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Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher

U.S. Government barrister, James Lewis QC, said that prosecutors “are not criminalizing the publication of classified materials but rather the publication of names of informants or dissidents who help the US and allies in military operations.”

Submitted by Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is an essayist and author of “WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening”. Follow her on Twitter: @nozomimagine

On Monday, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s one-week extradition hearing began at Woolwich Crown Court in SouthEast London. The judge heard the opening arguments for the prosecution and defense. The prosecution began, accusing the journalist who exposed the US government’s war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan of espionage charges that would carry 175 years in jail.

The US-based investigative journalist Kevin Gosztola, who was at the media annex during the proceeding, reported that U.S. Government barrister, James Lewis QC, said that prosecutors “are not criminalizing the publication of classified materials but rather the publication of names of informants or dissidents who help the US and allies in military operations.”

Gosztola noted that James Lewis QC “listed off specific documents that Assange is accused of releasing which allegedly contained names of ‘human sources’ that were endangered.” When asked by the judge if the offense of publishing would extend to a newspaper, the Prosecution replied, “1989 Official Secrets Act would cover [that]” and “If a journalist or newspaper publishes secret information likely to cause harm in the categories, it commits an offense.”

Updating the media on the hearing, the WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson reminded the crowd that this is “journalism on trial” and stated that the US argument is repeating the same old line they used 10 years ago, while dismissing the importance of the harm the US was doing, as revealed WikiLeaks by in their 2010-2011 publications. Hrafnsson rejected the US government’s claims that WikiLeaks publications put lives at risk, stating that during the 2013 Manning Trial, the US government could not prove any harm, and had to admit that no physical harm had occurred to a single individual due to WikiLeaks revelations.

Assange’s defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC argued that this prosecution is politically motivated and so the UK can’t extradite Assange, since their treaty with the US strictly forbids extradition for a political offense.

The defense for Assange provided a background that led to this prosecution of his client. He noted that “President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech…. Effectively declaring war on investigative journalists.” He said that “President Trump met with FBI Director James Comey and agreed that they should be ‘putting a head on a pike’ as a message to journalists over leaks, and ‘putting journalists in jail”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC indicated Assange has become a target of Trump’s “war on leakers and journalists.”  He stated that his client was “the obvious symbol of all that Trump condemned. He had brought American war crimes to the attention of the world.”

Then, examples of egregious government “abuse of power” and the “abuse of the rule of law” were presented to the court as key defenses. These include the breach of client and attorney confidentiality. Assange’s conversations with lawyers were spied on by a Spanish security firm hired by the US while he was living under political asylum inside the London Ecuadorian Embassy. His grant of asylum was explicitly to protect him from the risk of extradition to the US; a risk related to his publishing activities with WikiLeaks.

A further breach of legal privilege occurred after the Ecuadorian government illegally breached his asylum and evicted Assange, having the UK police arrest him within the embassy. The US authorities were then permitted, by the embassy, to seize his legally privileged materials.

On the first day of the hearing, the unprecedented scale of the assault on the journalist was revealed. Extreme measures employed in the targeting Assange included plans to try to kidnap or poison Assange while he was in the embassy.

As another example of abuse of process, Fitzgerald QC brought up Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s alleged pardon offer, made to Mr Assange in August 2017. The opening summary of defense case states:

“Mr Rohrabacher visited Julian Assnage and discussed a preemptive pardon in exchange for personal assistance to President Trump in the enquiry then ongoing concerning Russian involvement in the hacking and leaking of the Democratic National Committee emails… ” [3.7]

Fitzgerald QC continued: “We say that this whole pardon incident shows that, just as the prosecution was initiated in December 2017 for political purposes, so too the Trump administration had been prepared to use the threat of prosecution as a means of extortion to obtain personal political advantage from Mr Assange.” [3.9]

From the US government spying on the embassy, to the alleged extortion, Julian Assange’s lawyer argued, this extradition case “is not about criminal justice, it’s about the manipulation of the system to ensure the United States could make an example of Assange.”

As the extradition hearing began, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the courthouse, chanting for freedom of the WikiLeaks founder. Major human rights organizations and press freedom groups, including Amnesty International and The Committee to Protect Journalists, have now come out strongly against Assange’s extradition to the US.

After the first day of monitoring the hearing, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent noted, “Nothing we heard today was surprising, and has reinforced our position. We believe he has been targeted for his contributions to public interest reporting.”


Note:

For live updates from Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, follow Kevin Gosztola @kgosztola


For case overview of USA v Julian Assange Extradition Hearing, go to…

https://defend.wikileaks.org/2020/02/23/usa-v-julian-assange-extradition-hearing/


To read the “Opening Summary of Defence Case”, go to https://dontextraditeassange.com/JA_Defence_Opening.pdf

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Olivia KrothDave PattersonA Boomerang in Kangaroo CourtJack McCoyInconvenient Truths Recent comment authors
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Olivia Kroth
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I hope and pray for Julian Assange, an extraordinary and exemplary journalist.

Olivia Kroth
Guest

Serious and multiple conflicts of interest have come to light in respect of the senior British judge who was involved with Mr Assange’s previous case and to date, there is no record of investigations into these conflicts of interest. Civil society groups have spoken out against the persecution of Mr Assange by the U.K. authorities. Over 100 international doctors have also publicly condemned Mr Assange’s mistreatment. Women Against Rape (UK), which has supported women fighting for justice for over 40 years say: “We are alarmed at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange has been pursued. Do the victims of… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Guest

RUPTLY LIVE:

Assange extradition hearing continues at Woolwich court in London: Stakeout

Olivia Kroth
Guest

Ruptly is live outside Woolwich Crown Court in London on Tuesday, February 25, as WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange is expected to attend the second day of his extradition hearing. The hearing is expected to last for a week but will be split into two parts, the second one resuming on May 18 for another three weeks. The WikiLeaks founder has been behind bars in Belmarsh Prison since May 2019, after he was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. Despite the sentence coming to an end on… Read more »

Zookeeper
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Zookeeper

So, now we discover that Sheldon Adelson was funding plots to spy and even poison Assange. Color me ‘not surprised’.

“Assange’s lawyers pointed to CIA surveillance by a Sheldon Adelson-backed private contractor and the Trump administration’s public contempt for the defendant as evidence that the Wikileaks founder would face grave risks if extradited.”

I AM surprised though, they they didn’t consider kidnapping and feeding him to the lions at the local zoo, you know….just as an unmistakable warning.

Martyrdom as a Contemporary Trope
Guest
Martyrdom as a Contemporary Trope

Don’t think this is not going through the minds of millions right now. Are his persecutors truly ready for the eventual blowback? Sometimes I wonder if the Brits (and we Americans) fully realize how they appear to much of the rest of the world.

“Kill him, and you martyr him. You make him a legend. But break him, humiliate him, terrify him, and hold him up for the world to see? Then he’s nothing but a man.”

— Scarecrow, Batman: Arkham Knight

Sarcasms Incorporated
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Sarcasms Incorporated

I would think that Adelson would be the ‘very last person’ to want to hide war crimes and other nefarious activities from public scrutiny. 😉

Olivia Kroth
Guest

THE GUARDIAN: Julian Assange was ‘handcuffed 11 times and stripped naked’ — WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers complain of interference after first day of extradition hearing Ben Quinn Tue 25 Feb 2020 14.12 GMTFirst published on Tue 25 Feb 2020 11.59 GMT Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part. Their appeal to the judge overseeing the trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London was also supported by legal counsel for the… Read more »

Jack McCoy
Guest
Jack McCoy

These Brits persecuting Assange are a disgrace. They should hang their heads in shame in perpetuity for their conduct. That would be getting off lightly.

Tom Welsh
Guest
Tom Welsh

‘U.S. Government barrister, James Lewis QC, said that prosecutors “are not criminalizing the publication of classified materials but rather the publication of names of informants or dissidents who help the US and allies in military operations.”’

But since those military operations were uniformly illegal – indeed, prime examples of what the Nuremberg Principles call “unprovoked aggressive war, the supreme international crime” – surely doing anything to frustrate them, or to punish those involved in them, must be proper?

A Boomerang in Kangaroo Court
Guest
A Boomerang in Kangaroo Court

That’s why they contemplated poisoning Assange. This trial opens up so many contradictions for public scrutiny that they’ll most likely end up poisoning themselves and they know it. All just to please Uncle Sam. How sad for you, Brits.

Glaucio Sombra
Guest
Glaucio Sombra

I like ASSANGE…

Inconvenient Truths
Guest
Inconvenient Truths

Most normal people like rooting for David vs. Goliath.

Most normal people get upset though when David turns into Goliath later, like Israel did.

Dave Patterson
Member

disappointing in Duran – as has been blatantly clear, it’s been the ‘free’ press conducting a war against Trump for the last 3 years. As for Assange, the OBama deep state was certainly conducting a war against a ‘free press’, and this is a continuation of that war – it is unlikely Trump is involved in this at all, he has quite a number of problems more pressing to himself, as the same deep state that is going after Assange has been going after Trump. It is a bit disappointing Trump has not done more about the Assange case, but… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Guest

I do not find the DURAN disappointing at all, rather a very interesting news media with level-headed editors. I like the DURAN and TASS best.

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