The horrific persecution of Julian Assange continues
The US extradition attempt of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resumed yesterday with the opening of a hearing on a US government appeal. It is a legal abomination in the pursuit of a heinous crime.
Assange is targeted for his exposure and that of WikiLeaks of war crimes, torture and other human rights violations, mass surveillance, coup plots and state corruption. The architects of these crimes, the United States and other imperialist governments, are determined to pay the price of blood, either by the life imprisonment of Assange and the destruction of his physical and mental health, or by his murder.
Just a month ago, Yahoo! News reported, based on conversations with more than 30 sources, that Assange’s kidnapping or murder plans were discussed at “the highest levels” of the CIA. In the words of a former official, “There didn’t seem to be any borders.” Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who led the discussions, did not deny the report and admitted that “some parts are true”, saying he “does not apologize” .
Yet it was Assange who sat in the dock yesterday, threatened with extradition and prosecution by the state whose crimes he disclosed, and who was exposed as plotting his assassination.
He was “in the dock” only metaphorically. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told supporters outside of court that Assange was barred from attending his own hearing and would be forced to attend by video link from prison. He asked, “How can he interact with his lawyers in Belmarsh prison? How can this be justice in any form? “
At the start of the hearing, Assange’s attorney, Edward Fitzgerald QC, told the court his client felt too bad to attend, even by video link.
Assange appeared on camera hours later, visibly ill – thin, dejected, and struggling to stay awake or sit in his chair. He arrived in time to listen to US government attorney James Lewis QC talk at length about his suicide and whether the risk really was that high. Assange left the video link room for a while, sitting out of the field on his return.
Speaking in court, Assange’s partner Stella Moris insisted that legal proceedings would decide “whether a journalist will be extradited to the country which plotted to assassinate him.”
By right, such events should be the subject of mass protests around the world demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the founder of WikiLeaks. That they do not happen is the result of a decade of isolation and denigration of the heroic journalist, who has done more than any other in the 21st century to expose imperialist crimes against the peoples of the world.
Assange was the first and foremost victim of the gender-based witch-hunt politics, in which charges of sex crimes are elevated to indisputable fact and used to destroy due process and the presumption of innocence. Questions of class and political principle are drowned in a tide of denunciations by those who claim to speak for women’s rights but advance the interests of imperialism and the affluent middle class.
In August 2010, with successive WikiLeaks revelations shaking world imperialism, an investigation – a transparent fraud and now totally discredited and subject to devastating dissection by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer – was opened by the United Nations. Sweden on Assange’s alleged sexual assault on two women. This action prompted his seizure by British police and served to keep him arbitrarily detained at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years.
Its general objective was to provide the basis for a vicious campaign of slander against Assange and intimidation against all who defended him. The Swedish pseudo-investigation provided media that had profited greatly from their initial collaboration with WikiLeaks an excuse to turn savagely against him.
Brittany Guardian obsessively published defamation and anti-Assange slam, columnist Marina Hyde calling him “just another guy who doesn’t face a rape allegation” and “Knightsbridge’s biggest asshole”. Luke Harding of the newspaper accused Assange and WikiLeaks of being Russian agents. Suzanne Moore described Assange in the New statesman as “insane looking gnome” and “deceived and scary man”.
In the United States, Katha Pollitt wrote in the Nation on Assange, “When it comes to rape, the left still don’t get it.”
This politically reprehensible campaign was supported by an international appeal from the pseudo-left, specialist in the deployment of gender policies and other identities in defense of imperialism. In Britain, Tom Walker of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) wrote: “Julian Assange faces rape charges”. Lindsey German of Counterfire accused her advocates of “denying the rights of rape victims.”
Jacobin, Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organization in America, Socialist Alternative in Assange’s native Australia, and countless others internationally have joined the list or maintained a complicit silence.
The unions have done nothing to mobilize their members in his defense or even to inform them of his plight.
Nothing changed when Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by British police in April 2019. Within 48 hours, the Guardian “Prioritize Assange’s Rape Victim,” a leading news article titled “Failure to extradite Assange to Sweden would support ‘rape culture’, say women’s groups.” “
The SWP agreed that “Assange should be tried in Sweden”, as did the Socialist Party, which insisted that “the rape allegation should be investigated. “
Jeremy Corbyn, who had been silent on Assange for his entire tenure as Labor leader until then, felt compelled to raise symbolic opposition. But he immediately withdrew when Blairean Labor MPs Stella Creasey and Jess Phillips led a multi-party letter from 100 MPs demanding “action that will ensure Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden.” Corbyn did not once mention Assange in the 2019 general election.
To the extent that some of these individuals and organizations now formally state that they oppose extradition from the United States, they do so knowing that their job is done. Assange was cut off from the force that made his journalistic work so terrifying for the ruling class: the mass hostility to imperialism that exists in the international working class to which the WikiLeaks revelations spoke, reinforced and inflamed.
Only this political background explains how the US government and UK courts were allowed to subject Assange to such relentless abuse. Moris said ahead of yesterday’s hearing: “I am very concerned for Julian’s health. I saw him on Saturday. He was very thin. I hope the courts will put an end to this nightmare. In fact, they perpetuated it.
Lewis told the High Court they could not suspect the United States of acting “in bad faith” by offering assurances about the fair treatment of Assange after the extradition, saying: “There is a fundamental assumption that the requesting State is acting in good faith.
This was said of a country whose CIA intelligence agency “Murder Incorporated” was tasked with planning Assange’s assassination and which brought him to the brink of death with his pursuit of extradition. Lewis added that there was not “a single instance where the United Kingdom,” the United States’ jailer in this systematic campaign of torture and abuse, “has expressed concern over assurances American unfulfilled ”.
Attempting to undermine the testimony of the expert psychiatric defense witness, who in a report omitted that Stella Moris was Assange’s partner, Lewis refuted the idea that he had good reason to do so out of fear for his safety.
The U.S. government has benefited the entire time from the trial judge’s initial rotten ruling in January, blocking the extradition purely on the grounds of Assange’s sanity and the risk of suicide, while accepting all other arguments put forward by the accusation. Lewis therefore did not need to address the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute a journalist who exposed state crimes, the repeated abuse of due process and the use of fabricated evidence against him, or the deadly threat to him and his family. These outrages have already been accepted.
The longer the proceedings drag on, the more Kafkaesque they become, as the real reasons for Assange’s persecution disappear behind discussions about his health and the legal details of the extradition law. It is the responsibility of all opponents of capitalist violence and oppression to come to the aid of Assange by joining the fight to organize the international working class in his defense.