Thank you Deepa and thank you everybody for joining this meeting I wish that the occasion was more joyful than commemorating a year now since Julian Assange was in the despicable manner dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy and
into the Belmarsh prison.
Shortly after that happened, of course, we saw the indictments that we had been expecting for 10 years. They materialized in a shocking manner 18 counts 17 of whom were on the basis of the Espionage Act, and the in entirety. This amounted to 175 years in prison. Now, of course, this is a one of the gravest attacks on journalism in my time and probably in my lifetime. I have never seen anything like it. And hopefully I will never see anything like this. It has to be resisted on all fronts, not just because of Julian Assange because of journalism, which I really feel strongly about in this world as to keep our world sane and our democracy alive.
Now, this year, of course, we have seen a process which is quite extraordinary. In the UK, in a country that we believe is civil, which is, probably among most people, viewed as having a robust and fair justice system.
I, after all the experience in the last 12 months, beg to differ, and it is obvious for everybody who has followed the events that this is certainly not the case, in the case of Julian Assange. The case of Julian Assange is a test case. It’s a test case in so many ways.
Now, journalism is on trial. Of course, all these This was pertaining to the releases of 2010 and 2011. releases, were exposing war crimes and wrongdoing and exposing corruption in the US, in relations to the rest of the world. There is no doubt in my mind that now is the time for events. It is not a question of getting any justice. It is raw power being used in a deadly manner. It is like a drone attack by legal means. It is the same element that was used in the assassination of Sulemani in Iraq.
It is the same element we are now seeing more and more when it comes to United States and its foreign policy. It has lost its legitimacy. It is now simply attacking with brute force on all fronts, and it’s scary and it should be scary to everybody,and it should be recognized by everybody. Now, who can we rely on? Because Julian Assange is a political prisoner, for certain. There is no doubt about it in anybody’s mind to actually just look at the elements of the case. But who can we really rely on for support? What about the left, what is what is left of the left? If we look across the ocean to the United States, we see that Joe Biden is probably going to be the one that the Democratic Party is going to put forth the next fall to try to to topple Donald Trump. Joe Biden is a person who in 2010 called Julian Assange, a high tech terrorist, among many others, I don’t think there’s any way that you could look at any positive thing coming from that individual and that office and that party in the event that there is a change in the White House after the election next fall. On the UK front, we have a new leadership in the opposition Keir Starmer is now taking leadership in the Labour Party.
He was of course the head of the Crown Prosecution Service at the time when that office was actively engaging in in a conspiracy I would say to try to stall the forward moving of the Swedish case. We have evidence, of course Stefania will discuss in details after me, that of the office under Keir Starmer was basically working it’s best to stall the case and working against Julian Assange in every way. What can you expect from Kier Starmer, he was asked whether he opposed the extradition of Julian Assange and he replied somewhat in the manner verbatim that he had faith in the UK justice system, and it had to have its course I do not share that faith and on the very grounds of having seen so many things in the courtrooms in the UK in the last 12 months, especially that I am stunned. We’ve seen a judge call Julian Assange, a narcissist. A judge who has never seen or met Julian before only actually heard him say his name and date of birth that day. That’s it.
We heard another judge say similar things and then sentence Julian to the probably the harshest sentence for breaching bail in UK history, an unheard of sentence. Another judge dismissed everything that was was presented as mitigating elements, for example, when referring to the United Nations distinguished Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that found that Julian had been arbitrarily detained. The judge simply said that the UN rulings by this Geneva based body had no bearing in his courtroom.
Similar dismissal has been pointed towards what Neils Melzer has said about Julian and his case, the foremost authority on torture in the UN body. So, United Nations do not have any bearings in the UK courts. Neither actually do the rulings from the European Court of Human Rights when it was presented, that keeping Julian Assange in a glass cage had been actually addressed a similar case in the Strasbourg, where it was found that it was against human rights principle and the charter to have the situation in that matter. Totally dismissed without a second look, or probably without a first look at as well. So, faith in the justice system. Not really not an in my heart. And what we’ve seen, of course, from the the Magistrate court, Vanessa Baraitser has been absolutely shocking and shameful.
She, has from the outset, made it absolutely clear. That she will try to find anything in order just to support the rubber stamping of the extradition for Julian Assange, there is no hope left to try to persuade that woman. She has frequently dismissed strong arguments. She has on more than two occasions, probably three occasions brought pre written rulings into court before she heard the arguments. On two occasions, you might have a little sympathy because he got sent earlier the day or the day before some written submissions, but on the third ruling, she hadn’t seen nothing.
She still came with a pre written ruling into the courtroom. So it’s a show trial, Julian Assange is a political prisoner who is facing and enduring a show trial in a UK court. That is shocking and it should be shocking. All right, so she has denied Julian not just to sit with his lawyers she has denied him bail. Even when facing the serious dangers that we are now facing. Everybody knows society and especially the prison, for the simple reason that as every epidemiologist will tell you, these prisons are like a petri dish for viruses and pandemics. We are seeing examples of cruise ships where 80-90% of passengers are, within days, infected. Same applies to actually aircraft carriers, we saw one of the biggest aircraft carriers in the United States having to dock because it spread like fire the COVID inside the ship.
And of course the same applies to the prison and we are not getting truthful and accurate information of what’s going on in there. We know about two deaths but only one has been acknowledged, but we know of two. And the case is, of course, much more than the one that has been reported for the simple reason that nobody is, is tested unless he falls gravely ill. If you show any symptoms, you are thrown into a separate community within the prison, which means that nobody dares to cough inside the prison. Because if you’ve got a common cold or a regular flu, you will end being put in with prisoners who have tested positive and will most surely get it, which is outrageous. Now going back to the court case, of course, it was outlined in the first part of the hearing in February all the arguments that are for the dismissal of the extradition request. They are so many and so strong that individually all the arguments should suffice individually and separately to dismiss that extradition, let alone bundling them all together. The health reason, the fact that espionage is not an extraditional offense according to the bilateral treaty between the two countries on extradition!
But let me dwell on one more thing. It is the the spying, the spying on the legally privileged conversation that Julian had in the prison. Sorry, in the Ecuadorian embassy.
If we go back a little bit, just to put the context right in that case, and 2017, WikiLeaks released an information about the online arsenal that the CIA had this disposal to make online attacks. It was not a highly recognized release. It didn’t get much traction, but it was surely noticed inside the CIA. And it was an extremely embarrassing period for the CIA at the time. The director at the time was Mike Pompeo, of course and he went in an unprecedented manner, in his first speech as a CIA director, he went on into the podium and outlined who the main enemies of the USA were, they were Al Qaeda of on one hand, and WikiLeaks on the other and, he called Wikileaks, a non state hostile intelligence service.
At that point, we knew what was coming. What does it mean when you brand, a media organization like that? It means that every medicine is now Okay, you can apply whatever means you have at your disposal to basically take down that organization. It didn’t result in an outcry, which was, of course, one of the shameful thing that about the media that how silent they were about criticizing all this. And the media has been complicit in many things only came to light a little bit last year when they saw the indictments, and the severity of it. And it’s not because of that they were so passionate about saving Julian Assange. They were simply seeing how close to home this all was, talking about the media partners that we’ve worked with. Now. We now know through Spain, and this case in Spain that extensive spying was done by the CIA in the Ecuadorian embassy. This was all financed by a person Adelson, who is the biggest financial backer of Donald Trump and reportedly Mike Pompeo in his bid for a senate seat next fall.
Now I know that my time is over. And I shouldn’t talk for more than 10 minutes. So we have a very grave situation on our hands. A year ago, we had to start out campaigning to save Julian Assange’s life. A lot of people thought we were overly dramatic at the time, of course, we were not, but nobody is doubting that today. And there are so many things that are combined in the Julian Assange case, that is so much more than the case of an individual who has a partner, children, grand family, it is so much more that is sort of entwined in this case, which should let us all come together in fighting for his freedom. And now it is not just a question of trying to do that in the next few months. Every Day Counts now, Julian Assange Must be set free immediately. Thank you.
I would like to add something. I had a glance through the questions that were sent in, in writing and maybe I can, if I may just address a couple of them or there was there was a question of why isn’t the Ellsberg defense raised? For those of you who actually know the case against Daniel Ellsberg, the courageous whistleblower, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, spectacularly collapsed because it was revealed that the FBI had burglarized the office of his psychiatrist and stole his documents. And when that was revealed it was such an infringement that the case collapsed, it had a serious effect on that. I guess the implication was that now we have for certain knowledge that there was spying, recording video and audio recording and stealing of documents from the meetings of Julian’s with his defense lawyers in the Ecuadorian embassy. And in fact, after he was taken out of the embassy, the hard drives and the documents that were seized were sent directly to United States from Ecuador embassy.
So how on earth can you have a fair trial in the US? So, I mean, that should be obvious, you cannot have a fair trial. So I mean, that should be enough. And I was trying to explain that earlier to dismiss this extradition request entirely. That should be enough in itself. I don’t have a clear answer to that. But maybe Daniel Ellsberg will have the best answer himself, because he told me a few years ago. In person when when I met him, what a fantastic personality!, but he said, you know, if my episode in the early 70s, under the dark clouds in the The Nixon era was happening under today’s situation, “I would never have seen the day of light again, I would have been thrown in prison and left to rot until the day I died.”
So that’s how bad things have gone to worse since the early 70s. From a period where I was a teenager, and I just have a reflection back then. And it was a horrible period of the Vietnam War and FBI doing horrible things, trying to frame people and get them to commit suicide and what have you. So that’s where we are today. We are in a worse state than what my generation reflects back as being the Dark Ages. When the dark forces ruled. It’s worse. It’s Darker, it’s more sinister. And we have complicity across the board, especially in journalism, which is very close to my heart because I decided to dedicate my life to that field.
But I mean, it’s part of the another issue I was gonna raise. But somebody asked, can you take this case to the European Court of Human Rights to ask for intermediary ruling on the matter but what we are told that we have to exhaust all methods within the country before that can actually happen. So but if somebody wants to pick up on that case, I’m not too versed in the possibility of the path that you were asking about. Now, I’ve lost your Deepa as well. There you are.
Deepa Driver: I should be back now. When Craig returns we will come back to this question about misfeasance in public office. Could Kristinn give us an idea of what happens when or rather than if, when Vanessa Baraitser finds against Julian, and what are the channels of appeal that we would expect to see?
Well, we have the path of the appeal to the appeal court and then the to the Supreme Court, and well, hopefully to the European Court of Human Rights so many years down the road, which hopefully you don’t have to take, because this must come to an end very, very soon. But those paths are available.
Of course, if I may, I was asked how is Julian, by somebody on the Q&A, and it so happens that he called me up he got an opportunity to call me up just 10 minutes before the session started and we had a little talk, and I know it’s a bit sort of a personal but many people want to hear this, but he is coping with a really difficult situation where the danger is, he is locked up, but the danger is coming from the outside. The prison guards or the person who are coming in shifts and actually bringing in the danger every day and it’s very hard to, guard yourself from that. But he is hanging in there is a really, really strong personality. And what is amazing is that of course, when we do have conversations over the phone, which is not very often because it’s limited, I tried to be upbeat, I tried to of course be positive, you know, hang in there and, try to have some even some jokes and have some laughs, but it’s extraordinary that he’s occupied as always with the grand picture, he’s thinking about the Covid and how we could spread information out we could be of value in that community. And as a media organization, and I think it’s extraordinary it says a lot about the person that I came to know and befriend more than a decade ago.
He is he is still concerned about information, what is happening and the crackdown on personal freedom under COVID. All the elements that we’ve spoken about throughout the years, and this is the person that should really be worried about his life every minute of the day. And I’m saying this as a praise for him as a friend and as a thinker and as a dedicated journalist and information activist. And I just want to share it with you because somebody asks “How is Julian”, he is not well, and he’s in a bad place. But I I still keep pumping in information about all the support that he is getting and I know it is very re-assuring and he is he is appreciative. But he’s remarkable person is resilient. It’s remarkable that he hasn’t given up a long time ago but I don’t know how long he can take this.
We are down to sort of final thoughts on where we are here, today. I would like to say that, you know, I heard somebody say the other day that the COVID-19 was a stress test on all the weak points of our civil society in our democracy. And that is true. And we are seeing where the weak points are. I will maintain that Julian Assange case is also and equally a stress test on our democracy in many ways. And I think we should look at it that way. It is not just about the individual person I call friend, but on our society as a whole. I know that this is a dark times, but things can move quickly. I’m heartened to hear Feinstein talk about how quickly turning around in South Africa, it can happen. If we keep, if a small group and dedicated individuals just keep on going. I’m often asked what can we do? And often, in a lack of words, I feel like I’m in the streets of Moscow where I was before the Berlin Wall fell as a journalist student visiting, if somebody had come up to me in the Red Square in the early 80s, and I asked, you know, we have this show trial going on, what can we do? What can I say, you know, talk to the local journalists that is Izvestia and Pravda, no, well might not work. We are against the system, but it it can it can change rapidly and Catherine knows about that. She has talked about how, how things can turn around really quickly. So let’s not be overly pessimistic, let’s be positive that we can turn this around.
I’ve often discussed The Dreyfus case in that respect, I mean, nobody would have believed, in 1894, when Dreyfus was sentenced to life in prison and to rot on the Devil’s Island, that 10 years later, he would be exonerated, promoted in the military and acquitted. Nobody would have believed at that time that this person who was one of the worst examples of public mobbing of character assassination in our history, could resurrect in such a relatively short time. And that is what is going to happen with Julian Assange. And that is the lesson of the Julian Assange case we are on the right side of history. We all know that. Everybody who just, you know, objectively looked at the facts of the matter knows in his bones and his fibers that this is absolutely what is going to be a test case and showcase of history of how the system failed. But let us be the group of people who actually are on the right side of history and move this forward and not be ashamed when our grandchildren ask “Where were you during hat despicable period when Julian Assange was being hauled on a short trial in the kingdom?”