On February 20 and 21, as nearly 1,000 supporters of Julian Assange gathered outside the London courthouse, a two-judge panel of the High Court of Justice presided over a “permission hearing.” Assange’s lawyers asked the judges to allow them to appeal the home secretary’s extradition order and raise issues that the district court judge had rejected without full consideration. The High Court panel, Dame Victoria Sharp and Justice Jeremy Johnson, were concerned that the U.S. government could execute Assange if he is extradited to the United States, a penalty outlawed in the U.K.
At least a half hour before the Royal Courts of Justice opened their doors on Tuesday, February 20, thousands had already gathered outside the courthouse. In two hours, two British judges would be hearing two days of arguments in what may be journalist Julian Assange’s final plea that the UK courts halt his extradition to the United States. The United States is seeking to put the WikiLeaks founder on trial for exposing its war crimes — which would set a precedent that the Espionage Act can be used to prosecute journalists who publish information the US government doesn’t like.
“Those who tell the truth need a fast horse,” says an Armenian proverb. Or they need a society that protects the truth and its messengers. But this protection, which our democracies claim to offer, is in danger. As a journalist, Julian Assange has published hundreds of thousands of files documenting war crimes committed by the USA and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere. The authenticity of the documents is beyond question. However, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice or convicted.
London - The prosecution for the U.S., which is seeking to deny Julian Assange’s appeal of an extradition order, begun by the Trump administration and embraced by the Biden administration, grounded its arguments on Wednesday in the dubious affidavits filed by a U.S. federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia, Gordon Kromberg. The charges articulated by Kromberg — often false — to make the case for extradition did not fly with the two High Court judges, Jeremy Johnson and Dame Victoria Sharp, who are overseeing Julian’s final appeal in the British courts.
The world is watching. And finally, there’s a realization about what this is really about, which is an attack on the truth, an attack on the public’s right to know. And a country’s attempt to further their impunity and their coverups and continue to kill with impunity, without the threat of a media that will scrutinize them, of a public that will demand change. That cannot stand. Everything turns on the outcome of this case. Whether states can criminalize journalism and put journalists in prison like they’ve been doing in the UK with an Australian citizen; a publisher who’s won many, many awards for his journalism and they’ve stuck him in the deepest, darkest hole of the UK prison system.
On the second and final day of Julian Assange’s High Court hearing, barristers for the United States wove a delusory tale in which journalism is espionage, First Amendment rights are stripped from foreigners on U.S. soil and a government hunting a dissident journalist who revealed its secret crimes is lauded as a beacon of democracy. However, outside the courthouse on a street called The Strand; and with human rights and press freedom organizations, presidents, prime ministers, and parliaments and with millions of ordinary citizens around the world, this false construct the United States seeks to impose on the world is failing.
There is no benefit to the people for Julian Assange to be extradited or to be charged, none whatsoever. He should be free, he should never have been forced into the Ecuadorian embassy. And by the way, he always made it clear that he would go to Sweden and face those charges against him if he was guaranteed not to be turned over to the U.S. And his fears were well founded, as we now see. He exposed corruption, political corruption, financial corruption, and that is what makes him an enemy of powerful people, and a friend to people around the world. So I support Julian Assange.
On the second and final day of the crucial appeal permission hearing for Julian Assange, the US repeated long-debunked and discredited theories and allegations. On Wednesday, February 21, the court began by hearing the submission by the prosecution representing the US government. The prosecution team led by Claire Dobbin and Joel Smith presented arguments that obfuscated facts and misrepresented both the prosecution against Assange and the nature of work done by WikiLeaks. The US opened with unsubstantiated claims that Assange’s publishing of the classified documents exposed several contacts, putting them in harm’s way especially those in war zones and under oppressive regimes.
In a high-profile extradition case widely regarded as a threat to global press freedom, administrators of the United Kingdom’s courts have repeatedly shown that they are incapable and unwilling to ensure open justice for journalists. All reporters outside of England and Wales (including this reporter) were barred from accessing the audio-visual link for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s hearing, where he urged the British High Court of Justice grant permission to appeal extradition to the United States. Several journalists who traveled internationally to cover proceedings have been seated in a section of the courtroom that makes doing their job practically impossible.
By the afternoon on Tuesday the video link, which would have allowed Julian Assange to follow his final U.K. appeal to prevent his extradition, had been turned off. Julian, his attorneys said, was too ill to attend, too ill even to follow the court proceedings on a link, although it was possible he was no longer interested in sitting through another judicial lynching. The rectangular screen, tucked under the black wrought iron bars that enclosed the upper left-hand corner balcony of the courtroom where Julian would have been caged as a defendant, was perhaps a metaphor for the emptiness of this long and convoluted judicial pantomime.
On Day One of Julian Assange’s attempt to appeal Britain’s order to extradite him to the United States, his lawyers laid out a timeline that exposed U.S. motives to destroy the journalist who revealed their high-level state crimes. Before two High Court judges in the cramped, wood-paneled Courtroom 5 at the Royal Courts of Justice, Assange’s lawyers argued on Tuesday that two judges had seriously erred in the case on a number of grounds necessitating an appeal of the home secretary’s decision to extradite Assange to the United States. High to the left of the court, next to oak shelves with neat rows of law books, was an empty iron cage. The court said it had invited Assange to either attend in person or via video link from Belmarsh Prison, where he has been locked up on remand for nearly five years.
The United States government's prosecution of Julian Assange represents an attempt to punish Assange and WikiLeaks for exposing the criminality of the U.S. government on a “massive and unprecedented scale,” lawyers for the WikiLeaks publisher told two senior judges at the British High Court of Justice. Crimes exposed by the WikiLeaks publications that are central to this case include “torture,” “[extraordinary] rendition,” and “drone strikes” that killed scores of civilians. Assange is seeking permission to appeal District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s extradition decision, which was issued in January 2021. Barristers Mark Summers KC and Edward Fitzgerald KC set out seven grounds for challenging the ruling.
Documents obtained under freedom-of-information applications have revealed a worrying side to official Australian efforts regarding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In September 2021, DFAT [Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] became aware of media reports detailing C.I.A. planning to murder Assange in London. The plot revealed to journalists working for Yahoo News, who spoke to over 30 intelligence sources, involved consideration by the C.I.A. of plans to poison Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy or to shoot him should he attempt to flee.
Day X is here: February 20-21, imprisoned publisher Julian Assange returns to court in London for his final bid to appeal his extradition to the United States where he would face life in prison for publishing truthful information in the public interest. Human rights leaders and civil liberties groups around the world are again warning that the prosecution of Assange threatens journalism everywhere. In this month alone, a UN Special Rapporteur, leading press freedom groups, over 35 U.S. law professors, and the Australian Parliament have called for an end to the prosecution of Julian Assange.
If Julian Assange is denied permission to appeal his extradition to the United States before a panel of two judges at the High Court in London this week, he will have no recourse left within the British legal system. His lawyers can ask the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for a stay of execution under Rule 39, which is given in “exceptional circumstances” and “only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.” But it is far from certain that the British court will agree. It may order Julian’s immediate extradition prior to a Rule 39 instruction or may decide to ignore a request from the ECtHR to allow Julian to have his case heard by the court.