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Julian Assange’s Wife Urges Joe Biden to Drop Pursuit of Husband as he Wins Right to Appeal US Extradition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 10:11pm in

Julian Assange on Monday won the right to appeal against extradition to the US, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act, but he today remains behind bars at London's Belmarsh prison where he is expected to spend several months waiting for his next court date.

The WikiLeaks founder was granted leave to appeal the UK’s decision in 2021 to approve his extradition to the United States, where he faces charges for publishing classified military files and diplomatic cables revealing alleged war crimes perpetrated by American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

A decision was deferred in March with judges ruling that Assange could bring an appeal if the US could not offer a range of human rights-based assurances.

If Assange's next appeal fails, the 52-year-old could take his fight to the UK Supreme Court or seek an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

He will remain detained at the Category A men's prison, alongside some of the UK's worst offenders – including Wayne Couzens and Michael Adebolajo – while he awaits an appeal hearing. He has been held at the prison, without trial, for more than five years and is permitted limited contact with his wife, Stella Assange, and their two children. 

Stella Assange addresses her husband's supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, in February. Photo: Ron Fassbender/Alamy

Kristinn Hrafnsson, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, said after the ruling this week that there was “finally a glimmer of hope” for Assange, the Guardian reported, noting that his lawyers would now decide if they also wanted to press for him to be released on bail. Assange has previously been denied bail on the grounds that he is a flight risk.

Stella Assange called on US President Joe Biden to "do the right thing" and drop the legal pursuit of her husband – something that he might not be able to do after November 2024 if Donald Trump is re-elected.

The human rights lawyer branded the case against her partner "offensive" and, while she was relieved at Monday's decision, questioned "how long can this go on for?"

"Julian needs to be freed,” she said – sharing that their children's memories of their father are all "in the visiting hall of Belmarsh prison".

The Australian was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had been staying since 2012, having sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation – announced in August 2010 – that was later dropped. He has been fighting for his freedom ever since.

Simon Crowther, a legal advisor at Amnesty International, said the High Court's decision was a “rare piece of positive news" for Assange and defenders of press freedom, adding that the court had "rightly concluded that, if extradited to the USA, Assange will be at risk of serious abuse, including prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture or other ill-treatment”.

The assurances earlier sought were that, if Assange was extradited, the US would not impose the death penalty; that it would allow him to rely on the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects free speech; and that he would not be prejudiced at trial or sentencing because of his nationality.

The Problem With Diplomatic Assurances

The use of diplomatic assurances in extradition cases has long been criticised by human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as there is no guarantee they will be honoured.

A Human Rights Watch report on the issue concludes: “The growing weight of evidence and international expert opinion indicates that diplomatic assurances cannot protect people at risk of torture from such treatment.”  

Rebecca Vincent, director of campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, said: Even if these assurances are respected in practice – and again, there’s no guarantee that they will be – we have serious concerns about the very charges against Julian Assange...noting that the Espionage Act itself lacks a public interest defence so even if these assurances are met, we don’t believe that Julian Assange or anyone accused in this way could have a fair trial.”

Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange at the High Court on Monday, accepted the US’ assurance that he would not face the death penalty if extradited. However, he raised serious concerns about what his client's wife referred to as the US non-assurance’ regarding Assange's First Amendment right to freedom of expression

The US legal team has said that Assange can "raise and seek to rely on" the First Amendment, but has offered no guarantee that he will receive protections under it. US prosecutors have previously claimed that Assange is not protected by the First Amendment as he is not a US citizen.

Fitzgerald argued that “this is plainly an inadequate assurance”, and pointed to previous cases in which US prosecutors have provided clear and unequivocal assurances on similar issues.

This uncertainly regarding Assange’s First Amendment rights underlines the risk that he may face prejudice due to his nationality.

Can the UN and Human Rights Groups Assist Assange? 

In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange had been unlawfully detained in the Ecuadorian Embassy, by the UK and Sweden, and recommended that he be freed and compensated. A number of UN special rapporteurs have also raised the alarm about his case and called for his release. 

In 2019, Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture, found that Assange’s treatment by the UK Government amounted to torture and could put his life at risk.

In a later book on the Assange case, Melzer wrote: “The Assange case is the story of a man who is being persecuted and abused for exposing the dirty secrets of the powerful, including war crimes, torture and corruption. It is a story of deliberate judicial arbitrariness in Western democracies that are otherwise keen to present themselves as exemplary in the area of human rights.”

Melzer’s successor, Alice Jill Edwards, also called on the UK to halt Assange’s extradition to the US. Edwards highlighted the risk of solitary confinement and the harm to Assange’s mental health, in addition to the threat of a 175-year prison sentence. Edwards also raised concerns about the lack of protection for whistleblowers under the US Espionage Act. 

These same concerns were echoed by Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, who said: “Gathering, reporting and disseminating information, including national security information when it is in the public interest, is a legitimate exercise of journalism and should not be treated as a crime.”

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

Several respected human rights organisations have also campaigned on Assange’s behalf. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists led a coalition of civil society groups urging the US Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange, and reminding the US Government of the ‘New York Times problem’ that prevented the Obama administration from pressing charges, i.e. the risk that prosecuting Assange could leave journalists across the world at risk of prosecution for carrying out their duties in the public interest. 

Due to state sovereignty, both the UK and the US would likely face widespread public criticism and condemnation, but no domestic legal consequences, if they proceed to extradite Assange.

A Last-Minute Lifeline?

President Biden has said he is considering a request from Australia to drop the 14 year-long US pursuit of Assange and allow him to return to his home country, but he may only have months left to do that.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Biden's acknowledgement of his request "encouraging", and according to Sky News, said on 11 April: "I believe this must be brought to a conclusion and that Mr Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough.

"There's nothing to be gained by Mr Assange's continued incarceration, in my very strong view, and I've put that as the view of the Australian Government."

Breaking: Feinstein confirms GE candidacy vs Starmer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 8:59pm in

Constituency resident who served Mandela as ANC MP will stand in Holborn and St Pancras

Andrew Feinstein (image: Skwawkbox)

Former African National Congress (ANC) MP Andrew Feinstein has confirmed this morning that he will stand against Labour leader Keir Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras at the next general election.

Feinstein, a Jewish activist who lives in the constituency, is a former Labour member who has called for a new left movement outside the party, has been vocal against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, has consistently stood up for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from prison, has an impeccable track record on human rights and represents the integrity that Starmer claims but has completely failed to show. He had previously indicated his willingness to stand, if the results of canvassing showed there was demand in the constituency for a challenge.

Such is the gulf in track record and personal qualities that Starmer’s team was said to be ‘raging’ at the prospect that he might stand. The prospect of a confirmed candidacy is unlikely to make them any happier.

Feinstein at Monday’s rally for Julian Assange outside the High Court in London

Announcing his confirmed candidacy, Feinstein said:

Our democracy is in crisis. The two main parties are virtually indistinguishable in their offers of permanent austerity, forever wars and environmental degradation.

Keir Starmer, the MP for Holborn and St. Pancras where my family and I have lived for around 22 years, is emblematic of this crisis. His politics are mendacious, unprincipled and in the interests of his billionaire donors rather than the constituents he was elected to serve.

I have seen real leadership in action: I was privileged to serve under Nelson Mandela as an MP in South Africa. His leadership was selfless, principled, accountable, transparent and honest. Everything that Keir Starmer is not.

His almost immediate abandonment of many of the ten progressive pledges on which he was elected to lead the Labour Party is a clear sign he cannot be trusted.

Starmer has now gone a step too far by refusing to support an unqualified ceasefire and a halt to arms sales to Israel amid the greatest human tragedy since World War Two: the genocide being committed in Gaza.

How is it possible that a former human rights lawyer, who must see the horrific images that we all view on our screens every day, has not even commented on the highest court in the world’s interim ruling that Israel is likely committing genocide and ethnic cleansing?

The ICC’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes, including “starvation of civilians, wilfully causing great suffering and cruel treatment”, casts Starmer’s support for a siege of Gaza – cutting off water and power – in an even more appalling light.

His attempts to deny such support, despite video evidence confirming it, smacks of a remarkable lack of honesty or contrition.

He has backed the Conservative government’s indefensible position on the crisis, rather than demanding an end to the carnage, to occupation and to apartheid – the only route to a just peace in the region.

The Labour Party’s appalling stance on Gaza has fuelled a concern, enunciated most explicitly in a report written by Martin Forde KC, that the party operates a ‘hierarchy of racism’.

It oxymoronically expels life-long anti-racist Jews, supposedly to combat antisemitism, while taking little if any action against Islamophobia and anti-black racism.

As Nelson Mandela opined: “You are either against all forms of racism and discrimination, or you are part of the racism problem.”

The UK government, supported by the Labour Party, is not only enabling and facilitating the genocide in Gaza, but also profits from it through the continuing sale of the weapons being used to kill innocents.

I believe these arms sales are in contravention of British arms export controls, our obligations under international law and as signatory to the International Arms Trade Treaty.

The notoriously corrupt British defence sector has for decades routed money to our main political parties and to individual politicians – mostly once they have left office, for decisions taken while in office.

These companies are the most heavily subsidised by the public purse, meaning that we the taxpayer are subsidising the arms being used in Gaza, the undermining of the rule of law and the corrupting of our political system.

I am committed to rooting out corruption in politics. I resigned from the South African Parliament on principle in 2001 because our then President Thabo Mbeki refused to allow an unfettered investigation by my oversight committee into a massively corrupt arms deal which benefited senior ministers, officials, corporate executives and my own party.

Since then, I have spent the past 23 years investigating and writing about political corruption, especially in the global arms trade: the most corrupt of all trades – the bribes from which oil the wheels of our political system.

Starmer’s growing authoritarianism comes as no surprise to those of us who live in Holborn and St. Pancras. Since he became our MP in 2015, Starmer has brought divisive, factional politics to the area.

Decent, committed and competent residents were purged from Labour Party structures. We witnessed undemocratic local selection processes that became a feature across the country. It fosters real concern about what a Starmer-led government will do in power.

What seems clear is that not only will the disadvantaged be ignored, but our civil rights and civil liberties will be even more restricted than they have been under the Tories, in a failing attempt to quell opposition to their complicity in genocide.

As a constituency MP Starmer has failed the people of Holborn & St. Pancras. Rents have soared, social housing is inadequate and there’s far too much homelessness. Our increasingly privatised NHS is failing – yet Starmer’s Labour will only privatise it further. Public transport routes have been reduced, benefits slashed and the cost of living crisis makes daily life a struggle for so many, compounding child poverty.

I will address these crucial issues by demanding greater investment from local and national government in opposition to the Labour Party’s self-imposed, punishing fiscal constraints. I will oppose privatisation of vital services and create consultative local fora between affected residents and service providers.

As a Member of Parliament, I will guarantee the people of Holborn and St. Pancras that I will hold a weekly surgery to address their needs and issues. Constituents will be invited to Parliament every week to observe the workings of our sclerotic legislature and my work there.

To revitalise our democracy, I will undertake a monthly public report-back session and engage with local residents before every significant Parliamentary vote. I will work exhaustively to represent all the people of the constituency who will, after all, be paying my salary. And if Camden workers are on strike, I will always support them and stand by them and their unions on a picket line.

We urgently require a new politics: a people-centred politics focused on the many not the super wealthy; a politics driven by integrity and honesty, rather than opportunism and mendacity; a politics in pursuit of greater justice and equality at home and abroad, and a more peaceful, environmentally sustainable, less corrupt Britain and planet.

Feinstein’s supporters in the area, who include left-wing groups OCISA, For the Many and The Collective although he is not part of their groups, are wasting no time in starting their campaign. OCISA members will be out in force handing out leaflets at tube stations around the constituency from 4.30pm this afternoon:

A campaign leaflet created by Feinstein’s supporters

News of his campaign and fundraising plans will be published at andrewfeinstein.org.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

US refuses to say it won’t kill Assange

Wikileaks journalist remains imprisoned as US continues to pursue discredited extradition case – and refusal to give binding guarantee would result in his immediate release if UK justice system was fit for purpose

The US has refused to give a specific, binding guarantee to a UK court that it will not execute journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been held for years in solitary confinement in Belmarsh prison while he fights the US government’s attempt to extradite him so it can imprison him for years beyond his lifespan, after Assange exposed war crimes in Iraq by the US military.

The case should have been laughed out of court three years ago, when the main US witness admitted he had been lying all along in his claim that Assange induced him to hack US systems. Instead, Assange has been submitted to what former UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer described as sustained psychological torture – and still faces the likelihood of imprisonment for more than a century.

His recent appeal was adjourned to give the US time to affirm properly that it would not kill him if he was extradited, a sick joke when there has been longstanding evidence of US plans to murder him outside the US.

The judges even refused to admit fresh evidence of the US’s plans to assassinate Assange, instead offering the US another opportunity to have him in their hands if they would promise not to put him to death. The US.

But Assange’s wife Stella has revealed that the US has refused to say that it will not kill him and has offered only a boilerplate statement about the death penalty, while denying Assange the free speech protections it would offer to any US citizen:

The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty.

It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a U.S citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can “seek to raise” the First Amendment if extradited.

The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future – his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism.

The Biden Administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late.

The US statement says the death penalty will be ‘neither sought nor imposed’, but this is non-binding and meaningless given its previous attempts to kill him. The refusal to guarantee there will be no death penalty in Assange’s specific case should mean under UK and European human rights laws that the extradition is immediately refused by the UK court and Assange should already be free. Even if the assurances had been given, the likelihood that the US’s treatment of Assange would lead to his death should be enough to quash the bid.

The fact that he is not yet free of the threat of extradition, let alone walking around in the freedom he should have, is a damning indictment of the state of UK justice and democracy.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Assange’s brother: “Julian could receive the death penalty” if extradited

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/03/2024 - 9:18am in

The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal interviews Gabriel Shipton, film producer and brother of Julian Assange, during his latest visit to Washington DC, where he was pushing lawmakers to oppose the Biden administration’s prosecution of the jailed Wikileaks publisher.

The post Assange’s brother: “Julian could receive the death penalty” if extradited first appeared on The Grayzone.

The post Assange’s brother: “Julian could receive the death penalty” if extradited appeared first on The Grayzone.

Pro-Assange protest grows larger still

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2024 - 1:19am in

Even more people than yesterday demonstrate at Royal Courts of Justice, ready to march on Downing Street against plan to extradite Wikileaks founder for exposing US war crimes

A banner referring to the fact that the main US witness against Assange admitted he had been lying all along

The number of people protesting at the Royal Courts of Justice against the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has swelled beyond the approximately two thousand who turned out yesterday, despite foul weather:

The US government’s extradition case against Assange should have been laughed out of court when its main witness admitted he had been lying all along, but the courts and UK government have persisted in shoring up what constitutes a global assault on journalism, democracy and the right of peoples to hold their governments to account.

Protesters are now marching to Downing Street, led by PCS public service union’s Samba band.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

UK steps up war on whistleblower journalism with new National Security Act

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/02/2024 - 8:58am in

Under a repressive new act, British nationals could face prison for undermining London’s national security line. Intended to destroy WikiLeaks and others exposing war crimes, the law is a direct threat to critical national security journalism. It was the afternoon of May 17 2023 and I had just arrived at London’s Luton Airport. I was on my way to the city of my birth to visit my family. Before landing, the pilot instructed all passengers to have their passports ready […]

The post UK steps up war on whistleblower journalism with new National Security Act first appeared on The Grayzone.

The post UK steps up war on whistleblower journalism with new National Security Act appeared first on The Grayzone.