Julian Assange was back at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday 5 December seeking permission – from the High Court judges who dismissed his appeal against extradition in November – to take his case to the Supreme Court. They haven’t actually allowed this themselves, but they’re allowing him to ask the Supreme Court directly for leave to appeal, on one of the two points raised.
A solidarity vigil had been called for the day of the hearing at the High Court in London. Supporters were present with banners, placards and music from 8.30am outside the court. Report below. Elsewhere, US and Australian supporters held a vigil in Washington DC on the evening of 4 December and a vigil in Brisbane on the day of the hearing.
Julian speaks outside the High Court in London after the hearing:
The Issues and the Court Ruling
The two points on which Assange’s case was being made – that there are issues of ‘general public importance’ – are as follows:
1) Whether a European Arrest Warrant issued by a partisan prosecutor working for the executive (i.e. not an independent judge or investigating magistrate in the civil law system) is a valid Part 1 Warrant issued by a “judicial authority” within the meaning of sections 2(2) & 66 of the Extradition Act 2003?
* This point argues that the decision goes against parliamentary intent in the 2003 Extradition Act (see High Court Ruling).
2) Whether a person in respect of whom no decision to prosecute has been taken can be said to be ’accused’ within the meaning of sections 2(3)(a) of the Extradition Act 2003?
My understanding is that the second of these points was dismissed by the judges, but that they have allowed Assange to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on the first point.
In a rather twisted bit of legal manoevring, the judges have not directly given him leave to appeal themselves, saying that in their opinion the prosecutor qualifies as a ‘judicial authority’. However, they accepted that this aspect of the case does raise a general point of public interest (ie with wider relevance than Assange’s case – Assange’s legal team identified 60 cases where this had been an issue) which should be settled, so they have allowed that he can go and ask the Supreme Court himself if it will hear his appeal. Something like that at any rate.
There’s now a fuller explanation under today’s news on the home page of the Sweden Versus Assange website:
Julian Assange has 14 days to submit a written application to the Supreme Court.
Solidarity with Assange outside the Court
An anti-war solidarity vigil was held outside the court from early this morning, organised by London Catholic Worker and Veterans for Peace to keep the focus on the real issues – the truth about the wars as evidenced by the WikiLeaks disclosures Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.
Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace UK spoke about the way the state treats those who dare to speak out and tell the truth about the wars. Ben is himself subject to a High Court gagging order in relation to his experiences in the army. Ben was in the SAS and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before refusing to go back to war and leaving the army. Prior to the injunction, Ben had spoken publicly about British involvement and complicity in the extraordinary rendition of non-combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan, who were handed over by British troops to the Americans in full knowledge of what would happen to them.
Today, Ben referred to the importance of the WikiLeaks disclosures for soldiers talking about their experiences of the wars, since these revelations provide evidence which confirms stories that the state could otherwise dismiss as unsubstantiated rumour. Ben spoke about the length of time Julian Assange has been fighting this case and has been held under virtual house arrest (nearly one year). He also mentioned Bradley Manning, held for 18 months without trial by the US, for nine of those months in conditions of torture, and Michael Lyons, the British Navy medic jailed for seven months for refusing to take up arms and opposing the war in Afghanistan, whose appeal against this charge and sentence was dismissed by judges after a mere couple of minutes of supposed deliberation. Ben pointed out that anyone who speaks out against the state and its wrongs is likely to be treated in such ways.
Another speaker today referred to the frequent use made by authorities through history of fabricated rape allegations to discredit those who oppose the state or are seen as some kind of threat; this was also referred to by Women Against Rape in a letter to the press almost a year ago, as Assange was beginning his battle against extradition to Sweden.
Occupy LSX, which had its own court case here on the same day in connection with its occupation of the UBS Building ‘Bank of Ideas’, ran a live stream from outside the court all morning.
So, Julian Assange’s fight goes on.
See this set of photos from the solidarity vigil outside the High Court.
For an insight from one of his legal team, see this Democracy Now! interview with Assange’s lawyer Gareth Peirce, who has represented and continues to represent many victims of miscarriages of justice:
Extract from interview
AMY GOODMAN: You’re representing Julian Assange, and I wanted to ask how you’ve gone from representing Guantánamo prisoners to representing Julian Assange, as the Swedish government attempts to extradite him from Britain, where you’re based, where Julian Assange is right now, to Sweden.
GARETH PEIRCE: It’s a pretty easy trajectory, I think. If one is to make an equivalency between circumstances, there are individuals, over the decades and the centuries, who stand up to be counted, who are vocal, who do brave things to talk about what is uncomfortable and what others don’t want to hear. And history tells us that those individuals will, by the states who consider their voices should not be heard, be in some way attacked. And it’s part of the narrative that’s perpetuated, the false narrative that makes people an enemy, makes whatever the state remove their protections under due process, because they say, “This is an exception. This is an exceptionalist crime, of such severity that we can—it’s right that we take away what restricts us in confining them.” And it’s not a million miles from men who were taken to Guantánamo or men who are being silenced by translating a text from Arabic into English, to people who think the world should know the dark secrets that are hidden and put them out on the internet. These are not enormous differences, but the way the state reacts, whether it’s your state or mine—the way the state reacts is actually identical in each case. It’s to perceive the person as the enemy and try to take them out.