were that some were not criminal, some were out of time limitation, some had already been charged in other fora (including Southwark Crown Court and courts in the USA).

There were also important questions to be asked about the origins of some of these charges and the dubious nature of the witnesses. In particular the witness identified as “teenager” was the same person identified as “Iceland 1” in the previous indictment. That indictment had contained a “health warning” over this witness given by the US Department of Justice. This new indictment removed that warning. But the fact was, this witness is Sigurdur Thordarson, who had been convicted in Iceland in relation to these events of fraud, theft, stealing Wikileaks money and material and impersonating Julian Assange.

The indictment did not state that the FBI had been “kicked out of Iceland for trying to use Thordarson to frame Assange”, stated Summers baldly.

Summers said all these matters should be ventilated in these hearings if the new charges were to be heard, but the defence simply did not have time to prepare its answers or its witnesses in the brief six weeks it had since receiving them, even setting aside the extreme problems of contact with Assange in the conditions in which he was being held in Belmarsh prison.

The defence would plainly need time to prepare answers to these new charges, but it would plainly be unfair to keep Assange in jail for the months that would take. The defence therefore suggested that these new charges should be excised from the conduct to be considered by the court, and they should go ahead with the evidence on criminal behaviour confined to what conduct had previously been alleged.

Summers argued it was “entirely unfair” to add what were in law new and separate criminal allegations, at short notice and “entirely without warning and not giving the defence time to respond to it. What is happening here is abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice if allowed to continue.”

The arguments submitted by the prosecution now rested on these brand new allegations. For example, the prosecution now countered the arguments on the rights of whistleblowers and the necessity of revealing war crimes by stating that there can have been no such necessity to hack into a bank in Iceland.

Summers concluded that the “case should be confined to that conduct which the American government had seen fit to allege in the eighteen months of the case” before their second new indictment.

Replying to Summers for the prosecution, Joel Smith QC replied that the judge was obliged by the statute to consider the new charges and could not excise them. “If there is nothing proper about the restitution of a new extradition request after a failed request, there is nothing improper in a superseding indictment before the first request had failed.” Under the Extradition Act the court must decide only if the offence is an extraditable offence and the conduct alleged meets the dual criminality test. The court has no other role and no jurisdiction to excise part of the request.

Smith stated that all the authorities (precedents) were of charges being excised from a case to allow extradition to go ahead on the basis of the remaining sound charges, and those charges which had been excised were only on the basis of double jeopardy. There was no example of charges being excised to prevent an extradition. And the decision to excise charges had only ever been taken after the conduct alleged had been examined by the court. There was no example of alleged conduct not being considered by the court. The defendant could seek extra time if needed but the new allegations must be examined.

Summers replied that Smith was “wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong”. “We are not saying that you can never submit a new indictment, but you cannot do it six weeks before the substantive hearing.” The impact of what Smith had said amounted to no more than “Ha ha this is what we are doing and you can’t stop us.” A substantive last minute change had been made with no explanation and no apology. It could not be the case, as Smith alleged, that a power existed to excise charges in fairness to the prosecution, but no power existed to excise charges in fairness to the defence.

Immediately Summers sat down, Baraitser gave her judgement on this point. As so often in this hearing, it was a pre-written judgement. She read it from a laptop she had brought into the courtroom with her, and she had made no alterations to that document as Summers and Smith had argued the case in front of her.

Baraitser stated that she had been asked as a preliminary move to excise from the case certain conduct alleged. Mr Summers had described the receipt of new allegations as extraordinary. However “I offered the defence the opportunity to adjourn the case” to give them time to prepare against the new allegations. “I considered of course that Mr Assange was in custody. I hear that Mr Summers believes this is fundamental unfairness”. But “the argument that we haven’t got the time, should be remedied by asking for the time.”

Mr Summers had raised issues of dual criminality and abuse of process; there was nothing preventing him for raising these arguments in the context of considering the request as now presented.

Baraitser simply ignored the argument that while there was indeed “nothing to prevent” the defence from answering the new allegations as each was considered, they had been given no time adequately to prepare. Having read out her pre-prepared judgement to proceed on the basis of the new superseding indictment, Baraitser adjourned the court for lunch.

At the end of the day I had the opportunity to speak to an extremely distinguished and well-known lawyer on the subject of Baraitser bringing pre-written judgements into court, prepared before she had heard the lawyers argue the case before her. I understood she already had seen the outline written arguments, but surely this was wrong. What was the point in the lawyers arguing for hours if the judgement was pre-written? What I really wanted to know was how far this was normal practice.

The lawyer replied to me that it absolutely was not normal practice, it was totally outrageous. In a long and distinguished career, this lawyer had very occasionally seen it done, even in the High Court, but there was always some effort to disguise the fact, perhaps by inserting some reference to points made orally in the courtroom. Baraitser was just blatant. The question was, of course, whether it was her own pre-written judgement she was reading out, or something she had been given from on high.

This was a pretty shocking morning. The guillotining of defence witnesses to hustle the case through, indeed the attempt to ensure their evidence was not spoken in court except those parts which the prosecution saw fit to attack in cross-examination, had been breathtaking. The effort by the defence to excise the last minute superseding indictment had been a fundamental point disposed of summarily. Yet again, Baraitser’s demeanour and very language made little attempt to disguise a hostility to the defence.

We were for the second time in the day in a break thinking that events must now calm down and get less dramatic. Again we were wrong.

Court resumed forty minutes late after lunch as various procedural wrangles were addressed behind closed doors. As the court resumed, Mark Summers for the defence stood up with a bombshell.

Summers said that the defence “recognised” the judgement Baraitser had just made – a very careful choice of word, as opposed to “respected” which might seem more natural. As she had ruled that the remedy to lack of time was more time, the defence was applying for an adjournment to enable them to prepare the answers to the new charges. They did not do this lightly, as Mr Assange would continue in prison in very difficult conditions during the adjournment.

Summers said the defence was simply not in a position to gather the evidence to respond to the new charges in a few short weeks, a situation made even worse by Covid restrictions. It was true that on 14 August Baraitser had offered an adjournment and on 21 August they had refused the offer. But in that period of time, Mr Assange had not had access to the new charges and they had not fully realised the extent to which these were a standalone new case. To this date, Assange had still not received the new prosecution Opening Note in prison, which was a crucial document in setting out the significance of the new charges.

Baraitser pointedly asked whether the defence could speak to Assange in prison by telephone. Summers replied yes, but these were extremely short conversations. They could not phone Mr Assange; he could only call out very briefly on the prison payphone to somebody’s mobile, and the rest of the team would have to try to gather round to listen. It was not possible in these very brief discussions adequately to expound complex material. Between 14 and 21 August they had been able to have only two such very short phone calls. The defence could only send documents to Mr Assange through the post to the prison; he was not always given them, or allowed to keep them.

Baraitser asked how long an adjournment was being requested. Summers replied until January.

For the US government, James Lewis QC replied that more scrutiny was needed of this request. The new matters in the indictment were purely criminal. They do not affect the arguments about the political nature of the case, or affect most of the witnesses. If more time were granted, “with the history of this case, we will just be presented with a sleigh of other material which will have no bearing on the small expansion of count 2”.

Baraitser adjourned the court “for ten minutes” while she went out to consider her judgement. In fact she took much longer. When she returned she looked peculiarly strained.

Baraitser ruled that on 14 August she had given the defence the opportunity to apply for an adjournment, and given them seven days to decide. On 21 August the defence had replied they did not want an adjournment. They had not replied that they had insufficient time to consider. Even today the defence had not applied to adjourn but rather had applied to excise charges. They “cannot have been surprised by my decision” against that application. Therefore they must have been prepared to proceed with the hearing. Their objections were not based on new circumstance. The conditions of Assange in Belmarsh had not changed since 21 August. They had therefore missed their chance and the motion to adjourn was refused.

The courtroom atmosphere was now highly charged. Having in the morning refused to cut out the superseding indictment on the grounds that the remedy for lack of time should be more time, Baraitser was now refusing to give more time. The defence had called her bluff; the state had apparently been confident that the effective solitary confinement in Belmarsh was so terrible that Assange would not request more time. I rather suspect that Julian was himself bluffing, and made the call at lunchtime to request more time in the full expectation that it would be refused, and the rank hypocrisy of the proceedings exposed.

I previously blogged about how the procedural trickery of the superseding indictment being used to replace the failing second indictment – as Smith said for the prosecution “before it failed” – was something that sickened the soul. Today in the courtroom you could smell the sulphur.

Well, yet again we were left with the feeling that matters must now get less exciting. This time we were right and they became instead excruciatingly banal. We finally moved on to the first witness, Professor Mark Feldstein, giving evidence to the court by videolink for the USA. It was not Professor Feldstein’s fault the day finished in confused anti-climax. The court was unable to make the video technology work. For ten broken minutes out of about forty Feldstein was briefly able to give evidence, and even this was completely unsatisfactory as he and Mark Summers were repeatedly speaking over each other on the link.

Professor Feldstein’s evidence will resume tomorrow (now in fact today) and I think rather than split it I shall give the full account then. Meantime you can see these excellent summaries from Kevin Gosztola or the morning and afternoon reports from James Doleman. In fact, I should be grateful if you did, so you can see that I am neither inventing nor exaggerating the facts of these startling events.

If you asked me to sum up today in a word, that word would undoubtedly be “railroaded”. it was all about pushing through the hearing as quickly as possible and with as little public exposure as possible to what is happening. Access denied, adjournment denied, exposition of defence evidence denied, removal of superseding indictment charges denied. The prosecution was plainly failing in that week back in Woolwich in February, which seems like an age ago. It has now been given a new boost.

How the defence will deal with the new charges we shall see. It seems impossible that they can do this without calling new witnesses to address the new facts. But the witness lists had already been finalised on the basis of the old charges. That the defence should be forced to proceed with the wrong witnesses seems crazy, but frankly, I am well past being surprised by anything in this fake process.

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134 thoughts on “Your Man in the Public Gallery: the Assange Hearing Day 6

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  • Wikikettle

    “Today in the courtroom you could smell the sulphur “. This all began in Iceland, the conspiracy to fit up Jullian. When books, novels and films are made of this shameful saga, Craig’s line about the smell of sulphur will be used.

  • nevermind

    Thank you for the only real report from the court, Craig, I’m sure that some journalist are secretly reading your report in private, thinking about their future under this conspiracy to extradite.
    Those behind this conspiracy to prosecute free speech, just to cover up their heinous war crimes, their insidious two faced demeanor when pretending to give access to the public, their pretence to be seen doing the lawful thing, wiping the eyes of the public citing covid 19, is all that is left from this empty rotten hull of an empire.
    16 th. and 17th. century pirateers had more honour in their eyepatches than this fake courtroom drama.

    I also fear that Julian’s time in Belmarsh, now that this wretched amplifier of another judges feverish mind, has refused Julian’s team an extension to inform himself and his team of these new trumped up charges relying on lags and fraudsters.

  • Tony Little

    General comment to any lawyers or justice specialists. Is it normal procedure for such a high profile case to be handed to, what appears to be, a junior court magistrate rather than a Judge?

    • Royd

      ‘Is it normal procedure for such a high profile case to be handed to, what appears to be, a junior court magistrate rather than a Judge?’

      Any mud that sticks will stick to VB. Those above her will be in the clear. However, given that we know so little of VB, because a search using the main search engines will reveal nothing, it makes one wonder just how ‘junior’ she is, or how much protected by the PTB. Nevertheless, it will be her name that goes down in history. If I was her, I would not be wanting that in light of how history might judge her.

  • Ian

    Edward Snowden was right in one sense about the Kafka-esque nature of this ‘trial’, but in many ways it is worse than that epithet. Instead of a system lost in a labyrinth of near meaninglessness, this ‘trial’ is severely focused on its already-decided remit – to extradite Julian Assange. Thanks to Craig’s observations it is obvious that Baraitser has no interest conducting a trial, or examining the case the prosecution has confected, manipulated and used fraudulent ‘witnesses’ to promote. Her pre-ordained ‘decisions’ surely tell you what process is in train – the rubber-stamping of an already-decided decision. Her disappearance before issuing a decision on point of law reeks of her communicating with the powers that be who have framed this absurd sham. No doubt she is taking instruction from the Home Office or one of the many government agencies who collaborate with the US authorities.

    If that isn’t bad enough, what strikes me as even worse, more sinister and degrading to any concept of justice in the UK is her ‘mistake’ to allow remote access to normally allowed media and organisations. That also reeks of a decision made elsewhere which was forced on her. The brazed determination to prevent the public from hearing about the arguments – which are so weak they are contemptible, and to coin a phrase wouldn’t stand up in a court of law – is worthy of the worst kind of dictatorships and despotic regimes we used to look upon in horror in the past – the show trials, the state crushing dissent of China, the old Soviet bloc, and other assorted regimes. But now, it is normalised in the UK. What a chilling remark, she has disallowed public access and discussion because she ‘cannot control them’.
    One wonders at the legal profession, and you get a hint of it in Summers’ response, whether they realise how this show trial is destroying any vestige of a British court applying justice and adjudicating fairly competing claims. Plainly the intent is not to allow that to happen. Clearly this is prima facie evidence of contempt of court – by the judge, who is not there to ‘judge’, but to prosecute without a real trial.

    Journalists and citizens might start wondering at the abuse of the courts by this government (today the legal officer of the government resigned on account of Johnson’s abuse of a legal treaty he signed), the outlawing of the public interest defence, and the stifling of any dissent or dissemination of government practices. In its own way, a historic moment in UK legal history, but one that doesn’t presage a good future, but a more totalitarian one.

    • Blissex

      «Instead of a system lost in a labyrinth of near meaninglessness, this ‘trial’ is severely focused on its already-decided remit – to extradite Julian Assange.»

      But that’s the logic of the extradition treaty between UK and USA: it was written specifically to make extradition pretty much automatic, and one way only. The English elites pretty much do whatever the USA want, because the USA guarantee their properties: after WW1 and even more after WW2, when in both wars England had been defeated and was about to surrender, the USA provided the funds and equipment and some troops to avoid defeat (they did the same to Russia in WW2). If not for the USA all those manors and castles would now belong to the descendants of the Junkers or the grandchildren of Goering and Himmler. The USA also guarantee the properties of the English elites from domestic confiscation by “the trots”, that is from “genocidal dictators” like Corbyn.

      To be an american protectorate was also popular among the people, not just the elites: the tommies on the various fronts could easily compare their obsolete, patched up weapons and scarce munitions and threadbare supplies with the plenty of the best stuff that the american troops fighting along them had, and realized that without the Americans they would have been rolled over (as indeed they were in both Europe and Asia until the Americans helped).

      • Ian

        I think that’s stretching it a bit. It’s not because of second world war history that we have the current extradition farce.

        • Blissex

          It’s really not a stretch: during and after WW2 the english elites handed over the empire to the USA, and even control of the UK security, military and diplomatic forces. Both the extradition treaty and the status-of-forces treaties, which favour just one side, are the direct consequence of that.

          The extradition farce is not a farce: the extradition treaty was written *intentionally* with the widest possible language. The “political crimes” exception was pure window dressing, as it is always possible to make up an indictment for non-political crimes.

          The extradition treaty was signed in 2003 as an obvious consequence of 9/11, and its purpose was to allow the USA government to grab anybody they wanted, for any reason they wanted, and this well understood at the time; not allowing the USA to shaft Assange as they please would be a practical violation of the spirit of the treaty, and probably of its letter.

          • Ian

            That’s my point. The relationship fundamentally changed after 9/11. Even then, bodies like the Parliamentary Select Committee found it unfairly balanced and unjust, as did others. And Theresa May blocked Gary Mackinnon’s extradition on human rights grounds, so there is precedent.
            Aside from the history, the point being made by Craig and others is that even within the narrow strictures of the Act, this particular trial is unprecedented in the way it has been conducted, the attempt to close down public scrutiny and communication, and most of all the hobbling of the defence and above all the inhumane treatment of the subject. So whatever historical view you choose to take this is something else and fundamentally a terrible stain on the justice system, much more so than previous extraditions.

    • Ian

      Feldstein’s concluding remarks are strong, stirring stuff.

      In the witness box Clive Stafford Smith, defending the use of Wikileaks in his own work. Prosecution trying to say it is irrelevant.

      Plainly they, and the judge, want to rule as inadmissable any evidence not connected with their fake claims about Iceland etc. That is their strategy. The wider points about public interest, freedom of information and justice are outside of the narrow circle they are trying to draw around the case, and of course have foisted on the defence with no real chance to prepare.

    • Ian

      It gives the defence a chance to prepare, publicity to inform people, and of course the US government to change.

    • pretzelattack

      why would she fear that, though? they originally went after assange under obama. it’s a bipartisan effort. they originally went after manning under obama, too. i know obama reportedly refrained from going after assange, once he was safely trapped in the embassy, for practicing journalism, but to me that just means there was some controversy over how best to get him to the united states–given obama’s sorry record on civil rights overall.

      • Ian

        It is said that Obama’s team accepted that they couldn’t prosecute him as the First Amendment would protect him.

          • pretzelattack

            they argue these specious distinctions between what assange is doing and the “journalism” that they do. the judges are deferential to national security arguments, and the law is often a farce anyway, as we seen unfolding here. i’m not convinced obama would have refrained from prosecuting him; maybe he would just have used the espionage act from world war 1, as they are trying to do now. the way i understand it, that shouldn’t apply either, but…

  • Geoff Reynolds

    It should have become obvious by now that Judge Beratist and the Crown are merely a fiction of the UK judicial system……

    What you are seeing is a pincer movement of corruption on an epic scale.

    I have never heard of a judge that produces instant replies to the defense via a laptop?

    Neither have i seen a court hearing shielded from so many by so few.

    ………………………………..If i was Julian Assange i would remain seated, not answer any questions and declare that i was a living person and demand real Common Law be applied.

    We are witnessing a Court so bent that it would hide behind a corkscrew and a Judge on the payroll of the festering filth better known as ‘our friends across the pond’……………

    John Pilger recognised the stitch up from the word go, and so did Roger Waters.

  • Mervyn Hyde

    I am so glad you were there, and thank you for the detailed explanation of the proceedings, I could smell the sulphur from my laptop let alone the court room.

    I will be retweeting this and posting on my Facebook page.

  • Sarolta Elizabeth Kérészy

    Thank you Mr Murray. Extremely detailed observation. Takes me back to Alexander Dubcsek trial, the tragic play out of Cardinal Mindszenty under Rákosi’s reign of terror and the soviet trials- szolzsenitzin among them (excuse the Hungarian spelling of it). I despair. This woman has brought her bad courtroom manners all the way from South Africa with her. I am sure that with her Israeli passport along with Mr B’s Israeli pension to expand the domestic budget, she may end up as an ace judge persecuting the Palestinians- after all, she wouldn’t want to disappoint her active Zionist family!

  • Presstitutes

    So Baraitser is unable to agree to online viewing of the proceedings as she will be unable to exercise control over viewers committing any contempt of court eg by disrespectfully Fixodenting their loose yarmulkes whilst peering into their screens, bwahahahahaha. For Baraitser to wrongly refuse a just adjournment required to rebut new substantially revised charges on the basis that an earlier adjournment offer by the court was declined by the defence (the defence saw no need for it as no new grounds had even been legally tabled then) is in itself grounds for a technical appeal. This fascist railroading sadly will only lead to a railway wagon loading someday, I am afraid.

    • John O'Dowd

      Insightful comment – drenched in irony – and I fear the blood of future victims of the incipient fascism the plagues both Ukania and the USA. As so often Shakespear has the words:

      “We still have judgement here, that we but teach
      Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
      To plague th’inventor.”

  • Willie

    A. squalid country indeed Craig, and it will get worse. But at the end of it all this country will burn in a midst of hatred and bloodshed.

    Like 1930s Germany, or to a much lesser extent Northern Ireland it will all end in tears. Subjugation, abuse, inequality, the absolute recipe for misery. No wonder the UK is doubling prison capacity across the four nations as we speak and making provision and planning for troops to be able to support police should it be needed post the Brexit transition.

    • Andy

      Do you have a link for the increased prison capacity?
      I seem to recall a YouTube expose several years ago of many new empty prisons in the USA – now deleted of course.
      I am in Thailand and on the school run I drive past a huge new empty prison that has been finished for at least one year but still has no inmates. I expect as an anti COVID vaxer, COVID sceptic, climate change sceptic and general libertarian to see the inside eventually for thoughtcrime and re-education.

  • Republicofscotland

    Excellent summary Craig, just like the Salmond trial you paint a very vivid picture, a picture of injustice and a lack fairness by the judge and prosecution.

    As usual it will come as no surprise that the hand picked compliant corporate journalists will paint a completely different picture to the one you’ve painted. By lining up to aid the demise of a fellow journalist Assange, these compliant journalists who care not for the truth, and only write what fits the narrative of the day, they’re effectively destroying any hope of real investigative journalism making a comeback.

    It doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway Assange is being persecuted for revealing the truth on American war crimes, nothing else.

  • James Cook

    What I have yet to fully understand is; Why the theatre? What benefit is gained by the drawn out “railroading”?
    Why not just do “it”, and be done?

    If not, then Julian could easily be released into the public by a very noble UK Justice and like Navalny, suddenly have some “bad” tea……….and everyone could pile on and nicely place the blame on Russia.

    I am having difficulty imagining how all of this is so “useful” to the UK/US alliance, as to validate these extraordinary continuing efforts and just make the “security twins” look so foolish?

    …Oh, yes well reported Craig, ………considering how you are also being subjected to similar prosecutions, differing only in subject and not style. Please, stay off the “tea” for awhile, yourself.

  • Achnababan


    Thanks again for reporting this.

    At the expense of appearing flippant does Julian have any mates that can get their hands on the Scottish Government’s papers against AS that they are withholding… we need some leaks…

  • Republicofscotland

    More on Assange’s kangaroo trial.

    Consortium NewsDAY TWO OF ASSANGE HEARING: US Tries to Narrow its Espionage Charge to Only Naming Informants; Defense Witness Crumbles Under Cross Examination – Julian Assange was also warned by Judge Baraitser that he would be removed if he makes another outburst. U.S. crimes abroad and at home on display (08 Sep 2020)

  • N_

    Lewis also objected that in giving evidence orally, defence witnesses might state new facts to which the Crown had not had time to react.

    WTF kind of hearing is this? They might do exactly the same (state new facts) under cross-examination!

    Excuse my ignorance, but what is the required standard of proof in this kind of extradition case?

    (Baraitser ruled that) each witness should be allowed up to half an hour of being led by the defence lawyers.”

    Allowed?? They’ve come to court to help the court. They’re not parties to the case. She doesn’t like the defence, does she? What a prejudiced turd she is!

    But the idea that a standard half hour guillotine is sensible for all witnesses, whether they are testifying to a single fact or to developments over years, is plainly absurd.


    ‘How much of this newly alleged material is criminal is anybody’s guess’, stated Summers, going on to explain that it was not at all clear that an Australian giving advice from outwith Iceland to someone in Iceland on how to crack a code, was actually criminal if it occurred in the UK.

    That’s precisely what the prosecution needs to show. If an alleged action would not have been criminal in Britain, then a person cannot lawfully be extradited from Britain for it.

    Exactly that point meant that the US was unable to extradite Bobby Fischer from Japan, because playing chess in Yugoslavia was not against Japanese law. (The US government’s actions regarding his passport were an obvious stitch-up.) So rather than seeking extradition they tried for a long time (eventually unsuccessfully) simply to bundle him on to a plane and take him to a US prison. He beat the b*stards, and so can Julian. The US government can sometimes be a “paper tiger”.

    In other news, the British government is boasting of being about to break international law regarding the Brexit withdrawal agreement (or ex-agreement) – another case of the envelope being blatantly pushed, as we have seen multiple times with the Trump presidency in the US. Although in “taking the p*ss” terms, it doesn’t come close to the guy I heard on BBC radio the other day who said the EU were trying to prevent free trade across the English Channel.

      • David G

        While I’d be delighted if Assange were to escape extradition, the very best result for him strictly in terms of U.S. law would be for the U.S. prosecutors to drop the charges after “jeopardy” has attached, thus barring their subsequent revival under the double-jeopardy rule. I’m pretty sure that threshold would not be passed until he appeared in a U.S. courtroom, though.

  • Sarge

    Thanks for reporting this farce. Resonant of the kind of ‘trial’ the Old Bailey hosted for most of its 500 years. The mask is being shed once again in order to please Big Daddy Trump. Strange silence from.all our pompous celebrators of English Law and lLberal Values …. the Martin Kettles, Lord Braggs, Ken Clarkes, (add your favourite ***t).

  • pretzelattack

    “off with his head” cried the red queen. i wish we had kafka and carroll reporting on this trial, too, but we are fortunate to have craig murray.

    • Bayard

      “Immediately Summers sat down, Baraitser gave her judgement on this point. As so often in this hearing, it was a pre-written judgement.”

      “Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day. “No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.”

  • sandinED

    It seems all pretence is over. We are in a feudal society where law, like taxes, only applies to the little people.

    I posted this article in where it should have a substantial international readership.

    • N_

      It seems all pretence is over. We are in a feudal society where law, like taxes, only applies to the little people.

      Yes – the culture is increasingly “we don’t need no stinking badges”.

      The ground for bourgeois liberal democracy (not such a deep category as often thought) is falling away like a sinkhole.

  • Mikaelvuo

    This VT article is forbidden in Facebook:

    “Speculations about a presidential pardon for the whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked National Security Agency’s classified information to the press in 2013, have grown since last month after Donald Trump commented on the case in an interview [1] with The New York Post on August 13.
    “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly,” Trump said in the interview, “I mean, I hear that.”
    At another occasion, during a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said: “There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision — many people think that he should somehow be treated differently and other people think he did very bad things, I’m going to take a very good look at it.”
    What lends credence to the speculations that Edward Snowden could be granted a presidential pardon is the fact that a US Court of Appeals held the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program, leaked by Snowden, illegal last week [2], thus implicitly acquitting Snowden of any wrongdoing.
    Top US intelligence officials had publicly insisted the NSA had never knowingly collected data from private phone records, until Snowden exposed evidence to the contrary in 2013.
    Following the revelation, officials said the NSA’s surveillance program had played a crucial role in fighting domestic terrorism, including the convictions of Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, Mohamed Mohamud, and Issa Doreh, of San Diego, for providing aid to al-Shabab militants in Somalia.
    But on Wednesday, September 2, the Court of Appeals said the claims were “inconsistent with the contents of the classified records” and the program had violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The ruling, however, will not affect the 2013 convictions of the financiers of the al-Shabab militants.
    Following the court ruling, Edward Snowden felt vindicated and jubilantly tweeted: “I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful, and in the same ruling, credit me for exposing them, and yet that day has arrived.”

  • 99 Percenter

    If only Jeremy Corbyn had been bold enough to put Assange release manifestly clear at the top of the labour election manifesto, instead of letting mcdonnell promise us all the wotsits you can eat. Rabbi Mirvis must be tossing in his bed every night thinking about the 20,000 needless extra deaths in care homes under this corrupt and incompetent tory government, and now their shahboz starbucks in power, after the pestons and coburns have disposed of bojo, can be be expected to be no different from this fascist eton mob. Assange will be extradited unless someone can organise a 2 million man march in central London.

  • 6033624

    From the way you describe it I felt that Baraitser was leaving the courtroom for her 10 minute adjournment fully expecting to adjourn the case, if not to January perhaps to a compromise date. It seems she thought she’d need little time to ‘consider’ this. A quick phone call would suffice. I then suspect her quick phone call wasn’t so quick when whoever it is who tells her what to say and do told her to do something even SHE thought ridiculous, hence looking strained on her return.

    We decry foreign states for how they treat dissidents and look what we are doing here. A complete travesty whilst the press all look the other way and report the US disinformation which if comments on news sites are to be believed are being swallowed whole by the public at large.

  • fwl

    Thanks to Craig for his report and also to Mark Feldstein for his 1st witness statement, which helped me better understand the context and issues of the free press in the context of the current US administration, what is a journalist, how they tend to operate in the US and a summary of Wiki’s scoops.

  • Geoff Reynolds

    …………Judge Beratist is being schooled from the sidelines via a link to her laptop computer.

    The defenSe team should request that THE LAPTOP BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR FORENSIC EXAMINATION.prior to any commencement..

  • Rosemary+MacKenzie

    These two countries are considered to be democracies – the US and UK? I was interested that the German Embassy had involved themselves in a small way, well good for them. I emailed my MP Bernadette Jordan, Minster of Fisheries and Oceans, here in Canada to please ask the Canadian government to voice its concern over this travesty. I’m not holding my breath. Thanks for the description of events Craig. I am very grateful for the work you do on Julian’s behalf, and the work Julian has done for all of us.

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