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March 5, 2021

The ‘sadistic’ trial of Julian Assange

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Dr John Jiggens and Mia Armitage*

‘The psychological torture of Julian continues,’ said John Shipton, father of detained Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, late last week from London.

After nearly ten months’ waiting in isolation at London’s Belmarsh Prison, known to some as ‘Hellmarsh’, it was finally time for Mr Assange to face lawyers from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as they argued their case for his extradition from the UK.

Mr Shipton sat in the Woolwich Crown Court every day for his son’s four-day extradition hearing, accompanied by Mr Assange’s brother, uncle, aunt and cousin.

At the end of each day, he made time to speak to Bay FM Community Newsroom reporter Dr John Jiggens.

Assange unable to hear his hearing

A series of underground tunnels connects Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh to the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court next-door, where Woolwich Crown Court was in session for one of history’s most publicly anticipated trials.

It was through those tunnels that Mr Assange was brought handcuffed to court and into a glass cage at the back.

The Walkley Award-winning journalist was thereby isolated from his lawyers and family and told the court he was having trouble hearing his own trial.

Les Gilets Jaunes feed the masses

Meanwhile, hundreds of Mr Assange’s supporters protested outside the court when they discovered they would not be able to observe the hearings because there was no room.

There were reportedly only 24 seats available to the public but by the time Mr Assange’s family and friends sat down, only ten were left.

More than a hundred members of France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ movement had travelled to the court by bus and quickly tried to cheer fellow supporters via a pop-up café, handing out coffee, croissants and soup in London’s late-winter rain.

Inside, the small court was overflowing with journalists and observers from organisations such as Reporters Without Frontiers, The International Federation of Journalists and members of European parliaments, there to observe the fairness of the hearings after widespread suspicion it would be a show trial.

Day One: hope for Assange begins

‘The prosecution started off with the same fraudulent accusations that have been around since the beginning, that sources were endangered, which is simply not true,’ Mr Shipton told Dr Jiggens after the first day of hearings.

‘The second aspect of the prosecution’s case was an argument that there were no redactions done and [of] data dumping, both of which are fraudulent,’ Mr Shipton continued.

‘I counted 18 camera crew,’ Mr Shipton said, ‘Channel 9 was there, Channel 7 was there, SBS was there and later on in the day the ABC was here’.

Mr Shipton said  defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald’s opening presentation on behalf of Julian was ‘comprehensive’ and ‘easy for the lay people to follow’.

UK law trumps treaty, judge says

Many Assange supporters had hoped the Australian citizen wouldn’t be extradited to the US because a US-UK extradition treaty forbade political extraditions and the US charges against Mr Assange related to the political crime of spying.

But on day two of the extradition hearing, British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered a legal bomb shell: the treaty was separate from UK law and therefore had no force on the court.

Furthermore, Judge Baraitser explained, political exemption didn’t appear in UK extradition law.

While Judge Baraitser invited Mr Assange’s lawyers to address the argument, it was a major blow to the defence.

Assange denied free access to lawyers

Later, negotiations with the judge to have Mr Assange moved into the body of the court so he could converse freely with his lawyers failed.

Mr Shipton described three American lawyers from the US DoJ sitting behind US prosecutor James Lewis QC, making and exchanging notes privately and consistently throughout the trial.

But he told Dr Jiggens his son couldn’t pass notes, let alone sit near his lawyers and everything Mr Assange said was overheard thanks to microphones in his glass cage.

Mr Assange was therefore unable to give instruction in the flow of the court, his father said.

Judge Baraitser said on day three she was unsure whether Mr Assange would still be legally defined as ‘in custody’ if released from the cage.

Mr Lewis said the prosecution was open to the idea, so long as Mr Assange was handcuffed and kept under guard.

‘A sadistic ruling’, says Assange’s father 

The following day, British defence lawyer Marc Summers QC produced evidence that ‘throughout the world this practice of putting people in a glass box to testify, to involve themselves in their own case, was being abandoned’, said Mr Shipton by telephone.

Mr Summers argued due process required Mr Assange to be ‘equally armed’, Mr Shipton said.

But again Judge Baraitser delivered disappointment to the defence.

‘The judge ruled that this was not possible, that Julian had to stay in the glass box,’ Mr Shipton said.

‘This is a sadistic ruling.’

Assange: descending into the ‘dungeons’ of Belmarsh

‘Julian has now been separated from ordinary converse amongst his friends and supporters and lawyers, he still has to look at them and be separate from them,’ Mr Shipton said on the last day of the February hearings.

Mr Shipton said if his son and the defence lawyers wanted ‘a private moment’, they had to ‘break the court and descend into the dungeons below’ for a confidential briefing before the court reassembled.

‘It’s very sadistic, a disgrace,’ Mr Shipton said, ‘the psychological torture of Julian continues, it’s now in its tenth year’.

Assange back in jail

Judge Baraitser adjourned Mr Assange’s hearings after four days – a day earlier than scheduled –  and ordered the journalist back into Belmarsh Prison indefinitely.

Mr Assange was already serving an earlier sentence of 50 weeks’ jail for breaching UK bail conditions when he took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012.

The US extradition case against the journalist who let the world know about alleged US war crimes in Iraq is due to continue in Woolwich Crown Court on May 18 London time.

Hear last week’s interviews with John Shipton on Bay FM.  

*Dr John Jiggens and Mia Armitage are Bay FM members


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12 COMMENTS

  1. What an utter bloody disgrace! Britain invented the common law and explicated so many human rights principles from Magna Carta on, now championed across the world, but conveniently ignored when the UK is toadying to the US. Habeas corpus? In sight, but not in reality.

    The whole world is watching. . .

  2. Try finding anything out about ‘British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’.
    She does not appear in any of the standard places one can search. If I were paranoid I might conclude that the British government has concocted a prejudiced judge to hear the case. At the very least Ms Baraitser has had all her digital data scrupulously cleaned from the net, which requires serious official help and something more than a personal preference for privacy.

  3. ludge Baraitser’s ruling on the treaty and law is wrong, full stop. The treaty is not excluded from the law, and both still contain the freedom from human rights and “political” extraditions, however, she is not ruling on a matter of law, but on the political instructions of the US and UK govts. They have made the decision to extradite Julian Assange illegally, as they have done to all those “war on terror” prisoners who were extraordinarily rendered to prisons, illegally, and tortured in violation of American law and the Geneva Conventions. The original Judge, who still oversees matter in the court Arbuthnot, has been exposed as having many serious conflict of interest in this matter, including her and her husbands financial interests in British Intelligence and Military companies and connections. (Read Mark Curtis and Matthew Kennard on this matter).

  4. I hate watching what these governments are doing to this man. It’s terrible.

    Statement of the Walkley Foundation Board
    16 April 2019, Sydney

    In 2011, Wikileaks, with Julian Assange as its editor, received a Walkley Award in Australia for its outstanding contribution to journalism. Walkley judges said Wikileaks applied new technology to “penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup”. One of those many inconvenient truths was the exposure by video of US helicopter attacks in Baghdad that killed 11 civilians including two Reuters journalists.

    Many mainstream journalists worked with Assange’s material to publish their own reports including media outlets such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Australia, The Guardian in the United Kingdom, The New York Times in the US, El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France and Der Spiegel in Germany. There has been no attempt by the US Government to prosecute any of those journalists involved.

    The Government is relying on one allegation against Assange—that he helped Chelsea Manning crack a password to access a US government computer—to seek his extradition from Britain to America where, if successful, he seems likely to face other, more serious charges that would constitute a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms.

    Julian Assange’s personality and his more recent actions do not weaken the principle driving the Walkley Foundation’s concerns in this matter: that when he released the original Wikileaks material in 2010 Assange was assisting a whistleblower to reveal information in the public interest.

    Given the potential adverse impact of this extradition attempt on a free, healthily functioning media, the Walkley Foundation Board urges the British and Australian governments to oppose Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States.

    -ENDS-

  5. You are right, Mary. The original judge was up to her ears in conflicts of interest.
    According to globalresearch.org ‘Although as of November 2019 [Judge Emma] Arbuthnot is no longer formally presiding over the Assange extradition proceedings, she has refused to recuse herself and remains in a supervisory role overseeing the trial with her subordinate District Judge Vanessa Baraitser on the bench. According to the UK court rules, the chief magistrate is “responsible for … supporting and guiding district judge colleagues.”’
    Both Arbuthnot and Baraitser are from the same shady South African background. It looks like the British establishment couldn’t get one of their own to be so conspicuously dishonest as they need this judge to be.

  6. Dear Foreign Minister

    I am writing to you in relation to “Our Ratbag”, Julian Assange.

    Is there a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) present in Woolwich crown court this week observing the extradition legal proceedings. If not, why not?

    If DFAT is monitoring this case, is the DFAT representative satisfied that Julian Assange’s legal and human rights, as an Australian citizen, are being adequately protected?

    Given that the court is connected to Belmarsh prison by a secure tunnel, does the Australian government believe that it is necessary for Mr Assange to be strip searched on his way to and from court? To be handcuffed 11 times in one day? To be shifted into and out of 5 different holding cells?

    Do you, Minister, as a lawyer yourself, believe that it is necessary for this Australian citizen, found guilty of no crime and with no record at all of physical violence, to be sequestered in a glass cage that makes it difficult for him to hear what is said in court?

    Do you believe that justice is being served by the Magistrate not allowing Mr Assange to sit with his legal team? By his not being able to talk with them face to face? To discuss legal strategy?

    Is it a matter of concern to you, and to Attorney General Christian Porter, that Mr Assange’s legal documents are confiscated from him at the end of a day’s legal proceedings, thus making it impossible for him to review these? Surely, the prevention of communication between a defendant and his lawyers is an abuse of due process?

    Is it a matter of concern to the Australian government that what we are seeing unfold in Woolwich court is an indication of the kind of treatment Julian Assange can expect in the US if he is extradited?

    I look forward to your replies, Minister, as do the ever-increasing number of Australians who wonder why the Australian government is sitting on its hands in relation to Assange and want, as does Alan Jones, for “Our Ratbag” to be safely returned to his family in the country of his birth, Australia.

    Yours sincerely

    James Ricketson

  7. Craig Murray, and now here, James Lovejoy, mention a South African connection re Vanessa Baraitser. If nothing is known about her, how do they obtain that information ? Craig Muttay describes her as ‘ a daughter of dissidents of apartheid ‘ In a recent talk.

  8. In the land named Australia we do not have a clean
    record. Consider Wilfred Burchett’s covering of the
    Vietnam War. The Australian Government defamed
    him of his ‘press’ freedom & cancelled his passport
    for 17 years. Note how Burchette was the first
    Western journalist to visit Hiroshima after the atom
    bomb. Our record’s very ‘grotty’.

  9. Australia needs to take a stand and put its foot down in this case and particular mps have stated he is guilty , and others have to their integrity taken a stand for Julianne Assange and so they should … this effects the future of all Australians … their are sufficient grounds for Australia to request a deportation immediately from the UK … he cannot be detained for a non specified amount of time in a foreign prison against the law because the law itself is unclear as put forward by the uk , when laws in his favour are being ignored , Australia must insist on deportation to Australia , and England must request the USA bring its charges to Australia, obviously won’t happen because of our extradition laws … their is no grey area . The western world appear to be united in this and are going against everything they say differs us from the counties we attack and have had many wars and still cold wars with …. this is about all Australian citizens not just Julianne Assange

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