Categories
Press Release

40+ Rights Groups Call on UK to Free Julian Assange

03. 07. 2020

WikiLeaks publisher turns 49 in prison, facing U.S. extradition

Dozens of press freedom, human rights, and privacy rights organizations across five continents have co-signed an open letter to the U.K. Government calling for the immediate release of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The publisher, who turns 49 years old today in HMP Belmarsh, is facing extradition to the United States where he has been indicted under the Espionage Act for WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Department cables. If convicted, Mr Assange would face up to 175 years in prison, “tantamount to a death sentence.”

The co-signers write,

“This [indictment] is an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the ‘enemy of the people’. Whereas previous presidents have prosecuted whistleblowers and other journalistic sources under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, the Trump Administration has taken the further step of going after the publisher.”

Seventeen of the 18 charges against Mr Assange are under the 1917 Espionage Act, marking the U.S.’s first-ever attempt to prosecute the publication of truthful information in a fundamental test of the First Amendment’s protection of press freedoms. Mr Assange has also been charged with conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which uses language similar to the Espionage Act.

Reporters without Borders, PEN International, ARTICLE19, the International Federation of Journalists, and the National Union of Journalists are among the 40 rights groups who have signed on to the letter, initiated by the Courage Foundation, a whistleblower support network which campaigns for Mr Assange’s freedom and the public’s right to know.

Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International, said:

“This indictment effectively opens the door to criminalising activities that are vital to many investigative journalists who write about national security matters. Beyond the case itself, we are concerned that the mere fact that Assange now risks extradition and potentially decades behind bars if convicted in the USA has a chilling effect on critical journalism, which is essential for exposing the truth about crimes committed by governments.”

Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns for Reporters without Borders said,

“As Mr Assange spends his 49th birthday behind bars, it remains clear that the US government will continue to target him at all costs. It is up to the UK government to uphold its own obligations to protect freedom of information and not enable a politically motivated prosecution by another state. Mr Assange has clearly been targeted for his contributions to public interest reporting. All charges against him should be dropped and he should be released without further delay.”

On 24 June 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a second superseding indictment against Mr Assange, adding no new charges but expanding on the charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

“The government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know”, said Barry Pollack, an attorney for Mr Assange in the United States, calling the new indictment “yet another chapter in the U.S. Government’s effort to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information.”

Press freedom groups have warned since his arrest and initial indictment in April 2019 that a U.S. conviction for Mr Assange—an Australian citizen who operated in Europe and was granted asylum and citizenship by Ecuador—would criminalize publishing around the world, allowing the United States to dictate what journalists can publish beyond its borders. The United Kingdom, which is detaining Mr Assange on the U.S.’s behalf, has the power to stop the extradition process and let him walk free immediately.

The letter concludes,

“We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange without further delay and block his extradition to the US – a measure that could save Mr Assange’s life and preserve the press freedom that the UK has committed to championing globally.”

Mr Assange’s extradition proceedings, which commenced for one week in February 2020 in London, are scheduled to continue for three weeks beginning 7 September.

The Courage Foundation hosts a defense campaign website for WikiLeaks and Mr Assange at defend.WikiLeaks.org.

Read the Open Letter here.

Categories
Statements

Open Letter

Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP
Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

3 July 2020

RE: Open letter calling for the release of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange

CC: Rt Hon Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP,

On 8 June 2020, responding to a question in the House of Lords about the United Kingdom’s stance regarding the protection of journalists and press freedoms, Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said, “Media freedom is vital to open societies. Journalists must be able to investigate and report without undue interference”.

We, the undersigned, agree with this statement and call on the UK government to uphold its commitment to press freedom in its own country. At the time of Lord Ahmad’s remarks, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had been imprisoned on remand in the high-security HMP Belmarsh for more than a year as he faces extradition to the United States on charges of publishing. We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange from prison immediately and to block his extradition to the US.

The US government has indicted Mr Assange on 18 counts for obtaining, possessing, conspiring to publish and for publishing classified information. The indictment contains 17 counts under the Espionage Act of 1917 and one charge of conspiring (with a source) to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which uses Espionage Act language. This is the first ever use of such charges for the publication of truthful information in the public interest, and it represents a gravely dangerous attempt to criminalise journalist-source communications and the publication by journalists of classified information, regardless of the newsworthiness of the information and in complete disregard of the public’s right to know.

On 24 June 2020, the US Department of Justice issued a second superseding indictment against Mr Assange, adding no new charges but expanding on the charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. This new indictment employs a selective and misleading narrative in an attempt to portray Mr Assange’s actions as nefarious and conspiratorial rather than as contributions to public interest reporting.

­The charges against Mr Assange carry a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. Sending Mr Assange to the US, where a conviction is a near certainty, is tantamount to a death sentence.

This is an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the “enemy of the people”. Whereas previous presidents have prosecuted whistleblowers and other journalistic sources under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, the Trump Administration has taken the further step of going after the publisher.

Mr Assange himself has been persecuted for publishing for nearly a decade. In 2012, with fears of a US prosecution that later proved prescient, Mr Assange sought and was granted asylum from the government of Ecuador, and he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Because the UK declined to guarantee Mr Assange wouldn’t be extradited to the US, the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr Assange’s detention was indeed arbitrary and called on the UK to “immediately [allow] Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London”.

President Obama’s administration prosecuted US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning for disclosing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks on the US’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables and files on inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison. But the administration, which had empanelled a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks as early as 2010, explicitly decided not to prosecute Mr Assange due to what it termed the “New York Times problem.” As the Washington Post explained in November 2013, “If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper”.

When President Trump came to power, then-Attorney General of the US Jeff Sessions announced that prosecuting Assange would be a “priority”, despite the fact that no new evidence or information had come to light in the case. In April 2017, in a startling speech against WikiLeaks’ constitutional right to publish, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and said, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges”.

On 11 April 2019, Ecuador illegally terminated Mr Assange’s diplomatic asylum in violation of the Geneva Refugee Convention and invited the British police into their embassy, where he was immediately arrested at the request of the US. Mr Assange served a staggering 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation, but when that sentence ended in September 2019, he was not released. Mr Assange continues to be detained at HMP Belmarsh, now solely at the behest of the US.

Even before the lockdown initiated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Assange has been held in conditions approaching solitary confinement, confined to his cell more than 22 hours a day. Now under containment measures, Mr Assange is even more isolated, and he hasn’t seen his own children in several months. Furthermore, Mr Assange has been allowed extremely limited access to his lawyers and documents, severely hampering his ability to participate in his own legal defence. Following a visit to HMP Belmarsh accompanied by medical doctors in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer determined that Mr Assange had endured psychological torture.

Mr Assange’s extradition hearing, which commenced for one week in February 2020 and is scheduled to continue for three more weeks, is set to resume in September. But the coronavirus, which has reportedly already killed at least one fellow inmate at HMP Belmarsh and which continues to spread through prisons at an alarming rate, puts the health and well-being of Mr Assange, who suffers from a chronic lung condition that makes him especially vulnerable to Covid-19, at serious risk.

The continued persecution of Mr Assange is contributing to a deterioration of press freedom in the UK and is serving to tarnish the UK’s international image. Reporters Without Borders cited the disproportionate sentencing of Mr Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaking bail, the Home Office’s decision to greenlight the US extradition request, and Mr Assange’s continued detention as factors in the UK’s decline in ranking to 35th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange without further delay and block his extradition to the US – a measure that could save Mr Assange’s life and preserve the press freedom that the UK has committed to championing globally.

Signed:

Nathan Fuller, Executive Director, Courage Foundation
Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary – International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Archie Law, Chair Sydney Peace Foundation
Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International
Christine McKenzie, President, PEN Melbourne
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway
Lasantha De Silva, Freed Media Movement
Marcus Strom, President, MEAA Media, Australia
Mark Isaacs, President of PEN International Sydney
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Mousa Rimawi, Director, MADA – the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Naomi Colvin, UK/Ireland Programme Director, Blueprint for Free Speech
Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch
Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice President, German PEN
Rev Tim Costello AO, Director of Ethical Voice
Robert Wood, Chair, PEN Perth
Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship
Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19
William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists
Peter Weisenbacher – Institut Ludskych Prav (Human Rights Institute)
Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP-Liberia)
The Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)
Free Media Movement Sri Lanka
Freedom Forum Nepal
IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
International Press Centre (IPC)
Media Foundation for West Africa
Mediacentar Sarajevo
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Categories
Press Release

‘We haven’t seen new indictment’ Assange’s lawyers tell court

29. 06. 2020

The US government has failed to show its new indictment of Julian Assange either to his legal team or the Judge. This extraordinary fact emerged in Westminster magistrates court earlier today (Monday 29th June).
 
Mark Sommers QC, acting for Assange, told the court he was ‘concerned that we are only hearing about this fresh indictment in the press’ and that neither he nor the court have been served with the document.
 
The US Department of Justice’s Superseding Indictment was released to the press last Wednesday. It is meant to strengthen the US case against Assange but contains no new charges and little information that is not already in the public realm.
 
‘A superseding indictment is supposed to do what it says on the tin, it’s supposed to replace the existing indictment’, said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, ’But the US have no new charges to bring, and they can’t even be bothered to send the court or the defence team the document. That just shows this is a glorified press release and not a new indictment at all.’  Hrafnsson continued ‘This shows how they are abusing due process in the UK and flaunting the legal system’s rules’.
 
The US government is showing contempt both for the court and the defence lawyers by trying to run a prosecution in the press rather than in front of the judge.
 
Without official sight of the fresh indictment the defence could make no response in court, despite the fact that it has been issued just days before the deadline for defence evidence on 10th July.
 
Ill health prevented Julian Assange, on Doctors advice, from making the journey to the video room in Belmarsh prison to be part of the court proceedings. He has not  been able to join these routine procedural court proceedings for more than 3 months.
 
The Covid crisis has further restricted contact between Assange and his lawyers.
 
Judge Vanessa Baraitser also announced that the remainder of the extradition hearing is almost certain be heard in the Old Bailey, starting on Monday 7th September.
 
The Don’t Extradite Assange campaign have said they will be protesting in a socially distanced manner when the hearing restarts.  
 
 

 
Background
 
The remaining three weeks of the Julian Assange extradition hearing is due to start on 7 September 2020.

Julian Assange is charged by the Trump government with publishing the Afghan and Iraq war logs for which he could face 175 years in jail. 
 
Julian Assange’s lawyers have experienced a considerable difficulty communicating with their client. Speaking at a recent hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said ‘We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him.’ Mr Fitzgerald continued: ‘We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.’
 
The UN working group on arbitrary detention issued a statement saying that “the right of Mr. Assange to personal liberty should be restored”.
 
Massimo Moratti of Amnesty International has publicly stated on their website that, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
 
Human Rights Watch published an article saying, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
 
The NUJ has stated “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Categories
Press Release

Assange’s lawyers to respond to US superseding indictment at Monday’s court hearing

28. 06. 2020

Julian Assange’s legal team will have their first chance to respond to the US Department of Justice’s superseding indictment in court this coming Monday, 29th June.

The indictment, publicised last Wednesday night, has not yet been formally served on the defence. It comes over a year after the court’s deadline for serving an indictment on Julian Assange–14 June 2019.

The new superseding indictment contains no new charges and is primarily based on the witness testimony of a convicted conman, who has previously been imprisoned over embezzling wikileaks. He was also imprisoned over sex offences against minors.

‘This is a bluff, and a pretty poor bluff at that’, said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson,’the US have no new charges to bring, just hearsay from paid FBI informants long ago disgraced in the press.’

The fresh indictment has been issued just days before the final deadline for defence evidence on 10th July in an attempt to limit defence lawyers, already prevented from effective contact with Assange, from effective responding.

The Covid crisis has further restricted contact between Assange and his lawyers. In a previous hearing Assange’s QC, Ed Fitzgerald, said that there had only been two phone calls between the legal team and Assange across a four week period.

The issuing of a superseding indictment is meant to play on the advantage that the US legal team enjoy due to Assange’s restricted access to his legal team.

The hearing on Monday is routine but lawyers are hoping that Judge Vanessa Baraitser will announce in which court the remainder of the full extradition case would be heard.
 
 

Background
 
The remaining three weeks of the Julian Assange extradition hearing is due to start on 7 September 2020.

Julian Assange is charged by the Trump government with publishing the Afghan and Iraq war logs for which he could face 175 years in jail. 
 
Julian Assange’s lawyers have experienced a considerable difficulty communicating with their client. Speaking at a recent hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said ‘We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him.’ Mr Fitzgerald continued: ‘We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.’
 
The UN working group on arbitrary detention issued a statement saying that “the right of Mr. Assange to personal liberty should be restored”.
 
Massimo Moratti of Amnesty International has publicly stated on their website that, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
 
Human Rights Watch published an article saying, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
 
The NUJ has stated “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Categories
Press Release

Assange’s partner makes a televised father’s day plea for his prison release

21. 06. 2020

STELLA Moris, the fiancé of Julian Assange and mother of his two children, has made a heartfelt plea to the Australian Prime Minister to help secure his release from Belmarsh Prison so he can be reunited with his family.

Speaking today (Sunday) in her first television interview, she revealed that she had made a direct appeal to father-of-two Scott Morrison, asking him to intervene so Assange can spend time with his own sons, Gabriel, aged three and Max, two.

In the letter, written jointly with Assange’s father, John Shipton, she urges him to understand their anguish and show compassion by lobbying the British authorities to grant him bail:

“Family is everything to Julian. Reuniting Julian with his children and family is obviously something which is constantly in our thoughts. As Julian’s father, and his partner and mother of his two young children, we ask merciful consideration of Julian’s deteriorating mental and physical health. Detention in Belmarsh Maximum security prison, confined to a cell 23 hours each day, a lung condition, COVID 19 and prohibition on visitors are dire, injurious circumstances.

Each moment, Julian is threatened with the all too real nightmare of extradition to the United States and 175 years gaol, effectively, a penalty of death. We are not asking for you to intervene in the current legal proceedings. Our concern is getting Julian out of Belmarsh so he can be with his family”.

Assange, 48, is being held as a remand prisoner at the maximum-security prison alongside convicted killers and terrorists. He has been imprisoned since April 2019, despite having already served a 50 week-sentence for breaching the Bail Act. He is fighting extradition to the US over the Wikileaks publication of classified documents that revealed details of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hearing, which opened in February, has been delayed until September because of the Covid epidemic, extending his imprisonment to almost 18 months.

Interviewed on the Channel 9 show, 60 Minutes, broadcast in Australia, Moris said: “I don’t want our lives to be determined by an incredible injustice. I would like to ask Scott Morrison (to intervene), he’s a father, he knows what it means to deprive the children of their father’s love. No child should have that”.

She fell in love with Assange five years ago while working on his legal fight against extradition and the couple became engaged in 2017. Revealing the reality of Assange’s life in the Ecuadorian embassy, where a private Spanish security firm kept him under secret surveillance, she said: “When I got pregnant the first time there were microphones everywhere so I had to write it down on a piece of paper to tell him”.

Journalism organisations and civil liberties groups around the world are campaigning against Assange’s extradition, saying it would set a chilling precedent for freedom of the Press, criminalising journalism and the right of journalists to receive and publish unauthorised information.

Julian’s father, John Shipton, said: “Julian misses Stella and their kids, Gabriel and Max. He just wants to come home and be with his family. These governments are not just punishing Julian for exposing their crimes against humanity, they are punishing us as a family. We are all suffering.”

Categories
Events

The Assange Case and Collateral Murder

20 June 2020, Online

For the 10th year anniversary of WikiLeaks releasing Collateral Murder video, we commemorated this event with an online panel which you can watch here: Collateral Murder – 10 Years On
The video shows how two Apache helicopters murdered 11 Iraqi people including two Rueters journalists. This is one of the publications Julian Assange is being indicted for espionage. He faces 175 years in a US jail if extradited from the UK.
We are doing a special follow up broadcast with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson, Iraqi Democrat Sami Ramadani and special guest Dean Yates Former Reuters journalist, who was in charge of the bureau in Baghdad when his Iraqi colleagues Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were killed in July 12 2007.
You can read his story here.

Categories
Events

Julian Assange: Doctors speak out

6 June 2020, Online

Julian Assange has been subjected to psychological torture. That is the conclusion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. But it is not the only medical issue in a case where the defendant is held in a prison where two inmates have died of coronavirus.

Three doctors who have been campaigning over the treatment of Julian Assange. Dr Lissa Johnson – Psychologist and New Matilda columnist, Dr Derek Summerfield – Honorary senior lecturer at London’s Institute of Psychiatry and Dr Bob Gill – NHS doctor and producer of The Great NHS Heist discuss these vital concerns.

All three speakers are members of Doctors for Assange who have written both to the Australian and the British governments to voice their serious concerns about the health of Julian Assange and to condemn the violations of his right to be free from torture, right to health, and right to doctor-patient confidentiality.

If you would like to join the signatories and you are a Medical Professional you can sign it here: https://doctorsassange.org/

Categories
Post

A resolution campaign is being launched across the labour movement in solidarity with Assange

03. 06. 2020

A new call for solidarity with Julian Assange has been issued as his extradition hearing is set to resume in September. Following motions in support of Assange at Birmingham TUC and from the National Union of Journalists a resolution campaign is being launched across the labour movement. The comprehensive resolution adopted by the NUJ is to be circulated for other trade unions, Labour Party bodies, and campaign organisations to adapt for thier own use.  

‘Please put this resolution to your next meeting’, said John Rees from the Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign, ‘this is the defining free speech case of the 21st century. Freedom of information, free from government censorship, is the lifeblood of an effective labour movement. The NUJ have made a stand. Follow their example’.

The NUJ resolution is reproduced in full below and can be found here.

Please adapt it as required for your own organisation and let us know when it passes at: office@dontextraditeassange.com

Here are four other useful campaigning tools. 
Our petition: https://www.change.org/p/release-julian-assange-from-belmarsh-prison-before-covid-19-spreads
Write to your MP: https://dontextraditeassange.com/mp 
Donate: https://dontextraditeassange.com/donate
For the full breadth of support for Julian Assange: https://dontextraditeassange.com/statements




National Union of Journalists’ resolution notes:

1. That WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is held in Belmarsh prison awaiting United States extradition proceedings, a process that can take many years.

2. If Assange is successfully prosecuted in the US he faces 175 years in prison.

3. That the extraterritorial application of the Espionage Act in the indictment of Assange criminalises journalistic activities, in this case activities carried out on UK soil by a non-US national, in collaboration with numerous UK media (including The Guardian, Channel 4 and The Telegraph).

4. That previous statements by the General Secretary of the NUJ, by the Australian Journalists Union MEAA, and by the International Federation of Journalists’ organisations have supported Assange. 

5. That there is a political dimension to extraditions and that the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US makes the extradition of Assange more likely to go ahead.

Believes:

1. That Assange’s indictment comes at a time of heightened threats to the press in Western countries in the form of raids on newspapers and broadcasters, government claims that the press are ‘the enemy of the people’, and actual prosecutions involving life-long sentences for publishing accurately.

2. That Assange’s extradition to the United States would establish a dangerous precedent with regard to the prosecution of journalists in this country under the UK Official Secrets Act given the requirement for the UK courts to accept US arguments as to dual criminality for the extradition to go ahead. 

3. That press freedoms in this country will be weakened if the courts accept that NUJ members’ publishing activities in this country can give rise to criminal liability in foreign states and to their consequent lawful extradition.

4. That the publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs and other material by WikiLeaks that are the subject of the US indictment revealed important information that has benefitted the public.

5. Disclosing information to the public should never be equated with espionage 

Resolves

1. To campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.

2. To write to the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, and the Shadow Justice Secretary making the union’s case on this issue.

Categories
Press Release

Yet again Julian Assange and the press unable to attend court proceedings

01. 06. 2020

Julian Assange was, once again, unable to attend his own proceedings on medical advice. He remains at high risk of contracting Covid-19 due to an underlying lung condition exacerbated by years of confinement recognised by the UK as arbitrary detention.

The Judge failed to keep her undertaking to announce the venue for the remainder of the full extradition hearing starting September 7th

The audio link for journalists was unusable and the court proceedings inaudible so only the small numbers allowed in the court could hear.

‘It’s ridiculous that we still don’t have a time and a place for the remainder of the hearing’, said WikiLeaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell, ‘The delay has been a punishment in itself. Whether Julian can get proper access to his legal team remains unlikely, as Belmarsh prison remains in full lockdown. And to add insult to injury the court is unable to provide reporters with the most basic levels of access.’

Assange’s legal team have throughout complained that they have not had adequate access to Assange, but the judge has refused to intervene to ensure that both sides have equal access to their legal representation. The district judge refused bail even as the Covid infection took hold of Belmarsh.

The Don’t Extradite Assange campaign joins calls by the UN for Assange’s immediate release from prison to avoid the risk of contracting Covid 19, along with all other political prisoners around the world. Julian Assange’s pre-existing health problems make him particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. He is a remand prisoner kept in jail despite the fact that he is not serving a sentence, and he poses no threat whatsoever to the public.

Categories
Statements

Australian Legal Professionals

Senator the Hon Marise Payne,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
senator.payne@aph.gov.au
foreign.minister@dfat.gov.au
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

PO Box 5317
Cobargo
NSW 2550

27 May 2020

Dear Minister,

We the undersigned current and former practicing members of the Australian legal profession, are writing to seek your urgent intervention on behalf of Australian citizen Julian Assange.

We do this with due recognition that diplomatic intercessions in the legal processes of foreign countries is not lightly undertaken. We also recognise that under certain circumstances it is appropriate and necessary. Careful interventions on behalf of Peter Greste, Melinda Taylor, David Hicks, James Ricketson and many others made a meaningful difference to positive outcomes in each case.

We strongly argue that it is time Mr Assange received a similar level of meaningful support

As legal practitioners, we are deeply concerned about the precedent effect of prosecuting an awarded publisher for nothing more than doing his job. We also hold grave concerns about the conduct of this particular case given the enormous difficulties of conducting hearings amidst a pandemic. Mr Assange has been unable to meet with or instruct legal counsel, hearings have been disrupted and nearly impossible to follow by teleconference, and resolution has now been pushed back to September at the earliest. With viral spread throughout the UK prison system, the situation has become untenable.

Before the court reconvenes on 1 June, we request of you the following:

1. To make representation on Mr Assange’s behalf that he be released on bail immediately;
2. To relay to us the outcome of this representation.

An Australian citizen needs the active support of his Government, now more than ever. We await a reply at the earliest possibility,

Regards,

Julian Burnside AO QC
Elizabeth O’Shea
Malcolm Ramage QC
Benedict Coyne
Dr Spencer Zifcak, Allan Myers Professor of Law, Australian Catholic University
Allan Myers QC
Mark Davis
Adjunct Professor George Newhouse
David McBride
Stephen Keim SC
Phillip Segal