George Galloway began his victory speech on Friday morning with these words: “Keir Starmer: This is for Gaza.” It was a clear message that he sent the British Labour leader: “You will pay a high price for the role that you have paid in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine.” Galloway declared his victory in a by-election here to be the beginning of a major change in politics. “I want to tell Mr. Starmer above all, that the plates have shifted tonight,” he said at the town’s election center.
United Kingdom (UK)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Australia's prime minister and federal members of Parliament approved a motion Wednesday to return Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to Australia. MP Andrew Wilkie introduced the motion arguing that Assange should be freed from a British prison where he has spent nearly five years and returned to Australia as Britain's High Court will hear Assange's appeal next week against his extradition to the United States on espionage charges. "It will send a very powerful political signal to the British government and to the U.S. government that the British government should not entertain the idea of Mr. Assange being extradited to the U.S.," Wilkie said Wednesday in parliament, noting Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted on the U.S. charges.
It was the afternoon of May 17 2023 and I had just arrived at London’s Luton Airport. I was on my way to the city of my birth to visit my family. Before landing, the pilot instructed all passengers to have their passports ready for inspection immediately upon disembarking the plane. Just then, I noticed a six-strong squad of stone-faced plainclothes British counter-terror officers waited on the tarmac, intensely studying the identification documents of all travelers. As soon as the cops identified me, I was ordered to accompany them into the airport terminal without explanation. There, I was introduced to two officials whose names I could not learn, who subsequently referred to each other using nondescript callsigns. I was invited to be digitally strip searched, and subjected to an interrogation in which I had no right to silence, no right to refuse to answer questions, and no right to withhold pin numbers for my digital devices or sim cards.
In Julian Assange’s extradition case, Magistrate Judge Venessa Baraitser determined he would not survive imprisonment in a U.S. Supermax facility – that he is very likely to commit suicide. One of the final witnesses in the 4 week extradition trial in 2020 was an American lawyer whose client Abu Hamza was held in ADX Colorado where Julian is likely to be sent. Abu Hamza has no hands. He was extradited from the U.K. following assurances by the U.S. that the prison system was able to deal with the special requirements of such a prisoner. His lawyer testified that despite assurances he would not be placed in total isolation, that is indeed where he was kept, under Special Administrative Measures, and the U.S. had also failed to delivered on other undertakings to protect his human rights – he did not have a toilet in his cell he could operate – he was stripped of all dignity, contrary to guarantees.