On 27 July two court hearings took place – one in the UK, the other in Spain. Both concerned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. From their proceedings, it became clear that it’s not Assange who should be facing prosecution, but the current office holder of the US presidency and his associates.
Grounds for dismissal of charges?
At the 27 July ‘administrative hearing’ at Westminster magistrates court, Judge Vanessa Baraitser stated that the prosecution had failed to present its latest ‘superseding indictment‘. That superseding indictment was first made public on 24 June, just prior to the last court hearing, though the prosecution failed to submit the document to that hearing too.
Defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald made it clear to the court that he was concerned the prosecution might still try to present the superseding indictment later, so as to delay the extradition hearings. He argued:
We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequence of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.
Indeed, prosecution barrister Joel Smith refused to comply with any timeline to serve the superseding indictment. However, Baraitser told Smith that the deadline to submit the superseding indictment had passed.
Controversially, the superseding indictment provided testimony from known (but unnamed) FBI informants, both of whom have criminal convictions and were engaged in entrapment operations. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the prosecution did not formally present a copy of the superseding indictment to the court. What the judge did not address, however, is that by publishing the superseding indictment on the internet, the US department of justice may have prejudiced the case against Assange – and that could be grounds for dismissal of all charges.
Meanwhile in Spain, the prosecution of David Morales, who is charged with organising the surveillance of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, proceeds, with testimony from former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who is representing Assange.
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Morales, via his company UC Global, is also accused of providing that surveillance to US intelligence services. This video includes examples of the alleged surveillance in the embassy:
Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson commented that the surveillance constituted a “serious crime in European law”.
Also monitored were meetings between Assange and some of his other lawyers, including Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Garzón. Surveillance also included logging of visitors, such as Gareth Peirce, another of Assange’s lawyers, as well as a seven-hour session between Assange and his legal team on 19 June 2016.
Robinson subsequently commented that the surveillance was: “a huge and a serious breach of [Assange’s] right to a defence and a serious breach of [Assange’s] fair trial rights”. Indeed, client-lawyer confidentiality remains a cornerstone of the English legal system.
In this respect, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson commented:
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.
Black bag ops
At the Monday hearing in Spain, the court noted allegations that the intelligence gathered by UC Global was provided to Zohar Lahav, described as a “security officer at Las Vegas Sands Corp”. A Grayzone article by Max Blumenthal reveals that witnesses alleged Morales had proposed kidnapping or poisoning Assange and breaking into the office of Garzón.
The Grayzone has seen court documents claiming that Lahav, who is described as Adelson’s bodyguard and vice president for executive protection at Las Vegas Sands, worked with Morales for three years.
Lahav reported to Sands’ director of global security Brian Nagel, of whom Blumenthal states:
During his lengthy career in the US Secret Service, Nagel worked at the nexus of federal law enforcement and US intelligence. In the 1990s, Nagel not only served on the personal protection detail of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; he was assigned to “work with two foreign protective services after the assassination and attempted assassination of their respective heads of state,” he said in sworn testimony in a US District Court in 2011. …
As the deputy director of the Secret Service, he [Nagel] appeared alongside then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft at a November 2003 press conference on combating cybercrime, and testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee in March 2007.
Nagel’s boss, Sheldon Adelson was a top donor to Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign. It’s also understood that Adelson will contribute $100m to the 2020 election campaign for Trump and republicans.
Meanwhile, lawyers acting for Assange have requested that Adelson and Nagel be summoned as witnesses. But that request was denied.
Trump centre stage
At Monday’s court hearing in London, defence lawyer Fitzgerald commented that the delays relating to the superseding indictment may have something to do with the upcoming US presidential elections. He added: “I’m not sure if there’s been some manipulation there”. Moreover, it’s been shown how T
Indeed, at the heart of the Assange extradition process is Trump and perhaps it is he and his associates, not Assange, who should be placed under the spotlight.
The full extradition hearing is now scheduled for the Old Bailey for three weeks, commencing 7 September. And it would be most surprising if during the extradition hearings there aren’t plenty more revelations.
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