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Julian Assange, Political Offences and Legal Restraints: Day Three

Binoy Kampmark

Wednesday, February 26, Woolwich Crown Court. Today, the focus shifted to the protagonist himself and the nature of the US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003, a contentious document that shines all too favourably for US citizens.

Julian Assange, whose deteriorating condition has been noted for months by psychologists, doctors and UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, has been making a fist of it in the dock, despite being in Kafkaesque isolation. Exhaustion, however, is manifest.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser has been keeping an eye on Assange’s demeanour, prodding his lawyers at one point to inspect him. His eyes had closed, his attention seemingly wavering. A point of permanent frustration for the WikiLeaks founder has been the din the hearings are causing and the distance, physical and symbolic, from his legal team.

“I am as much a participant in these proceedings I am at Wimbledon.”

The structural impediments he has had to face have been profound, a point he was keen to make to the bench.

“I cannot meaningfully communicate with my lawyers. There are unnamed embassy officials in this court room. I cannot communicate with my lawyers to ask them for clarifications without the other side seeing.”

The singular nature of Assange’s case has not struck the judge as sufficient grounds to accept special measures. The defence team insists, not unreasonably, that legal advice given to him be kept privileged. This is a particularly sore point, given the surveillance efforts conducted by UC Global SC in Assange’s place of abode for some seven years, London’s Ecuadorean embassy.

This involved audio and film footage on lawyers visiting and discussing case matters with Assange relayed to servers accessible to the Central Intelligence Agency. “There has been enough spying on my lawyers already. The other side has about 100 times more contact with their lawyers per day. What is the point of asking if I can concentrate if I cannot participate?”

To these points the judge remained dismissive, annoyed at his intervention in the absence of testifying. “I can’t make an exception in your case.” A brief recess did follow, permitting Assange to leave the dock for a backroom consultation with his legal team. True to form in this entire charade, security officers were in their company.

The defence team then attempted to convince the bench to adjust future seating arrangements which would permit Assange to sit with them. This led to a technical lunacy: Did the request, pondered the judge, constitute a bail application in which Assange would technically be out of the court’s custody? The legal team representing the United States did not object, as security officers would be present on either side of him.

“I’m not sure it’s so technical as that,” came the assessment from James Lewis QC. The judge, torn by convention and legal minutiae, was tart in response. “I’m not you’re right Mr Lewis.” An application will be heard to that effect on Thursday, though Lewis did make it clear that any bail application would be opposed.

As for the extradition treaty itself, Article 4 stipulates that, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which the extradition is requested is a political offense.”

The team representing the US government suggested that the judge have recourse to substantive UK domestic law, not the Treaty itself. Whether Assange was wanted for political reasons or not was irrelevant as he was “not entitled to derive any rights from the [US-UK Extradition] Treaty”.

The prosecution effectively relied on a peculiarity of the Westminster system: the Treaty, ratified in 2007, had not been incorporated into UK domestic law. That domestic law can be found in the Extradition Act 2003, which does not feature political offenses as a bar to extradition. “There’s no such thing as a political offense in ordinary English law”, something that only arose in the context of extradition.

Assange’s team took issue with the contention: the Extradition Treaty as ratified in the US in 2007, in not removing the political offense provision, was intended to have legal effect. “It is an essential protection,” argued Edward Fitzgerald QC, “which the US puts in every single one of its extradition treaties.”

It followed that, “Both governments must therefore have regarded Article 4 as a protection for the liberty of the individual whose necessity continues (at least in relations between the USA and the UK).”

While the 2003 Extradition Act did not include a political offence bar, “authority establishes that it is the duty of the court, not the executive, to ensure the legality of extradition under the terms of the Treaty.”

This placed an onus on the judge, submitted Fitzgerald, to follow a practice set by over a century of extradition treaties which consider the political offence exemption.

Resort should also be had to the Magna Carta and Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the “right to liberty and security” provision) to reach a conclusion that extraditing an individual for a political offence would constitute an abuse of process.

The defence also turned to the issue of espionage itself, arguing that there was little doubt that it was political in nature, or, as Fitzgerald contended, “a pure political offence” within the meaning of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and relevant case law. The conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, the 18th charge being levelled at Assange, also suggested that it be treated as an espionage offence.

In fact, the entire case and effort against Assange had been political from the start, with US politicians, commentators and members of the media branding him “hostile” and “treasonous” despite not being a US citizen.

Fitzgerald also furthered the legal principle – “virtually universal”, he contended – that non-violent individuals should not be extradited for political offences.

“If it is not a terrorist case, a violence offence, you should not be extradited for a political offence.”

More in keeping with the work of non-governmental organisations, extraditing Assange would embolden other powers to consider this pathway to seek those responsible for “disclosures that are uncomfortable or threatening.” Governments of all political hues will be taking heed from this.

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

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Jhon
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Jose
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David
David
May 18, 2020 9:34 PM

Social Distancing is fascism in and of itself. Why is there virtually nothing about this on a Googlexsearch aside from someone named Elon Musk?

David
David
May 18, 2020 9:30 PM

Wikileaks is a function of the CIA. Michelle Chossudovsky wrote a compelling article about this called Who is Behind Wikileaks?

Assange is getting rich pretending to be a fugitive. He is an intelligence asset

imadkhan
imadkhan
Mar 10, 2020 12:46 PM

Although the League of Ireland is the national league, the English Premier League is the 50 most popular women in the world among the public.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
Feb 28, 2020 1:40 PM

My suspicion is that terror or espionage offences have virtually nothing to do with terrorism or espionage, but are simply devices driven by authoritarian impulse to intimidate and control the wider population. Maybe one or to terrorists are prosecuted under these laws from time to time (more by good luck than design) but objective evidence makes it abundantly clear that harm they have inflicted virtually pale into insignificance compared to the endless bloodlust perpetrated by state actors against countries that present no direct threat to the west, at least in in terms of any organised military response. The one-sided rulings of Judge Vanessa Baraitser reinforce the idea justice is simply not possible in Britain now that those in power have assumed near absolute control, while doing all they can to further the global ambitions of America’s political mafia. The emergence of sites like Off-G (some 5 years ago) is emblematic… Read more »

Mucho
Mucho
Feb 28, 2020 3:46 PM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

We should never lost sight of the fact that all the new anti-terror laws, the new ultra tight security measures we see in every aspect of our lives, the omnipresence of military surveillance and communications equipment in our community, the blank cheques offered to the security and military branches of government while services for the people are left to rot, the total shift in our culture to the point where we are forever being told we are on “high terror alert”, all of this and much more, has been thrust into the public sphere on the back of one terror event, 9/11, and we know 100% for a fact that the story they have given us is false, does not stand up to even basic scrutiny, and that those who are lying about the origins of this event are only lying to cover up their own guilt. They also control… Read more »

paul
paul
Feb 29, 2020 5:31 AM
Reply to  Mucho

The people who rule over us are not real criminals, they are far worse than that. They are real subhuman, scum sucking filth. Real criminals are almost totally harmless by comparison.

They also enjoy playing games, like the sign on the bus. Weird numerical games, that are a sort of “in” joke between themselves. Like the Manchester Arena, with a 22 year old murdering 22 people on 22nd, at least according to their narrative. You find similar patterns in all these incidents.

harry law
harry law
Feb 28, 2020 12:10 PM

“There’s no such thing as a political offense in ordinary English law,” the prosecution said, oh no, what about these purely political offenses “treason, sedition and espionage” all still on the statute books, some under the Official secrets Act, The last treason trial was that of William Joyce, “Lord Haw-Haw”, who was executed by hanging in 1946. The prosecution are offering up some thin gruel, unless they get their act together they will be laughed out of court.

lysias
lysias
Feb 28, 2020 6:32 PM
Reply to  harry law

Joyce’s conviction was arguably as legally dubious as the charges against Assange, and for the same reason: lack of jurisdiction. Joyce was convicted of treason against the British state for acts committed by an American citizen in Germany. Born in the U.S., Joyce was only convicted of treason because he lied about his nationality to obtain a UK passport.

BigB
BigB
Feb 28, 2020 11:18 AM

I’m glad everyone is coming to the recognition of the ‘regime’ as a totalitarian monster. However, there still seems to be the amnesis that the Beast needs feeding. ‘Feeding’ with our own alienated creative powers, a contractual act we legitimated just two months ago. When we voted to co-constitute the autocratic overpower of the Beast that persecutes us. Ergo: the People are complicit in their own alienation, depersonalisation, and dehumanisation. The ideological superstructure – including the Judiciary – does not act in *loco parentis* without the legal-rational transference of authoritative power from the economic substructure …that is, from the People. In a Common Law jurisdiction: the source of law and juridical authority is the People. What is happening here is the legal-rational exercise of the power of the People …by ‘expert’ legal proxies of that judicial power – who are clearly abusing that power. Let us be clear though: we… Read more »

bob
bob
Feb 28, 2020 12:31 PM
Reply to  BigB

we may well be at the mercy of a shape-shifting imperial totalitarian power and we all may have responsibility for it in varying ways – the point is we are where we are – does it really take all of what you say to reach that point – and will it make any difference to the outcome? I’m angry, have a sense of dread and am unsure as to what impact I can make – none individually – so what are you suggesting here – an academic course on marxism?

BigB
BigB
Feb 29, 2020 9:15 AM
Reply to  bob

You and me too, Bob. In fact, since Marx was writing – capitalism has become even more entrenched …and communities and societies have been embedded in the market mechanism as a deliberate ideological ploy of neoliberalism. No one is going to undo that in a hurry …or possibly change the outcome which is negative for all species. The reason nothing changes is the consciousness of the People changes to accommodate even the most abhorrent abuse of power …which they become naturalised to. Have you had a conversation outside this forum? The common opinion is that Julian is a rapist and deserves what is coming. Even among people I consider quite well informed. So we are reduced to critical theory and pointing out the obvious. Except it is not obvious, even among Julian’s supporters. People develop some quite fantastical coping mechanisms rather than face the fact we actually powerless and lack… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
Feb 28, 2020 1:56 PM
Reply to  BigB

‘I’m glad everyone is coming to the recognition of the ‘regime’ as a totalitarian monster.’ – the last general election certainly dispelled any final, lingering illusions. Having said that I see little point in re-running that debate (although I accept you were right all along) which in essence boiled down to a complete rejection of our current form of pseudo-democracy, or those, like me, who hoped Corbyn might, just might, be a bridge to a more humane, slightly gentler kind of politics. Anyway that ship has well and truly sailed leaving us with truly grotesque figures like Johnson, Patel, JRM and IDS, all doing their bit to impose the sort of ideology Dominic Cummings has wet dreams about. It really has turned very nasty, so nasty in fact that puppets like Baraister can barely be arsed to go through the motions (only springing to life when she has an opportunity… Read more »

BigB
BigB
Feb 29, 2020 9:54 AM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

Yes, Harry, that boat sailed. The upshot (with the likely ascendancy of Sturmer) is that next time it docks – for the next rubberstamping election – all that will be on offer is two virtually synonymous versions of what Tariq Ali called ‘viscous centrism’. Vote the Blairite ‘Third Way’? Well, that boat sailed too. Whatever Labour’s future policy might be: it will not to be to challenge neoliberalism. Or the gradual switch from a (supposedly) self-sovereign People to a sovereign Parliament. Which, is almost complete, even in the common perception (“We have no Constitution” – no, not for much longer we don’t!) [Even Binoy mentions the Magna Carta as a source of human rights – for now]. And a concomitant switch from a nominal Common Law to some sort of European style Civil Law jurisdiction. The abuse of which – especially when we have ‘virtual courts’ where no one is… Read more »

bob
bob
Feb 28, 2020 10:07 AM
Francis Lee
Francis Lee
Feb 28, 2020 9:02 AM

From the outset this has been a Stalinist show trial with the unprepossessing Ms Baraitser – judge cum prosecutor – playing the role of Vyshinsky in the 1930s trials in Moscow. It has been blatantly obvious that the court’s verdict was decided before the trial had even begun. Assange had no expectations of a fair trial in the US, but now it seems that he cannot get a fair trial in the UK either. What does this say about the type of political and social Anglo-American regime – a regime which is apparently transmuting into a totalitarian monster aided and abetted by its liberal jihadists in the media and political classes? The overwhelming arrogance of the establishment is on display for all to see with the hydra-headed beast having to come out of its lair. This doesn’t happen that often, as the forces of darkness prefer to lurk out of… Read more »

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 28, 2020 8:48 PM
Reply to  Francis Lee

All capitalist regimes are totalitarian despotism owned and therefore controlled by the parasite elites. The mask is removed once the various types of soma eg rising wages, improving standards of living, access to free healthcare etc, that were employed to keep the serfs from revolting, are removed. The practise of buying off the plebs with these benefits began to be ended with the Powell Memorandum in 1971. It went into overdrive with the ‘End of Communism and History’ in 1989, and the descent of the Western middle and working classes into a Hell of debt, inequality and insecurity has proceeded apace since. The final act will be a massive depopulation to end the twin threats of China, Russia and Iran as non-compliant states, and the massive surplus populations of ‘useless eaters’ in the non-Western world, AND in the ‘Homelands’.

michaelk
michaelk
Feb 28, 2020 8:07 AM

https://original.antiwar.com/malic/2020/02/27/freedom-for-me-but-not-for-assange-or-thee-the-breathtaking-hypocrisy-of-cnns-christiane-amanpour/

It’s not just the Guardian that’s at fault. The problems lie at the heart and very structure, the ideology of liberal journalism, which is a kind of ‘Church of the Truth’ or a cult. Here one of the worst of the ‘priests’ delivers a ghastly sermon at one of their rituals.

Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 7:54 AM

With Baraitser making a fool of herself and showing herself to be completely out of her depth – to the extent that even the prosecution is bemused by her daft behaviour, surely it’s time for the defence to play the mistrial card?

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 8:25 AM
Reply to  Tony

“With Baraitser making a fool of herself […] surely it’s time for the defence to play the mistrial card?

The only place to play the mistrial card is on appeal. Under British law at least, most judges avoid making fools of themselves only by falling asleep during most of the proceedings. Their function is to apply the law and it is the law which is the ass.

Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 8:37 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

Baraitser isn’t applying the law correctly, and wilfully ignoring procedural precedent, to the extent that Julian and his defence team are unable to conduct their defence as a team, and to the extent that even the chief prosecutor is disagreeing with her on the matter.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 9:49 AM
Reply to  Tony

“Baraitser isn’t applying the law correctly, and wilfully ignoring procedural precedent…” Nevertheless, she’s the judge in this case so she calls the shots. Judges are overruled on appeal; some of them like clockwork, as the ghost of Lord Denning would be happy to testify. But it would be an extraordinary departure from normal (or acceptable) practice if Lord Burnett were to intervene before Baraitser passes her judgement, if then, and a gross and eminently contestable contravention of the principle of the separation of powers if Parliament were overtly to step in at this stage. If you don’t like the way Assange is being tried today, your remedy is to change the laws and rules governing the conduct of trials and hearings yesterday, something which you, it seems, have signally failed to do. Furthermore, if you want to become involved in the shaping of the formalities of the legal process, stop… Read more »

Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 11:17 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

Take your fantasism and projection and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 12:08 PM
Reply to  Tony

“Take your fantasism and projection and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

Good advice, Snow White. So I’ve taken the liberty of sneaking into your bathroom and spelling it out in invisible marker right across your magic shaving mirror.

Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 10:40 PM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

What a fucking weirdo!

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 29, 2020 11:07 AM
Reply to  Tony

“What a fucking weirdo!”

Guilty. But better than a juvenile dumbshit, IMO. But whatever, there’s only so much acne and angst a geriatric can put up before they get bored to sleep. So bye…

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 8:28 AM
Reply to  Tony

Usenet used to disparage multiple posts.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 8:33 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

Ooops. Not only wrong thread, wrong site. The main identifiable symptom of old age is the increasing severity of whatever symptom it presented in middle age.

Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 11:18 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

It’s also a symptom of someone who is cutting and pasting their screeds all over the internet.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 12:30 PM
Reply to  Tony

“It’s also a symptom of someone who is cutting and pasting their screeds all over the internet.”

If you mean to implicate me in your brainless libel/lashout, tell me where, Sweetheart. I have posted in exactly four (4) only fora, none of them Usenet, in the last 20 years. Here, where I only lurked until its predecessor disallowed anonymous posting two or three years ago, and two others where I post only occasionally and very, very seldom, respectively. In none of them have I either cut and paste, multiposted or cross posted. So it shouldn’t be too hard for even a dullard to claim even unsubstantiated veracity for your seemingly implied accusation. Perhaps you should have implied I have a startling lack of originality instead–I couldn’t contest that. But it might reveal a significant lack of forensic perscapacity in your own skillset at the same time.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 12:34 PM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

perspicacity

wardropper
wardropper
Feb 28, 2020 8:42 AM
Reply to  Tony

All cards have been taken away from the defence. Normal procedures will not be followed, to Baraitser’s everlasting shame. Her “daft behaviour” rules, because that’s the way Washington wants it. After all, this is not the first time gross injustice has been smirked upon by its very perpetrators. “The Law is a Ass” and other such famous sayings are going to have their day in court too.
The devil lives in American exceptionalism, as he does in any other national exceptionalism, so Assange’s defence is going to have to resemble an exorcism if it is to have much effect.

Jen
Jen
Feb 28, 2020 11:01 AM
Reply to  Tony

Vanessa Baraitser is surely taking her orders from Chief Magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot who had to step down (but may not have recused herself) from presiding over Julian Assange’s extradition hearing due to numerous conflicts of interest, some of which involve her husband Lord James Arbuthnot and their son Alexander. Between them, Arbuthnot and Baraitser are stinking up whatever passes for British court justice.

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 28, 2020 7:44 AM

And these are the Rightwing vermin who opposed the Hong Kong extradition process because it might lead to ‘political’ extraditions, despite such being specifically prohibited in the law. How long can we go on being rule by such Evil, moronic and vicious hypocrites?

michaelk
michaelk
Feb 28, 2020 7:44 AM
Tony
Tony
Feb 28, 2020 8:51 AM
Reply to  michaelk

That’s a superb article you linked to, Michael. One which articulates the malign inadequacies of Baraitser far better than I could.

michaelk
michaelk
Feb 28, 2020 7:16 AM

If one looks at the Assange Affair is wider political context, one is struck by the lack of true ‘opposition’ i public life to what’s happening. The case isn’t on the front pages and the politicians are engaged elsewhere. Why is that, when so many fundamental principles, like freedom of the press and freedom of speech are at stake? Do we even have ‘opposition’ anymore? My argument is that slowly over the last few decades the old two-party liberal democratic system has been replaced by something else; effectively, a one-party state with what amounts to mere factions fighting a fake battle over political power. This resembles the situation in the United States. Thatchersim/Blairism is the manifestation of the new one-party, corporate, national security, state. When the two major blocks basically agree about fundamental economic policy, social policy and foreign policy, the rest is little more than window dressing giving the… Read more »

bob
bob
Feb 28, 2020 7:33 AM
Reply to  michaelk

Some call it a ‘government of occupation’ because that’s what it is – nobody voted for it because it’s never up for election – the writings been on the wall for as long as you suggest

Francis Lee
Francis Lee
Feb 28, 2020 9:08 AM
Reply to  michaelk

Agreed. I think the one-party centrist blob initiated by the Blair and Clinton was the beginning of what you describe.

Vierotchka
Vierotchka
Feb 28, 2020 1:02 AM

‘Fair trial threatened’ as judge rejects Assange request to sit with lawyers: Day 4 of US extradition hearing as it played out

https://www.rt.com/uk/481823-assange-judge-denies-bench-lawyers/

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 12:02 AM

“In fact, the entire case and effort against Assange had been political from the start, with US politicians, commentators and members of the media branding him “hostile” and “treasonous” despite not being a US citizen.” For years, at least 2/3 of my now advanced geriatric lifetime, the USA has been so unconsciously slipping into the role of universal hegemon that now even American supermarket bagboys believe that they, personally, are the rulers of every single individual, from prince to pauper, in every other jurisdiction world wide. We other non-Americans, with no political say in the operations of the American state, have, through our successive chosen governments and their successive chosen political expediencies, allowed this to happen. We have failed to ensure that the provisions of the 2007 Extradition Treaty were not written into an ammendment to the 2003 Extradition Act at any time in the intervening 12 years, not the… Read more »

RobG
RobG
Feb 28, 2020 12:22 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

The USA has been run by complete psychopaths since 1945 (and arguably, earlier than that).

Two bombs on civilian targets. One was a uranium bomb (Hiroshima) the other was a plutonium bomb (Nagasaki). Both nuclear bombs accounted for the immediate incineration of around 200,000 people, and in the years that followed, millions of people died from the after effects; mostly radiation sickness.

The Dr Strangeloves were of course testing out their new weapons, with total disregard for how many innocent people would be slaughtered in the process.

The frightening thing is that the Dr Strangeloves are still here.

Richard Le Sarc
Richard Le Sarc
Feb 28, 2020 7:46 AM
Reply to  RobG

Since 1620-religious psychopaths in the main.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
Feb 28, 2020 8:16 AM
Reply to  RobG

“The USA has been run by complete psychopaths since 1945 (and arguably, earlier than that).”

No argument. The Americans are no worse than anyone else, certainly no worse than us. We used to have a full length Dresden pottery figurine in the hall that a relative brought back from World War II. Only when a buyer requested an analysis of the material to insure the authenticity of such an unusual conversation piece did we discover it had not started out as clay. We are not guilty of being good, we are guilty of the negligence that thereby abrogates our right to be good if we so choose.