Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day Four

September 10, 2020: Day Four

Pre-Hearing

Unlike yesterday we had some unusual and concerning reports come out of the courtroom this morning, but very much like yesterday let me remind everyone: Belmarsh prison puts Assange through a five-hour ordeal including being handcuffed and strip-searched just to take him to court which, according to some reports, he was indeed there today. 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.

Covid-19 Scare Delays Hearing

Journalists James Doleman and Mohamed Elmaazi first reported that the hearing has been delayed until Monday due to a Covid-19 scare with one of the prosecutors who may have been exposed to the virus through a family member. According to Judge Vanessa Baraitser, someone on the prosecution team is being tested today with results expected back by tomorrow. Assange’s attorney, Edward Fitzgerald QC, requested that the court be adjourned until they have the test results back noting that not only are there members of the defense team that are considered high risk, Assange and the court staff would be put at risk as well.

Fitzgerald also argued that conducting the entire hearing via video link would be unfair and if the tests come back positive the judge has asked that both the defense and prosecution make submissions on how they want to proceed. The court is adjourned until Monday, September 14th at 10:00 a.m.

Shenanigans

If shenanigans are your thing, apparently James Lewis QC, prosecutor for the U.S., dialed into court this morning saying he only had 30 minutes left of charge on his computer…and no charger. He was also struggling with a frozen computer screen as Joel Smith, another prosecutor representing the United States, complained that there was no sound on his video because U.K. dumpster fire.

The media and human rights organizations also seem to be still having trouble gaining proper access to the hearing. Today, Rebecca Vincent from Reporters Without Borders said that they are “getting in sporadically” and even when they do it’s in a overflow room where they can’t see Assange or “assess his conditions” on the only small screen available in the room.

Trump

There’s been quite a few articles published in the last 24 hours about the hearing, most of which have similar headlines like the U.S. war on journalism and how Assange is being persecuted by President Trump (per yesterday’s witnesses). Noam Chomsky wrote, “[T]he United States is attempting to accomplish what repressive regimes can only dream of: deciding what journalists around the globe can and cannot write,” and Andrew Blake for The Washington Times reported:

“Mr. Rogers, who holds a doctorate from the University of London, said the U.S. government’s prosecution of Mr. Assange ‘paralleled the overt expression of hostility by President Trump to the press generally as enemies, and the reporting of accurate news being dismissed as ‘fake news’ and of whistleblowers as ‘traitors,’ widening the gulf between reporting of state actions and the desire of government for preserving secrets.’”

Computer Weekly’s Bill Goodwin wrote that the prosecution of Assange would set a “legal precedent that puts journalists reporting on national security at risk worldwide…a court heard yesterday,” while Amnesty International’s headline read, “Julian Assange Extradition Hearing: Punishing the Publisher.”

Three articles, however, headlined stories about Assange being targeted by Trump and the whos and whats of why. Reuters reported that defense witnesses testified yesterday about Trump’s hostility towards Assange and how he views the Australian publisher as a “political enemy” because of his opinions. During his testimony yesterday, Paul Rogers suggested that Trump’s hostility towards Obama may play a role in the prosecution of Assange, wrote The Sydney Morning Herald. Also:

The QC representing the US government, James Lewis, suggested that one reason the Obama administration did not pursue Assange was because the Australian was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he claimed political asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations in 2012. ‘If somebody is hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy, what would be the point of indicting him when he was not available for trial?’ Lewis asked.”

Right. Or maybe Obama wasn’t so inclined or as bright as the Trump administration to use IMF funds to make overtures to Ecuado—*cough* to “strengthen relations” with Ecuador to get to Assange. Maybe Obama wasn’t that much of a lunatic even with Hillary “crazy pants” Clinton by his side.

Lastly, there’s the DailyMail’s, “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange is Being Persecuted by Donald Trump Who Only Want him in Jail to Get Back at Barack Obama…”, which yes, also focuses on witness testimony, Trump’s war on the media, and the Obama theory but like all of the articles mentioned previously at no point do any of them discuss two glaring statements/questions that prosecutors for the U.S. government have said to witnesses during the hearing that indicate this is absolutely a political case.

Perhaps I’m the only one that is finding a certain level of insanity in a U.K. prosecutor (representing U.S. interests) asking a witness to apologize for an alleged “diatribe against President Trump.” This is extraordinary beyond belief and very telling as to how far the U.K. is willing to go to protect Trump’s interests in these proceedings—fight the defense’s argument that this is a political case while saving Trump’s arse for the upcoming election.

As you can see Lewis’ question about Trump lovin’ on WikiLeaks happened a day after he asked Mark Feldstein to apologize and it’s just as outrageous in the sense that as I mentioned yesterday, this is some serious Qanon shiz that U.K. prosecutors are slinging. The question infers that Trump has supported WikiLeaks all along despite the fact he called for the death penalty for its staff/volunteers back in 2010, and then he denied knowing anything about the publishing outlet and Assange after he won the 2016 election.

Lewis wants you to believe that Trump doesn’t want Assange prosecuted and that alone plays into the Qanon narrative as does the idea that Trump is at war with the intelligence agencies. No, Trump will not save Assange or journalism. He has no intention of doing so.

As a side note, keep in mind how emphatically the defense is arguing that this is a political case i.e. Assange is a political figure (once granted political asylum), and as one member of the socialist organization ClassConscious.org pointed out, part of their defense is a crucial understanding between how Obama vs. Trump handled Assange’s case: The Trump administration’s decision to indict Assange was a purely political one, not a criminal one. Also take note how many people within WikiLeaks’ circle or Assange’s support community over the course of the last two years refused to acknowledge the very arguments that are being used by Assange’s defense team today while smearing and actively calling activists federal agents for challenging this refusal.

And sure, going back to Obama, part of this could definitely be about Trump’s animosity towards him. It’s the first time I’m hearing this argument but yeah, anything’s possible. However, what I think is more possible is that this entire case is actually about WikiLeaks’ March 2017 Vault 7 documents that exposed the CIA’s hacking and malware arsenal BUT it’s the last thing the U.S. government wants to discuss in court.

Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was CIA director at the time of publication and he quickly came out publicly against WikiLeaks by calling the organization a “hostile intelligence service.” Within months, UC Global was recruited at a casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, the second largest donor to Trump, to implement a spying operation inside the Ecuadorian embassy and by December 2017—while Pompeo was still CIA director—a 24/7 illegal livestream that recorded Assange’s every move including meetings with his attorney, became accessible to U.S. intelligence.

With all of this said, of course it’s important to talk about the dangerous precedence this case would set for journalism if Assange is successfully extradited and prosecuted. But it’s also important to point out what exactly the U.K. is trying to do here which is protect President Trump because it’s vital for the upcoming election (his base) as well as a necessary means to fight the defense’s argument that this is a political case.

Attorneys

I’ve decided to add a list of attorneys to these posts in case anyone wonders who’s who if or when their name comes up during the course of the hearing.

  • Edward Fitzgerald QC (Assange defense)
  • Mark Summers QC (Assange defense)
  • Jennifer Robinson (Assange defense)
  • Gareth Peirce (Assange defense)
  • Florence Iveson (Assange defense)
  • James Lewis QC (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Joel Smith (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Claire Dobbin (prosecutor for the U.S.)

Witnesses

  • Day 1 and 2: Mark Feldstein
  • Day 2: Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Day 3: Paul Rogers, Trevor Timm
  • Day 4: Eric Lewis (cancelled)

Documents

Defense Skeleton Arguments HERE and HERE

Bridges for Media Freedom Court Daily Summary A.M only today (written by James Doleman):  HERE 

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

Defense Witness #5 Statement: Eric Lewis (unavailable)

Twitter Sources and Articles

  • “How Did We Get Here? The Threat of Fascism in U.S.” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org
  • “The Working Class Must Demand an End to the Show Trial of Julian Assange.” Thomas Scripps via wsws.org

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