Monday 10th of August 2020

the baraitser circus, in which the only act is a caged lion named julian...

a lion in a cage...a lion in a cage...

The book of hours on Julian Assange is now being written. But the scribes are far from original. Repeated rituals of administrative hearings that have no common purpose other than to string things out before the axe are being enacted.

Of late, the man most commonly associated with WikiLeaks’ publication project cannot participate in any meaningful way, largely because of his frail health and the dangers posed to him by the coronavirus. Having already made an effort to attend court proceedings in person, Assange has come across as judicial exotica, freak show fodder for Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s harsh version of Judge Judy. He was refused an application to escape his glass commode when he could still attend in person, as permitting him to descend and consult his defence team in a court room would constitute a bail application of some risk. This reading by the judicial head was so innovative it even puzzled the prosecutors.

What we know to date is that restrictions and shackles on Assange’s case are the order of the day. Restricted processes that do nothing to enable him to see counsel and enable a good brief to be exercised are typical. Most of all, the ceremonial circus that we have come to expect of British justice in the menacing shadow of US intimidation has become gloomily extensive. 

On July 27, that circus was given yet another act, another limping performance. As before, the venue was the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

During the proceeding, Assange did appear via video link from Belmarsh Prison, albeit it an hour late, and only at the insistence of his legal team. The Guardian report on his presence reads like an account of a sporting engagement. 

Wearing a beige sweater and a pink shirt, Assange eventually appeared from Belmarsh prison after an earlier attempt was aborted.”

Others were alarmed. During his call-over hearing, noted Martin Silk of the Australian Associated Press, “neither the Australian, nor his guards, were wearing face masks. I don’t understand the reason for that given we have to wear them inside shops.” This point was also made by Assange’s partner, Stella Moris

Belmarsh hasn’t provided Julian with a face mask throughout this covid crisis. The prison guards he interacts with don’t wear them either.”

WikiLeaks supporter Juan Passarelli also felt that Assange “was having trouble following the proceedings due to the Judge and lawyers not speaking loud enough and into the microphones.”

Arrangements for the hearing for observers proved characteristically sloppy. Freelance journalist Stefania Maurizi was unimpressed by being on the phone for two hours during which she “couldn’t understand more than 20 percent of what has been discussed.” She was adamant that “UK authorities don’t care at all about international reporters covering” the Assange proceedings. “Dial in system is, as usual,” agreed Passarelli, “a shambles!”

The topic of discussion during this administrative hearing was what was announced by the US Department of Justice on June 24, namely the second superseding indictment. That document proved to be a naked exercise of political overreach, adding no further charges to the already heavy complement of eighteen, seventeen of which centre on the US Espionage Act. 

The scope of interest, however, was widened, notably on the issue of “hacking” and conferencing. Assange is painted as devilish recruiter and saboteur of the international secret order, a man of the conference circuit keen to open up clandestine governments and make various reasons for doing so. 

According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC, in representing Assange, fulfilled his norm, submitting that the recently revised document did little to inspire confidence in the nature of clarified justice. 

We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequences of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.”

Fitzgerald reminded the court that US President Donald Trump had “described the defence case as a plot by the Democrats.” 

This should have been obvious, but Baraitser’s court would have none of it. To admit at this point that Assange is wanted for political reasons would make it that much harder to extradite him to the United States, given that bar noted in the US-UK Extradition Treaty

Whilst it was good of Fitzgerald to make this point, he should know by now that his audience is resolutely constipated and indifferent to such prodding. Assange is to be given the sharpest, rather than the most balanced, of hearings. 

Accordingly, Baraitser insisted that Fitzgerald “reserve his comments” – she, in the true tradition of such processes, had not been supplied, as yet, with the US indictment. 

This made the entire presence of all the parties at the Westminster Magistrates’ not merely meaningless but decidedly absurd.

Assange’s defence team could draw some cold comfort from Baraitser’s comments that July 27 was the deadline for any further evidence to be adduced by the prosecution before the September extradition hearing. One exception was permitted: psychiatric reports.

The current chief publisher of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson had a few choice words for the prosecutors of Wikileaks. 

“All the alleged events have been known to the prosecution for years. It contains no new charges. What’s really happening here is that despite its decade start the prosecution are still unable to build a coherent case.”

The scrapping of the previous indictments suggested that they were “flagrantly disregarding proper process.”

Assange is facing one of the most disturbing confections put together by any state that claims itself to be free. Should this stratagem work, the publisher will find himself facing the legal proceedings of a country that boasts of having a free press amendment but is keen on excluding him from it.

What is even more troubling is the desire to expand the tent of culpability, one that will include press outlets and those who disseminate classified information. 

To the next circus instalment we go: a final call-over hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 14, then the September 7 extradition hearing, to be held at the Central Criminal Court most of us know as the Old Bailey. Will justice prove blind, or merely blinded?

 

 

Read more:

https://off-guardian.org/2020/07/30/assange-indictment-old-wine-in-older-bottles/

 

 

Modified image at top, from Justice Integrity Report. 

his ordeal was to show us the truth...

assange

 


adding to the persecution of assange...

By Caitlin Johnstone, an independent journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is here and you can follow her on Twitter @caitoz

America is as authoritarian and intolerant of dissent as any tinpot dictatorship. It generally just goes about quashing it in a subtler, more sophisticated way, aided by a conformist, groupthink mainstream media.

In what Shadowproof’s Kevin Gosztola calls “a not-so-subtle effort to criminalize the journalism of an adversarial media organization that the United States has spent the last decade working to destroy,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been hit with another superseding indictment by the US Department of Justice.

Shadowproof, WSWS, and Consortium News all have solid and informative write-ups on this new development. The indictment adds no new charges, is riddled with inaccuracies, glaring plot holes, and amateurish errors, relies heavily on testimony from a literal convicted pedophile and diagnosed sociopath, and appears to be little more than a feeble attempt to legitimize the injection of the words “hacking” and “hackers” into the prosecutorial narrative.

To quote Assange’s partner Stella Morris, “They didn’t throw the book at Julian. They threw bits of paper found crumpled up in the discard pile.”

The persecution of Julian Assange is a transparent and iron-fisted attempt by the US government to globally criminalize the publication of leaks which embarrass the US-centralized empire, thereby drawing a firm line which journalists all around the world know never to cross.

This is the inverted totalitarian oligarchic empire at its most overtly tyrannical. The imprisonment of Assange was the part of the movie where the villain finally reveals their true face for the monster they’ve always been, where it became clear to anyone paying attention that the US power alliance is as authoritarian and intolerant of real dissent as any tin pot dictator.

But this is the rarest form of imperial censorship. Normally, wherever possible, the power structures which dominate human civilization prefer to do so out of sight and out of mind, ideally having the inmates of the prison serve as their own wardens.

Aaron Maté, one of my favorite journalists on the planet right now, has an interesting new post on Twitter which reads (emphasis my own): “It’s incredible to see book after book churn out the same discredited Russiagate hype. When I talked to an editor at a major publisher about doing a book — you know, based on actual facts — they told me their friends would be mad at them if they published it, so that was it.”

This is a perfect example of the soft tyranny which does most of the key oppression of speech in the empire today. There are no laws prohibiting the publication of Maté’s award-winningjournalism on the subject of the mass psychological operation known as Russiagate. Nobody who published such a book would be tortured and facing a 170-year prison sentence like Julian Assange.

Yet the speech remains restricted. Major publishers won’t touch Maté’s work. You won’t see him as a guest panelist on MSNBC or CNN. Not because those platforms are forbidden from doing so, but because they don't choose to. As former MSNBC host Krystal Ball explained last year, an attitude of conformity has been manufactured from the top down to ensure than those who rise to the top of the most influential platforms are the ones who know how to toe the establishment line without being told. People are hired from the same conformity-enforcing universities by executives who were selected by media-owning plutocrats based on their willingness to protect the status quo their plutocratic kingdoms are built upon, and only those who play ball within that system ever rise to major positions of influence.


https://www.rt.com/op-ed/493060-free-speech-julian-assange/