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Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment

Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment  https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/rudd-says-assange-faces-unacceptable-and-disproportionate-punishment-20191125-p53duj.html By Rob Harris, Kevin Rudd says Julian Assange would pay an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” price if he is extradited to the United States, arguing the WikiLeaks founder should not take the fall for Washington’s failures to secure its own classified documents.

In a significant intervention into Mr Assange’s extradition fight, the former Australian prime minister said US prosecutors had not made any specific allegations that anyone was seriously harmed as a consequence of the release of highly classified documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010.

The Morrison government is resisting a rising tide of demands to intervene in the case of the 48-year-old Australian citizen, as his supporters grow increasingly concerned over his deteriorating health in a British prison.

Mr Rudd, himself targeted in WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables nine years ago, said while he had “serious reservations” about Mr Assange’s character and conduct, he did not believe he should be extradited to face an “effective life sentence” in the US.

In a letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Rudd said he could not see the difference between Mr Assange and the editors of many American media outlets that reported the material he had provided them.  

“If [the US prosecutors’] case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information,” Mr Rudd wrote.

“In other words, why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?”

The group was briefed by barrister Jen Robinson, a member of Mr Assange’s London legal team, as well as Greg Barns from the Australian Assange Campaign and human rights and due process advocate Aloysia Brooks.

Mr Rudd said he was “deeply opposed” to the leaking of classified diplomatic or intelligence communications, which needed to be protected to maintain Australia’s national security interests and that of its allies.

“Ultimate responsibility for keeping sensitive information secure rests with governments. The United States government demonstrably failed to effectively secure the classified documents relevant to this case,” he wrote.

“The result was the mass leaking of sensitive diplomatic cables, including some that caused me some political discomfort at the time. However, an effective life sentence is an unacceptable and disproportionate price to pay. I would therefore oppose his extradition.”

More than 60 doctors from the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Sri Lanka, wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday asserting that Mr Assange urgently needs medical treatment at a university hospital.

The doctors said in a letter, distributed by WikiLeaks on Monday, that he was suffering from psychological problems including depression as well as dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

Mr Barns welcomed Mr Rudd’s intervention saying his comments, like his former colleague Bob Carr, rightly pointed to the threat to freedom of the media.

“The Australian government and all MPs we hope will place pressure on the US to make it understand that the treatment of an Australian citizen this way is not something that should happen,” Mr Barns said.

“Mr Rudd and Mr Carr could never be described as anti-Washington but they clearly understand the need for Canberra to take action to prevent this gross injustice.”

Mr Assange will return to court briefly next month before a full hearing of a US extradition request in which he faces a 175-year jail sentence if found guilty on 18 charges relating to computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Appeal from former political prisoner to Australia’s Prime Minister to help Julian Assange

“This is how diplomacy works,”   “You can pick up the phone, Mr Morrison, and speak with whoever the United Kingdom’s next prime minister is; requesting that Julian Assange not be extradited to the United States to face the very real possibility, if not the certainty, that he will die in prison.”   at right, Prime Minister Morrison

Former political prisoner pleads for Scott Morrison to not let Assange ‘die in jail’, The Age By Rob Harris, Filmmaker James Ricketson, who spent 15 months as a political prisoner in a Cambodian jail, has implored Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “pick up the phone” to his British counterpart to ensure Julian Assange does not die in prison.

There are growing fears for the psychical and mental health of the 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder, who is in a London prison fighting an extradition request to the United States, where he faces espionage charges relating to the release of classified files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In an open letter to Mr Morrison, Mr Ricketson has joined a “rising tide of voices” in support of Australian government intervention to bring Mr Assange back to Australia before full extradition proceedings in February.

“The evidence that Julian Assange is not being ‘treated fairly’ in accordance with UK law is now overwhelming, as is evidence of the psychological torture he is being subjected to in Belmarsh Prison,” Mr Ricketson writes.

“If Julian Assange does die in prison, will you, with a clear Christian conscience, be able to inform the Australian public, in all honesty, that you did all within your power (and more) to protect Assange’s legal and human rights.”

Mr Ricketson was arrested and charged with espionage in June 2017 for flying a drone over an anti-government rally in Phnom Penh. He was held in the notoriously overcrowded Prey Sar prison for 15 months until he was pardoned by Cambodian authorities.

The filmmaker said it was former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who intervened to secure his release, despite the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s insistence that it could not interfere with another country’s legal proceedings.

“This is how diplomacy works,” he writes. “You can pick up the phone, Mr Morrison, and speak with whoever the United Kingdom’s next prime minister is; requesting that Julian Assange not be extradited to the United States to face the very real possibility, if not the certainty, that he will die in prison.”

A newly formed federal cross-party parliamentary group, comprising 11 MPs dedicated to advocating for the return of Mr Assange, will meet formally for the first time on Monday in Canberra. ….

Mr Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne have repeatedly ruled out any intervention in the case, with the PM saying last month he believed Mr Assange should “face the music” in court.

The former Australian high commissioner to Britain earlier this month mocked the idea of Mr Morrison acting on calls from Mr Assange’s supporters to do all he could to bring him home from Belmarsh Prison, where he has been held since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, which gave him asylum for almost seven years. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/former-political-prisoner-pleads-for-scott-morrison-to-not-let-assange-die-in-jail-20191124-p53dks.html

November 25, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Swedish accusations against Assange – always a political motive on behalf of USA

We need to ask ourselves why the focus is not on the crimes perpetrated by those involved in war crimes. Why is an Australian citizen being subjected to US espionage laws even though he was never on US soil? More importantly, why should an Australian citizen have allegiance to the US?

Australia and the Morrison government now face the stark choice. Do we defend an Australian citizen facing rendition and an effective death sentence, because of Trump – a President facing impeachment. Or do we abandon him?

The Swedish case against Assange was always political,  https://www.theage.com.au/national/the-swedish-case-against-assange-was-always-political-20191120-p53cgs.html,By Greg Barns and Alysia Brooks, November 20, 2019 It is almost a decade since Julian Assange woke to discover, on the front page of a Swedish newspaper, that Swedish authorities had decided to pursue him on allegations of sexual misconduct. Immediately, Julian presented himself to the police station to make a statement and clear his name. After speaking with prosecutors, he was told he could leave the country; so he did.

It was only after his arrival in London that an Interpol notice was issued for his arrest. In the meantime, Assange sought and was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy on the grounds that he would be subjected to grave human rights abuses should he be extradited to the US. Despite years of his legal team requesting that Swedish authorities provide assurances that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, the opportunity for Assange to formally clear his name was never afforded to him. Nor was the right to the presumption of innocence. Many in the media still falsely claim that charges were laid. It was trial by media.
The political nature of the Swedish case became apparent from the beginning. As early as 2013, emails from the UK Crown Prosecution Service, released under Freedom of Information, demonstrated that the prosecutors wanted to drop the case. However, pressure was placed on them to keep it open – and they were told not to get “cold feet”. The London-based organisation Women Against Rape point out that the case was pursued with “unusual zeal” and concluded it was only  pursued for the simple fact that he has uncovered war crimes.
Let’s make one thing clear, any sexual misconduct allegations should be treated seriously. But, as Women Against Rape and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture point out, this case was never about protecting the women involved; it was about ensuring the focus was kept off the war crimes that  WikiLeaks exposed, and assassinating Assange’s character.
The decision now to drop the investigation is welcome news for Assange and his legal team, and removes the possibility of extradition from Sweden to the US. However, the fact remains that an Australian citizen is being pursued by the Trump administration for political purposes and is facing serious human rights violations if extradited to the US.

Currently, Assange is held on remand in Belmarsh prison, in conditions that are exacerbating his already fragile health, and impeding his ability to prepare his defence. He is facing unprecedented charges under the US Espionage Act, for allegedly carrying out actions that journalists and publishers engage in as a part of their work. He is facing 175 years – an effective death sentence – for allegedly engaging in journalism.

And let’s not forget the material that was exposed by WikiLeaks. The releases included evidence of war crimes, including torture and unlawful killings, perpetrated during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the Guantanamo files, which demonstrated that the majority of men, and children, were being held and tortured at the prison, even though they were innocent of any crime.

We need to ask ourselves why the focus is not on the crimes perpetrated by those involved in war crimes. Why is an Australian citizen being subjected to US espionage laws even though he was never on US soil? More importantly, why should an Australian citizen have allegiance to the US?

Australia and the Morrison government now face the stark choice. Do we defend an Australian citizen facing rendition and an effective death sentence, because of Trump – a President facing impeachment. Or do we abandon him?

Greg Barns is a barrister and adviser to the Australian Assange Campaign. Dr Alysia Brooks is a human rights and due process advocate.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, politics international, Sweden, UK | Leave a comment

If Julian Assange is extradited to the United States, journalism will be incarcerated, too

JOHN PILGER: Assange’s case will define the future of free journalism,  https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/john-pilger-assanges-case-will-define-the-future-of-free-journalism,13324  By John Pilger | 18 November 2019   John Pilger describes the disturbing scene inside a London courtroom last week when the WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange, appeared at the start of a landmark extradition case that will define the future of free journalism.

THE WORST MOMENT was one of a number of “worst” moments. I have sat in many courtrooms and seen judges abuse their positions. This judge, Vanessa Baraitser – actually she isn’t a judge at all; she’s a magistrate – shocked all of us who were there.

Her face was a progression of sneers and imperious indifference; she addressed Julian Assange with an arrogance that reminded me of a magistrate presiding over apartheid South Africa’s Race Classification Board. When Julian struggled to speak, he couldn’t get words out, even stumbling over his name and date of birth.

When he spoke truth and when his barrister spoke, Baraister contrived boredom; when the prosecuting barrister spoke, she was attentive. She had nothing to do; it was demonstrably preordained. In the table in front of us were a handful of American officials, whose directions to the prosecutor were carried by his — back and forth this young woman went, delivering instructions.

The Magistrate watched this outrage without a comment. It reminded me of a newsreel of a show trial in Stalin’s Moscow; the difference was that Soviet show trials were broadcast. Here, the state broadcaster, the BBC, blacked it out, as did the other mainstream channels.

Having ignored Julian’s barrister’s factual description of how the CIA had run a Spanish security firm that spied on him in the Ecuadorean embassy, she didn’t yawn, but her disinterest was as expressive. She then denied Julian’s lawyers any more time to prepare their case — even though their client was prevented in prison from receiving legal documents and other tools with which to defend himself.

Her knee in the groin was to announce that the next court hearing would be at remote Woolwich, which adjoins Belmarsh Prison and has few seats for the public. This will ensure isolation and be as close to a secret trial as it’s possible to get. Did this happen in the home of the Magna Carta? Yes, but who knew?

Julian’s case is often compared with Dreyfus, but historically it’s far more important. No one doubts – not his enemies at The New York Times, not the Murdoch press in Australia – that if he is extradited to the United States and the inevitable Supermax, journalism will be incarcerated, too.

Who will then dare to expose anything of importance, let alone the high crimes of the West? Who will dare publish ‘Collateral Murder’? Who will dare tell the public that democracy, such as it is, has been subverted by a corporate authoritarianism from which fascism draws its strength?

Once there were spaces, gaps, boltholes, in mainstream journalism in which mavericks, who are the best journalists, could work. These are long closed now. The hope is the samizdat on the internet, where fine disobedient journalism is still practised.

The greater hope is that a judge or even judges in Britain’s court of appeal, the High Court, will rediscover justice and set him free. In the meantime, it’s our responsibility to fight in ways we know but which now require more than a modicum of Julian Assange’s courage.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, media, UK | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s father comes to Ireland, Europe, to campaign for his son’s release

Will you come and help?’ Father of Julian Assange on campaign to free his son, Irish Examiner,  MICHAEL CLIFFORD  November 09, 2019    At 80, John Shipton thought he would be enjoying his retirement, he tells Michael Clifford. Instead, he is touring European capitals campaigning for his son, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

A parent’s work is never done. John Shipton entering his ninth decade. He’d like to kick back, maybe learn a few recipes, stroll at a leisurely pace towards the declining years.

But his son needs him. His son’s health is in serious danger and his future looks dark, with the prospect of spending decades, if not the remainder of his life, in prison.

His son is Julian Assange. It’s a name that is familiar to most people, although many would, at this remove, find it difficult to couple his celebrity standing with his talent or achievement.

Assange is an Australian who has been a serious thorn in the side of the powerful. His Wikileaks organisation was responsible for disseminating information that showed what exactly the US and its allies were getting up to in foreign wars.

Wikileaks exposed war crimes. It was the receptor for whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s treasure trove of documents that painted a picture of torture and maltreatment by US forces in Iraq, among other crimes.

Vanity Fair described the resultant stories as “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years… they have changed the way people think about how the world is run”…….

Assange is a category B prisoner, which means he’s not considered an immediate danger to fellow human beings or society in general, but his conditions of detention are still onerous.

“He’s locked up 22 or 23 hours a day,” his father says. “It’s a grade A maximum security prison. Because those in it are treated like terrorists, that’s what Julian is being subjected to.”

Shipton was in Dublin recently on a flying visit that now forms part of his current “job”. That entails lobbying, meeting, and publicising on behalf of his son. Shipton is on a tour of European capitals trying to round up support……

Assange is in a bad way, there is no doubt about that. Both physically and psychologically, his condition is deteriorating. The prison conditions are onerous but they come following eight years cooked up in the embassy, at times under serious stress. The day before arriving in Dublin Shipton had been in to see his son.

“As you would expect after nine years of persecution, he’s a bit down in the dumps,” he says.

“The report of the UN rapporteur on torture says it all really, pointing out that he has every sign of having suffered torture with both physical and mental results…..

The UN rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, did visit Assange with two doctors in June in Belmarch and were highly condemnatory of the conditions in which he was being kept.

Last week, Melzer issued a further statement, saying Assange’s life was at risk and that he must not be extradited to the US as a consequence of “exposing serious governmental misconduct”…..

Melzer goes further and offers an opinion on what is driving the harsh treatment.

“In my view, this case has never been about Mr Assange’s guilt or innocence, but about making him pay the price for exposing serious governmental misconduct, including alleged war crimes and corruption,” he says. “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”…..

Since coming to power, Trump has railed against many forms of the free press. And his government has requested Assange’s extradition to stand trial for spying.

If he is extradited, his father doesn’t have much confidence in the prospects of a fair trial.

“The espionage law courts are held in Elizabeth, Virginia,” says Shipton. “It’s a town where all the constituents are from the intelligence community. Every judgement in the espionage courts they say just go to jail. It’s not theoretical. If he’s tried he will go to jail.”

The next hearing on extradition isn’t scheduled until February and on the basis that he previously did skip bail while awaiting an extradition hearing he is unlikely to get bail. For his family and close friends, the most immediate issue is his health rather than the political and legal vortex into which he has been drawn.

At a recent court appearance on October 21, he was described by eyewitnesses as appearing “distressed and disorientated”.

He is subject to a legal process, but few could argue that it is anything more than political. Assange published leaked material. In that he was performing an act of journalism.

Manning, for instance, was prosecuted and served seven years of what was originally a 35-year sentence. But Assange’s role was that of publisher.

Much of Wikileaks most serious material was presented in collaboration with leading global newspapers, including the New York Times and The Guardian.

His father believes that the attack on the press through Assange is not fully appreciated.

“It’s in the self interests of all journalists and news corporations to ensure that this is fought,” he says…… https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/analysis/michael-clifford/will-you-come-and-help-father-of-julian-assange-on-campaign-to-free-his-son-962776.html

November 11, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s media on a campaign for freedom of press, but not when it comes to Julian Assange

Mainstream Media Fights for Own Freedom, But Not for Assange’s, Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 02/11/2019 BY PAUL GREGOIRE Major Australian mainstream media outlets joined forces a fortnight ago to launched the Right to Know campaign. It aims to see public interest journalism decriminalised, and safeguards for whistleblowers enhanced.This unprecedented display of unity has seen The Guardian, the ABC, Nine, News Corp, SBS and the MEAA join forces in calling on the government to enact reforms. And this is rather significant, considering some of these organisations have been much criticised for towing the party line.

The Right to Know has six demands: exceptions so journalists can’t be prosecuted under national security laws, freedom of information reform, defamation law reform, a narrowing of the information classified as secret, protections for whistleblowers and the right to contest warrants.

Of course, the campaign was sparked by the June AFP press raids, which saw agents rifle through the house of a News Corp journalist, as well as the offices of the national broadcaster, in what was understood by many to be a warning to the media and whistleblowers to keep quiet.

However, a glaring campaign omission is the case of an Australian publisher who’s currently being remanded in the UK over charges that apply in the US, which relate precisely to public interest journalism. Yet, the Australian media has all but forgotten their colleague, Julian Assange.

Silenced by association

“The Right to Know campaign drives to the heart of the matter more than many journalists realise,” remarked Ian Rose, a member of the Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition.

“While on the one hand, they’re right to finally be calling out the creeping incursions and restrictions into media freedoms,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “On the other, they don’t have the inner fortitude to stand up for Assange.”

According to Rose, there are two reasons that the Australian media has abandoned the Walkley award-winning journalist. One is that he’s “an egalitarian”, which “frightens the hell out of the ruling class”, as most of the work of WikiLeaks has been all about exposing their lies.

The second reason behind the silence is that the “oligarchs” are the “journalists’ paymasters”. And for this reason – which is underscored by the justifiable fear of losing their lives – journalists have refrained from “calling these people out”.

An excuse for silencing

Attorney general Christian Porter spoke out against the Right to Know campaign, claiming that by providing the media with the right to contest warrants could hinder criminal investigations. And he also asserted that the campaign demands could lead to national security threats.

As an example of how the media could become such a threat, Porter pointed to Assange having published leaked classified documents on WikiLeaks. The top lawmaker further set out that while this act of publication was widely condemned, the local industry still awarded Assange a Walkley……..

Neglecting an ally

And as for what the Australian media should be doing about one of its own locked away in isolation in circumstances that undermine the rule of law, Mr Rose says that it “ought to get over its jealousy and unite to support Assange”.

Indeed, the Right to Know campaign should embrace Assange’s cause, as it’s the quintessential example of the concerted crackdown on journalists that’s currently taking place across the western world. And there’s a clear correlation between his silencing and the local AFP raids.

“The way Assange is being treated is the way journalists are starting to be treated, and the way all of society will be treated if we don’t collectively call for a stop to the new dictatorial world order,” Rose warned.

And as an example of how this silencing of dissent is spreading beyond the media, Rose pointed to the recent assault on nonviolent climate activists, which has seen the application of ongoing arrests,  draconian bail conditions,  intimidatory procedures and the passing of restrictive laws……..https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/mainstream-media-fights-for-own-freedom-but-not-for-assanges/

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

The mockery of justice that was Julian Assange’s extradition process

November 7, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Ruthless and relentless – USA-UK destruction of Julian Assange

The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election; a simple clarification the mainstream media appears incapable of understanding.

The campaign of demonization and dehumanization against Julian, based on government and media lie after government and media lie, has led to a situation where he can be slowly killed in public sight, and arraigned on a charge of publishing the truth about government wrongdoing, while receiving no assistance from “liberal” society.

Unless Julian is released shortly he will be destroyed. If the state can do this, then who is next?

The Annihilation of Julian Assange,  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-annihilation-of-julian-assange/, Craig Murray  “In Defense of Julian Assange,” edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler, is now available for OR Books.

I was deeply shaken while witnessing yesterday’s events in Westminster Magistrates Court. Every decision was railroaded through over the scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening.

Before I get on to the blatant lack of fair process, the first thing I must note was Julian’s condition. I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated aging. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought.

Until yesterday I had always been quietly skeptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and skeptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness. Continue reading

November 2, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Whistleblowers and the safety problems at Hanford nuclear waste site

October 31, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, investigative journalism, USA | Leave a comment

Assange’s lawyers’ plea to Australian government for help – falls on deaf ears

Why is it that the Australian government is so helpful to Australian murderers and drug dealers imprisoned overseas, but so relentlessly unhelpful to an Australian whose only crime is to tell the truth?

Assange legal team asks for Australian government help amid growing health fears, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/assange-legal-team-asks-for-australian-government-help-amid-growing-health-fears-20191028-p534xw.html, By Rob Harris

October 28, 2019, Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison.

The WikiLeaks founder has been held in HM Prison Belmarsh since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had lived in asylum for almost seven years.

Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.

The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said.

His supporters say he is being kept in solitary confinement and is allowed out of his cell for only 45 minutes a day. At a court appearance last week, he appeared gaunt and disorientated.

Assange was due to be released on September 22 but was told at a court hearing last month he would be kept in jail because there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.

ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas.

“This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.”

If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course.

“He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country

October 29, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties | Leave a comment

Suppression of media freedom in Australia

‘It is all part of the same disease’: media and other key institutions under threat, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/it-is-all-part-of-the-same-disease-media-and-other-key-institutions-under-threat-20191028-p534z6.html, By Nick O’Malley, October 28, 2019 —The prosecution of journalists, cuts to the ABC budget and the appointment of “dud” politically connected officials to roles in key agencies present an unprecedented threat to democracy in Australia.“Media provides crucial accountability and transparency functions,” said a report by the Centre for Public Integrity, due to be released this week. “Investigative journalists often unearth wrongdoing long before any public integrity agencies investigate, for example the recent Crown Casino investigation by Nick McKenzie at The Age [and The Sydney Morning Herald], and the Four Corners investigation of police corruption in Queensland that triggered the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

“Media outlets have faced attacks in the form of centralisation of private ownership, funding cuts to public broadcasters, and potential prosecution of journalists, including News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.”

One of the report’s authors, Geoffrey Watson, SC, former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said he had been shocked by how quickly the brutal type of politics that evolved in the United States and the United Kingdom, and partly led to the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, had taken root in Australia.

“One day you see the judiciary attacked and the next someone in the media,” said Mr Watson, who is a director of the Centre for Public Integrity. “On the third day it might be the CSIRO, they even attack our scientists. Some people don’t recognise it as the same problem, but it is all part of the same disease.”

He said the effectiveness of the media in Australia as a watchdog was not only threatened by personal and legal attacks by the government, but by regulations that had allowed ownership of newspapers to be reduced to an effective duopoly.

The report, entitled “Protecting the Integrity of Accountability Institutions”, said that a range of institutions – including the judiciary and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the public service, integrity commissions such as the ICAC, statutory authorities such as the Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Commission, and the CSIRO – had all been targeted in recent years by interested parties seeking to undermine their independence and public trust.

“These institutions are important not only because they ensure actual accountability, transparency and good governance but because they build confidence and trust within the Australian community,” it said. “When this confidence and trust is diminished, divisiveness and conflict increase. This impacts social cohesiveness and the economy, and the welfare of all Australians suffers. Ultimately, as international experience has shown, it is a threat to democracy itself.”

It cited as examples of interference attempts by federal ministers to influence the Victorian Court of Appeal in 2017 terrorism cases, sustained funding cuts and personal attacks on the ABC, and the de-skilling of the public service through the outsourcing of up to 50 per cent of government departments to contractors.

The report listed a series of principles that needed to be respected in order to protect the independence of the threatened institutions. They include protection from political retribution, secure and sufficient funding, secure tenure of senior officials and public access to advice to the government from accountability institutions, as well as the creation of an effective federal integrity watchdog.

The Centre for Public Integrity, a independently funded think tank, was formed earlier this year in part to champion the case for a such a body. The report comes in the midst of a campaign by Australian media, including the Herald and The Age, to defend the public right to information in the face of increasing attempts by government and government agencies to suppress information, prosecute whistleblowers and criminalise legitimate public interest journalism.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

London judge denies Julian Assange a delay in extradition hearings

October 22, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, media, politics international | Leave a comment

Prominent Australians, including politicians, call on their government to save Julian Assange from extradition to USA

Growing calls for Australian government to defend Julian Assange   https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/10/19/assa-o19.html?fbclid=IwAR2smK6ChQzsIB7Ndld4N_No68RpVViDz5V-RH7qTiYfWmFWFdqkThOA-DQ

By Oscar Grenfell, 19 October 2019 Over the past week, several prominent public figures, including federal members of parliament, have called on the Australian government to fulfil its obligations to defend WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, including by taking steps to prevent his extradition from Britain to the US.

The statements come in the lead-up to British extradition hearings in February, that will decide whether Assange is dispatched to the US. He faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in an American prison for exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues.

There are concerns within the Australian political and media establishment that the refusal of successive governments to defend Assange, an Australian citizen and journalist, has generated widespread anger and opposition. The fear in ruling circles is that if Assange is extradited, or if his parlous health continues to deteriorate, the latent support for him will coalesce into a political movement against the entire official set-up.

In a statement to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie declared that Assange is “an Australian citizen and must be treated like any other Australian. He was not in the US when he provided evidence of US war crimes in Iraq. He can’t possibly have broken their laws.”

Wilkie said that if Assange is extradited to the US, he “faces serious human rights violations including exposure to torture and a dodgy trial. And this has serious implications for freedom of speech and freedom of the press here in Australia, because if we allow a foreign country to charge an Australian citizen for revealing war crimes, then no Australian journalist or publisher can ever be confident that the same thing won’t happen to them.”

He concluded by stating: “Put simply, he must be allowed to return to Australia.”

Wilkie, a former intelligence agent who resigned to speak out against “weapons of mass destruction” lies used to justify the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, has previously condemned the assault on democratic rights. In 2010 and 2011, he made statements and spoke at public events in defence of Assange. Alongside the Greens and a host of civil liberties organisations, however, Wilkie has largely remained silent about the WikiLeaks founder’s plight for a number of years and has boycotted all actions taken in his defence.

Wilkie said that if Assange is extradited to the US, he “faces serious human rights violations including exposure to torture and a dodgy trial. And this has serious implications for freedom of speech and freedom of the press here in Australia, because if we allow a foreign country to charge an Australian citizen for revealing war crimes, then no Australian journalist or publisher can ever be confident that the same thing won’t happen to them.”

He concluded by stating: “Put simply, he must be allowed to return to Australia.”

Wilkie, a former intelligence agent who resigned to speak out against “weapons of mass destruction” lies used to justify the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, has previously condemned the assault on democratic rights. In 2010 and 2011, he made statements and spoke at public events in defence of Assange. Alongside the Greens and a host of civil liberties organisations, however, Wilkie has largely remained silent about the WikiLeaks founder’s plight for a number of years and has boycotted all actions taken in his defence.

Joyce, a populist who has sought to build a base of support in rural areas, was well aware of the sentiments in favour of Hicks among workers in regional centres and country towns. He played a role in the sordid agreement brokered by Howard, which saw Hicks returned to Australia in 2007. Hicks was forced to serve out a bogus prison sentence in Australia and was banned for a year from speaking to the media.

In comments to the media on Monday, former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr hinted at the concerns animating the comments in defence of Assange by such figures from within the political establishment.

Carr told the Sydney Morning Herald that ordinary people would be “deeply uneasy” about the prospect of an Australian citizen being handed over to the “living hell of a lifetime sentence in an American penitentiary.” He criticised current Foreign Minister Marise Payne over her claim that she made “friendly” representations on behalf of Assange to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has denounced Assange as a “demon” who is not entitled to any democratic rights and labelled WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”

Carr stated: “I think the issue will gather pace, and in the ultimate trial there will be a high level of Australian public concern, among conservative voters as much as any others.”

In his strongest comments in defence of Assange yet, Carr declared: “We have an absolute right to know about American war crimes in a conflict that the Australian government of the day strongly supported. We wouldn’t know about them except for Assange.”

Carr is no political innocent. During his decades in the Labor Party, he functioned as a secret informant for the US embassy, beginning in the 1970s. He was a leading minister in the Gillard Labor government which refused to defend the WikiLeaks founder and instead pledged to assist the US campaign against him.

That Carr has spoken out now is a measure of the fears within the ruling elite that the defence of Assange will animate millions of workers, students and young people in the coming period.

In keeping with the central role of Labor in the US-led pursuit of Assange, no prominent current figure in the party has joined the calls for him to be defended. When the WikiLeaks’ founder was illegally expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested by the British police in April, Labor MP Tanya Plibersek shared a Tweet denouncing his supporters as “cultists.”

Julian Hill, a little-known federal backbencher representing a working-class electorate in outer Melbourne, is the only Labor MP to have spoken out. He told the Guardian on Thursday that Assange is “an Australian and, at the very least, we must be vigorously consistent in opposing extradition to countries where he might face the death penalty.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded this week by blandly declaring that Assange must “face the music” in the US. Senior government ministers have previously maligned Assange, repeating the lies concocted by the US intelligence agencies to discredit him.

Liberal Senator James Paterson attempted to provide a more sophisticated argument for the government’s refusal to defend Assange, telling the Sydney Morning Herald last week that both Britain and the US were “rule-of-law countries.”

Paterson piously stated: “This is not the case in many other countries in the world. Sadly, we know there are Australian citizens detained right now in China and Iran who are not facing free and fair legal systems … and the Australian government does have a greater obligation to assist those citizens.”

The suggestion that the Australian government has a responsibility to defend its citizens in some jurisdictions, but not in others, is a legal fiction that has no basis in Australian or international legislation.

Paterson’s statements, moreover, fly in the face of repeated warnings by United Nations officials and human rights organisations that Assange’s legal and democratic rights have been trampled upon by the British and US authorities.

Paterson’s comments point to the real reason why successive Australian governments, Labor and Liberal-National alike, have joined the US-led vendetta against Assange. Their participation in the attacks against him has gone hand in hand with unconditional backing for the US alliance and support for Washington’s military build-up in the Asia-Pacific region, in preparation for war against China.

The record demonstrates that no faith can be placed in any section of the political or media establishment to defend Assange or any democratic rights. All the official parties and institutions in Australia are implicated in the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder. They will take action only to the extent that they fear the political consequences if they do not.

Workers, students and young people must be mobilised as part of an international movement demanding the immediate freedom of Assange and all class war prisoners. This is the only way that an Australian government will be forced to uphold its responsibility to prevent Assange’s extradition to the US and allow him to unconditionally return to Australia.

October 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

USA’s “outrageous” claim to “universal jurisdiction over every person on earth”- plea from Australia to save Julian Assange

 

October 15, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

At long last – some Australian politicians speak up for Australian Julian Assange

Barnaby Joyce joins calls to stop extradition of Assange to US, The Age, By Rob Harris, October 13, 2019 Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has joined calls for the Morrison government to try to halt Julian Assange’s potential extradition from Britain to the United States on espionage charges, as the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters intensify their campaign to bring him to Australia.

Mr Joyce joined former foreign minister Bob Carr in voicing concerns over US attempts to have the 48-year-old Australian stand trial in America, where he faces a sentence of 175 years if found guilty of computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.

Also seeking to increase pressure on the federal government is actress Pamela Anderson, who is demanding to meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison to request he intervene in the case. She plans to visit Australia next month.

Assange’s supporters say they are increasingly concerned about his health and his ability to receive a fair trial in the US………

Mr Carr has challenged Foreign Minister Marise Payne to make “firm and friendly” representation to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, believing Australians would be “deeply uneasy” at a fellow citizen being handed over to the “living hell of a lifetime sentence in an American penitentiary”.

Mr Joyce, who in 2007 was the first Coalition MP to call for the then Howard government to act over the detention of Australian David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay, said his position was principled and he gave “no opinion of Mr Assange whatsoever”.

“If someone was in another country at a time an alleged event occurred then the sovereignty of the land they were in has primacy over the accusation of another nation,” Mr Joyce said.

“It would be totally unreasonable, for instance, if China was to say the actions of an Australian citizen whilst in Australia made them liable to extradition to China to answer their charges of their laws in China. Many in Hong Kong have the same view.”

Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison in south-east London for bail violations after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer allegations of rape and molestation in 2012.

In June, the then British home secretary, Sajid Javid, signed an extradition request after the US Justice Department filed an additional 18 Espionage Act charges over Assange’s role in obtaining and publishing 400,000 classified US military documents on the war in Iraq in 2010.

Mr Carr, the former NSW premier who served as foreign minister in the Gillard government, said he understood many people would have reservations about the “modus operandi” of Assange and his alleged contact with Russia.

“On the other hand, we have an absolute right to know about American war crimes in a conflict that the Australian government of the day strongly supported – we wouldn’t know about them except for Assange,” he said.

Mr Carr said the Morrison government should make strong representations to the US on behalf of an Australian citizen who “is in trouble because he delivered on our right to know”.

“I think the issue will gather pace and in the ultimate trial there’ll be a high level of Australian public concern, among conservative voters as much as any others.”……..

Mr Carr said the Morrison government should make strong representations to the US on behalf of an Australian citizen who “is in trouble because he delivered on our right to know”.

“I think the issue will gather pace and in the ultimate trial there’ll be a high level of Australian public concern, among conservative voters as much as any others.”…….https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/barnaby-joyce-joins-calls-to-stop-extradition-of-assange-to-us-20191013-p53080.html

October 14, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment