He’s being treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world.’ John Pilger’s visit to Julian Assange in Belmarsh
By Maxine Walker
John Pilger was interviewed by Afshin Rattansi on 21 August. In this wide-ranging interview he gives an alarming update on the health and conditions of Julian Assange who he visited in Belmarsh prison 10 days earlier. Pilger, a tireless campaigner for Julian, says he was shocked to see Julian’s continuing weight loss and describes his conditions of isolation and lack of facilities to prepare his defence against US extradition. This adds to the alarm bells raised by Julian’s father John Shipton who reported that Julian’s younger brother Gabriel had visited him in Belmarsh Prison and found that“Julian is emaciated….He is suffering anxiety. He is still in fighting spirits, but his well-being is declining rapidly.” He said there was a danger that “we will lose Julian” if action is not taken. Gareth Peirce, Julian’s solicitor, wrote to the Governor of Belmarsh about his conditions on 4 June. The Governor has not replied. Just as the British Government has not replied to UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s letter sent in May. The silence surrounding Julian Assange continues and disgraces all politicians, the media and many others who have fostered this silence.
There follows a transcript of part of interview with John Pilger .
Section on Julian Assange starts at 21.55
Can I just say quickly first, we have been talking about censorship by omission, on a huge scale. A Federal court ruled that there was no Russian connection with Julian Assange and that he had constitutional rights to do as he did as a journalist and as a publisher That has been completely ignored. (Ed: This refers to the recent dismissal of the Democratic Party‘s (DNC) lawsuit against Julian Assange which alleged that he had conspired with Russia to steal the DNC’s emails. In late July, Judge Koeltl ruled this DNC allegation is “entirely divorced from the facts.” He also ruled that Wikileaks had the same First Amendment protection as other press outlets and publishers)
Julian’s own condition is – how do I put it – it’s very dangerous. When I last saw him about 10 days ago, I was shocked because he had lost more weight, he was isolated. They seem to be imposing a regime that must be punitive, on him of isolation . He’s in what they call the health care wing, hospital wing of Belmarsh prison. But he’s in a single cell. He told me ‘I see people walking by and I’d like to talk to them but I can’t’. Category A prisoners, murderers and others who have committed serious crimes are allowed to fraternise. Julian is not allowed to fraternise. He’s not even allowed to telephone his American lawyers and he’s facing extradition to the United States. He had to wait two and half months to see an optician and then when he got his glasses one of the lenses didn’t work. He’s being denied the right to prepare his own defence, he’s denied access to documents, access to the Library, a laptop. His solicitor Gareth Peirce wrote to the governor of Belmarsh on the 4 June about this and received no reply. What’s going on?
If there is no basic justice in the treatment of somebody like this who is in prison because he infringed bail…. That is just about the merest – it’s not a crime actually – it is about the merest thing that the law can nail you for, that is infringing your bail. He is there also of course because he is facing US extradition but primarily he’s there for this minor offence and he’s being treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world. That’s a moniker that won’t be appreciated but it applies.
Q. Have his previous partners Guardian and New York Times helped to seal his fate?
Yes they have helped to seal his fate. Mind you they’re worried because in this Federal Court ruling it was made clear by the Judge in this very considered judgement, that newspapers like the New York Times,… the New York Times and Guardian published the war logs in 2010, the war logs from Iraq, the war logs from Afghanistan that WikiLeaks had been the conduit for, had had passed to them …they published them first, before Wikileaks. In law, and that’s what the Judge was saying, they are as liable. But they are also, as Julian is, and this is the point he was making, protected by the US Constitution. Now the US Constitution is being torn up by the Trump administration. That’s why Julian basically is in the trouble he is. All these charges that he is meant to be facing in the United States are concocted, they’re ridiculous, they don’t apply. They’re charges against a journalist and a publisher. But they would apply equally against the Editor in Chief of the Guardian, the Editor of the New York Times, the Editor of El Pais, the Editor of Der Spiegel, the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. They know this and they’re worried.
But… they’re in such cahoots, they collude so deeply with the Establishment of their countries – and that now means the Intelligence agencies, they have the power now in Western societies – they collude so deeply with them that they dare not speak up.
But I suggest that if this whole grotesque charade against Julian Assange goes on, they should speak up pretty quickly.