Shortly after the Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, was arrested by British police this month, Judge Andrew Napolitano called Assange a “hero.” Ecquador withdrew Assange’s asylum for “repeatedly violating international conventions and protocol.”
There are those that believe that Assange is a hero, while others believe that he is a criminal. Like Napolitano, those who believe in exposing truth at all costs believe that Assange is a hero because what he published was truthful information about war crimes and other misdeeds by people in positions of power that the American public and the world had the right to see.
“There’s no basis to arrest him in London for the sexual assault investigation in Sweden,” said Napolitano. “He will probably be extradited here. We will see the indictment. And we will probably have a show trial.”
Napolitano said he agrees that exposing state department secrets would “diminish the private communications.” He added: “But just as if we, working for Fox News, received secret information, ‘my God, the public has to know this.’ The person who gave it to us commits the crime. The publisher does not commit the crime."
Although the deck is stacked against Assange, his cause is not hopeless. For instance, his case has been assigned to a judge noted for her independence. The case looks likely to extend until past the next general British election, and if the Labour Party were to take power, a change in the U.K.’s posture toward Assange could also have an impact.
The case for and against Julian Assange may keep him in the U.K. for at least eighteen months, probably two years, possibly three, according to leading London lawyers. The U.K. will have a new government by then—the U.S. may too. In the interim, Assange’s lawyers are preparing to prove the U.S. indictment for conspiracy to commit computer hacking, which will likely be based upon his comment to Chelsea Manning, “Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” However, all reporters encourage their sources to provide leads for them, so any real hacking attempts aside, this charge is incredibly weak, if not completely ludicrous.
The hacking charge will probably be superseded by espionage charges. That, Assange’s lawyers will presumably argue, requires the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to throw the U.S. extradition application out. In addition, their evidence for American political motivation in the prosecution of Assange, and of U.S. violations of the U.K. and European standards for a fair trial in an independent and impartial court, will be presented. The Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, is likely to preside. The hearing is unlikely to start before December of this year.
The more U.K. and U.S. Government officials make public their disdain for Assange and support the allegations in the indictment, the stronger his case will be in court. The announcement to the Home Secretary last week that seventy-one members of the British Parliament oppose Assange’s extradition to the U.S. cuts even more ground from under U.K. prosecutors and U.S. lawyers who will appear in court.
Reversing their campaign to block the Swedish extradition warrant between 2010 and 2012, Assange’s lawyers are also mobilizing to have the Swedish prosecutors return to London with a new warrant so that this can extend the legal wrangling in London for long enough to reach a new British election. If won by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party forms a new regime, Assange may benefit from a decision to move his prosecution to the U.K. courts and then to release him.
“The anger for and against this man is extraordinary”, explains a leading London lawyer on extradition cases. “You need very technical lawyering now, and Assange will have to pay for it. But in parallel there will be the PR campaign amplifying the political issue, principally for the Labour Party. The Assange case will stand for every British voter’s idea of what Trump and the Americans are doing to the world. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot is not afraid to make decisions that would be unpopular. But as independent as she is, the pressure on her will be huge not to rule against the U.S. That said, it will be interesting to see if this judge across the pond is as corrupt as judges are here in America.
Swedish charges for sexual molestation and rape based on allegations by two women for events which took place in Sweden in August 2010 occurred five months after Assange began the process of publishing the U.S. military files obtained by Manning; the most important of these was the secret film of a U.S. Army helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians, killing 18—evidence of a war crime.
Criminals like former CIA Director Mike Pompeo want Assange’s head on a stick because he embarrassed the organization with regard to the war crimes he and the CIA, and probably other government organizations, committed in the past. Ironically, everything Pompeo has said about Assange is false and more true of Pompeo, which is easy to understand when one considers the comment he made at Texas A&M on April 15, 2019: “I was the CIA director. We lied. We cheated. We stole.” Perhaps more infuriating and disturbing than his comment was the audience immediately cheering and applauding it.
The U.S. indictment of Assange identifies the dates of his alleged offenses with Manning between March 2 and 10, 2010. This timing will prove to be important later in the British courts because Assange’s whereabouts in March of 2010 aren’t mentioned in the U.S. indictment. New York Times reporting indicates he was in London. If he was in the U.K. when the alleged offenses took place and published from there, then his lawyers will make the case that the appropriate forum for a trial on the U.S. charges is in a British court, not an American one. “The forum argument”, says a London legal source, “has prevailed recently but so far only for British citizens operating in the U.K.”
The source says that if Assange is able to win the forum argument requiring the prosecution on the American charges to be moved to the U.K., it would be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to decide whether to do so or not. If the Conservative Party has been replaced by Labour by the time the DPP would face a decision on Assange, Prime Minister Corbyn would have the authority to stop the proceeding.
“He’s not facing justice in the U.K.,” said Assange’s principal London advocate, Geoffrey Robertson Q.C., on Saturday. “The justice he is facing is justice, or injustice, in America… I would hope the British judges would have enough belief in freedom of information to throw out the extradition request… I have faith in them. But whether I have faith in the U.S. Supreme Court is another matter.”
Robertson means that the first line of defense for Assange will be to put the U.S. on trial in the magistrates’ court for politically motivated persecution, torture of Manning, and multiple abuses by U.S. courts in national security cases. Justice Arbuthnot has been clear in two judgments last year that the Russian government fails a key test on this standard.
For the first time ever in an international court, Assange’s lawyers will be arguing that in this case, U.S. prosecutors and courts are no better than the Russians—in the prosecution of Assange and Manning, they will argue the Americans are worse. “The U.S. will come into court very well prepared”, according to a London lawyer. “It’s a rarity for any British court to rule against the U.S., though this has happened recently on different grounds. Arbuthnot has been tightening the definition of what is ‘political’ in these cases. I can’t see Assange winning on the U.S. prejudice argument.”
Garzon, the former Spanish magistrate now representing Assange in Ecuador, has foreshadowed the presentation of evidence of U.S. Government manipulation in Ecuador to force Assange’s expulsion from the embassy. “The threats against Julian Assange for political motives and the persecution by the United States,” he said, “are more alive than ever. Recently, Wikileaks has been branded a terrorist organization.” Vice President Pence visited the country in 2018. It is highly unlikely the topic of terminating Assange’s citizenship and asylum did not arise during conversations and most probably was the catalyst for Assange’s explusion.
Extradition and human rights lawyers are certain Assange’s case will continue in the British courts for a long time—years for all the arguments to play out in the Magistrates’ Court, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. They are divided on what they believe the outcome will be. Few are confident that a British judge will rule that the U.S. prosecutors and courts are no better than their Russian counterparts and dismiss the extradition case against Assange.
There is more confidence, however, that on a narrower issue called "the specialty rule argument," the British judges may decide in Assange’s favor. According to the U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty of 1972, a 2003 Act of Parliament, and decisions of the British courts, it is unlawful for the U.S. to indict, try, and punish an individual for an offense that is different from the one for which he was extradited from the U.K. “Special arrangements” or “special rules” must therefore apply to the Assange case, the lawyers agree.
They point to a High Court case in 2006, when two men were sought for extradition from the U.K. on U.S. fraud charges. “The U.S. contends,” the court reported, “that it observes the specialty rule, as a rule of international law and comity, in its trial and punishment of those who are extradited to it. That is hotly contested in this appeal…[the defendants argued that ] the U.S. habitually violated the spirit and purpose of the specialty rule… The gravest of the particular charges…was that the U.S. Government would seek and the U.S. Courts would uphold a conviction based on a superseding indictment which alleged offenses for which extradition had actually been refused by the U.K. Government”.
The judge in that case decided there was insufficient evidence for the specialty argument and agreed to the U.S. extradition. He also ruled that a superseding indictment would not be legally acceptable in a U.S. or U.K. court “if there were evidence that the U.K. Government had objected or would object to it.” Sources in London are critical of media speculation that the current U.S. indictment against Assange is a fake and will be replaced by a new charge of espionage once he is in U.S. hands; however, the new charge would be ridiculous since he is not an American citizen and he was not on U.S. soil when any alleged offense took place.
Robertson is more guarded. He has conceded that U.S. prosecutors may intend to supersede the current indictment, but he signals that this suspicion will be tested in court. His argument will then be that the Americans cannot be trusted to seek the permission required for a new charge. On proof of that point rests Assange’s best chance of release.
The narrative we often hear from the political elite is frequently at odds with the true story. Money, power, and control comprise the foundation of our politicians—not truth and justice. At the root of the hatred of Assange is that Wikileaks exposed crimes against humanity and other injustices, and Assange is getting prosecuted for it. Keep in mind that never has a story published by his news organization later been found inaccurate. No other known news agencies can make that claim. Assange, a journalist, is basically being attacked because he infuriated the wrong people. Remember, truth is treason in an empire of lies.