A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange

Binoy Kampmark

Australian politicians, and the consular staff of the country, are rarely that engaged on the subject of protecting their citizens.  In a couple of notorious cases, Australian authorities demonstrated, not only an indifference, but a consciously venal approach to its citizens in overseas theatres.

Mamdouh Ahmed Habib, a dual Australian-Egyptian national, was detained in Pakistan in October 2001 and subsequently sent to Guantánamo Bay via Bagram in Afghanistan and Egypt.  His subsequent detention till 2005 in a chapter of that sinisterly framed Global War on Terror was without charge and heavy with speculation.

In April 2002, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation formed the view that Habib had not been involved in the planning of future terrorist attacks, a point deemed insufficient in securing his early release. On his release, he initiated federal court proceedings against the Australian government over their complicity in the matter. The case was settled in 2010.

The squalid affair is worth nothing for the essential connivance of Australian officials in the ongoing detention of Habib.  Even intelligence assessments within the intelligence fraternity pointing to his innocence were dismissed.

In a joint media statement from the Attorney-General and the Minister for Foreign Affairs on January 11, 2005, the standard line was reiterated:

it remained the strong view of the United States that, based on information available to it, Mr Habib had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks on or before 11 September 2001.” 

What the US suspected, went.

In a wordy and not particularly illuminating report on the case by the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, it was “found that communication to the Habib family in respect of Mr Habib’s welfare was not adequate and recommends that an apology be made.” 

Stress was made that Australian intelligence officials were not directly involved in his rendering to Guantánamo Bay, though it was noted that “ASIO should have made active enquiries about how Mr Habib would be treated in Egypt before providing information which may have been used in his questioning in Egypt.”

An even more notable case of crude, dismissive abandonment can be found in the plight of David Hicks, another Australian who found himself facing an array of charges brought forth by the “war” on terror. 

His role in US legal history in fighting that dubious category of “unlawful combatant” and military commissions is assured, but what stood out in the case was an abject refusal on the part of Prime Minister John Howard and his foreign minister Alexander Downer to engage in anything resembling assistance.

In May 2003, with rumours thick that some detainees from Guantánamo Bay were being released, Downer was quick to scratch Hicks from the list. 

After all, remember David Hicks was somebody who was allegedly involved with both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Taliban being the political articulation of the view of al-Qaeda.”

When pressed by ABC Radio on Australian contributory negligence, Downer merely swatted the allegation, insisting on cryptic and inchoate legal categories. 

He’s being held though, let me just make this clear, he’s being held as an unlawful combatant, as somebody who was detained initially by the Northern Alliance and subsequently by the United States”.

Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan, in an open letter to Australian prime minister John Howard, made the case that Hicks had been abandoned.  Even after the finding by the US Supreme Court that specifically established military commissions were unconstitutional, the Australian government remained approving of that most curious of aberrations.  “They have not taken any effort to ensure that he gets a fair trial.”

In every sense, the Australian response to Julian Assange’s detention, both during his time in the Ecuadorean embassy and in Belmarsh, betrays an unhealthy tendency to regard the controversial citizen as a menace best distanced.  Let another country deal with him, and if that country be the United States, all the better.

Barnaby Joyce MP

In recent days, a sense of momentum is gathering suggesting that Australia’s political classes might be tiring of this view.  Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has been shooting off his mouth for reasons more constructive than usual. 

Whether you like a person or not, they should be afforded the proper rights and protections and the process of justice, as determined by an Australian parliament, not another nation’s parliament.”

Grounds for extradition to the United States from the UK, argued Joyce, had not been made out. “If a person is residing in Australia and commits a crime in another country, I don’t believe that is a position for extradition.”

Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie is also mucking in, hoping to cobble together a coalition of supporters in the Australian parliament to support Assange’s return to Australia. 

“The only party I’m having to work extra hard on getting members of the group is Labor.”

The more traditional front, however, is being maintained by the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg. “He [Assange] ultimately will face the justice for what he’s been alleged to have done, but that is a legal process that will run its course.”

Rather weakly, Frydenberg made a lukewarm concession: that “we will continue, as a government, to provide him with the appropriate consular services.”

If there was a time to fight legal eccentricity and viciousness, it is now.  Just as Hicks and Habib faced complicity and a range of stretched and flexible legal categories, Assange faces that most elastic of instruments designed to stifle publishing and whistleblowing: the US Espionage Act of 1917. 

Should he be extradited from the United Kingdom and face the imperial goon squad in Washington, we will be spectators to that most depraved of state acts: the criminalisation of publishing. Australia’s parliamentarians, never the sharpest tools in the political box, are starting to stir with that realisation.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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Brozza
Brozza

Back before the last Oz fed. election when I was still ‘on farcebook’, I asked a certain plibosek what labor(al) would do to help Assange if they got elected.
The reply? (see exactly 1 line down)

Exactly what I was expecting.
The L(ying)N(azi)P(arty) and Labor(al) -2 cheeks of the same arse.

It’s why I’ve given up on voting – you can’t even vote for the lesser of the two evils anymore.

Oliver
Oliver

Assange doesn’t believe that the 911 event should be investigated. All the Wikileaks tripe came through Chelsea Manning, who the US military didn’t know wanted to be a woman. Manning went to school in old South Wales because the dad was attached to the USN base at Brawdy, now home to a Royal Signals regiment.

Robyn
Robyn

I’ve emailed mostly Labor MPs about Julian Assange around a dozen times in all, four emails to the Leader of the ‘Opposition’ last month as I became increasingly desperate about Julian’s plight. Not a single reply from any of the bastards. That shows how interested they are.

Gezzah Potts

Robyn, sadly, they won’t listen and they don’t care. At all. Period. Labor politicians are fully fledged apparatchiks of the Empire, completely drunk on identity politics, and eyeing up big fat corporate jobs $$$ once they’ve finished ‘serving the people’. They won’t lift a finger to help Assange – these people are morally and ethically bankrupt. I’d have more faith in someone like Andrew Wilkie or Derryn Hinch.

Robyn
Robyn

Thanks, Gezzah, you’ve given me an idea. I’ll email the Human Headline – he’s famous for his moral crusades, perhaps he’ll take this one on.

Gezzah Potts

In my opinion Derryn Hinch has more integrity and gumption in his little toenail than any of the leading Labor politicians have in their entire bodies. Good luck.

Ray Raven
Ray Raven

If the Human Headline had any interest in the well-being of Assange, he would have already started his crusade (quite some time ago).
Surely the Human Headline doesn’t need your prompting to garner attention for himself – after all he is a self serving git (as are all politicians).

Robyn
Robyn

Totally agree, Ray, but I’ve emailed him anyway – and Andrew Wilkie and Barnaby. If I could think of anything else to do, including futile gestures, I’d do it.

Wilmers31
Wilmers31

Can we perhaps enlist some UK help? If that woman Anne Sacoolas is above the law because she got diplomatic immunity through her husband’s job, maybe Assange could be above the law as well. It could also close the case. because if Assange just gets to Australia, the US will keep pestering. If he gets here because the US have not delivered that woman to the UK it’s quid pro quo – until the US delivers that woman to a UK court.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man

Not surprised that the one parliamentary group where Andrew Wilke MP is having difficulty finding Assange supporters is the Australian Labor Party. The current iteration of this former social-democratic party rolls over on every issue requiring the slightest degree of courage or dedication to principle. It is not an “opposition”.

MASTER OF UNIVE
MASTER OF UNIVE

It’s about time Oz started realizing that it is complicit in the incommunicado detention Assange is being subjected to at the behest of the USA Department of Justice anal sadists.

Get off your ass, Australia!

FREE Assange!

Vote Trump for prison & make America Gonzo again.

MOU

bob
bob

I remember the anti-Iraq war march in London along with several Aussie labour party folks – they are now gun totin’ neoliberals who spend all their time arguing with one another – awful people

andyoldlabour
andyoldlabour

The very few people I see now who I went on the march with, have pretty much the same ideas. But that is only a couple of people.
Iraq was a huge war crime, those responsible should have faced justice in the Hague, but we now know that no person from the US or its allies will ever be tried at the ICC.

mark
mark

Of course not, you have to have a black face to end up at The Hague.

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins

Wait a mo. summons Justin Trudeau . . . 🙂

Randy Kingston
Randy Kingston

Australia is the US empire’s outback whore.

Anas
Anas

Australia …a little country, run by a disgraceful, war criminal, elite who have been allowed to get away with every atrocity they have committed since the Anglo invasion and occupation,
They love to lecture the rest of the world on “human rights” but on any metric their treatment of their native people is significantly worse than, say, the Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs, or the way that Myanmar has dealt with the Rohingas. The Chinese put the Uyghurs in “re-education” camps but the Australian’s simply put their Aborigines in prison at per capita rates 15 times that of the white population. They have no shame and, even worse, no self-awareness.

Peter Greste. You know, the Aussie patriot who worked for Al Jazzeera. This asshole, wrote a long piece in the Sydney Morning Herald a few months back asserting that Julian Assange was not a journalist. Ha. And the Australian press, the sycophants that they are, have pretty much buried the whole affair. ever since. Nobody speaks the truth in the land of drunken, bogan, drongos. And if they do they are silenced.

Pitiful.

Norman Lindsay summed it up in the 1920’s and nothing much has changed:
“I hate this country. There’s a blackness over it. I wish I was out of it.”
“So that’s how the attack takes you, Hughie,” I said. “I’ve been having a bellyful of it for the last twenty years.”
“Yes, and I’ve often wondered why the hell you ever stayed in the lousy hole,” he said.

from Norman Lindsay’s My Mask

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum

The average Aussie, if properly informed, is no more ignorant than any other nationality.
Unfortunately, we have been swimming against a tsunami of Murdoch’s spiteful SEWAGE for a long time.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum

What is Joyce playing at?
I smell a slimy rat.
Joyce only has ONE concern: Himself.

surferdave
surferdave

When war criminals Howard and Downer chose to ignore the largest anti-war demonstration in Australia’s history, sending our troops into the supreme illegal war crimes of aggressive war in Afghanistan and Iraq I realised our nation is a complete sham. That government and subsequent Australia governments have placed themselves above the citizens instead of serving them.
The squalid membership of the ‘five eyes’ illustrates the tyranny inherent in a fascist state that places ‘security’ above individual freedoms.
Who are these nutters who feel empowered to suppress the general citizenry for their ‘security’ goals?
I was, like you, pleased to see Barnaby say intelligent enlightened words about important concepts that have generally been pushed aside.

RobG

Australia has been a mirror of the fascist lunatic asylum for at least the last four decades.

There’s no shame.

Yarkob
Yarkob

we all know who “had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks on or before 911” and they’ll never see the inside of an orange jumpsuit

Petra Liverani

Very importantly, the ALLEGED terrorist attacks.

There weren’t any – what happened was very different from what was alleged regardless of perpetrator.

There was just a massive anti-terror Full Scale Exercise involving numerous drills pushed out as a real event.

That’s what 9/11 was. A massive anti-terror Full Scale Exercise involving:
— numerous drills including staging of death and injury
— faking of planes melting into buildings
— demolition of and damage to a number of buildings

That’s 9/11 in a nutshell. The alleged event and what really happened had zero to do with each other.

The perps don’t even think they committed a crime … and nor do their many collaborators in the media, emergency response, banks and other corporations as well as numerous people acting as loved ones and those acting in drills as injured.

You’ve got to see it from their point of view.

Brian Williams, MSNBC News Anchor and David Restuccio, FDNY EMS Lieutenant, who indicate they know exactly what went down on 9/11 presumably don’t think of themselves as criminals.

Conversation between Brian Williams and David Restuccio about WTC-7, the third building to collapse at the WTC on 9/11, after its collapse:

“Can you confirm that it was No 7 that just went in?” [“Went in” is a term used in controlled demolition that comes from the fact that the buildings fall in on themselves.]
“Yes, sir.”
“And you guys knew this was comin’ all day.”
“We had heard reports that the building was unstable and that eventually it would either come down on its own or it would be taken down.”

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins

Poor effort, Flaxgirl / Petra, but don’t give up, because OffG needs examples of distraction from the facts and how the mind of controlled opposition functions, by not mentioning anything that could lead to a court room …

Just one thing: “The perps don’t even think they committed a crime … ” ? ! ?

NO NO NO ! Your ‘perps’ know DAMN WELL they committed multiple crimes and some have even said privately, like Dubya, that if the US folk were to actually become aware of what went down & ‘in’, then the public would LYNCH them !

BigB
BigB

Fuck! Read the headline and dreamt it meant “UK” Parliamentarians. What a waste of a good dream. I’m going back to sleep. Aussies with backbone …who’d have thunk it?

Robyn
Robyn

Well, only a couple with backbone so far. After all these years too.

BigB
BigB

That’s two more than in the UK then. Julian was unceremoniously abandoned and deplatformed here. The Romans had the ultimate punishment. It was reserved for the worst traitor. It was called “Damnatio Memoriae” – condemnation of memory. Damned for telling the truth to power.

Now he is an Unperson. A political prisoner of the system …with no rights and only his old friends – notably John Pilger – to demand justice. Their – UK Parliamentarians – damnation damns them all. The system is a lie.

Andy
Andy

I think you are forgetting Chris Williamson speaking up for him outside Belmarsh. Then again Chris is treated as an unperson these days as well.

BigB
BigB

I hadn’t totally forgotten. But like you say: his status is unclear. I presume he was speaking as an Independent …since the Labour party deemed him an anti-semite. Which is a travesty in its own right.

Julian’s fight for justice starts Monday. I read in John Pilger’s latest tweet that he has not even been allowed the tools to mount his own defence. It’s clear where this is going: the coming show trial under a judge who should have recused herself due a conflict of interest. In the society that likes to claim it invented Justice and bestowed it as a favour on much of the rest of the world.

Not just free Julian Assange: but free Justice from the immorality the rule of law has become. All Jurisprudence comes from the People. It is time we took it back from the usurpers and usurers. Lady Arbuthnot and her husband should be on trial as complicit to war crimes and the subversion of Justice …not Julian. If there were any natural Justice that is.

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins

” Aussies with backbone, who’d have thunk it? ”

Yep, but a dead great white shark got washed up on the great barrier reef and it was on the BBQ, when Joyce spoke: so, some idle chat & feigned concern is important, before the tinny & scrum down …

Let’s hope ‘cheeky’ Cheika can teach Eddie Jones a lesson or two, about backbone, against the odds and then dedicate the Victory to Assange 😉 now, that professional ‘sport’ & politics is all good in the capitalistic public eye, it would be really hilarious if Cheika got cheeky against the English, along with other ‘Slebs’, like Warney:- along these lines,

“Tie me kangaroo down sport, try boxing with backbone, unlike UK Parliamentarians, we Aussies believe in Free Speech & Julian Assange, not Murdoch’s media … ”

Imagine the silence, on live TV rushing to censor & edit out …

and the thing is that Cheika has pretty much nothing to lose in any live interview and he hates the media 😉 and is about to retire as manager, unless they win … ? !
Viva Wallabies & Assange: get political 🙂
a grudge match helps team spirit 😉

BigB
BigB

Oh Tim: let’s not cast the shame of Parliamentarians on the national rugby team! Billy Vunipola is fit: so Pocock and Hooper will be eating dirt come Saturday. They were good: but Underhill and Curry are the new.

Cheika will be returned to mountains of women’s underwear come Sunday. I’m hoping for two home nations in the semis. If Ireland can pull the game of their lives: three. I’d love to see Japan progress: but that’s probably fantastic. Still, they did it with Eddie …who’ll be the only Aussie in the semis!

Good luck!

Viva Julian and Eddie! ;-D

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins

ROFL, for once 🙂

If only Sonny Bill were better informed, about Assange :-

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sonny-bill-williams-visits-middle-east-amid-refugee-crisis

He has the will & courage to speak out & UP and he’s probably the hardest guy to stop, since Jonah R.i.P. 🙁

Good luck on Saturday: my support goes to the first manager to manifestly declare,

“This is for Julian Assange, VIVA Free Speech, globally”

It would not be such a stretch of the imagination, nor conscience . . .
or, should we kneel for anthems 😉

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins

or, should we kneel for anthems 😉
with a super bowl for the hungry & exploited ?

Oliver
Oliver

The Australian most worthy of investigation is Sir Frank Lowy, in cahoots with Larry Silverstein in the lease of the WTC in 2001. Presumably the insurance payout following the utter destruction of the WTC complex in 2001 benefited Lowy as well as Silverstein.

Velociraptor
Velociraptor

Test – been finding it impossible to post. Is the site under attack again?

Velociraptor
Velociraptor

It worked!