Today Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has appeared at a Westminster court for his final case management hearing before his extradition hearing which begins on 24 February.
The U.S. government will present its case arguing for Assange’s extradition to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and one charge of computer crime which could carry a sentence, if convicted, of 175 years.
At the extradition hearing Assange’s London lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, will argue that the United States ‘breached due process’ due its surveillance operation of the Wikileaks editor while sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy. This secret surveillance operation, carried out by a Spanish company that sent the footage to U.S. intelligence services. It filmed Assange talking to his lawyers, family and friends in the embassy and is the subject of an investigation in Spain.
Joseph Farrell, a spokesman for Wikileaks, stated that this breach of due process raises huge doubts as to whether Julian Assange will receive a fair trial next week;
“You had a security company working for the Ecuadorian Embassy that was recording all of his meetings, including his meetings with his doctors and his lawyers, including strategic legal discussions, so that completely destroys any element of client/attorney privilege.”
Assange’s case has received support from 2 Australian MPs who have visited the Wikileaks editor at Belmarsh prison on Tuesday. They called on the UK government to block his extradition to the U.S.
The 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US forbids extradition on the grounds of political offences.
Andrew Wilke MP said on twitter:
“In London we met with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to discuss Julian Assange. Nils left us in no doubt that Assange is showing the effects of psycholigcal torture and feels betrayed by the justice system in the UK, the USA&Aus.’’
Further pressure is being brought to bear by the publication on 17 February of a letter in the Lancet representing 117 doctors from 18 countries.
They note that their first 2 letters to the UK government on the treatment of Assange had been ignored. The letter declares:
“We condemn the torture of Assange. We condemn the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate health care. We condemn the climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care to him. We condemn the violations of his right to doctor–patient confidentiality. Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.’’
The 117 doctors conclude their letter with a warning to the UK government and a call for solidarity and support for Julian Assange:
“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has warned, he will effectively have been tortured to death. Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors' watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.
In the interests of defending medical ethics, medical authority, and the human right to health, and taking a stand against torture, together we can challenge and raise awareness of the abuses detailed in our letters. Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Assange and ensure his access to the best available health care before it is too late. Our request to others is this: please join us.’’
The UK historian/journalist Mark Curtis has observed:
“It’s a big deal when a UN special rapporteur [Professor Nils Melzer] says UK officials should be investigated for possible “criminal conduct’’ over torture of Julian Assange. Proof of its importance that it hasn’t been mentioned in any UK mainstream media report, as far as I can see.’’
The 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US forbids extradition on the grounds of political offences. Yet this award winning journalist is being extradited , for exposing American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and government corruption around the world.
Take solidarity action to support freedom of speech and a free press
If a UK resident write to your MP taking up Julian’s case,
Make a donation to Wikileaks legal fund,
Attend the demonstration this Saturday which will march from Australia House to Parliament Square at 11.30,
Join the protest rally outside the extradition hearing court next week on 24 January.