UK authorities may have just provided the perfect reason why Assange’s extradition should end

Julian Assange
Tom Coburg

A UK authority may have just provided the perfect reason for dismissing the US extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Court hearing

At a 21 October court hearing, Assange’s lawyers made it clear to district judge Vanessa Baraitser that the US extradition request should be denied because of surveillance in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Significantly, that surveillance included the monitoring of privileged client-lawyer discussions.

Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers QC told the court:

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The American state has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Mr Assange and his lawyers in the embassy, also unlawful copying of their telephones and computers (and) hooded men breaking into offices

After the court hearing, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson criticised the “grotesque measures” of the US and the “total breach of law” involved:

UK sabotage of justice?

Now, the UK Central Authority (UKCA) has reportedly denied a request by a Spanish court for Assange to testify via video link as a witness against the director of the company that organised the surveillance. That denial shows contempt for and interferes in due legal process. That in turn may be used by Assange’s lawyers as another reason why the extradition case should no longer apply.

According to El País, judge José de la Mata issued a European Investigation Order on 25 September, requesting that Assange be questioned as a witness via videolink in the trial of David Morales, the director of UC Global. That is the company accused of organising the surveillance of the embassy and providing that intelligence directly to the CIA. Morales even installed a video streaming service direct to the US.

Also monitored were meetings between Assange and his lawyers, including Melynda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Baltasar Garzón.

The UKCA representative told the judge that the request was rejected, although he also asked for further clarifying information. On 14 October, de la Mata in turn responded, pointing out that Assange (via his lawyers) had filed a complaint against Morales – so he’s very much party to the case, which is live.

Breach of confidentiality

Apart from the right of a witness – in this case, the victim – to provide testimony, there is the unresolved matter of how client-lawyer confidentiality was breached. Indeed, client-lawyer confidentiality remains a cornerstone of the English legal system. The law in England on this is clear, as indicated by a 2018 judgement in the Court of Appeal. Law Society president Christina Blacklaws commented:

Maintaining confidentiality and trust between a client and their legal adviser is fundamental to our legal system. …

The rule of law depends on all parties being able to seek confidential legal advice without fear of disclosure. That privilege belongs to the client, not the lawyer.

Illegal

Summers told the judge at Assange’s court hearing:

The case should be thrown out immediately. Not only is it illegal on the face of the [extradition] treaty, the U.S. has conducted illegal operations against Assange and his lawyers, which are the subject of a major investigation in Spain.

That the judge in the latest extradition hearing refused to hear pleas by Assange’s lawyers regarding how such confidentiality was breached seemingly indicates bias. Now, such claims of bias may also be levelled against the UK Central Authority. And both cases present more arguments for the extradition case to be thrown out.

Featured image via screenshot

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  • Show Comments
    1. What actual damage could Assange’s journalistic activities have done to the security of the USA? Did he use journalism as cover for nefarious dealings intended to give succour to the United State’s supposed enemies? How is it Assange (allegedly) falls within jurisdiction of US law?

      Damage inflicted by Assange’s informants was reputational, nothing more. Well deserved reputational damage based on documented evidence. The pride of recent US administrations and the associated ‘swamp’ has been hurt; much vaunted US humanitarian values and benign (democracy promoting) ambitions towards other nations were shown not to be realised in practice. It appears the routine US response to embarrassment is belligerence on its part. Hence Assange’s plight and that, for differing reasons, of Kim Dotcom in New Zealand.

      I don’t doubt that many Americans in positions of authority truly aspire to seemingly good values the USA promulgates. Moreover, they would be aware that when engaged in conflict and occupation, however noble the reasons, human nature and error make it inevitable that tragic mishaps will occur. People of honest motivation would not seek to silence messengers merely because the message is unpalatable truth. Instead, they would learn from them and explore means for preventing repetition of events leading to trashing the reputation of the USA.

      Connivance of recent UK governments with US desire to pulverise Assange is not surprising; this evident when the characters of present and recent leading figures in government, especially those holding office as Home Secretary, are considered; figures who could be accused neither of benevolence nor good sense; days of statesmanship are long passed.

      An early general election is inevitable. Almost as inevitable is prospect of the Conservatives being unable to form a government even with help from the Lib Dems and DUP. Who knows, but perhaps Sinn Féin will for the sake of the UK as a whole drop objection to taking seats in the Commons and mouth the oath of allegiance with fingers crossed: pragmatism ought trump futile principle.

      Whatever, Labour is set to have a position of influence in the next government. It’s to be hoped decency will prevail and Assange will be spared extradition; the present Home Secretary, and whoever follows, is empowered on humanitarian grounds to cut short the legal proceedings.

      Perhaps the greatest danger facing Assange is of Johnson and his band of ‘deplorables’ hanging onto office for long enough whilst extradition proceedings are expedited.

      1. “I don’t doubt that many Americans in positions of authority truly aspire to seemingly good values the USA promulgates.”

        Many? Perhaps, but it’s very hard to discern any evidence of it, if not impossible. All those fine words and wonderful values:

        “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

        Today, there are more black people awaiting trial, in prison, or on parole in the USA than there were slaves in the country at any one time . The system is privatised, and they work for nothing. It’s slavery. All you have to do is criminalise an entire ethnic group, and they’ve done it.

        Fine words, and fine values. They meant nothing when they were coined, by a slave owner, in the 18th century, and they mean nothing today.

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