In what has been described by most as refreshingly good news, Julian Assange has reportedly been moved out of solitary confinement at London’s high-security Belmarsh prison into a small unit within general population. According to WikiLeaks “ambassador” Joseph Farrell:
“In a dramatic climbdown, authorities at Belmarsh prison have moved Julian Assange from solitary confinement in the medical wing and relocated him to an area with other inmates. The move is a huge victory for Assange’s legal team and for campaigners who have been insisting for weeks that the prison authorities must end the punitive treatment of Assange.
But the decision to relocate Assange is also a massive victory of prisoners in Belmarsh. A group of inmates have petitioned the prison governor on three occasions insisting that the treatment of Assange was unjust and unfair. After meetings between prisoners, lawyers and the Belmarsh authorities, Assange was moved to a different prison wing albeit one with only 40 inmates.
But there remains serious concerns about Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh. He is still being denied adequate access to his lawyers as even the judge recognized at a case management hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. And campaigners continue to insist that Assange should not be in prison at all, least of all in Belmarsh high security prison.
But all that not withstanding, this is an important victory for the campaigners outside and inside the prison walls.”
First, this is definitively good news if this is what Julian Assange wanted which, of course, remains unknown. Second, as the socialist organization ClassConscious.org‘s Davey Heller pointed out in a petition to move Assange out of Belmarsh, the decision isn’t just a victory for Assange or campaigners, it’s a class victory that strikes at the heart of the elitist class:
“The prisoners of Belmarsh, who are overwhelming made up of poor working class people, who have ended up in prison as a result of the social conditions arising out of social inequality and injustice, have recognized an ally in Assange. They see that Assange and Wikileaks, through exposing the real criminals who run society, are their allies and deserving of solidarity.”
The prison’s decision also occurred “one day before a contingent of Yellow Vest protestors” were due to arrive outside of Belmarsh prison and Heller noted that there was a very real possibility that U.K. and prison authorities feared unrest within the prison population regarding Assange’s treatment. The last thing they wanted was an “organised, lively and noisy Yellow Vest protest” drawing attention to it.
“This highlights the fundamental truth, that what authorities in the UK, US and Australia fear most is an international mass campaign of working class protest erupting. The prison in Belmarsh and the court itself are the places where they are most vulnerable.”
In other words, authorities may have tried to pacify the Yellow Vests before they even arrived at the prison.
JULIAN ASSANGE’S HEALTH
However, for anyone that’s been paying attention, Farrell’s good news brings with it a multitude of disconcerting, unanswered questions about Julian Assange’s imprisonment and what looks to be the latest propaganda coming from self-proclaimed WikiLeaks gatekeepers in order to bury what’s really happened at Belmarsh prison. For instance, on May 29, 2019, it was reported that Assange had been moved to the prison’s medical ward over grave concerns about his health, and the following day he was too ill to appear in court. The news came only a few days after the United States filed 17 additional charges against him under the Espionage Act.
In early June 2019, and after a visit with his son at Belmarsh, John Shipton told the media that Assange was “recovering well after a dramatic weight loss,” and that he expected him to be moved out of the medical wing and back into general population. However, by September, he was still there and almost every high-profile supporter such as John Pilger, Craig Murray, as well as WikiLeaks Editor in Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, maintained that he was essentially dying in prison.
“Do not forget Julian #Assange. Or you will lose him. I saw him in Belmarsh prison and his health has deteriorated.” – John Pilger, August 7, 2019
“He was plainly not himself, very ill and it was just horribly painful to watch.” – Craig Murray, October 22, 2019
“He could hardly talk. He’s dying.” – WikiLeaks gatekeeper Emmy Butlin, October 21, 2019
“He told my wife and I how he was slowly dying in Belmarsh…” – Vaughan Smith, December 28, 2019
“They feared Assange may not live to the end of his extradition trial which starts in late February next year.” – 65 doctors that signed a letter stating Assange needs urgent treatment at a university hospital, November 24, 2019
Let’s be honest, at what point was anyone under the impression that Assange was well enough to leave the prison’s hospital unit? In fact, gatekeepers and friends of Assange have repeatedly made it sound like things were getting worse.
Fast forward to this past week when John Rees, another newcomer to the WikiLeaks apparent spokesperson role, stated on Twitter that he had visited Assange in Belmarsh on January 21, 2019, and that “he’s in good spirits and very focussed on preparation for his full extradition hearing next month.” This is the same man that’s been dying for the last eight months. This is the same man that WikiLeaks insiders, gatekeepers, and even mainstream media said could barely utter his name or remember his birthday in court. And this is the same man languishing in prison, depressed, and apparently under the belief that even his own attorneys think he’ll be extradited to the United States.
Is it any wonder why nothing reported on Assange can be trusted at this point regardless of the source, especially since he’s been essentially gagged for almost two years now?
As noted, in recent months Rees has been portrayed as one of the latest spokespersons for WikiLeaks who unfortunately is incapable of any criticism or questioning on any level despite his self-proclaimed public stature on all things Assange. He blocked me after I tweeted to him and has since blocked other Assange and free speech/free press supporters as well, a move that seems to be the usual modus operandi of WikiLeaks gatekeepers and long-term supporters who appear to have absolutely no desire or know-how on how to grow a supportive, working class movement for Julian unless it’s in the form of unquestionable, blind devotion.
But let’s suppose that Assange has indeed made a dramatic comeback in recent weeks. The issue at hand is that he’s been kept isolated, even in “solitary confinement” within the medical unit, as Farrell described. But is this really true? Prior to being moved to that unit in late May 2019, Assange was being held in his cell for over twenty hours a day which indeed is a long time but even the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, reported in late May that “Contrary to prior reports received, at the time of my visit, Mr. Assange was not being held in solitary confinement.”
Farrell had made previous public statements that Assange was being held in solitary despite what Melzer later reported, but so was every other prisoner at Belmarsh. Farrell’s remarks in May 2019:
“The conditions in Belmarsh prison are not good due to austerity measures and cutbacks. The prison population is forced to be in their cells for 23 hours of the day which is tantamount to solitary confinement…”
There’s no disputing the fact that locking people up for 23 hours a day is tantamount to solitary confinement and torture. The issue here, however, is that Assange wasn’t in solitary. He was forced to live in his cell for long periods of time just like everyone else because that’s the norm at Belmarsh, not the exception. If WikiLeaks and this “ambassador” had any real interest in growing a popular movement to support the co-founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, they would have addressed this issue in terms of all prisoners’ rights, not just Assange’s.
Assange is not the only one suffering in Belmarsh under the U.K.’s austerity measures. It would serve the movement to Free Assange to address the torture that is being inflicted upon the entire population of the prison, including what many would callously describe as the lower classes of society who are experiencing the same fate as Assange. It’s likely Class Conscious is correct that Belmarsh prisoners have found an ally in Assange precisely because he views the world much differently than the myriad of people who claim to represent him outside of the prison—he doesn’t conform to class structure and society’s prejudicial rules.
And going back to the widespread idea that Assange was isolated in the medical ward, according to the Australian Herald Newspaper, Assange’s brother who once wrote to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison seeking his help to free the Australian publisher, stated that Assange was spending “21 hours a day in isolation in the health ward” and that “his only contact is with other inmates” within the same unit. Note that it appears Assange was actually spending less time in isolation within the medical wing versus the general population, at least according to Farrell’s own words.
And clearly he wasn’t entirely isolated from other prisoners but as Assange’s brother pointed out, the patients in the medical ward have “serious mental problems,” which likely contributed to reports that Assange was having difficulty with the prison’s noise level. So, despite at least some interaction with other prisoners, the term “isolation” used to describe Assange’s conditions in the medical ward appears to be more about how he was treated when he was moved from one place to another and not necessarily solely in terms of how many inmates were in his assigned unit—although we shouldn’t dismiss that that played a role. In late September, Felicity Ruby visited Assange at Belmarsh and reported:
“He confirms that he is still on the health ward, though he hasn’t seen specialists, which is obviously necessary after what he’s been through. He explains that he is transported in and out of his cell, where he is kept for twenty-two hours a day under so-called ‘controlled moves’, meaning the prison is locked down and hallways are cleared.”
So not only has Assange’s health greatly improved in prison, he’s apparently done it without any help from specialists. But I digress. In December 2019, Hrafnsson also noted that on the few occasions he has visited Assange, “he is always either the first or the last to enter the visitation room. And that’s because they empty the hallways when he goes from his cell…And for what reason? One doesn’t understand.”
What’s not understandable is why Hrafnsson is trying to bury the very reason why the hallways were cleared in the first place. Assange’s brother confirmed Belmarsh’s procedures when they moved him from one place to another as well as the exact reason why that was happening: After “an inmate earlier this year leaked footage of him inside the jail,” the prison implemented the new and isolating procedures. And therein lies the crux of this entire story that so many gutless wonders don’t want you to know about.
LEAKED VIDEO OF ASSANGE AND THE FAR RIGHT
In case you missed it, a week after Nils Melzer reported on Assange’s deteriorating condition at the end of May 2019 (the report was published prior to his knowledge that Assange had been moved to the medical ward), political journalist Cassandra Fairbanks somehow got in contact with a prisoner at Belmarsh who began leaking to her photos that they had secretly taken of Assange in prison. She subsequently published an article about the prisoner and Assange via Gateway Pundit and included the leaked photos. The prisoner then released a covert video taken of Assange that was also published by Gateway.
To be perfectly clear, what Hrafnsson doesn’t want to admit and what Farrell and whoever is running WikiLeaks, along with the London support community, does not want you to know is the fact that a group of prisoners didn’t exactly achieve a victory but rather, they corrected the problem that Fairbanks herself seems to have created in the first place; Assange’s increased isolation at the prison was in direct response to leaked material (the video appears to have been originally leaked to Ruptly) to the public which was initially reported on by Fairbanks as an “Exclusive Interview.” Fairbanks is the same woman that WikiLeaks and their gatekeepers repeatedly promoted despite the fact she was advocating for Trump’s reelection less than 24 hours after Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Don’t be surprised, folks, if it comes out in the wash that this entire thing was generated by Fairbanks and others like the attorney who runs the @DefendAssange account and other high-profile insiders because we’ve seen Fairbanks and the old @AssangeMrs account on Twitter trying to pull off other shenanigans that could have threatened Assange’s prison conditions, as well. Also prepare for the possibility that one of the prisoners Farrell says petitioned the governor was the same exact prisoner who leaked the photos and video of Assange that were published by Fairbanks. Why? Because it would strengthen Trump’s base and make alt-lite Trump supporters like Fairbanks look like a hero in what can only be described as a self-made shit show.
Assange’s move to general population is questionable not only in terms of his physical safety but his prison conditions, as well. It should not be ruled out that prison authorities would love to see more material leaked from Belmarsh and into the hands of journalists like Fairbanks. Farrell’s “good news” video came only a week after he and John Rees gave interviews to Breitbart News, a far-right, fascist U.S. media outlet led by Steve Bannon, the former co-founder of Cambridge Analytica and campaign manager for Trump 2016.
Bannon has deep ties to the Military-industrial complex, intelligence, and psyops, and he and Breitbart played an integral role in getting Trump elected to the White House. The U.S. is once again in an election year and it appears that the far right is playing by the same handbook it did during the last election cycle: Integrate themselves further into the Free Assange movement in order to portray Julian Assange as a far-right, fascist advocate. A perceived association with the Trump administration pushed by Breitbart and WikiLeaks spokespeople like Farrell and Rees also plays directly into the hands of the U.S. government who want to diminish public support for Assange during his extradition hearing in London and possible trial in the U.S. if he is, indeed, extradited.
And frankly, how much of what’s going on with the Free Assange campaign does Julian Assange actually know? Even the lawyers admit that they have very limited time with him and one can safely assume the time they do spend with him revolves around legal strategies, not which interviews Farrell and Rees are conducting in his name. Is Assange aware that Rees, Farrell, and supporters such as Emmy Butlin aka @GreekEmmy (WikiLeaks is currently promoting that you donate money directly to her), are using Breitbart News as part of their PR scheme to free him?
“WE HOPE OUR PROTEST INSPIRES YOU”
Farrell wrapped up his victory speech by stating that supporters continue to insist that Assange should not be in prison at all which seems like a really strange statement to limit strictly to campaigners. Doesn’t his attorneys, the legal team, WikiLeaks staff, volunteers, and other journalists and publishers feel the same way? Not that this is terribly surprising. Since September 2019, Assange’s attorneys have had the right to petition bail for Assange every thirty days and they’ve failed to do so even once. This, despite the fact that according to Farrell, even the move back into general population hasn’t changed the fact that Assange is being denied access to his attorneys and his right to prepare for his case is being blocked by U.K./prison authorities.
And to be clear, supporters have been fighting against his imprisonment since the day he was arrested in April 2019, not a few weeks as Farrell so disingenuously puts it. In fact, Class Conscious’ Davey Heller started a petition months ago demanding that Assange be moved out of Belmarsh prison so he can prepare for his defense. The highly successful and popular petition has received approximately 28,000 signatures so far. Farrell’s video ends with a request for donations to a newly created organization called “Don’t Extradite Assange” (DEA Campaign) which offers up no transparency as to where the funds go. Similarly, this same issue was brought up last year with regards to the Courage Foundation who sought donations for Assange but, according to the small print, the money was going to unknown campaigners and possible PR firms, not his legal fees.
The good news is that the Yellow Vests were not deterred or placated by Belmarsh’s recent decision to move Assange and protests in solidarity with the Australian publisher were held around the world including in Melbourne, Australia and outside Belmarsh prison. Their hope? That their protest will inspire others.