Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day Three

September 9, 2020: Day 3

Pre-Hearing Details

Again, nothing unusual to report pre-hearing but I’ve decided I’m going to post this every single day as a reminder: Belmarsh prison puts Assange through a five-hour ordeal including being handcuffed and strip-searched just to take him to court. I’m wondering how many journalists and publishers out there that refuse to speak out on his behalf against this extradition request would feel if the U.S. arrested them tomorrow and put them through this punishment for simply practicing journalism. Especially those who used WikiLeaks documents in the past to bolster their work, image, or publications.

Defense Witness #3: Paul Rogers

The first witness up for the day was Paul Rogers, a professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and according to journalist Mohamed Elmaazi, he’s a political scientist that specializes in international security. It should also be mentioned that the U.S. government apparently dumped a large “bundle” of documents on Rogers and the second witness of the day, Trevor Timm, in the last 24-48 hours before their testimony and then expected them to be familiar with it. Highlights from Rogers’ testimony:

Iraq War and WikiLeaks

  • WikiLeaks documents “exposed the fiction of success” of Iraq war contrary to what U.S. said publicly (via James Doleman)
  • The War Logs alone exposed an additional 15,000 Iraqi civilian casualties
  • Rogers believes WikiLeaks publications have made states more cautious about going to war

The Trump Administration

  • Assange’s political opinions “and the clash of those views” suggests that he is “regarded primarily as a political opponent who must experience the full wrath of the government.” (via Mohamed Elmaazi)
  • The Trump administration has claimed that Assange is a political opponent
  • This definitely appears to be a political trial

Cross-Examination

  • Just like he did yesterday, James Lewis QC for the U.S. government, tried to paint Rogers as a biased witness, this time because Rogers’ written testimony omitted arguments in favor of extradition and that the prosecution of Assange is not politically motivated

And then these happened:

  • This is literally some Qanon (and 2016 election) shiz coming from UK prosecutors on behalf on the U.S. government that Trump is at war with the intelligence agencies and he’s here to save Assange
  • For those that don’t know, reportedly it was Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s second largest donor and a leading figure in the spying operation in the Ecuadorian embassy, who told Trump to use “I love WikiLeaks” on the campaign trail.
  • It’s becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. wants to prosecute Assange while keeping Trump out of the equation
  • Apparently at some point Lewis said that Obama didn’t prosecute Assange because he was in the embassy which was:
    A. news to me
    B. absurd, Obama prosecuted Snowden outside of U.S. jurisdiction and
    C. a statement that literally proved Rogers’ point that things changed under the Trump administration

Redirect

  • Rogers asked to elaborate on Assange’s comment that wars are started by lies; he said Julian was referring to the Germans saying that Poland was a threat, WMDs in Iraq, etc.
  • “The trial is political because the decision to bring charges against Assange wasn’t based purely on any legality but a change of leadership and motives of people at the top” (via Richard Medhurst)

Defense Witness #4: Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm runs the Freedom of the Press Foundation in the United States, a five-year old organization that “exists to protect freedom of the press in 21st century & systematically track press freedom violations/generally advocate for strong press freedoms in the U.S” (Medhurst). Highlights from his testimony (and seriously, he kicked the prosecutor’s arse):

Direct:

  • Timm started off by saying that “without access to secrets there is no reporting” and pointing out that SCOTUS overruled the government over the Pentagon papers (via Doleman)
  • The media has been threatened multiple times in the past: The U.S. government threatened the NYT in 1975, author James Bamford, and James Risen over reporting
  • He emphasized how the charges against Assange would criminalize journalism including possessing, receiving, or obtaining material similar to what Assange/WikiLeaks have received
  • He also noted that many news outlets use secure dropboxes/submission systems so if its illegal for WikiLeaks…?

Cross-Examination

  • Lewis (naturally) argued that Timm was biased because his organization donated $100,000 to Assange’s legal costs and because he has an interest in the outcome of the case (um…who doesn’t and wouldn’t that make the U.S. government bias too?)
  • Lewis argued that Assange isn’t a journalist…in a UK courtroom no less…after a UK tribunal has already ruled that WikiLeaks is a media organization
  • Timm said that the government doesn’t have the right to decide who is a journalist — whether he is considered a journalist is besides the point, he was engaging in journalistic activity
  • Lewis went on another tangent that the U.S. government isn’t prosecuting Assange for publishing and then pointed to a DOJ statement that said as much:

Then Lewis tried to pull off the “Assange hacked some stuff” move:

And went on again ad nauseam about Assange putting people in danger:

  • Lewis said to Timm, “You’re fine with publishing people’s names and endangering lives?” Timm: No proof of that. (via Medhurst)
  • Timm: “No court has ever said that the publication of names in this matter would be illegal. In fact, Congress debated this very act and a law proposed aimed specifically making a crime to punish the publication of so called human intelligence. It failed” (via Elmaazi)

Drop the Mic

While Lewis was still going on about how WikiLeaks put people in harm’s way, Timm said that although WikiLeaks didn’t have “perfect editorial judgment” any more than The Guardian or NYT, the government shouldn’t be the one to decide “if editorial judgment is criminal.” And then this Chris Darden move happened:

Before Adjournment

In case you missed the hearing today but plan on following it tomorrow, a head’s up that the prosecutor cried about not having enough time questioning witnesses even though he repeatedly went over the 30-minute allotment. I think he went over an hour with Rogers. Meanwhile, Judge Vanassa Baraitser was more than happy to warn Assange’s attorney when he was getting close to the 30-minute mark. Bottom line is we’ll find out tomorrow what the rules on the playground are…even though the judge already ruled on this (30 minutes per witness).

Witnesses

  • Day 1 and 2: Mark Feldstein
  • Day 2: Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Day 3: Paul Rogers, Trevor Timm

Interviews

  • Reporters Without Borders HERE
  • Craig Murray HERE

Documents

Defense Skeleton Arguments HERE and HERE

Bridges for Media Freedom Court Daily Summary: A.M. SUMMARY and P.M. SUMMARY

Defense Witness #1 Statement: Professor Mark Feldstein HERE and HERE

Defense Witness #2 Statement: Clive Stafford-Smith HERE

Defense Witness #3 Statement: Paul Rogers HERE

Defense Witness #4 Statement: Trevor Timm HERE

Twitter Users and Articles

“Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty.'” Tristen Kirk via Evening Standard

“How Did We Get Here? The Threat of Fascism in U.S.” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org

“Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange (english subtitles)” via ardmediathek.de

“Assange’s political opinions ‘put him in crosshairs of Trump administration’” Press Association via EveningExpress

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