Examining the ‘Political Extradition’ Case against Julian Assange


Much of Day 3 of Julian’s Final Extradition hearing was spent on the assertions of US Prosecutor QC Lewis that Barack Obama’s administration, having opened a secret grand jury with investigations afoot, it proved that Donald Trump’s Administrations 17 charges under the Espionage Act were clearly ‘not politically motivated’, thus valid.

A few bits from Andy Worthington’s Sept. 10, 2020: ‘The Ongoing And Unjustifiable Persecution Of Julian Assange’, worldbeyondwar.com via Popular Resistance (CC) (although given that he’d worked with WikiiLeaks on their Guantanamo releases, and will be a witness for the defense in coming weeks, you might like to read it all):

“The US’s alleged basis for prosecuting Assange is the Espionage Act of 1917, which has been widely criticised. A report in 2015 by the PEN American Center found, as Wikipedia explained, that “almost all of the non-government representatives they interviewed, including activists, lawyers, journalists and whistleblowers, ‘thought the Espionage Act had been used inappropriately in leak cases that have a public interest component.’” As PEN explained, “experts described it as ‘too blunt an instrument,’ ‘aggressive, broad and suppressive,’ a ‘tool of intimidation,’ ‘chilling of free speech,’ and a ‘poor vehicle for prosecuting leakers and whistleblowers.’”

President Obama had considered seeking Julian Assange’s extradition, but had correctly concluded that doing so would constitute an unprecedented and unacceptable assault on press freedom. As Charlie Savage explained in a New York Times article when Assange was charged, the Obama administration had “weighed charging Mr. Assange, but rejected that step out of fears that it would chill investigative journalism and could be struck down as unconstitutional.”

Donald Trump and his administration, however, had no such qualms, and when they decided to proceed with an extradition request for Assange, the British government allowed its disdain for the WikiLeaks founder to override what should have been its own defense of the media’s freedom to publish material that is in the common interest, but that governments may not want published, as part of the necessary functioning of a society that recognises the need for checks and balances on absolute power, in which the media can, and should play a major part.” [long snip]

“As the extradition hearing began on Monday, Mark Summers QC, one of Assange’s lawyers, called the delivery of the [New, second] superseding indictment “abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice.” As the Guardian explained, Summers said that the additional material “had appeared out of the blue,” and ”presented extra allegations of criminality which it claimed on their own might be separate grounds for extradition, such as stealing data from banks, obtaining information on tracking police vehicles, and supposedly ‘assisting a whistleblower [Edward Snowden] in Hong Kong.’”

As Summers proceeded to explain, “This is essentially a fresh extradition request,” which was, he said, “presented at short notice at a time when Assange has been ‘inhibited’ from speaking to his defence lawyers.” He also said that Assange and his lawyers believed that the additional material was introduced and an act of desperation, because “the US saw the strength of the defence case and thought they would lose.” He asked Judge Vanessa Baraitser “to ‘excise’ or dismiss the belated extra US indictments,” and also sought to delay the extradition hearing, but Judge Baraitser refused.

It remains to be seen if, as the case progresses, those defending Assange can manage to persuade the judge to deny the US’s extradition request. It seems unlikely, but a key aspect of the extradition treaty is that it is not supposed to be for political offences, even though that is what the US government actually seems to be claiming, particularly through its use of the Espionage Act. As another of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald QC, explained, in the defence argument, which he wrote, the prosecution of Assange is “being pursued for ulterior political motives and not in good faith”.

As he further explained “The [US] request seeks extradition for what is a classic ‘political offence.’ Extradition for a political offence is expressly prohibited by article 4(1) of the Anglo-US extradition treaty. Therefore, it constitutes an abuse of this court’s process to require this court to extradite on the basis of the Anglo-US treaty in breach of the treaty’s express provisions.

Okeydokey then; what does the US/UK extradition treaty say?  From Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 26, 2020:

“Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of violating a computer crime law that, as alleged in the indictment, is also an espionage offense. Espionage is widely recognized as an “offense directed against the state itself.”

An extradition treaty signed [PDF] by both the U.S. and the U.K. in 2003 contains a section that explicitly applies to political offenses. It states, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”

However, in 2003, the U.K. Parliament passed the Extradition Act and omitted a section on political offenses. The prosecution argues Parliament did not include a right related to political offenses, therefore, Assange cannot invoke the protection to prevent his extradition.

Why the political offense exception was omitted from the 2003 law is unclear. But at the time of passage, it was early in the global war on terrorism.

Christopher Joyner, a professor of international law at Georgetown University, articulated what was a prevalent concern at the time.

“Perhaps most problematic for extradition cases involving acts of terrorism is the political offense exception. Many modern extradition treaties specifically exempt political offenses from extradition, since liberal and democratic governments developed a strong antipathy toward the idea of surrendering dissidents into the hands of a despotic government.”

Joyner continued, “There are, however, no recognized criteria as to what constitutes a ‘political’ offense, nor is there a rule of international law prohibiting the extradition of political offenders. As a result, the decision whether to extradite rests on subjective criteria, as determined by the holding government.”

“Accordingly, the bilateral extradition system can provide only partial remedies for bringing international terrorists to justice. The consequence is that, while governments might agree that terrorist acts rise to being criminal offenses against the international community, strict multilateral enforcement through extradition in prosecuting such acts may still be lacking.”

The U.S.-U.K. treaty dealt with this issue by specifically listing violent offenses that were to be excluded from the political offense exception.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser seemed receptive to the prosecution’s argument for disregarding the treaty. Before James Lewis, the lead prosecutor, responded to the defense, Baraitser instructed the defense to stop their argument about political offenses and focus on whether the treaty is relevant to proceedings.

To this, defense attorney Edward Fitzgerald told the judge the treaty is the basis of the extradition request. “To have an extradition request, you’ve got to have a treaty.”

The Magna Carta of 1215 banned arbitrary detention and granted defendants rights of habeas corpus. Fitzgerald emphasized that such due process protections have been enshrined for centuries, and in fact, the U.S. Constitution contains them as well. But as the “Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign” observed, the judge acted like Parliament overrode the Magna Carta, as the defense outlined why a person should not be subject to arbitrary detention.

The defense offered several salient examples that related to the matter of political offenses...”

(and Kevin quotes them...)

This is a 31 min. Week One catch up by Kristinn Hrafnsson, Jennifer Robinson, and Joseph Farrell (sound glitches are frequent).  I can’t say whether or not Jen was there on day 3, but Craig Murray’s coverage made  US Prosecutor James Lewis QC sound like a Carnival Barker Buffoon in a court that long ago was considered to be the most dignified and transparent courts in the land (or however she’d said it).  It’s very good, not overly long, and even I managed it in three 10-min- sittings.

 

Day 5 coverage on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/wikileaks/

@kgosztola  ‘According to Lewis, Assange will be held in administrative segregation in a prison in Alexandria, Virginia. Subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) before and after trial because he is national security defendant’

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

Share
up
7 users have voted.

Comments

RantingRooster's picture

The prosecution of Julian is nothing short of the "ruling class", giving further notice, the rules do not apply if the "establishment" says they don't.

When one looks at the Declaration of Independence, and reviews the "grievances" the colonialists listed as their reasons for breaking away from the British empire, they pale in comparison to what our government is inflicting upon it's own people, and the rest of the world today.

The rule of law only applies to little people, ie people that can not afford to buy off government officials.

Julian represents the "journalistic integrity" the ruling class is trying to stamp out of all of humanity.

His ability to stand by his principals is truly inspiring.

Drinks

up
10 users have voted.

"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;" - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

wendy davis's picture

@RantingRooster

relentless. my favorite WikiLeaks motto is: 'We Open Governments.'

but we can't have that, can we? 'putting people at risk' (even if no one was ever harmed) is
justification enough, and as jen robinson said: 'were there such a report, we would know, and in any event, even if any had, his and WikiLeaks' first amendment rights are (supposed to be) sacrosanct.

but all of a sudden on WikiLeaks on twitter, it's all: 'i abhor him! freedom of the press!' (peter hitchens) 'love him or hate him, freedom of the press (GG; 'assange, allegedly a journalist an publisher: freedom of the press! (the duran). i read a bit on RL breaks.

but yeah, they carried this from today: 'Day 5: September 14, 2020 #AssangeCase
SEPTEMBER 14, 2020'
, assangedefense.org

a few squibs:

While Lewis’ testimony largely deals with his experience defending clients in the US federal justice system and the conditions they face, he first spoke about the significance of the Trump administration deciding to prosecute Assange in contrast to the Obama administration’s decision not to. Echoing previous witnesses, Lewis singled out comments from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo and then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2017 evincing particular zeal in prosecuting Assange. Pompeo castigated WikiLeaks and Assange and declared he would be allowed no First Amendment rights, while Sessions announced that Assange’s arrest was a “priority” of his. Lewis noted that this meant Sessions was specifically directing federal prosecutors to take another look at a case in which the Obama Administration had explicitly decided not to bring charges.

The fact that WikiLeaks documents would be “essential” in war crimes prosecutions in the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Lewis, may also play a factor here, as President Trump, former Sec. of Defense John Bolton, and Sec. of State Mike Pompeo have all criticized the ICC. Furthermore, President Trump has issued an ‘Executive Order on Blocking Property Of Certain Persons Associated With The International Criminal Court.’ [longish snip]

Lewis and the prosecution engaged in a long back-and-forth about how SAMs and solitary are applied, what conditions are required, whether they are ‘arbitrary’ and whether they violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Lewis disagrees with the prosecution particularly on whether the US Bureau of Prisons fairly applies SAMs and solitary, finding it extremely likely they’d be applied here due to the likely invocation of “national security interests.” He explained the “unique difficulties” presented under both SAMs and solitary in attorney-client defense preparation, particularly in a case of this magnitude.

Technical issues with Lewis’ videolink before the lunch break and continued afterward. The court decided to adjourn for the day to attempt to resolve them, so court will resume with Lewis’ testimony tomorrow at 10am London time.

up
3 users have voted.

claims made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg. A Prosecutor Who Is Called 'Relentless'. Sami Al-Arian was trapped in a Kromberg prosecution for twelve years.

He was indicted in February 2003 on 17 counts under the Patriot Act. A jury acquitted him on 8 counts and deadlocked on the remaining 9 counts. He later struck a plea bargain and admitted to one of the remaining charges in exchange for being released and deported by April 2007. However, as his release date approached, a federal prosecutor in Virginia demanded he testify before a grand jury in a separate case, which he refused to do, claiming it would violate his plea deal. He was held under house arrest in Northern Virginia from 2008 until 2014 when federal prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss charges against him.

He was deported to Turkey on February 4, 2015.

In 2016 he had Nicolas Young in his crosshairs. Young hasn't fared any better. Getting fifteen years at trial. On appeal, two of the three charges were dismissed, but on resentencing, the district court reaffirmed the fifteen year sentence.

If caught in Kromberg's web, a Muslim jaywalker could expect to serve five years.

up
7 users have voted.

@Marie From 1999

...
[Kromberg] Explaining the two types of asset forfeiture–criminal, which emerges from a criminal trial and conviction, and civil, which can transpire absent even an arrest of the property owner, let alone a conviction. Kromberg defended the latter in this way: Prosecutors are busy. Way too many bad guys are running around for them to help catch with stings and convict in court. Some outlaws are even pretty smart. He admitted that he currently had 10 money laundering cases in which he couldn't figure out how the people were washing the dough. But still, he knew these people were guilty and was certain they needed to be punished. Should we let these people get away, he asked, before answering in an illuminating way: Not if we can punish them through other means.

There you have it: Kromberg came clean, to employ a law enforcement cliché. He bluntly declared that people like him ought to be able to punish individuals they believe are guilty, even if they can't prove that guilt in a court of law. In essence, this affable despot sees nothing wrong with prosecutors serving as judges and juries. ...

up
8 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

@Marie

kromberg that long ago! fancy that; good on ya.

up
2 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

@Marie

some choice words about kromberg, hadn't he? sadly, in his day 3 coverage he 'd gotten some of the names confused, but what a peach of a human being he is!

up
3 users have voted.

Assange Hearing Day Five

8:30 am EDT: Court has suddenly adjourned as it was interrupted by the sound of an American news report about the Assange case. The lawyers jumped to their feet throwing their arms in the air. Judge Vanessa Baraitser quickly fled the court. No one appears to have an idea how that happened. It was nearing lunch break so court will probably resume in about an hour.

James Lewis QC for the prosecution was cross examining the defense witness, American lawyer Eric Lewis, when the interruption occurred. Prosecutor Lewis has followed the same tactic he’s used on every defense witness, trying to undermine their claims of being an impartial expert.

9:26 am EDT: The court says it is investigating whether the interruption of the proceedings came from witness Eric Lewis’ computer (he is testifying online), or whether the court’s video feed was hacked. Just before lunch the sound of a U.S. TV report on Assange came through the video-link and into the courtroom. If it was a hack there are concerns among the press that the the remote video access could be stopped.

11:02 am EDT: Court was adjourned until Tuesday after it was interrupted by the sound of a U.S. TV report on Assange. A court official explained to the press that the technical issues were still be sorted out but it was hoped they would be resolved by 10 am BST Tuesday./blockquote>

Not as if the UK court didn't have years to put together this hearing and get his freaking tech in order.

up
5 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

@Marie

but wot ho? Lewis CQ bitched to vanessa beyotch baraitser? MY time is like a guillotine, oh my stars.

up
2 users have voted.

@wendy davis his time limitation last week. Rather cheeky since he gets an hour on cross and the defense get only thirty minutes on direct.

up
2 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

@Marie

beyotch baraister a bit, let him be cheeky!

up
2 users have voted.

Trevor Timm shot down the prosecution claims one by one, the Prosecutor was fighting above his weight class.

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/09/09/watch-cn-live-daily-video-report-o...

The following is from the text link below it (all emphasis mine)

"In the afternoon session, Trevor Timm, a trained lawyer and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, took the virtual witness stand for the defense and in sparring with prosecutor James Lewis QC on cross examination singlehandedly dismantled key parts of the government’s case."

"..Lewis then said Gordon Kromberg, an assistant U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Virginia, where Assange would be tried, declared that Assange was not a journalist. Timm said it was irrelevant because Assange had engaged in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment.

Timm demonstrated that he understood what was in the indictment better than Lewis did.

He pointed out that Assange was not being accused of conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break a password to get documents but to help her hide her identity, an obligation of all reporters working with anonymous sources.

He said the government made out anonymous drop boxes, pioneered by WikiLeaks, to be nefarious, when about 60 media organizations, such as The New York Times, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal use such boxes, developed by his foundation, for sources to deposit material anonymously.

Lewis was a shrunken man. All his bluster from the previous day had melted. He seemed to take it out on Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser in an argument over the time limit she imposed on him–one hour, when she gave the defense only 30 minutes.

Lewis was reduced to trying to undermine Timm’s credibility as an expert witness because he had not included Kromberg’s declaration in his written testimony. “I did not make my judgement on a government press release but what is in the indictment,” Timm said. .."

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/09/09/live-updates-day-three-assange-hea...

up
4 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

@aliasalias

amigo. folks who haven't been reading will no doubt find the recaps helpful. i've been reading coverage every day at kevin's shadowproof (just the written coverage), wsws, sputnik, craig murray's house..., not so much consortium news as joe lauria uses language in a way that's a bit less comprehensible to me. and ugh, the new site is so well...ugly. ; ) but at least not every hyperlink is red now.

hope you have the time to listen (if in stages) to jen, kristinn, and joseph, too. i wasn't familiar with farrell.

up
2 users have voted.

@wendy davis

up
1 user has voted.
wendy davis's picture

@aliasalias

text. if not, it may be time for me to stop blogging altogether. i'd forgotten RT, and t'was they who had the whole speech john pilger had given. so i clicked in, and they have a column or two up. crikey, they swap out content to beat the band. pretty pro-police place now, always MMA fighters (M & F), too often a waste of time.

up
3 users have voted.
travelerxxx's picture

@wendy davis

...pretty pro-police place now, always MMA fighters (M & F), too often a waste of time.

Yeah, no kidding. I've got their app on my phone, but lately I've considered deleting it. Used to use it quite often, now ...not so much. If anything there's lately even more of the Peyton Place-type coverage of the MMA fighters and/or their romantic interests ...or their various threats to fellow fighters, etc. If you could possibly turn off all that MMA stuff, you'd still be left with the pro-police/pro-authority content.

It's become a real wasteland and it's happened in a relatively short time. Wonder just who they're aiming this stuff at? Of course, I'm getting the American feed. Are feeds for other countries similar? Dunno.

up
1 user has voted.
wendy davis's picture

@travelerxxx

where subversives to the Imperium could get published, as w/ russian expert prof. stephen cohen, a few others. now they actually do carry a lot of caitlin johnstone's columns, so...there's that.

but i did dig this title from author neil clark there: ‘Julian Assange (and imperialism) on trial: In an age of ‘lockdowns,’ is there any hope left for the WikiLeaks founder?’, sept. 14

he reports what various speakers had to say after RT's livestreaming, etc., but last night i was watching an episode of 'Pillars of Fire'...and all i was able to imagine is: No, they'll burn julian at the stake, just as they did to the heretics in the 13th century.

this is wsws's coverage from yesterday's morning debacle. the quotes from prosecutor Lewis CQ show the flavor and vector --> of the Witch Trial too well, as do the final paragraphs:.

'Assange would not have fair US trial, witness tells Old Bailey', By Thomas Scripps, 15 September 2020

This decision to extradite, the prosecution argued, was the answer to all of the witness’ concerns about the likely treatment of Assange in the US, since “almost identical” testimony had been given in Ahmad’s hearing arguing for a bar to extradition on Article 3 and Article 6 grounds and had been rejected. Witness Eric Lewis responded that Assange’s was “not a terrorist case,” that Ahmad “was not a national security case,” and that there are “particular issues of fairness when you’re dealing with a classified information national security case.”

He was forced to concede that the English High Court had made the grotesque ruling that “solitary confinement did not in itself constitute inhuman and degrading treatment” and that the European Court ruled that “none of the applicant’s claims [regarding the imposition of SAMs] points to a flagrant denial of justice.”

In fact, the European Court found that human rights concerns were supposedly minimal given America’s “long history of respect of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

on later edit: as per thomas scripps at wsws:

Mark Summers QC, one of Assange’s lawyers, asked District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to give a direction mandating the use of masks for the remainder of the hearing. She responded that government guidance on wearing masks in public places in the Old Bailey “does not include the well of the court,” before saying, “those that wish to wear masks in the well of the court are welcome to do so” but “there is no obligation to do so, and I make no direction.”

Assange was wearing a mask in the dock, but Summers noted that “there have been difficulties in getting him masks in the weeks leading up to this.” As the pandemic surges again in the UK, the danger to Assange’s life will only escalate.

meaning: judge vanessa baraitser has already begun slowly burning julian at the stake. gawd's blood.

up
1 user has voted.
wendy davis's picture

he sees a bit of light now?

just a reminder: there will likely be months of appeals after a decision, but last i'd heard, dementia joe had called Julian Assange: 'a high-tech terrorist'.

up
1 user has voted.
wendy davis's picture

@wendy davis

the penny finally dropped. i'd been dicing veg in the kitchen as i'd listened, and kevin had announced tomorrow's defense witnesses at the end, positing that QS james lewis wouldn't want to commit elder abuse on 88-yr-old daniel ellsberg, but also tomorrow: editor of der spiegel Goetz who'd worked with wikiLeaks, but no guardian nor wapo editors, of course.

yes, it may be illuminating testimony.

up
1 user has voted.