Extradition Appeal Verdict: 30 May 2012
About a dozen of us had gathered outside the Supreme Court by 7.30am in preparation for what we expected to be the last stage, one way or the other, in Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to Sweden. We were not encouraged by the news that Hillary Clinton would be visiting Sweden hours after the verdict. This visit is the “first bilateral visit to Sweden by a US SecState for a very long time” according to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and was only announced after the Supreme Court date was publicly released last week. Draw your own conclusions.
Over the course of the morning, the number of supporters swelled to around 30 but we were easily outnumbered by the press pack opposite (and a lot of cameras and bags just waiting to be decorated with the ‘Free Bradley Manning’ stickers someone had brought along). There was also a queue of supporters waiting to go inside the court to hear the verdict, but not crowds by any means – maybe people thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion or maybe they have just tired of the ongoing series of court dates. Unusually, there was not a single ‘Anonymous’ mask in evidence.
Today’s banners included Sue and Roland’s special ‘Queen’s Jubilee’ editions, altered to read ‘God Save Julian’ on the union flag. Photos of these have been widely used to illustrate reports on the verdict worldwide [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ] .
Anthony arrived with a huge wooden placard he’d somehow managed to bring along on the bus, with ‘Free Assange’ on one side,
‘Free Bradley Manning’ on the other.
Two guys turned up, made their sign there and then
and donned gags before holding it up.
Mirjam’s placard read ‘Don’t Shoot the Messenger’ in Swedish.
Julian’s legal team arrived early, followed by high profile supporters such as John Pilger and Vaughan Smith, but there was no sign of Julian and his mother Christine, who had flown to Britain to support her son. They were expected at 8.30, but had still not appeared 45 minutes later when we received a tweet from inside the court to say that the court had dismissed the appeal. First impressions were that Julian had lost and extradition was imminent.
It was later reported that Julian’s car had been held up in traffic.
At first, we had little information outside the court about the detail of the ruling, except that it was a 5-2 majority verdict, so at least two of the judges had not been persuaded to toe the party line.
More signs materialised at the vigil, including Lindi’s succinct ‘Stitch Up’
and Genny’s ‘UK Courts Kiss US Ass’ (which had a patch ready to turn ‘Kiss’ into ‘Kick’ in case the verdict went the other way – sadly not needed on this occasion).
Gradually, details of the ruling filtered out: the matter appeared to have been decided on a discrepancy in meaning between French and English translations of the words ‘judicial authority’; the ruling was largely based on interpretation of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties; this was not part of the respondent’s case at appeal and Julian’s legal representatives had therefore not had the opportunity to make submissions on this point; the ruling referred to debates in Parliament prior to the introduction of the European Arrest Warrant and accepted that Parliament’s understanding of the wording ‘judicial authority’ was that it could only refer to a court or a judge.
In light of a confusing ruling that they had only had a very short time to study, Dinah Rose QC had now requested that the appellant’s legal team be given opportunity to make a case for the judgment to be reconsidered and the court had granted 14 days to present a case, during which time there can be no extradition.
Julian’s solicitor Gareth Peirce emerged from the court to make a statement pointing out that all the judges agreed that Parliament had been misled when agreeing the EAW legislation.
“Parliament implemented the European Framework document on a basis that Members of Parliament did not understand to be the case. They were assured and Ministers assured them that the way in which we understand in this country ‘judicial authority’ to mean a court and a judge was what Parliament was enacting into law.”
Guardian video of John Pilger, Gareth Peirce and Julian Assange supporter Sue Gianstefani speaking about the ruling here.
John Pilger, Vaughan Davies and many others gave their immediate responses to the ruling to the assembled media. John Pilger had also given an interview to Truthout the night before the judgment, the full text of which can be read here.
The vigil was continued until about 11am when the remaining supporters formed a circle and sang Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’, led by Ross on guitar and gatecrashed by camera crews.
The US has issued a secret indictment for Julian that could be used to extradite him to the US from Britain or Sweden. He remains in extreme jeopardy from the US – which is intent on exacting revenge for WikiLeaks’ public truth-telling activities – whatever the final outcome of this case. Nevertheless, the longer it plays out, the harder it becomes for those conspiring against Julian to maintain their pretence of lawful process. Wake up, World!
Other vigils timed to coincide with the verdict included Brisbane and Berlin, with demonstrations across Australia and around the world taking place on 31 May.
Photos from Berlin here.