Challenging the Abuse of Law: Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange

  • Why supporting Chelsea’s Appeal Fund is a Human Rights issue
  • Assange – 3 years in the Embassy and the Swedish prosecutor still impeding process 
  • (but not WikiLeaks’ progress!) NEW RELEASE: Saudi Arabia Cables

The meeting of the lawyers

Nancy Hollander, Chelsea Manning’s appeals lawyer, was recently in London, in conversation (a lunchtime talk) with Jen Robinson, one of Julian Assange’s lawyers.

Chelsea Jen Robinson and Nancy Hollander in Conversation

photo of Jen Robinson (left) & Nancy Hollander (right) by David Peter Simon                      http://davidpetersimon.com/diary/2015/05/22/jen-robinson-and-nancy-hollander

The Drift Report brings us an appeals update

John Rogers was there and seized the moment for the Drift Report, which means we have another update on Chelsea’s upcoming appeal, as he interviewed Nancy Hollander, and then produced this video report, goodonim. Watch it below:

 

A couple of previous interviews with Nancy Hollander are here and here.

John Rogers ends his post on the lost byway (which he titles Remember Chelsea Manning) with a link to Chelsea’s Defence Fund.  Which is timely, for funds are urgently needed to fight this draconion 35 year sentence in the courts.

Prosecutors’ (governments) tactical delays

The record of Chelsea Manning’s kangaroo court martial is around 45,000 pages long and is thought to be the longest ever record of trial.  Much of this was due to the reprehensible delaying tactics of the government, doubtless hoping that the public would suffer from ‘compassion fatigue’ and stop funding Chelsea’s defence, so it ran out of money. Well, we didn’t, and it didn’t.

Let’s hope we don’t give up on the appeal process either, which, aside from what it means to Chelsea personally, could be a significant legal landmark for the protection of whistleblowers, and thus our freedoms, which whistleblowers protect.

Read about Chelsea Manning, what she did, why, and what happened, here

From arrest to the beginning of the formal court martial, Chelsea spent 3 whole years in pretrial confinement. It was 19 months before she set foot in a courtroom, and that was only to decide if there should be a court martial.

Then followed (after another two months) a formal ‘arraignment’, and after this various other pretrial hearings to define the boundaries of the court martial were dragged out over a further 16 months in an unbelievably cynical way by the prosecution’s refusal to produce evidence, their general avoidance tactics, and the whole bag of works that a player who holds practically all the cards (except the wild one, of course) has at their disposal.

Court Art by Clark Stoeckley from Chelsea Manning’s Court Martial

Julian Assange, too, has been experiencing delaying tactics by a prosecutor. Friday 19th June marks the 3rd anniversary of his confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy where, on the 19th June 2013, he sought (and was granted) asylum from the US threat (as exemplified by the ongoing Grand Jury , death threats from prominent individuals in civil society, and high level government officials repeatedly calling him a terrorist).

Which threat would inevitably increase if the Swedish prosecutor had her way in achieving his extradition and (as is the norm in the circumstances in Sweden) he was then banged up in a long pretrial incarceration, unable to organise his own protection. More about that with all your FAQs answered (scroll down) here. Meanwhile, here’s a graphic look at the charges which the US will look to bring:

Assange bean's charges

The Swedish prosecutor, who has, for nearly four and a half years, refused to consider interviewing Assange anywhere but Sweden, suddenly capitulated earlier this year and agreed to this, having been criticised by the Swedish Court of Appeal for unnecessary delay back in November. Human Rights Watch puts it like this:

Sweden’s prosecutor has managed to forestall a decision by Sweden’s Supreme Court to quash the arrest warrant based on Assange’s prolonged confinement by declaring in March that she would interview him in London.

Not a lot happened for a few months. Then on Wednesday 17th Assange posted this:

This afternoon, the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny cancelled a prospective appointment to take my statement today. We proposed the dates and Ny accepted them. Prosecutor Ny led my lawyers to believe that the appointment was proceeding.

My lawyers had booked tickets and I have been put to considerable expense. Last year, the Swedish court of appeal found that prosecutor Ny had breached her duty because she had refused to take my statement for four and a half years. The prosecutor waited another seven months before finally accepting my offer to take my statement in London.

Today I learned that the Swedish legal application to Ecuador, which is likely to take weeks, was only sent to Ecuador two days ago. To behave in such a way seems reckless and it is hard to imagine that it was more than a public relations exercise. It is impossible to maintain confidence in this prosecutor under such circumstances.

Tactics. The use of the legal system to oppress and abuse. Human Rights Watch statement on the 19th June anniversary called it ‘foot-dragging’:

Sweden deserves censure for foot-dragging, which serves neither the interests of the two women alleged to be his victims nor of Assange.

Then the statement got to the heart of the matter about this ‘foot-dragging’, referring to the active, ‘protracted and secret grand jury investigation’:

So whose interests does it serve?

The US government, which would be only too happy to see Julian Assange caged, is accomplishing through a protracted and secret grand jury investigation what it should not accomplish through law.

No evidence has  emerged that would show he did more than what publishers of more mainstream outlets do—release to the public information  of public interest.  So far, the US has not prosecuted the media under the draconian terms of its antiquated Espionage Act, though it has been quite willing under President Obama to punish the leakers.

The US should make good on former Attorney General Eric Holder’s assurance that the Justice Department “will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job” and close its Assange investigation  or let the public and the media know what evidence justifies keeping it going.

But WikiLeaks’ work goes on regardless: NEW RELEASES

However, as the Australian Green’s statement on this 3rd anniversary says,

despite the extraordinary pressure brought to bear by some of the most powerful institutions on earth, WikiLeaks has continued to publish

And the anniversary was marked by more publications -a new stash of Sony docs and then a monumental new release of documents from the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia which hits the spot pretty adroitly just now:

more than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.

The publication includes “Top Secret” reports from other Saudi State institutions, including the Ministry of Interior and the Kingdom’s General Intelligence Services.

Assange:

The Saudi Cables lift the lid on a increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbours and itself

The release mostly covers 2010-2015, including several months into 2015, so there’s a lot of recent stuff. 61194 of the docs were published, with the rest to follow progressively. If the aim is to stop releases and silence WikiLeaks, it’s plainly an abysmal fail so far!

Finally, the WikiLeaks’ press release notes:

By coincidence, the Saudi Cables release also marks two other events. Today marks three years since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seeking asylum from US persecution, having been held for almost five years without charge in the United Kingdom.

Also today Google revealed that it had been been forced to hand over more data to the US government in order to assist the prosecution of WikiLeaks staff under US espionage charges arising from our publication of US diplomatic cables.

Yep. A good vibe of synchronicitous irony for the significant date. The wild card. Rock on, you Wikileaks! Bravo Julian!

Assange Embassy 3years2long

The legal regression of the 21st Century – Magna Carta

35 years for whistleblowing; the releasing of information to the public in order to take action to stop human rights abuses – war crimes, all manner of corporate and governmental stitch-ups and the like – is not just an outrage, it’s a measure of where we’re at in the 21st century, which seems to have been characterised so far by a systematic dismantling of the last century’s advances – the hard won recognition of some of the things that make civilisation possible and at least inhibit the worst excesses of power.

The combination of ever increasing secrecy for the powerful and total invasion of privacy  for the rest of us, combined with a blatant, overt disregard for the rule of law, is a dangerous overweight of inequality, and much of it is being felt in the legal system.

The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta has just been feted by our government and, as expected, it was a wonderful occasion for bunting-loving and hypocrisy down at Runnymede. On David Cameron’s ‘shameless act of party politicking’, I was just reading this from Jill Segger:

His prating of “guaranteed access to justice” is a nonsense in the face of legal aid cuts.

To speak of the limits of executive power is meaningless when the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the threat to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights is on his government’s agenda.

To set claim to the “belief that there should be something called the rule of law” must surely be questioned when plans have been laid to scrap judicial review for all but those with the deepest pockets.

Not to mention (and he didn’t, not once in this ‘short and profoundly cynical speech‘, and nor did Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney General, also present) legal black holes (such as Guantanamo) that we assisted the US in secretly rendering people to in order that they might be held beyond the reach of any court (the polar opposite of the ‘habeaus corpus’ principle we date from the Magna Carta) for torture and experimentation.

Chelsea’s Appeals Fund needs your support

Defending whistleblowers and human rights defenders like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is a moral obligation, but it’s also in the interest of all of us to do so. In this climate of global repression whistleblowers are more essential than ever to our freedoms and much is at stake in the war against them.

Chelsea’s case has implications for all of us, and her appeal is an important opportunity to push back against the increasing assault on people of conscience that we are seeing in our times, with governments so intent on keeping their dirty secrets from us that they are shredding our civil liberties and human rights in the name of ‘security’.

As the world becomes ever smaller, the domination is ever more single – as we have seen, the Five Eyes are really the Cyclops. If you should be thinking that the abuse of the law and the statutes used in Chelsea’s case have no relevance to you, ask yourself why the United States of America seeks to pursue Assange, an Australian citizen, under the US Espionage Act…

The use of the WW1 Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers as though they were spies is one of the most dangerous and perverse abuses of due process. A person tried under this statute has no opportunity to offer a public interest defence, or even to explain their motivation or demonstrate that no harm has come to anyone. As Assange put it when the preliminaries were finally done and Chelsea’s actual trial began:

Imagine you were put on trial for murder…. you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned.

You would not be able to show that the ’victim’ is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.

Obviously context is essential to any meaningful trial. And Alexa O’Brien (who reported every single day from Chelsea’s court hearings) has suggested that this appeal of Chelsea’s is our best chance of knocking back the use of the Espionage Act in the prosecution of whistleblowers.

There is an urgent need for ongoing financial support for Chelsea’s legal defence at this time. As the appeal is being prepared costs are mounting; with the record of trial being so long, reviewing it for the appeal is extremely costly.  So please give what you can. You can donate here.

But please also consider whether you could be one of a body of regular supporters making a monthly donation to Chelsea’s Defence Fund for as long as is necessary (or possible for you) to particularly fund this upcoming appeal. If enough people were to do this regularly it would make a significant difference, and it would be a relief to Chelsea that funding was more secure. And she has enough to worry about, not least dealing with the prison administration’s sly shenanigans.

Chelsea Appeals Fund poster A3 version 6

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