Julian Assange’s Kafkaesque extradition case
Actually, the title is wrong. It is not so much that Julian Assange’s extradition case is Kafkaesque—although it certainly is that—but rather, that it is being tried under what effectively amounts to little more than a kangaroo court. And this is happening not in some backwater dictatorship, but in London, the United Kingdom’s London, and in the 21st century. But I am getting ahead of myself, so first a little background.
As the reader might already know, Julian Assange is the founder of the organisation known as Wikileaks, designed to be able to be sent classified material from whistleblowers, anonymously, and to publish it. And in 2010 it had what can, for one such organisation, be described as an annus mirabilis: in April it published the “Collateral Murder” video, which clearly shows an airborne U.S. serviceman gunning down civilians—including two Reuters journalists;1 in July it posted the “Afghan War Logs” (some 75000 classified documents),2 followed in October by the “Iraq War Logs” (~400000 classified documents),3 and finally, in November, it published the first 250000 U.S. diplomatic cables, of a trove of some 3 million (!), originating in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, spanning the years 1966-2010.4
The powers that be, needless to say, weren’t very impressed, and so proceeded to do what powers that be always do when they are threatened. Nilz Melzer, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, explains:
Imagine a dark room. Suddenly, someone shines a light on the elephant in the room – on war criminals, on corruption. Assange is the man with the spotlight. The governments are briefly in shock, but then they turn the spotlight around with accusations of rape. It is a classic maneuver when it comes to manipulating public opinion. The elephant once again disappears into the darkness, behind the spotlight. And Assange becomes the focus of attention instead, and we start talking about whether Assange is skateboarding in the embassy or whether he is feeding his cat correctly. Suddenly, we all know that he is a rapist, a hacker, a spy and a narcissist. But the abuses and war crimes he uncovered fade into the darkness.5
In fact, Assange was arrested in December 2010 in London, because Sweden had issued an European Arrest Warrrant for his extradiction, in relation to supposed “rape charges”. If you want to know to more about those said “rape charges”, by the way (in reality there were no charges filled, only a preliminary investigation that was allowed to linger on for nine years), I strongly urge you to read Melzer’s account, starting at this point (reading the whole thing is of course also very worthwhile):
It quickly became clear to me that something was wrong. That there was a contradiction that made no sense to me with my extensive legal experience: Why would a person be subject to nine years of a preliminary investigation for rape without charges ever having been filed?6
Melzer also explains how Assange eventually ended up in London, and why he eventually holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy: not because he was evading justice, but because, while in London, he ‘caught wind of the fact that a secret criminal case had been opened against him in the U.S.’ (ibid.). At time, however, this was seen as a mixture of paranoia with an ill-disguised attempt to escape justice.7 However, Assange has now been fully vindicated: soon after having been expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in April 2019—a story in and on itself—the U.S. have indeed indicted and issued a warrant to have him charged and extradited.8 (Depressingly, but as expected, those who back in 2012 accused Assange of paranoia and/or fleeing justice, have not bothered to retract their statements.)
It is the record of this extradition hearing, that is detailed below. It was a hearing where the mainstream media were noticeable by their near absence, which is one of the reasons Craig Murray attended in person. A former British diplomat, he gave up is career when he blew the whistle on the collusion and complicity of the British security services in the rendition and torture of detainees at the hands of the Uzbeks, at the onset of the so-called “War on Terror”.9 Since then, he has reinvented himself as a journalist, historian, and human rights activist. He published a daily account of the proceedings, and to help keep the this record available, he authorised—indeed, incentivised—whomever would want to, to republish it. Now that he is facing a—hopefully minor—stint in prison, for contempt of court charges (story for another day), I republish that account here. Lest the establishment, after going after Murray, decide to go after his website…
The truth shall set us free.
A note on timeline. The trial started in February 2020, but in early March it was postponed initially to May, and then, with the world already plunged in the pandemic, again postponed to September.10
The judge directly responsible for the case, Vanessa Baraitser, rendered her verdict in January 2021. She denied the extradition, but only on the grounds that if extradited, Assange could be a suicide risk.11 Which in my view, only adds to the kangarooing of justice… Do read the posts below to see why.
After the hearing concluded, Murray was due to write a concluding piece, but some time after, wrote one instead explaining why he hadn’t got around to writing that final piece, but promising he would eventually get to writing it. He never did, though, and as the verdict is now out, it has been rendered moot. Nonetheless, I also publish it, as a tribute to his efforts (among other things, it details his stoic daily routine whilst in London, covering the trial—and keep in mind the man is in his 60s!).
Torture in glass cage (day 5?)
April 19, 2021. Twitter.
See for instance, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/nick-cohen-julian-assange-paranoia.↩
See https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/about-craig-murray/, or his memoir, Murder in Samarkand, Edinburgh: Maintream Publishing, 2006.↩
The adjournment to May is stated here, and the subsequent postponement to September, here. I did not make a copy of these posts, as they are not descriptions of court proceedings.↩