19.3 C
Byron Shire
April 17, 2024

Why Julian Assange deserves our support

Latest News

Man saved by Marine Rescue NSW after vessel capsized on Bruns Bar

A rapid response by Marine Rescue Brunswick volunteers has saved a man’s life after his 4.9 metre boat rolled on Brunswick Bar this morning.

Other News

Third village for Alstonville Plateau?

A proposal to assess the viability of a third village on the Alstonville Plateau was discussed at Ballina Shire Council's last meeting.

Metal is back at The Northern

Beast Machine are coming home from a successful spell in the United States and the thrash/metal two-piece with their massive sound layered with riff-driven guitars and thundering drums are coming to lift the roof off of the Backroom. Check out their new music video currently out for their latest single ‘Pretend’, which is featured in HEAVY magazine.

Peace

Elimination by people-power voting is necessary to remove dictators from Russia, Israel, China, Iran, wannabe (again!) North Korea, to...

Local grom takes national tube-riding prize

Local grom takes national tube-riding prize. Broken Head surfer Leihani Zoric has taken out first place in the U/14 girls and best barrel (girl) categories of the Australian Junior Online Surf Championships.

Byron U/18 girls basketballers undefeated in regional competition

The Byron Bay Beez girls U/18 squad are undefeated and sit on top of the North Eastern Junior League (NEJL) after two of four rounds.

Speed limits

I’m surprised to see that when you drive from Bangalow to Lismore via Clunes and Bexhill the speed limit...

Crikey’s Bernard Keane explains why he helped coordinate and signed a letter to the Foreign Minister and Attorney-General about Julian Assange.

 Despite the complexities of European arrest warrants, the methods of the Swedish criminal justice system and the confusing claims about his behaviour in Sweden in August 2010, the Julian Assange case should be, from the perspective of the Australian government, relatively simple.

As an Australian citizen, Assange has a right to expect his government will seek to ensure that he is accorded due process by other countries seeking to prosecute him. And all of us should legitimately expect that our government will not stand by while a journalist engaged in the endeavour of holding governments to account and bringing transparency to their actions is threatened and prosecuted.

This applies regardless of whether you like WikiLeaks or not, whether you approve of its release of US diplomatic cables, or war logs from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, or any other material that has embarrassed governments, companies, NGOs, prominent individuals or even climate scientists since 2006.

Some reject the view that Assange is a journalist. But those who think so might try to explain why to bodies as diverse as the Walkley Foundation, the United Kingdom High Court, the Australian editors and proprietors who wrote to the Prime Minister a year ago to note that in publishing the diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks was doing “what the media have always done”, or the committee behind Britain’s Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, which awarded Assange its 2010 prize. The inaugural winner of that prize, by the way, was Guardian journalist Nick Davies, these days a serial critic of Assange.

The Australian government’s reaction to Assange’s legal plight and the WikiLeaks revelations has been peculiarly polarised. There was the embarrassment of the Prime Minister incorrectly describing the release of the diplomatic cables as “an illegal act”, then-Attorney-General Robert McClelland claiming Australian laws had been broken (since refuted by the Australian Federal Police) and that the government had considered cancelling Assange’s passport, and the government strengthening the powers of ASIO in order to enable the domestic intelligence agency to spy on WikiLeaks.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, on the other hand, has implicitly rebuked his colleagues by rejecting the cancellation of Assange’s passport and providing consular support services for him. Rudd’s diplomats also sought, on three separate occasions a year ago and early this year, assurances that Assange would be afforded due process by the Swedish government in relation to the allegations against him.

Should Assange lose his appeal, or decide to go to Sweden anyway in order to address the claims against him,”due process” will involve his being remanded in custody despite the lack of any charges being laid against him, and being held incommunicado. While this wouldn’t be accepted in Australia, there is no suggestion Assange should be afforded special treatment in Sweden. However, the circumstances of his custody in Sweden would facilitate extradition to United States, should it be sought, via the mechanism of “temporary surrender”.

It is “temporary surrender” that most concerns Assange’s lawyers, supporters and those who have signed this letter. The concern is that “temporary surrender”, in which someone charged in two countries is handed from one to the other, evades the normal requirements of due process and legal rights afforded to anyone being extradited to another country. If those concerns are well-founded, Assange’s arrival in Sweden and entry into custody there could be the precursor to a rapid extradition to the United States.

Some lawyers believe there is minimal threat to Assange from the “temporary surrender mechanism”. We hope they are correct. But there remains a substantial risk they are not. Moreover, “temporary surrender” from Sweden is merely one option for the US government; if that fails, it is likely to pursue others. How do we know? Because when it comes to WikiLeaks, the US government has form. It instigated an illegal financial blockade of WikiLeaks that continues today. The Department of Justice played a key role in bringing together the cyber security firms that developed a plan to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters.

The Vice-President has called Assange a “high-tech terrorist” despite administration officials conceding no harm resulted from the leaking of diplomatic cables. Bradley Manning has been pressured to cooperate with US military investigators to implicate Assange in the leaking of the diplomatic cables, war logs and combat videos. And the US Department of State has claimed Assange is not a journalist, but rather a “political actor”, because he has “political objectives”, a bizarre line from the home country of Fox News and MSNBC. But depriving Assange of his status as a journalist is important to the US government’s attempts to manufacture an indictment against him.

Given all this, who can seriously suggest Assange would receive a fair trial in the United States? And given the number of public figures who have suggested he be harmed or assassinated, how could his safety even be guaranteed in custody there?

As the letter to Rudd makes clear, this is more than a question of ensuring Assange is afforded due process. There are larger issues at stake than an individual’s fate or even that of WikiLeaks. The successful harassment, extradition and prosecution of Assange for his journalism will be a profound blow against a free press not merely in the United States but across the globe.

The Australian government faces a key decision — whether to continue to allow its enthusiasm for the US alliance and Julia Gillard’s apparent reflexive support of the Obama administration to colour its actions on Julian Assange, or whether it makes clear to the Americans that the persecution of an Australian journalist for embarrassing the US is unacceptable to a democratic government.

 


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Wallum showdown unfolds in Brunswick Heads

Around eight people have been arrested so far, since almost fifty police arrived at the Wallum development in Brunswick Heads this morning to escort machinery and other work vehicles on to the site. Police include local officers, members of the NSW Public Order and Riot Squad, and Police Rescue.

Northern Rivers Recovery and Resilience Program announces 36 projects

Bridge expansions, upgraded pumps, enhanced evacuation routes and nature-based projects are just a few of the 36 projects being rolled out as part of...

Reef snapshot details widespread coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef

Latest CSIRO research shows that the fifth major bleaching event since 2016 is still unfolding, but bleaching was just one of the disturbances on the reef over summer.

Invitation to get to know the real Nimbin

The MardiGrass Organising Body (MOB) say Nimbin's annual festival will kick off with the launch of a very special audiovisual book on Friday 3 May, 'Out There: a potted history of a revolution called Nimbin'.