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The column I didn’t want to write about Julian Assange

Does anyone really think such a system could produce a fair trial?

SMH, By Elizabeth Farrelly, 8 December 2018  This is a piece I had no desire to write. Julian Assange, still holed up after six years in his self-imposed Knightsbridge prison, his fine view of Harrods’ Christmas lights filtered through an encircling fence of bobbies, has so thoroughly fallen from favour that even smart and kind-hearted people (and here I include self) find themselves somewhere between bored and hostile. Yet two questions remain: is this view manufactured? And, either way, should Assange be dumped into the lightless sewers of America’s imperial security system?

Assange’s welcome in the embassy is growing thin. When Ecuador throws him out, as is likely any moment, he’ll be arrested. For what? The only current charge, on an arrest warrant that a British judge recently refused to quash, is for skipping bail on a rape allegation that has since been dropped. The fear, and the reason he skipped, is that he’ll be extradited to the US to be face a secret grand jury indictment on charges of espionage for which Chelsea Manning has already been pardoned. …….
Assange’s welcome in the embassy is growing thin. When Ecuador throws him out, as is likely any moment, he’ll be arrested. For what? The only current charge, on an arrest warrant that a British judge recently refused to quash, is for skipping bail on a rape allegation that has since been dropped. The fear, and the reason he skipped, is that he’ll be extradited to the US to be face a secret grand jury indictment on charges of espionage for which Chelsea Manning has already been pardoned. So the legality of Assange’s transgression is less important than political perceptions of its public-interest value. His defence depends entirely on political intervention and, therefore, on public perception. This is why the public’s desertion of him is so critical. But is it justified?
But counterbalancing all that is the far bigger question of the American security machine, and whether we trust that to safeguard anyone’s interest but its own.  ….
 secrecy has been the anti-Assange campaign’s defining characteristic. Naturally, no one ever conceded that the rape charges were shaky or explained the prosecutor’s refusal to interview Assange in London (generating fear of a ruse to facilitate his extradition to the US). The charges have since been dropped without explanation yet America’s determination to capture Assange remains undiminished.
Back in 2011 a grand jury was convened in Virginia to determine whether Assange was indictable. Grand jury proceedings are inherently secret. Involving neither judge nor jury they are prosecutor-led, with no defendant right to a defence, attendance or even knowledge. Their findings too are secret. Thus, despite years of enduring rumours of a “sealed indictment” against Assange we know only that last month, US prosecutors inadvertently revealed that secret charges had been laid against Assange.

Put it together. An old arrest warrant for skipping bail on a charge that was always feeble and has since been dropped, a refusal to deny extradition intentions, secret charges emerging from a secret court over an act that may not even be illegal and for which the principal culprit has already been pardoned. Does anyone really think such a system could produce a fair trial?

Twitter @emfarrelly  https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-column-i-didn-t-want-to-write-about-julian-assange-20181206-p50kng.html
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December 8, 2018 - Posted by | general

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