More ‘bombshells’ from Assange lawyers. Extradition case exposed as seriously flawed.

Julian Assange
Tom Coburg

A serious flaw in the US extradition case against Julian Assange has been exposed by lawyers representing the WikiLeaks founder. Consequently, the defence has called for the extradition to be denied.

In the course of the proceedings, the defence also revealed more “bombshells”, including how witnesses will be called to back up claims of direct political interference by the US government in the extradition process.

Political nature of WikiLeaks

At the extradition hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defence referred to a submission to the court, which quoted from the 2003 US-UK extradition treaty (ratified in 2007):

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extradition shall not be granted if the offence for which extradition is requested is a political offence

The submission referred to a number of cases where it was successfully shown that extradition was denied because the offence, including the charge of espionage, was considered political.

To back up their claim that Assange’s activities are political, the defence quoted US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s famous description that goes:

WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service

Even computer misuse, as alleged by the US, in this context could be seen as a political offence. And to provide further clarity, the defence showed how the House of Lords specified that it is:

not necessary for the defendant [in such cases] to be seeking political power, or the overthrow of government

The submission concluded that the court should dismiss the extradition request.

Prosecution bending the rules

Prosecutor James Lewis QC argued in response that the 2003 UK Extradition Act overrides the US-UK Treaty and so defence claims in regard to the political nature of the alleged offences are invalid.

However, the 2003 UK Extradition Act says that:

A person’s extradition to a category 2 territory [USA] is barred by reason of extraneous considerations if (and only if) it appears that… if extradited he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions.

Via a further submission the defence responded by further arguing:

it would be an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange in reliance on the very treaty [US-UK extradition] which governs the legality of his extradition whilst disregarding a major protection contained in that treaty, namely the protection against extradition for a political offence.

In other words, the prosecution has to take full account of that protection listed in the treaty, or not proceed further with the case.

Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson later added that it’s “bizarre” for the prosecution to rely on the US-UK treaty for the extradition request but then not apply it as a whole:

Trump input in confidentiality breach

There were more submissions by the defence, arguing why the extradition is political. Namely, because of the direct involvement of US president Donald Trump.

For example, during the ongoing trial in Spain of UC Global head David Morales, it was shown how surveillance material on the Ecuadorian embassy in London was allegedly passed to the CIA via casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close associate and donor of Trump. The surveillance operations included spying on Assange’s privileged conversations with his legal representatives.

Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson commented:

It is one of the most fundamental principles of protecting attorney-client relationships that we are able to have confidential and private meetings, to discuss legal strategy.

In the extradition proceedings, defence referred to “Witness #2”, a whistleblower who worked for UC Global and who, according to Shadowproof, revealed that:

data was collected and uploaded daily to a remote server. That information was accessed by U.S. intelligence. Original recordings, including sound, were collected from several microphones every 14 days.

The witness also claimed there was talk about poisoning or kidnapping Assange.

The Council of Bar and Law Societies of Europe, representing over one million lawyers, has issued a letter to UK home secretary Priti Patel. The Council points out that the surveillance on Assange and his visitors equated to a serious breach of client-lawyer confidentiality, as well as other concerns:

Indeed, the law in England on client-lawyer confidentiality is clear, as indicated by a 2018 judgement in the Court of Appeal.

More Trump input

But that’s not all. In August 2017, there was a meeting between Assange and Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher. At that meeting, Trump reportedly said he’d offer Assange a pardon if he provided evidence that Russia did not hack the DNC emails. Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson subsequently confirmed this.

Shadowproof reported that Fitzgerald QC told the court that Trump denied this, adding:

But in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies [witness at the Stephen Ward trial]: ‘Well he would, wouldn’t he?’.

Fitzgerald QC also commented:

We say that this whole pardon business shows that, just as the prosecution was initiated in December 2017 for political purposes, so too the Trump administration [was] prepared to use the threat of prosecution as a means of extortion to obtain personal political advantage from Mr. Assange.

Hrafnsson explained that Assange rejected the offer:

This also adds further to the argument that the extradition is political.

It gets murkier

And there’s more to support that argument.

Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks has published details of phone calls between her and Arthur Schwartz, an associate of newly appointed US acting head of intelligence Richard Grenell.

It’s alleged Grenell promised Ecuador that if it allowed Assange to be taken from the Ecuadorian embassy then no death penalty would be applied against the WikiLeaks founder. In regard to that, Fairbanks claims that in one phone call between her and Schwartz the latter says that Grenell was: “taking orders from the president”:

Lives at risk?

Another significant issue the defence raised at the extradition hearing was in regard to the accusation that the publication by WikiLeaks of documents leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning put lives at risk. Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of documents relating to, for example, the US invasion of Iraq, the Afghanistan conflict, and of US war crimes. The same accusation was made at Manning’s court-martial, but, importantly, it was dismissed after evidence submitted by US counter-intelligence official Robert Carr.

At the extradition hearing, the defence pointed out that WikiLeaks had a “Harm Mitigation Program”, which was used to redact names from leaked documents prior to publication. But this process was jeopardised when Guardian journalist David Leigh published the password to the US cables in a book:

David Leigh extract

Once Assange became aware of this he contacted the US authorities to warn them:

Former editor of Bureau of Investigative Journalism Iain Overton confirmed there was a redaction process:

No ‘hacking’

In the first indictment issued by the United States, it is claimed that Assange “conspired to access a computer without authorization”. It is also implied that Assange assisted Manning to crack a password. In response, the defence made it clear that Manning didn’t need help as she had full access to the files:

Intimidation

Meanwhile, rather than sit behind a bulletproof glass encased dock, Assange has asked that he accompany his defence team, which would mean he could communicate more easily with his lawyers. But his request was rejected:

The defence also complained about the treatment of their client on his journey to and from court, which included seizure by prison staff of his legal files. Fitzgerald told the judge:

Yesterday Mr. Assange was handcuffed 11 times, he was stripped naked two times at Belmarsh, and was put in five separate holding cells.

It’s time

After a couple of administrative sessions in March and April, the extradition hearing will resume on 18 May and is expected to continue for at least three weeks.

Once proceedings resume, the prosecution must accept that the US-UK treaty has to be applied as a whole and that includes the provision that bars extradition because of the political nature of a defendant’s activities. Otherwise, the treaty is irrelevant and, therefore, the case can no longer proceed.

It’s obvious that this has always been about politics and persecution. It’s time to end the absurdity.

Featured image via Youtube – Channel 4 News

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  • Show Comments
    1. Wikileaks, as far as so many of us are concerned, is all about a platform that shared truths we might otherwise never have been truthfully told were it not for Wikileaks which told us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Amen

    2. I wonder if the reason the British Tory government has been so authoritarian with Julian Assange is because of threats made against them by the US regime to comply or face the consequences. I don’t doubt for an instant America would threaten to put armed US troops on British streets, “to secure US interests”; or even threaten that if Julian left the Ecuadorian embassy they would drone-strike him on British soil (which could also apply if Julian is freed from UK custody).

      Any American threats of this type will show we have lost our sovereignty to America. They do it to other of their allies like Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen etc, and I’m sure they yearn to strike a European country just to show who’s boss and they mean business. The Assange case gives them a possible excuse to strike us.

    3. I think the UK has lost its it sovereignity to the military mind shared with the US already. The fake anitsemitic campaign speaks to this political move. The military’s sole concern is the exclusion of everything else but military domination which supports the State in the final analysis of what sovereignity really is.
      No free will is allowed .
      The fact the ongoing torture, and unlawful confinement of Assange is proof the military deep state has no regard for civil law, and is conspiring to punish Juian Assange for stepping out of line from their adgenda.
      Will the courts be of any use is the question, to defend us from these military moral monsters running amuck through our democracies.

    4. Unfortunately, the allegations you (quite accurately) report the defence making about me are a complete invention. The Guardian put out a statement at the time explaining this. The hoax about the alleged effect of the “password” does not help Assange’s cause. Other media have run my or the Guardian’s statement. In fairness, maybe you should do the same?

      1. I’ve read the article published here where the password is revealed, but who he is who gave it isn’t mentioned.
        I didn’t read about the alleged effect of the password in what was presented here.
        So what is the invention about you that you speak of?
        Confused.
        What ever you did sounds like it revealed facts in researching your article. Well done.

      2. I liked being able to read the Password. Especially about inserting the word Diplomatic before History.
        The Secretary of State of America used to have a sense of what diplomacy is about in the 30’s ,but now one may just call it The Secretary of War.
        I doubt the lawyers will win their case to stop Assange from being Extradited.
        British Civil Law simply no longer has a relevant value in the new miltary alliance with Washington DC with Boris Johnston as Prime Minister. It must be remembered the Tory Party’s intial confinement of Assange in which Javid had a role.
        One must note the torture being inflicted on Assange while incarcerated upon English soil, and the complete disrespect for UK’s Parliamentary Principals shown by the Tories during the Brexit Episode.
        They will want to torture Assange with Manning until the end of time.
        Much like Erdogans attitude with the Kurds.
        It goes with the military mind set.
        One must remember that Manning was pardoned by President Obama so why is he still behing bars on a new charge?
        I hope the British Courts refuse the extradition but its just a hope as the evidence doesn’t support doing so.

      3. Here’s how Craig Murray reports it from the gallery: “Summers described at great length the efforts of Wikileaks with media partners over more than a year to set up a massive redaction campaign on the cables. He explained that the unredacted cables only became available after Luke Harding and David Leigh of the Guardian published the password to the cache as the heading to Chapter XI of their book Wikileaks, published in February 2011.” https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-2/

        Can you point out which part of that allegation is untrue? I’ve read the Guardian statement, and it’s very confusing. It seems to rest on the claim that you were told the password was temporary. Clearly it wasn’t. You published the password. It was active, hence it is reasonable to assume that the entire cache of unredacted cables could be accessed as a result.

        Here’s what Glenn Greenwald has to say about you: “But the key point is this: even if Leigh believed that that particular password would no longer be valid, what possible point is there in publishing to the world the specific password used by WikiLeaks or divulging the types of passwords it uses to safeguard its data? It is reckless for an investigative reporter to gratuitously publish that type of information, and he absolutely deserves a large chunk of the blame for what happened here”. https://www.salon.com/2011/09/02/wikileaks_28/

        Many people cannot understand why Julian Assange is being charged, but, given that he is, many wonder why he’s on his own, David.

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