One of the biggest moments in Julian Assange’s trial is slated to happen next month, when the embattled and imprisoned WikiLeaks founder’s final extradition hearing is held in Great Britain. And as host Lee Camp points out before introducing his guest in this clip from “Redacted Tonight,” there have been some stunning developments recently in Assange’s story—namely, the revelation that the U.S. government and a certain three-letter intelligence agency were ginning up possible plans to assassinate Assange. If ever there were an expert on Julian Assange, it would surely be Camp’s guest, John Shipton—Assange’s father—who calls the assassination plot considered by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials “pretty scandalous,” if not entirely surprising.
On the show, Chris Hedges discusses the ongoing persecution of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. Judge Loretta Preska, an adviser to the conservative Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor, sentenced the human rights attorney and Chevron nemesis Stephen Donziger to six months in prison on October 1 for misdemeanor contempt of court after he had spent 787 days under house arrest in New York. Preska’s caustic outbursts – she said at the sentencing, “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law” – capped a judicial farce worthy of the antics of the presiding judges at the major show trials of the Great Purges in the Soviet Union or the Nazi judge Roland Freisler, who once shouted at a defendant “You really are a lousy piece of trash!”
The world’s top human rights legal body just offered a crucial show of support for Steven Donziger, the attorney who won a landmark multibillion-dollar case against an oil giant over pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The ruling came on the eve of his sentencing in a criminal trial. On Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights ruled that Donziger’s home detention is illegal under international law and called on the U.S. to release him. Donziger will have spent an unprecedented 787 days on house arrest as of Friday in what is one of the most winding and wild court cases that spans multiple countries and involves Chevron and thousands of Indigenous people in the Amazon.
For some, call them criminal justice ingenues, it may be hard to believe this is happening in the United States, that our famed judiciary has sunk this low. But in the U.S., a judge acts as prosecutor and jury on behalf of a giant oil company, Chevron, as it destroys the life and career of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. His crime? Daring to win a judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court. For those less enchanted with the U.S. justice system, this is no surprise. But there it is. This judicial travesty is occurring in New York state. And the Chevron friendly judges – first Lewis A. Kaplan and his hand-picked appointee judge Loretta Preska, and now the U.S. court of appeals for the second circuit in a March opinion – keep ruling for the company, as they cage Donziger with house arrest, 600 days so far and counting.
New York – Students from over 50 leading U.S. law schools -- including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and New York University -- have announced a recruiting boycott of a prominent Chevron law firm to protest its “unethical” private prosecution of U.S. human rights lawyer Steven Donziger after he helped win a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron. “We pledge to boycott Seward & Kissel recruitment activities in response to the firm’s unethical prosecution of U.S. human rights attorney Steven Donziger,” the students wrote in a letter with signatories representing 52 law schools. “Despite a significant conflict of interest, Seward & Kissel continues to drive Mr. Donziger’s unprecedented 18-month pre-trial detention on misdemeanor contempt charges.”
Both Snow and Taylor showed extreme bias against Julian. Their hearings were about Julian seeking asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in 2012, which meant that he had not complied with his bail conditions relating to earlier hearings. Under UK law, you do not have to comply with your bail conditions if you have a good reason. When Julian asked for asylum, it was based on the risk that he could be extradited to the US. The Ecuadorean authorities accepted this as a reason for granting him asylum. This is self-evidently a reasonable excuse for not complying with bail conditions.
The prevailing atmosphere has been shocking. I say that without hesitation; I have sat in many courts and seldom known such a corruption of due process; this is due revenge. Putting aside the ritual associated with ‘British justice’, at times it has been evocative of a Stalinist show trial. One difference is that in the show trials, the defendant stood in the court proper. In the Assange trial, the defendant was caged behind thick glass, and had to crawl on his knees to a slit in the glass, overseen by his guard, to make contact with his lawyers.
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno and his allies have gone to great lengths to prevent former president Rafael Correa and his political movement from returning to power. In order to achieve this goal, the current government has persecuted opponents and barred candidates from running. Moreno’s authoritarianism has, so far, gone largely unnoticed internationally. With elections scheduled for February 2021, it is crucial that the international community keeps a vigilant eye on the Ecuadorian government’s persistent attempts at perverting the course of democracy.
5:49 am EDT: Judge Vanessa Baraitser has granted the defense four weeks to prepare it closing argument, saying that her decision would come after the Nov. 4 U.S. election one way or the other. She had been previously reluctant to give more than a week to the defense. Baraitser set the date of final arguments for Nov. 16. Fitzgerald had told the judge that: “It seems unlikely for you to make a judgement before Nov. 3 and you would have to bear in mind that the future is uncertain. Much of what we say about Trump is because this proceeding was initiated by Trump,….and some elements of the case would be worse if Trump were there [re-elected].”
Monday was a frustrating day as the Assange Hearing drifted deep into a fantasy land where nobody knows or is allowed to say that people were tortured in Guantanamo Bay and under extraordinary rendition. The willingness of Judge Baraitser to accept American red lines on what witnesses can and cannot say has combined with a joint and openly stated desire by both judge and prosecution to close this case down quickly by limiting the number of witnesses, the length of their evidence, and the time allowed for closing arguments.
As Julian Assange fights U.S. extradition at the Old Bailey in London, over one hundred eminent political figures, including 13 past and present heads of state, numerous ministers, members of parliament and diplomats, have today denounced the illegality of the proceedings and appealed for Assange’s immediate release. The politicians from 27 different countries and from across the political spectrum have joined 189 independent international lawyers, judges, legal academics and lawyers’ associations by endorsing their open letter to the UK Government...
Julian Assange needs to wake before dawn to get from Belmarsh Prison to the Old Bailey courthouse, where his extradition hearing resumed on 7 September, for four weeks. He gets dressed for court only to be strip-searched before being placed in a ventilated coffin Serco van for a 90-minute trip across London in peak-hour traffic. After waiting handcuffed in the holding cells, he is placed in a glass box at the back of the courtroom. Then he is forced back into the Serco van to be strip-searched back at Belmarsh to face another night alone in his cell.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to Steven Donziger about the reach of corporate power. Donziger battled corporate oil giant Chevron over environmental pollution and destruction in Ecuador and won a settlement of $9.5 billion for indigenous communities. Since then, Chevron has waged a campaign against Donziger to try and destroy him economically, professionally and personally. He is on trial in federal court in New York on September 9 for contempt charges, which could send him to jail for six months.
Dozens of legal organizations around the world representing more than 500,000 lawyers along with over 200 individual lawyers today submitted a judicial complaint documenting a series of shocking violations of the judicial code of conduct by United States Judge Lewis A. Kaplan targeting human rights lawyer Steven Donziger after he helped Indigenous peoples win a historic judgment against Chevron in Ecuador to clean up the pollution caused by decades of oil drilling with no environmental controls. The complaint was formally filed by the National Lawyers Guild in conjunction with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). IADL was founded in Paris in 1946 to fight to uphold the rule of law around the world and has consultative status with UN agencies. The complaint documents what its authors say is a pattern of ethics violations committed by Judge Kaplan, a former tobacco industry lawyer. Kaplan denied Donziger a jury, put in place a series of highly unusual courtroom tactics, severely restricted Donziger’s ability to mount a defense, and through his had picked judge to try him for criminal contempt has had him detained him at home for more than one year on contempt charges that were rejected by the U.S. Attorney, and allowed him to be prosecuted by a private law firm that has Chevron as a client.