On October 21, 2019, Julian Assange appeared in court for an extradition hearing. Assange is being held in a British jail pending extradition to the United States after having served his sentence for skipping bail when he was given asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid extradition. The court has refused his release pending the extradition hearing and denied him access to computers making it difficult for him to defend himself.
Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden for an investigation of manufactured charges being used to imprison him so he could be extradited to the United Staes. He faced a sex crimes investigation, which is highly suspect and has never resulted in charges despite three investigations. Assange spent seven years in Ecuador’s embassy before he was dragged out with Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s consent in April. He now faces 18 counts in the United States.
It is evident from this hearing that Assange is being railroaded and is not receiving due process for an alleged crime that should not exist, i.e. being an editor and publisher that told the truth about US war crimes and other illegal actions, as well as the corporate control of US foreign policy. Assange is facing up to 175 years in prison on more than a dozen charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents that exposed American war crimes and its corrupt corporate-dominated foreign policy. Popular Resistance has supported Julian Assange for his journalism and Chelsea Manning for whistleblowing and refusing to testify against Assange. Both need to be released and the charges against Assange dropped.
Assange arrived for the hearing in a van. There were numerous supporters outside as he arrived but he was driven into a garage with0ut people seeing him.
Assange People outisde of court, October 21, 2019 from Ruptly.
His mother commented on her son’s appearance in court and the extradition he is facing on Twitter:
Others expressed rage at the injustice of the court proceedings being used as a weapon against Assange, not an instrument of due process and justice. The court is not even trying to pretend it is being fair.
The silence of corporate media outlets and journalists is being noticed. Their cowardice is suicidal. If the Espionage Act is used against Assange successfully, it will be available for use against all journalists. They will either have to bow down to the government and not report on corruption and war crimes or risk prosecution. The Assange prosecution is an attack on Freedom of the Press and the people’s right to know. The Assange case will define Freedom of Speech and Press in the 21st Century.
Julian Assange turns to the crowd in court on October 21, 2019, raises fist and shows solidarity.
People did get to see Assange in court.
Julian Assange courtroom sketch, October 21, 2019.
His attorney, Mark Summers, told the court that Assange was spied on in the embassy, including conversations with his lawyers. Reuters reports:
Summers said the U.S. government had been listening to conversations between Assange and lawyers while he was in the Ecuadorean embassy in London from 2012 to 2019.
He said there was a criminal case in the Spanish courts allegedly involving Spanish contractors used by the U.S. government and that hooded men broke into offices, without giving details.
“This is part of a concerted and avowed war against whistleblowers including investigative journalists and publishers,” Summers said.
He argued that his team needed more time to gather and provide evidence, saying the challenges in this case would test the limits of most lawyers and citing the difficulty of communicating with Assange who doesn’t have a computer in jail.
Assange is the first publisher or editor charged under the Espionage Act, which was designed for traitors and is being misapplied to a journalist. The charges against him are a political attempt to silence journalists and publishers, and the fake Swedish allegations were part of a plot to incarcerate him for US prosecution.
Summers called the USextradition “a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information.” He described the prosecution as a war on journalis saying “It’s legally unprecedented. This is part of an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers.”
Reuters reported that Assange mumbled and stuttered for several seconds as he gave his name and date of birth at the beginning of the hearing. When “the judge asked him at the end of the hearing if he knew what was happening, he replied ‘not exactly,’ complained about the conditions in jail, and said he was unable to ‘think properly.’”
Assange understands he is going through an unfair hearing that does not allow him to defend himself saying to the judge: “I don’t understand how this is equitable. I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing. It’s very difficult where I am.”
Amnesty International has called for Assange not to be extradited to the United States.
Assange faces the judge in court on October 21, 2019. Courtroom sketch shows Assange is melancholy, his shoulders heavy, represented behind bars and flanked by police. By Elizabeth Cook.
The judge refused to delay the hearing in the case when Assange’s lawyer, Mark Summers, argued that Assange’s extradition hearing, scheduled for February 2020, should be delayed by three months due to the complexity of the case. The judge showed there is a goal in this courtroom — the rapid extradition to the United States where he will face an unfair trial in Alexandria, VA, known as the ‘rocket docket’, where national security cases are held.
The crowd of supporters remained through the hearing and cheered Assange as he left.
Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.
Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance where this article was originally published.
Featured image: Julian Assange court sketch, October 21, 2019, supplied by Julia Quenzler.