Julian Assange/Imprisonment

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Event.png Julian Assange/Imprisonment  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Assange-Ecuadorian Embassy.jpg
Date19 June 2012 - Present

On 1 May 2019 WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was jailed for just under a year for breaching bail conditions in 2012 by taking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden. Sentencing Assange at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Deborah Taylor said it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of the offence:

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country.”[1]

On 4 January 2021, at the Old Bailey, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against Julian Assange's extradition to the United States on the basis that while US prosecutors had met the tests for Assange to be extradited for trial, the US was incapable of preventing him from attempting to take his own life. She said:

"Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge."[2]

However, two days later at Westminster Magistrates' Court, Baraitser refused Assange bail and said he should remain in prison until the outcome of an appeal by the US government.[3]

Ecuadorian embassy siege

In June 2012 Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault claims, which he denies.[4] Assange was effectively imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy as a result of establishment allegations of sexual offences. He is under a siege by the Metropolitan Police which has cost over £10million.[5] On 13 March 2015, it was reported that Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny had asked for Julian Assange to be interviewed in London about the rape and sexual assault allegations, despite previously insisting talks should be held in Stockholm. Assange's lawyer Per Samuelsson said:

"I have spoken to him early this morning - I think I even woke him up - and he said 'this is a great victory for me' in the case. But simultaneously he was irritated that it took so long for the prosecutor to do her job properly...there is a mixture of feelings."[6]

In 2014, Julian Assange complained to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) that he was being "arbitrarily detained" as he could not leave the embassy without being arrested.[7] The panel of legal experts, which has taken evidence from the UK and Sweden, was due to announce the findings of its investigation into the case on 5 February 2016 but the BBC leaked the result a day early under the headline "UN panel 'rules in Julian Assange's favour'".[8] Commenting for the first time on the UNWGAD panel's ruling, Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny said on 9 February 2016 she was "currently working on a renewed request to interview Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in London".[9]

In a 2015 interview with Fairfax Media, Assange said that while he does not expect to leave Ecuador's London embassy any time soon, WikiLeaks very much remains in the business of publishing the secrets of diplomats and spies:

"There'll be more publications – about large international so-called free trade deals, and about an intelligence agency," Mr Assange said.[10]

On 4 February 2016, Julian Assange tweeted:

"Should the UN announce tomorrow that I have lost my case against the United Kingdom and Sweden I shall exit the embassy at noon on Friday to accept arrest by British police as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal. However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me. Julian Assange, Embassy of Ecuador, London (https://justice4assange.com/)."[11]

On 28 November 2016, Assange said:

“Today, marking the six-year anniversary of Cablegate, WikiLeaks expands its Public Library of US Diplomacy (PLUSD) with more than half a million (531,525) diplomatic cables from 1979. If any year could be said to be the ‘year zero’ of our modern era, 1979 is it. (…) In 1979 it seemed as if the blood would never stop. Dozens of countries saw assassinations, coups, revolts, bombings, political kidnappings and wars of liberation.”

This, in turn, he said led to the 9/11 terror strikes, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq by the US, and the creation of ISIS.[12]

Metropolitan Police arrest Julian Assange

"Free Julian Assange"

On 1 March 2016, Britain and Sweden were called upon to respect the UNWGAD decision and free Julian Assange. The following statement, signed by more than 500 high profile signatories from more than 60 countries including William Blum, Noam Chomsky, John Goss, Craig Murray and John Pilger, was delivered to the Swedish and UK Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva:

“We the undersigned, including legal and human rights organisations, academics, and policymakers condemn the reactions of the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom to the finding by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that Julian Assange is arbitrarily detained.
"The governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the United Nations Human Rights system as a whole. We urge Sweden and the United Kingdom to respect the binding nature of the human rights covenants on which the decision is based, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; as well as the independence, integrity and authority of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
"We therefore call on the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom to comply without further delay with the Working Group’s findings and 'ensure the right of free movement of Mr. Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation, in accordance with article 9(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'.”[13]

Assassination plot allegation

Edward Fitzgerald, barrister for Assange, said that since 2016 a Spanish company, acting on behalf of the US authorities, had planned an assassination inside London's Ecuadorean embassy which could have been presented as an "accident". The plot had reportedly been exposed by a whistleblower.[14]

Arrest

A US Justice Department statement confirmed press reports that Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom on Thursday morning under the US/UK extradition agreement.[15] The full indictment is here.[16]

On 11 April 2019, Craig Murray tweeted:

"Have to head back to London to help in light of Ecuadorian betrayal and Julian's sad arrest. The fight is now on whether a journalist should be imprisoned for publishing documents from a whistleblower on war crimes."[17]

Wikileaks tweeted:

"Ecuador has illegally terminated Assange political asylum in violation of international law. He was arrested by the British police inside the Ecuadorian embassy minutes ago."[18]
Journalist Gordon Dimmack receives letter from Belmarsh Prison

Publishing a video of the arrest, RT reported:

"WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has spent the last six years. Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno has announced that the country has withdrawn asylum from Assange."[19]

Imprisonment

On the day of his arrest, Assange appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court where District Judge Michael Snow remanded him to Belmarsh Prison until 2 May 2019,[20] when he was sentenced by Judge Deborah Taylor at Southwark Crown Court to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions in 2012.[21]

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) said it was deeply concerned by the “disproportionate sentence” imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a “minor violation”:

“The working group is further concerned that Mr Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh Prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.
UNWGAD reiterates its recommendation to the government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.”[22]

On 25 May 2019, Assange addressed a letter to journalist Gordon Dimmack describing the conditions in prison:

"I have been isolated from all ability to prepare to defend myself, no laptop, no internet, no computer, no library so far, but even if I do get access it will be just for half an hour with everyone else once a week. Just two visits a month and it takes weeks to get someone on the call list and the Catch-22 in getting their details to be security screened. Then all calls except lawyer are recorded and are a maximum 10 minutes and in a limited 30 minutes each day in which all prisoners compete for the phone."[23]

Initial US Charge

Facing up to 175 years in prison?

On Thursday 11th April 2019, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed a March 6, 2018 indictment charging Julian Assange, the founder head of WikiLeaks, for conspiring to commit computer intrusions by assisting Chelsea Manning with breaking a US government password. The Grand Jury charged violations of U.S. Code - Unannotated Title 18. Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 371, 1030(a)(1), 1030(a)(2) and 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii), and if convicted "each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

17 additional charges

On 23 May 2019, the USDOJ unveiled a further 17 criminal charges against Julian Assange, saying he contravened the Espionage Act of 1917 by publishing the names of classified sources and conspired with and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information. Each charge carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

He now faces a total of 18 criminal counts, which could result in up to 175 years in prison if convicted:

“These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavour to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the US government,” said Barry Pollack, an American attorney for Assange.

The USDOJ’s quick turnaround with the filing of a more substantial indictment against Assange is not surprising. Under extradition rules, the United States had only a 60-day window from the date of Assange’s arrest in London to add more charges. After that, foreign governments do not generally accept superseding charges.[24]

Kristinn Hrafnsson tweeted:

"I find no satisfaction in saying ‘I told you so’ to those who for 9 years have scorned us for warning this moment would come. I care for journalism. If you share my feeling you take a stand NOW. Either you are a worthless coward or you defend Assange, WikiLeaks and Journalism."[25]

Woolwich Crown Court

WCC extradition hearing (days 1-4)

Julian Assange's four-day extradition hearing began at Woolwich Crown Court (WCC) on 24 February 2020 and was adjourned until 18 May 2020.[26] (At a procedural hearing on 4 May 2020, magistrate Baraitser agreed to postpone resumption of the extradition hearing to September 2020 – date and venue to be decided.)[27]

Caitlin Johnstone summarised proceedings on 28 February 2020:

The first week of the Julian Assange extradition trial has concluded, to be resumed on May 18th. If you haven’t been following the proceedings closely, let me sum up what you missed:

The prosecution is working to extradite Assange to the US under a US-UK extradition treaty, a treaty whose contents the prosecution now says we should ignore because they explicitly forbid political extraditions. The prosecution says it doesn’t matter anyway because Assange is not a political actor, yet in 2010 the US government that’s trying to extradite him labelled him a political actor in those exact words. Assange’s trial is taking place in a maximum security prison for dangerous violent offenders because that’s where he’s being jailed for no stated reason and despite having no history of violence, which means he’s kept separate from the courtroom in a sound-resistant safety enclosure where he can’t hear or participate in his own trial. The magistrate judging the case, Vanessa Baraitser, says he can’t be allowed out of the enclosure since he’s considered dangerous, because he’s been arbitrarily placed in a prison for dangerous violent offenders. The magistrate keeps telling Assange to stop speaking up during his trial and to speak through his lawyers, yet he’s being actively prevented from communicating with his lawyers.

Make sense?[28]

Old Bailey

Assange Old Bailey.jpg

On 30 August 2020, Craig Murray wrote:

The travesty that is Julian Assange’s extradition hearing resumes fully on 7 September 2020 at the Old Bailey. I shall be abandoning my own legal team and going down to London to cover it again in full, for an expected three weeks. How this is going to work at the Old Bailey, I do not know. Covid restrictions presumably mean that the numbers in the public gallery will be tiny. As of now, there is no arrangement for Julian’s friends and family in place. It looks like 4am queuing is in prospect.[29]

Crowd Justice

On 20 August 2020, Assange's fiancée Stella Moris tweeted:


"Today I'm launching a Crowd Justice campaign to free Julian.

"Our children need their father back.

"Please help me make that happen."[30]

Max (14 months), Stella and Gabriel (3 years)

Thank you to every one of you who has donated to our appeal so far. Reading all of your comments has been incredibly touching and inspiring.

Yesterday I was able to take our two sons Gabriel and Max to visit Julian in Belmarsh Prison for the first time in almost six months.

Julian wanted me to thank you personally for all of the help you have provided in covering his legal fees to fight the extradition to the USA, where he faces 175 years in prison.

The visit to Belmarsh was difficult for everyone and very stressful. We had to wear masks and visors and were not allowed to touch during a 20-minute meeting. He looked a lot thinner than the last time I had seen him. He is also in a lot of pain with a frozen shoulder and a sprained ankle.

However, it was great that Julian was able to see his children. Gabriel showed him that he can now recite the alphabet and count.

The total legal costs of fighting the extradition have already exceeded £500,000 even though all of the lawyers involved are working for a fraction of their usual rates – with most working for free.

We initially set a cautious target of £25,000. However, thanks to your generosity and support, we had raised that figure within 24 hours. Yesterday, we also reached our next target of £50,000 with pledges from over a thousand people.

We have now set a new target of £100,000. Any amount you can donate, no matter how small, will go towards Julian’s legal fight against extradition.

Please share this appeal with anyone who might be able to help. We have less than two weeks until the US extradition hearing begins on Monday 7 September 2020 at the Old Bailey Court in London.

Thank you

Stella[31]

Opinions

Tweets

On 6 October 2017, Assange tweeted:

"The Nobel Peace Prize has finally been awarded to a group that fits the criteria: the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.[32]

On 12 February 2018, he tweeted:

My arrest warrant judgment is tomorrow 2pm (Feb 13), Westminster Magistrates' Court, London.[33]

And on 13 February 2018, he tweeted:

Judge refuses to withdraw Julian Assange arrest warrant.[34]


 

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Abuses show Assange case was never about lawblog post27 May 2019Jonathan CookCraig Murray says: "As a summary of the truly breathtaking series of legal abuses by states against Julian Assange, that the corporate and state media has been deliberately distorting and hiding for a decade, this excellent account by Jonathan Cook cannot be bettered."
Document:All Pretence is Over in Persecution of Assangeblog post14 February 2018Craig Murray“Lady” Arbuthnot has perhaps performed an unwitting public service by the brazen nature of her partiality, which exposes beyond refutation the charade of legal process behind the effort to arrest Assange, in reality over the publication of USA secrets.
Document:Assange Bail Application Todayblog post25 March 2020Craig MurrayIf the authorities now refuse to allow him out on bail during the COVID-19 outbreak, I do not see how anybody can possibly argue there is any intention other than to cause his death.
Document:Assange Must Not Also Die in Jailblog post13 August 2019Craig MurrayMany of the same people who are relieved by Jeffrey Epstein’s death would like to see Julian Assange dead too.
Document:Free Julian Assange, Mr. PresidentArticle9 February 2018Roger StoneThe Donald Trump I know is a generous, compassionate, humane and, above all, fair man. As his steadfast, loyal, decades-long supporter, with all I have I implore him: Mr. President, FREE JULIAN ASSANGE!
Document:George Monbiot’s excuses for not speaking out loudly in defence of Assange simply won’t washblog post6 October 2020Jonathan CookThe war on Julian Assange has not only been a war on journalism. It is also a war on the whistleblowers who have assisted journalists and Wikileaks in arriving at the truth. Hanging on the outcome of Assange’s case is not only his personal fate, but journalism’s very ability to tap into sources close to the centres of power. In abandoning Assange, we abandon any hope of finding out the truth on a whole range of the most pressing issues facing us.
Document:Julian Assange denied access to lawyers, visitors in Britain’s Belmarsh prisonArticle24 April 2019Oscar GrenfellChelsea Manning’s punitive detention is a warning of the treatment that will be meted out to Julian Assange if he is extradited to the US
Document:The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Tortureblog postCraig MurrayI think there is a corner of the mind of this daughter of dissidents from apartheid that rejects her own role in the torture of Julian Assange, and is continually urging “I had no choice, I had no agency”. Those who succumb to do evil must find what internal comfort they may.
Document:The Health of Julian Assange: A Case of State-sponsored NeglectArticle25 February 2020Nina CrossProfessor Nils Melzer: “It was obvious that Mr Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” … “Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma."
Document:UN expert says "collective persecution" of Julian Assange must end nowReport31 May 2019Nils Melzer“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Professor Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!"
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 1blog post25 February 2020Craig MurrayIt does not matter to Baraitser or Arbuthnot if there is any genuine need for Assange to be incarcerated in a bulletproof box, or whether it stops him from following proceedings in court. Baraitser's intention is to humiliate Assange, and to instill in the rest of us horror at the vast crushing power of the state.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2blog post26 February 2020Craig MurrayThen, to wrap up proceedings, Baraitser dropped a massive bombshell. She stated that although Article 4.1 of the US/UK Extradition Treaty forbade political extraditions, this was only in the Treaty. That exemption does not appear in the UK Extradition Act.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 10blog post16 September 2020Craig MurrayQ. Counsel for the US Government James Lewis QC asks defence witness: you suggest that the First Amendment precludes this prosecution. A. Eric Lewis Yes, There has never been a prosecution of a publisher under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publication of classified information.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 11blog post17 September 2020Craig MurrayDan Ellsberg, doyen of whistleblowers, had at first been inclined to believe the US Government on Iraqi WMD, just as he had first been inclined to believe the government on deaths caused by Wikileaks releases. In both cases it had proved they were making it up.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 12blog post18 September 2020Craig MurrayFinally US Government lawyer Clair Dobbin unveiled her key point: Surely all these contentious points were therefore matters to be decided in the US courts after extradition? No, replied defence witness Carey Shenkman. Political offences were a bar to extradition from the UK under UK law, and his evidence went to show that the decision to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 was entirely political.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13blog post20 September 2020Craig Murray“Strictly protect” is nothing to do with security classification, which is what protects national security information. As Nicky Hager said, its normal use is to prevent political embarrassment. As in Australasia, it is a term largely used to protect their secret political assets.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 14blog post22 September 2020Craig MurrayFollowing defence witness Professor Grothoff, the only further evidence heard was the reading by Edward Fitzgerald QC of the gist of a statement from Cassandra Fairbanks. I did not hear most of this because, having adjourned to 4.30pm, the court re-adjourned earlier than advertised, while Julian’s dad John Shipton, the musician M.I.A. and I were away having a coffee.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 15blog post23 September 2020Craig MurrayThe only possible conclusion from yesterday’s testimony is that the performance of the representative of the United States Government (James Lewis QC) was, in and of itself, full and sufficient evidence that there is no possibility that Julian Assange will receive fair consideration and treatment of his mental health issues within the United States system. The US Government has just demonstrated that to us, in open court, to perfection.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 16blog post24 September 2020Craig Murray"As James Lewis QC and Edward Fitzgerald QC exchange pleasantries, as the friendly clerks try to make the IT systems work, and my mind swims in horrified disbelief. They are discussing a fate for Julian Assange, my friend, as horrible as that of the thousands who over 500 years were dragged from this very spot and strung up outside. They are all chatting and working away as though we were a normal part of civilised society."
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 17blog post25 September 2020Craig MurrayI am going to write to Judge Baraitser applying for a copy of the transcript of Lewis cross-examining Professor Kopelman on the razor blade, with a view to reporting James Lewis QC to the Bar Council. I do wonder whether the General Medical Council might not have reason to consider the practice of Dr Rachel Daly in this case.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 7blog post9 September 2020Craig MurrayToday we had two expert witnesses, who had both submitted lengthy written testimony relating to one indictment, which was now being examined in relation to a new superseding indictment, exchanged at the last minute, and which neither of them had ever seen. I am obliged to say that I simply cannot believe the blatant abuse of process that is unfolding before my eyes in this courtroom.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 8blog post10 September 2020Craig MurrayAs Trevor Timm testified today, senior prosecutors in the US Justice Department had opposed this prosecution as unconstitutional and refused to be involved. President Trump was left with this discredited right wing sleazeball, Gordon Kromberg. Now here we are at the Old Bailey, with a floundering James Lewis clutching at this oaf Kromberg for intellectual support.
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 9blog post15 September 2020Craig MurrayCraig Murray: "It has taken me literally all night to write this up – it is now 8.54am – and I have to finish off and get back into court. The six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John Shipton who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker."
Document:Your Man in the Public Gallery: the Assange Hearing Day 6blog post2 March 2020Craig MurrayIf you asked me to sum up today in a word, that word would undoubtedly be “railroaded”. it was all about pushing through the hearing as quickly as possible and with as little public exposure as possible to what is happening. Access denied, adjournment denied, exposition of defence evidence denied, removal of superseding indictment charges denied.
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References

  1. "Julian Assange legal team begin 'big fight' over extradition"
  2. "Julian Assange: UK judge blocks extradition of Wikileaks founder to US"
  3. "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to remain in prison despite winning extradition battle"
  4. "Marianne Ny: Making an arse of Swedish law"
  5. "Sweden Tells the UN that Indefinite Detention Without Charge is Fine"
  6. "Swedish prosecutors to quiz Assange in London"
  7. "Julian Assange case: Who is on the UN's expert panel?"
  8. "UN panel 'rules in Julian Assange's favour'"
  9. "Will Swedish prosecutors question Assange in London?"
  10. "Assange: More leaks to come"
  11. "Assange: I will accept arrest by British police on Friday if UN rules against me" More info: https://justice4assange.com
  12. "Julian Assange: '1979 Is Year Zero of Our Modern Era'”
  13. "Urging Sweden and the UK to free Julian Assange"
  14. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8041597/US-plotted-kill-Julian-Assange-make-look-like-accident.html
  15. "Document: Julian Assange Indictment"
  16. "United States of America v Julian Paul Assange"
  17. "Julian Assange arrested"
  18. "Ecuador has illegally terminated Assange political asylum"
  19. "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has spent the last six years"
  20. "Julian Assange supporters ordered to forfeit £93,500 bail money"
  21. "Julian Assange legal team begin 'big fight' over extradition"
  22. "UN calls for Julian Assange's release from UK high-security jail"
  23. “'Truth ultimately is all we have': Julian Assange appeals for public support"
  24. "US charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with espionage"
  25. "I told you so"
  26. "Julian Assange Extradition with Joe Lauria"
  27. Document:Civil Liberty Vanishes
  28. "This Assange 'Trial' Is A Self-Contradictory Kafkaesque Nightmare"
  29. "Assange Travesty Continues"
  30. "Today I'm launching a Crowd Justice campaign to free Julian"
  31. "Join my fight to free Julian Assange and stop US extradition"
  32. "The Nobel Peace prize has finally been awarded to a group that fits the criteria: the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons"
  33. "My arrest warrant judgment is tomorrow 2pm (Feb 13), Westminster Magistrates Court, London"
  34. "Judge refuses to withdraw Julian Assange arrest warrant"