The Persecution of Julian Assange (Part Two)

A review of Nils Melzer: The Trial of Julian Assange, Verso Books, 2022 Part two

by Peter Brooke

ASSANGE LEAVES THE EMBASSY

Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy fit and healthy, a man at the top of his immensely difficult, immensely courageous game. Prior to 2012, following the list of his honours given in his Wikipedia entry, he had won the Economist New Media award (2008), the Amnesty International UK New Media Award (2009), in 2010 he was Time Person the Year and Le Monde Readers Choice Award for Person of the Year, in 2011 he won the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal, the Walkley Award (the ‘pinnacle of achievement for any Australian journalist’) and the Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalism.

When he left the embassy, however, on the 11th April 2019, the then Guardian journalist, Suzanne Moore, felt able to write, in the New Statesman‘O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the Met”, as normal people call them.’ Labour MP Jess Philips commented in the Daily Mirror: ‘Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy and into custody on charges of skipping bail after accusations of sexual violence in Sweden.’

The BBC informed its viewers on News at Ten that Assange ‘took refuge originally to avoid extradition to Sweden over charges of sexual assault.’  Newsnight began its report: ‘Out of his hiding place and under arrest.’[1] Guardian editorial conceded that he ‘has shone a light on things that should never have been hidden’ (the Guardian of course had done rather well out of the affair) but continued sternly: ‘When he first entered the Ecuadorian embassy he was trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and molestation. That was wrong.’ 

Of course the very moment Assange left the embassy the US unveiled its sealed indictment and demanded his extradition so the Guardian knew – even if they hadn’t read the revelations in the leaked Stratfor emails – that Assange’s anxiety about extradition to the US was far from unjustified.

Everything was done to make Assange look sordid and ridiculous. The Daily Mail (12-13 April 2019) was allowed into the embassy to post a story: ‘Assange inside his fetid lair: Revealed, the full squalid horror that drove embassy staff to finally kick him out.’[2]

Subheadings:

• Photo of Julian Assange’s “dirty protests” have been revealed

• He left soiled underpants in the toilet in the Ecuadorian embassy in a fit of rage

• On other occasions he left excrement smeared across the wall and ignored warnings not to leave half-eaten meals in the kitchen

To back this up there was one photograph of some dirty dishes in a sink. And a picture of a very clean looking toilet. As Melzer comments (p.207) ‘Mysteriously, in Assange’s meetings with doctors, lawyers, visitors, his surveillance always seems to have worked flawlessly, yet the same sophisticated technology has failed to capture any of the misconduct he is accused of. No photographs or audio/video footage of the alleged soccer games, none of the alleged torture of his cat, none of the alleged smearing of toilet walls with excrement. Nevertheless, these allegations are relentlessly repeated and obediently disseminated by the press until they have taken root in the minds of the public. As a result, when people hear the name ‘Assange’, they no longer think of the war crimes and corruption he exposed, but only of the tragicomic loser they can treat with pity, ridicule or disdain.’

Melzer however misses a subtlety in the reporting, The excrement on the walls incident is attributed to the Rafael Correa period, before the heavy surveillance began. Of course at that time Melzer tells us (p.198) ‘the former consul [Fidel Narvaez] found it remarkable that, overall, the co-existence of the embassy staff with Assange had been marked by friendliness and mutual respect for five years.’ But ‘There was a brief exception in October 2016, when the Ecuadorian government temporarily suspended Assange’s access to the internet during the Presidential election, in order to mitigate the political tensions caused by the DNC leaks.’ This refers to the leak of some 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the Democratic National Convention, the governing body of the US Democratic Party, which revealed machinations favouring the nomination of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Accusations that the emails had been obtained from Russian hackers and that they had contributed to the election of Donald Trump were to do Assange and Wikileaks a great deal of harm among supposedly ‘liberal’ opinion.

Melzer finally met with Assange in Belmarsh prison on the 9th May: ‘Clean-shaven, his white hair neatly trimmed, he bore no resemblance to the man who had been dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy a few weeks earlier. Then Assange had looked unkempt, pale and much older, with long, matted hair and a messy beard. The pictures had gone around the world. What the public had not been told, however, was that Assange’s squalid appearance had been deliberately staged by the Ecuadorian authorities to make him look repulsive and bizarre in the media. According to Assange, three months before his arrest, his shaving kit had been taken away by the embassy’s security personnel – one of countless small reprisals with which they obstructed his daily struggle for a dignified existence.’ (p.58)

While as a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Melzer would naturally expect his conclusions and recommendations to be ignored, he was used to being treated in the various countries he investigated with at least formal respect. In the Assange case he was unable to speak to the senior politicians concerned and when he visited Belmarsh, the governor was absent, and when he went to the chief nurse’s office ‘to have a copy of Assange’s medical records printed out … and to get the prison doctor’s opinion on various aspects of his health’ he found that ‘not a single prison doctor was said to be present all day. In a high-security prison with almost 1,000 inmates. At the time of an officially announced visit by a UN expert and his medical team.’

He had announced his visit in advance and that he would be holding a press conference. He thought there would be media interest ‘including the BBC, Sky News, the Guardian and the Times’  but found that there was only one journalist present. ‘He worked for Ruptly, a news agency affiliated with Russia’s state-run RT television network.’ (pp.61-2)

Melzer submitted his formal report to the British government on 27th May and to the Ecuadorian, Swedish and United States governments on the 28th. He released a press statement on 31st May. In a chapter entitled ‘Government denial of reality’ he describes the responses he received to his formal letters of complaint. He sums them up with the well-known phrase of Hannah Arendt – ‘banality of evil.’ 

On 26th June he released the article Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange, the article which, as mentioned in my previous article, was refused publication by the Guardian, the Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek. It was at this point that what I have called the Swedish project – aiming to establish that the offence of which Assange was accused was very serious and required to be punished – jumped up to bite him.

SWEDEN STRIKES AGAIN

According to Melzer’s article:

‘Surely, I thought, Assange must be a rapist! But what I found is that he has never been charged with a sexual offence. True, soon after the United States had encouraged allies to find reasons to prosecute Assange, Swedish prosecution informed the tabloid press that he was suspected of having raped two women. Strangely, however, the women themselves never claimed to have been raped, nor did they intend to report a criminal offence. Go figure. Moreover, the forensic examination of a condom submitted as evidence, supposedly worn and torn during intercourse with Assange, revealed no DNA whatsoever — neither his, nor hers, nor anybody else’s. Go figure again. One woman even texted that she only wanted Assange to take an HIV test, but that the police were “keen on getting their hands on him”. Go figure, once more. Ever since, both Sweden and Britain have done everything to prevent Assange from confronting these allegations without simultaneously having to expose himself to US extradition and, thus, to a show-trial followed by life in jail. His last refuge had been the Ecuadorian Embassy.’[3]

In response ‘more than 300 human rights lawyers and law professors from numerous countries’[4]published an open later, dated 1st July 2019, accusing his argument of being ‘both legally absurd and harmful in relation to sexual violence.’ Melzer replied the following day[5] and subsequently received a ‘dossier’ from Anna Ardin calling for his resignation.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get hold either of the Open Letter or Ardin’s dossier and am relying on a short and I think pretty inadequate article in Der Spiegel and on Melzer’s reply to the Open Letter. According to the Spiegel account of the dossier: ‘So he blames the victims, writes the woman; it is “a classic patriarchal technique to define the conditions for how ‘a real rape victim’ should behave”. She also accuses the lawyer of slandering her personally and of having partly spread untruths about the investigation, for example about Assange’s willingness to testify about the incidents. This is “completely unacceptable, shocking and a reason to end his work at the UN”.’

Melzer touches on this only very lightly in the book (p.265): ‘Particularly in the early stages of my investigation I was criticised by many who genuinely feared for the hard-fought gains of the women’s rights movement. I was censured by long-time colleagues, lost a research assistant, and received letters of protest from women’s rights organisations, lawyers, academics, and even one of the two Swedish women. I did my best to address these legitimate concerns, to clarify my position and to resolve misunderstandings. Most importantly, I made unequivocally clear that my criticism was in no way directed against the women or their rights and integrity, nor against the description of the alleged conduct as serious sexual offences, but solely against the authorities and their deliberate abuse of a legal process for the purposes of political persecution. In fact, I considered A. and S. to be victims of state instrumentalisation just as much as Assange himself.’

In fact, however, in the passage I’ve quoted above, he trashes the case that ‘A’ was trying to bring quite severely and in his reply to the Open Letter, he says: ‘While I agree with the prosecution that AA’s allegations, if proven to be true, could amount to sexual assault other than rape, the fact that she submitted as evidence a condom, supposedly worn and torn during intercourse with Assange, which carried no DNA of either Assange or AA, seriously undermines her credibility.’ He continues in the book to refer to her as ‘A’, even though, in January 2021, unmentioned by Melzer, she had published her own account of the affair – In the shadow of Julian Assange – under her own name. It was published in Swedish (Melzer, although himself Swiss, reads Swedish) and so far as I know it hasn’t been translated. 

According to an account, sympathetic to her, in the Daily Beast‘She readily admits to fancying the budding celebrity and even offering him her spare bedroom [most of the accounts I’ve seen say it was a one-room flat with only one bed, though there has been mention of a mattress on the floor – PB], and writes that she had considered sleeping with him, in part out of revenge on an ex-boyfriend. She recalled thinking at the time, “It might be a pretty fun thing, and no big deal to ‘score’ with Julian Assange.’” The article continues: “Julian is in many ways a fantastic person,” she told a top Swedish talk show while promoting her book over the weekend. “But the Julian who took part in the party is totally different from the one who humiliated and abused me the previous evening.”‘

The Daily Beast article is headlined ‘I’m not a CIA agent. I’m a sexual abuse victim.’ Under the circumstances the suspicion that Ardin was working for the US government comes naturally, the more so when we learn that in 2006 she visited Miami and Havana on a research project for Uppsala University investigating the role Cuban dissidents might play in the overthrow of Fidel Castro.[6] The US government wanted Assange’s reputation to be trashed and that’s exactly what Anna Ardin managed to do – very successfully. Nonetheless I think her animus against Assange was sincere and personal. Quoting the Daily Beast again: ‘“Julian is definitely not a monster'” she writes, “but he crossed my boundaries.”‘ Boundaries obviously much more important than the release of 750,000 documents which included records about the deaths of nearly 20,000 people.

None of that reflects very favourably on a woman who is a deacon, ordained in 2019, in the Swedish ‘Equmenia Church’ (formed in 2011 from a union of the Swedish Baptist Society, Methodist Church in Sweden and Swedish Mission Church) and author of a treatise – Political and prophetic diakonia – in which she declares that ‘she wants to see a church that stands on the side of the oppressed.’[7]

There is, however, possibly, a serious issue at stake in all this which I think Melzer may have missed. According to the account by Geoffrey Robinson: ‘Sweden has three classes of rape: extreme, serious and minor. Assange was charged with “minor rape” – a contradiction in terms, but that is what the Swedes actually call the allegation against him. It amounted to having consensual sex without a condom, the use of which had been an implied condition of the consent.’ [8] The allegation against Assange falls into a grey area in which the sex was certainly consensual but something happened which one of the partners didn’t like. The more serious accusation concerned a woman whose name is all over the internet but still, so far as I know, supposed to be legally protected so I will call her SW. This was that Assange had entered her not wearing a condom when she was half asleep. She had gone to the police not to accuse him of rape but because after a testy exchange on the telephone (Assange was in the middle of delicate business in the wake of the release of the Afghan logs) she wanted to be sure that he would be examined for any possibility of AIDS (in all the accounts I’ve read of these much commented events I’ve never actually found if he did have such an examination). The policewoman who received it, a friend of Anna Ardin’s as it happens, recorded it against her will as an accusation of rape.

Anna Ardin had had difficulty persuading Assange to wear a condom. When she heard SW’s story and found a torn condom in her room she suspected that the same thing might have happened to her. The torn condom in the end proved to be useless as evidence since it didn’t carry any trace of his DNA, but she still brought three charges of what might be called bullying behaviour on his part. The statute of limitations on these ran out in 2015 so by the time Melzer appeared on the scene, Ardin was theoretically out of it. But she, unlike SW, was ideologically motivated.

The first Swedish prosecutor to examine SW’s case – Eva Finné – declared that there was no case to answer. But there were still the three lesser accusations brought by Ardin. Assange presented himself for interrogation to the Swedish police on 30th August. According to Melzer (p.151): ‘Now that Assange had denied the allegations made against him, and since no investigative measures could realistically prove those allegations beyond reasonable doubt, the time has come for the Swedish Prosecution Authority to also close the case of A. – due to lack of evidence and based on the presumption of innocence.’

But that, it seems to me, was, from the Swedish feminist point of view, the point at issue. Famously, cases of sexual misconduct are very difficult to prosecute. There is rarely anything that could be presented as evidence (a torn condom for example). It is the word of the person who claims to be a victim against the person they say is a perpetrator. But if there is a ‘presumption of innocence’ then the advantage is always with the ‘perpetrator’.

Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli, however, tells us, in his book Sweden vs Assange (p.173):[9]

‘I found the following “guidelines” contained in a verdict by Stockholm’s Court of Appeal regarding a rape trial. The passage summarizes the praxis used by the Swedish courts for, on subjective grounds, taking the side of the women accusers. Or in other words, what is in principle regarded as “sufficient” in the Swedish courts for sentencing a man to jail in such trials: basically the woman’s version

 “Criteria for judgement: “In the absence of direct witness testimony or forensic/technical evidence, however a thoroughly credible testimony on the part of the accuser, in conjunction with what is otherwise presented before the court, can be sufficient for a conviction.” [19]

 And in “what otherwise is presented before the court” it includes at the highest degree the eventual “expert testimony”, e.g. psychiatric assessments of the accuser, performed also in Sweden by radical-feminist gynaecologists which otherwise have publicly declared they fight in their (public service) jobs for an increase of rape-convictions.’

De Noli himself is very hostile to this as a criterion for judgment and he writes interestingly on the rise and influence of feminism and in particular of its theological dimension. Those of us whose memories go back that far will think of Sweden and Denmark in the 1960s as the very citadels of free love and promiscuous sex. There is an interesting book, once, apparently, available on Kindle, but I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy, called A Brief history of Swedish sex: how the nation that gave us free love redefined rape and declared war on Julian Assange by Oscar Swartz. De Noli tells the story, with a particular emphasis on the coming together of the Social Democratic Party and a particularly virulent anti-male variety of feminism willing to argue its case on theological grounds. In a sense one can see in Ardin’s willingness to have casual sex with someone she doesn’t know, together with her sense of outrage when the casual sex goes wrong (an occupational hazard, I would have thought) a combination of the two images of Sweden – sexually free and sexually repressive.

But the problem – presumption of innocence vs credibility of the accuser as primary criterion in the absence of hard evidence – is a real one. Melzer may be wrong to imply, as he does throughout, that participation in the US conspiracy against Assange was the only motive for the strange behaviour of the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny.

THE EXTRADITION PROCESS

In fact we now come to a brief moment in which the Swedish project appeared to cut across the US project.

When Assange took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 there was no shortage of people telling him that his fear of extradition to the US was nonsense. Quoting from Lord’s account (ch.14) ‘Two days after he had entered the embassy the Washington Post editorial board wrote that the US extradition concerns of Assange, “the Australian hacker” were just “fantasy”‘. The Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, referring to the rumours of a Grand Jury, declared ‘there’s not the remotest evidence that that’s the case.’ A Guardian editorial insisted that ‘Miss A and Miss W are at the heart of this story’ and there was ‘no serious evidence that Washington plans to start [extradition] proceedings.’ The Guardian’s vendetta against Assange is a story in itself, too complicated to go into it here. ‘In August 2012’ – the month when Ecuador granted him asylum, Lord tells us (ch.9): ‘Reuters falsely reported that the USA had “no current case” against Assange, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland dismissed his extradition concerns as “wild assertions” – “He is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue” Nuland said.’ 

But of course the very day Assange was manhandled (video of the event shows at least nine burly men pretending they were having difficulty doing it) out of the embassy the indictment was unsealed and extradition demanded. As Melzer puts it (p.214): ‘For years Assange has feared the United States would demand his extradition as soon as he was to set foot outside the embassy – and for years he has been ridiculed as paranoid and unreasonable for it. But on the day of his expulsion from the embassy, Assange’s worst nightmare comes true; the US unseals its secret indictment against him and formally requests his extradition from the United Kingdom.’

At the same time: ‘Assange’s personal belongings, including professional documents and computers, remain in the Ecuadorian embassy. They are not handed over to his lawyers or to his family or to the British authorities, but straight to the United States.’

Melzer elaborates on what Assange could expect once he landed up in the US, giving a list of death threats interestingly different from the one I gave, quoting from the Wikileaks website, in the previous article, as well as describing what was done to whistleblower and former CIA agent, John Kiriakou who revealed CIA torture methods, including waterboarding (he got 45 years) and to Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning (a story that is part and parcel of the Assange story but I haven’t been able to pursue it here). He describes the ‘Special Administrative Measures’ likely to be imposed on him. 

The sealed indictment revealed to the world at the moment of Assange’s arrest on 11th April 2019 seemed, at first sight, surprisingly modest. Assange was charged with ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’ on the basis of an exchange of emails between Manning and a representative of Wikileaks who might have been Assange, in which they discuss a password that would have enabled Manning to access anonymously material he was able to access under his own name on the basis of his security clearance. Manning, incidentally, had been released by Obama on the last day of his presidency as a way of massaging his reputation, but was back in prison because she refused to testify against Assange. Anyone who feels inclined to mock transsexuals should keep it in mind that this particular transsexual is one of the outstanding heroes – or heroines – of the age.

The maximum penalty for this ‘crime’ would have been five years. As Melzer comments, however (p.69), it was pretty obvious that ‘the United States wanted to avoid officially charging Assange with espionage, at least for the time being. Espionage being the classic example of a political offence, any such charge would have blocked Assange’s extradition under Article 4 of the Anglo-American Extradition of 2003, which expressly prohibits extraditions for political offences.’ Once they had him in the US, land of the free, however, they could do what they liked with him.

It was at this point, however, that the Swedes became a nuisance.

The allegations made by Anna Ardin had, as we have seen, run out of time under the Statute of Limitations in 2015, but the case of SW still had 15 months to run, to August 2020. Under pressure from the Swedish Supreme Court, Marianne Ny had finally, in November 2016. agreed that Assange could be interviewed in the embassy and submit his witness statement.[10] But she had then continued to procrastinate, neither issuing an indictment nor closing the case. The Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure specifies (Melzer p.191) that ‘Upon the conclusion of the preliminary investigation  decision on whether to institute a prosecution shall be issued … When there is no longer reason for pursuing the investigation, it shall be discontinued.’  On those grounds the Supreme Court was threatening to take the case out of her hands.

‘On 19th May 2017, Prosecutor Ny chooses the only option that allows her to circumvent these safeguards of the law and to continue to perpetuate the rape suspect narrative against Assange without the required evidence. She “discontinues” the preliminary investigation into the alleged rape of S, but claims that its proper conclusion is rendered impossible because Assange remains under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy … ‘ She claims that ‘”to continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s appearance in court”, thereby implying that his absence is the only reason for not proceeding with a formal indictment and trial.’ 

Melzer explains that this is totally spurious: ‘the decision to formally charge a suspect never depends on his physical presence but on the strength of the evidence against him.’ He goes on to describe the petty vindictiveness by which, only a few days before announcing this decision and bowing out of the scene, she refused Assange’s request to be allowed, with all necessary safeguards, to be present at the birth of his son (by his partner Stella Morris who had been visiting him in the embassy). 

Once the Swedish case had been withdrawn – with the ‘rape’ allegation still hanging over him – all that was left was the violation of the bail. The whole responsibility now lay with the British government.

Marianne Ny had retired by the time Assange was bundled out of the embassy, but on 13th May 2019, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, suddenly revived the ‘preliminary investigation’ – a preliminary investigation that had now lasted ten years. So there were now two competing extradition requests, and since the Swedish request predated the US request it could have been given priority. Indeed this was demanded by a petition co-ordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasey and supported by 70 MPs. But as the journalist Jonathan Cook commented the petition amounted to a legitimation of the US extradition request: ‘This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first.’ [11]

But in the event the question didn’t arise:

‘It took the United States just ten days to put their heavy foot down. On 23rd May 2019 … the US Department of Justice transmitted its first “superseding indictment”, extending their list of charges by seventeen additional counts under the Espionage Act of 1917. From now on the US case against Assange was no longer some failed attempt to decode a password hash, but plainly and blatantly about espionage – the classic textbook example of a political offence. … For each count Assange now faced an additional sentence of up to ten years in prison, resulting in a possible prison sentence of up to 175 years. The disparity with the Swedish maximum sentence of four years was now so great, and the US claim to priority had been so unequivocally stated, that a possible Swedish extradition request would have to come second.’ (Melzer, p.84)

As a result, by the time the actual ‘show trial’, as Melzer calls it, opened on 24th February 2020, the US extradition request was open to the objection that the offences were political in nature, though they were still mixed up with the very dubious accusations of hacking. This article is already long, and I don’t feel I’ve got the energy to detail the succession of outrages that occurred under the supervision of Judge Vanessa Baraitser. They are given in Melzer’s book and also in the day by day detailed reports posted on his blog by Craig Murray, who actually describes moments when even the prosecution is shocked by her behaviour. But Baraitser’s judgment[12], given on 4th January 2021, is a masterpiece of the deep apparently ineradicable cynicism of the British judicial system.

The defence argued that the accusations made against Assange were political in nature and were therefore excluded under Article 4 of the Extradition Treaty signed with the US. The prosecution argued that the political exemption was not mentioned in the Act of Parliament under which the treaty was passed into British law, and it is British law, not the treaty, that counts. Baraitser in her judgment, predictably following her whole conduct of the trial, accepted the whole prosecution case. But then, quite unpredictably, she refused the US extradition request and ordered that Assange be allowed to go free. ‘Julian Assange Imminent Freedom’ was the heading of Craig Murray’s jubilant report of the judgement.[13] She justified this on the grounds of Assange’s mental health – that if he was sent to the US there was a very high probability that he would commit suicide. He had indeed told Melzer (p.67) ‘that he would not be extradited to the United States alive.’

Needless to say Assange was not allowed to go free because the US immediately and predictably launched an appeal, and Baraitser immediately and predictably refused bail. So how can we account for her refusing the extradition request? Following Melzer’s account (pp.320-1), in accepting the whole of the prosecution case, ‘Judge Baraitser laid the legal foundation for the prosecution of anyone, anywhere in the world who dared to expose the dirty secrets of the government concerned, and for depriving defendants of the right to justify their actions based on the public interest. In effect she had set a legal precedent amounting to introducing an absolute duty of silence on classified evidence for state sponsored crimes.’ Had the defence been able to launch an appeal, however, ‘the case would be examined by a more experienced and authoritative panel of judges whose decision would be difficult to predict. In order to avoid a full legal review of her judgment by the High Court, Judge Baraitser had to forestall an appeal by Assange’s legal team.’ Instead, then of an Assange appeal against a judgement in favour of extradition, ‘it would be up to the US government, and not Assange, to lodge an appeal and, therefore, to select the legal questions that would be reviewed by the High Court … In this scenario, the British High Court would not have to examine any of Assange’s legal objections regarding the political nature of the prosecution, the prohibition of extraditions for political offences, freedom of speech or the systematic abuse of process throughout this case.’  

The only point at issue, then, was whether or not the United States can give assurances that their treatment of Assange would not be such as to cause him to commit suicide. Meanwhile, attention is focussed on Assange’s mental instability, just as the failure of the Swedish prosecutors to bring charges before the time available for all the accusations against him ran out leaves him still under the suspicion of sexual misconduct. And of course he remains in the closest thing the UK has to a Supermax prison.

Melzer continues the story (p.326): ‘On August 2021, High Court Justices Timothy Holroyde and Judith Farley upheld an appeal by the US government against Justice Swift’s decision of 5th July [Swift had upheld only three out the five grounds for the US appeal] and granted the United States permission to appeal Baraitser’s ruling on all five grounds including challenging the evidence on Assange’s mental health and suicide risk. The main appeals hearing was held on 27th and 28th October 2021 before Chief Justice Ian Duncan Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales and, again, Justice Holroyde … By and large, the judge asked questions of clarification and, at the end of the second day, concluded the hearing without announcing a date for the rendering of their judgment.’

The High Court on 24th January ruled that there was a point of law to be considered and referred it to the Supreme Court. On 14th March the Supreme Court ruled that there wasn’t a point of law to be considered. In summarising where we are now, I can’t do better than to quote the account by Craig Murray:[14]

‘In saying there is no arguable point of law, the Supreme Court is accepting that diplomatic assurances are not tested and are to be taken at face value – which has been a major point of controversy in recent jurisprudence. It is now settled that we will send someone back to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis give us a piece of paper promising not to chop their head off …

‘So the extradition now goes to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to decide whether to extradite. The defence has four weeks to make representations to Patel, which she must hear …

‘Assuming Patel does authorise extradition, the matter returns to the original magistrate’s court and to Judge Baraitser for execution. That is where this process takes a remarkable twist.

‘The appeals process that has just concluded was the appeal initiated by the United States government, against Baraitser’s original ruling that the combination of Julian’s health and the conditions he would face in US jails, meant that he could not be extradited. The United States government succeeded in this appeal at the High Court. Julian then tried to appeal against that High Court verdict to the Supreme Court, and was refused permission.

‘But Julian himself has not yet appealed to the High Court, and he can do so, once the matter has been sent back to Baraitser by Patel. His appeal will be against those grounds on which Baraitser initially found in favour of the United States. These are principally:

the misuse of the extradition treaty which specifically prohibits political extradition;

the breach of the UNCHR Article 10 right of freedom of speech;

the misuse of the US Espionage Act

the use of tainted, paid evidence from a convicted fraudster who has since publicly admitted his evidence was false [a detail of the story I haven’t discussed – PB]

the lack of foundation to the hacking charge

‘None of these points have yet been considered by the High Court. It seems a remarkably strange procedure that having been through the appeals process once, the whole thing starts again after Priti Patel has made her decision, but that is the crazy game of snake and ladders the law puts us through. It is fine for the political establishment, of course, because it enables them to keep Julian locked up under maximum security in Belmarsh …

‘On the brighter side, it means that finally, in a senior court, the arguments that will really matter will be heard. I have always felt ambivalent about arguments based on Julian’s health, when there is so much more at stake, and I have never personally reported the health issues out of respect for his privacy. But now the High Court will have to consider whether it really wishes to extradite a journalist for publishing evidence of systematic war crimes by the state requesting his extradition.

‘Now that will be worth reporting.’


[1] This account of media reaction is taken from the Media Lens accounts from April 2019: https://www.medialens.org/2019/assange-arrest-part-1-so-now-hes-our-property/ and http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/901-assange-arrest-part-2-definite-creep-probable-rapist.html

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6917341/Assange-inside-fetid-lair-squalid-horror-drove-embassy-staff-finally-kick-out.html

[3] htps://medium.com/@njmelzer/demasking-the-torture-of-julian-assange-b252ffdcb768

[4] Dietmar Pieper; ‘Serious allegations Alleged Assange victim criticizes UN torture experts’, Der Spiegel, https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/julian-assange-opfer-von-wikileaks-gruender-kritisiert-uno-folterexperten-nils-melzer-a-5d1882b7-945f-42fd-a7a0-ec3012dd886b

[5] Nils Melzer: Dismantling the Swedish ‘rape’ marrative against Julian Assange, https://medium.com/@njmelzer/response-to-open-letter-of-1-july-2019-7222083dafc8

[6] See eg Tim Elfrink: ‘Anna Ardin, Swede Accusing WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange of Assault, Probably Didn’t Work For the CIA In Miami’, Miami New Times, 20th December, 2010, https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/anna-ardin-swede-accusing-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-of-assault-probably-didnt-work-for-the-cia-in-miami-6524400

[7] Swedish Wikipedia articles on the Equmenia church and Anna Ardin.

[8] Geoffrey Robertson: Rather his own man – in court with tyrants, tarts and troublemakers, Penguin Random House, 2018, p.348.

[9] Marcello Ferrada de Noli: Sweden vs Assange, human rights issues, Sweden, Libertarian Books, 2014. The book is available as a PDF on the internet – https://ferradanoli.wordpress.com/wikileaks-assange/

[10] It is available at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/12/julian-assanges-defence-statement/

[11] Medialens account.

[12] All 132 pages of it – https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/USA-v-Assange-judgment-040121.pdf

[13] https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/01/julian-assange-imminent-freedom/

[14] Craig Murray: Assange extradition: on to the next hurdle, 15th March, 2022, https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2022/03/assange-extradition-on-to-the-next-hurdle/

***

Peter Brooke has a website at http://www.peterbrooke.org

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