Assange Denied Bail: Both Tortuous and Torturous

Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser ruled today Assange denied bail, despite ruling days ago he is not be extradited to the US. Thus, Assange will remain imprisoned while the US appeals the decision to the UK High Court. Loading… Magistrate Vanessa Bararitser walked into Westminster Magistrates Court No.1 at 10.12am this morning with the sunniest smile and most carefree disposition I have ever seen her adopt. Her shoulders appeared visibly lifted. She positively beamed at Clair Dobbin, counsel for the US government, as she invited her to put the case for the prosecution as to why Julian Assange should not be released on bail. Mrs Dobbin has one of those gloomy, presbyterian personalities that only fully comes to life when it has the chance to condemn somebody. There is nothing like a flat Belfast accent for a really rousing condemnation, and this was a collector’s item. Julian Assange, she stated in tones that made plain she considered that name in itself to be suspicious and unsavoury, had shown he would go to great lengths to avoid extradition to the United States. The judgement against his extradition turned only on one single point – that of his

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13

At one point in the Assange hearing day 13, Julian loudly declared, “I will not permit the testimony of a torture victim to be censored by this court!” Loading… The Assange hearing day 13 gave us the most emotionally charged moments yet at the Assange hearing, showed that strange and sharp twists in the story are still arriving at the Old Bailey, and brought into sharp focus some questions about the handling and validity of evidence, which I will address in comment. NICKY HAGER The first witness of the day was Nicky Hager, the veteran New Zealand investigative journalist. Hager’s co-authored book “Hit and Run” detailed a disastrous New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan, “Operation Burnham”, that achieved nothing but the deaths of civilians, including a child. Hager was the object of much calumny and insult, and even of police raids on his home, but in July an official government report found that all the major facts of his book were correct, and the New Zealand military had run dangerously out of control: “Ministers were not able to exercise the democratic control of the military. The military do not exist for their own

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 12

At the Assange hearing day 12, the defence witnesses included Professor John Sloboda of Iraq Body Count and Carey Shenkman testifying on the history of the Espionage Act of 1917. Loading… The Assange hearing day 12 was a less dramatic day, but marked by a brazen and persistent display of this US Government’s insistence that it has the right to prosecute any journalist and publication, anywhere in the world, for publication of US classified information. This explicitly underlay the entire line of questioning in the afternoon session. The morning opened with Professor John Sloboda of Iraq Body Count. He is a Professor of Psychology and musicologist who founded Iraq Body Count together with Damit Hardagan, and was speaking to a joint statement by both of them. Professor Sloboda stated that Iraq Body Count attempted to build a database of civilian deaths in Iraq based on compilation of credible published material. Their work had been recognised by the UN, EU and the Chilcot Inquiry. He stated that protection of the civilian population was the duty of parties at war or in occupation, and targeting of civilians was a war crime. Wikileaks’ publication of the Iraqi

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 11

The Assange hearing day 11 featured German journalist John Goetz and famous Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg. Loading… At the Assange hearing day 11, yet another shocking example of abuse of court procedure unfolded. James Lewis QC for the prosecution had been permitted gratuitously to read to two previous witnesses with zero connection to this claim, an extract from a book by Luke Harding and David Leigh in which Harding claims that at a dinner at El Moro Restaurant Julian Assange had stated he did not care if US informants were killed, because they were traitors who deserved what was coming to them. This morning giving evidence was John Goetz, now Chief Investigations Editor of NDR (German public TV), then of Der Spiegel. Goetz was one of the four people at that dinner. He was ready and willing to testify that Julian said no such thing and Luke Harding is (not unusually) lying. Goetz was not permitted by Judge Baraitser to testify on this point, even though two witnesses who were not present had previously been asked to testify on it. Baraitser’s legal rationale was this. It was not in his written evidence statement

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 10

At the Assange hearing day 10, witness Eric Lewis finished his testimony. The court moved on to the next witness, attorney Thomas Durkin. Loading… At the Assange hearing day 10, the gloves were off. The US Government explicitly argued that all journalists are liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act (1917) for publishing classified information, citing the Rosen case. Counsel for the US government also argued that the famous Pentagon Papers supreme court judgement on the New York Times only referred to pre-publication injunction and specifically did not preclude prosecution under the Espionage Act. The US Government even surmised in court that such an Espionage Act prosecution of the New York Times may have been successful. It is hard for me to convey to a British audience what an assault this represents by the Trump administration on Americans’ self-image of their own political culture. The First Amendment is celebrated across the political divide and the New York Times judgement is viewed as a pillar of freedom. So much so that Hollywood’s main superstars are still making blockbusters about it, in which the heroes are the journalists rather than the actual whistleblower, Dan Ellsberg (whom

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 9

At the Assange hearing day 9, prosecuting lawyer James Lewis QC rudely intimidates & tries to invalidate expert witness Eric Lewis, a former attorney of 35 years with a masters in criminology who represented high profile clients in terrorism cases. Loading… Assange hearing day 9: things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty. There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment. Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practising US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8

At the Assange hearing day 8, the prosecution interrogates 2 new witnesses, Professor Paul Rogers and Trevor Timm, questioning their impartiality. Loading… Assange Hearing Day 8: The great question after yesterday’s hearing was whether prosecution counsel James Lewis QC would continue to charge at defence witnesses like a deranged berserker (spoiler – he would), and more importantly, why? QCs representing governments usually seek to radiate calm control, and treat defence arguments as almost beneath their notice, certainly as no conceivable threat to the majestic thinking of the state. Lewis instead resembled a starving terrier kept away from a prime sausage by a steel fence whose manufacture and appearance was far beyond his comprehension. Perhaps he has toothache. PROFESSOR PAUL ROGERS The first defence witness this morning was Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has written 9 books on the War on Terror, and has been for 15 years responsible for MOD contracts on training of armed forces in law and ethics of conflict. Rogers appeared by videolink from Bradford. Prof Rogers’ full witness statement is here. Loading… Edward Fitzgerald QC asked Prof

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: The Assange Hearing Day 7

In the Assange hearing day 7, witness Clive Stafford Smith stresses the great legal and public importance of Wikileaks’ publications, while witness Professor Mark Feldstein highlighted how the US Government had never before prosecuted a journalist or publisher for leaked information. Loading… Assange Hearing Day 7: this morning we went straight in to the evidence of Clive Stafford Smith, a dual national British/American lawyer licensed to practice in the UK. He had founded Reprieve in 1999 originally to oppose the death penalty, but after 2001 it had branched out into torture, illicit detention and extraordinary rendition cases in relation to the “war on terror”. Clive Stafford Smith testified that the publication by Wikileaks of the cables had been of great utility to litigation in Pakistan against illegal drone strikes. As Clive’s witness statement put it at paras 86/7: 86. One of my motivations for working on these cases was that the U.S. drone campaign appeared to be horribly mismanaged and was resulting in paid informants giving false information about innocent people who were then killed in strikes. For example, when I shared the podium with Imran Khan at a “jirga” with the victims

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: The Assange Hearing Day 6

After an adjournment for months, the Assange hearing Day 6 resumes. Judge Baraitser limits all defence witnesses to 30 minutes. Loading… Assange Hearing Day 6: I went to the Old Bailey today expecting to be awed by the majesty of the law, and left revolted by the sordid administration of injustice. There is a romance which attaches to the Old Bailey. The name of course means fortified enclosure and it occupies a millennia old footprint on the edge of London’s ancient city wall. It is the site of the medieval Newgate Prison, and formal trials have taken place at the Old Bailey for at least 500 years, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. For the majority of that time, those convicted even of minor offences of theft were taken out and executed in the alleyway outside. It is believed that hundreds, perhaps thousands, lie buried under the pavements. The hefty Gothic architecture of the current grand building dates back no further than 1905, and round the back and sides of that is wrapped some horrible cheap utility building from the 1930’s. It was through a tunnelled entrance into this portion that five of us,

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