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Issue #1930      August 31, 2020

Another nail in democracy’s coffin

The case of Julian Assange

A group of 152 eminent legal experts and fifteen lawyer associations from around the world have issued an open letter to the British government, documenting a long list of legal abuses perpetrated against Julian Assange. The letter states that the British government has “perpetrated a litany of abuses” against Julian Assange through the country’s judiciary and the various governments that have pursued the WikiLeaks founder for the past decade.

This letter was released just days after the US Government once again introduced a new indictment of Assange, less than a month before his extradition hearing is due to resume on 7th September. This action was also more than one year after the deadline expired for the US to submit its final charge sheet; so why was it accepted?

This has confronted Assange’s lawyers with an impossible choice. Do they accept the hearing proceeding in September, having had no time to prepare arguments or evidence against this new indictment, or do they, once again, appeal for a delay which simply prolongs his life-threatening detention. This extradition, if enacted, would see Assange face 175 years in a US Federal prison.

The 10-page letter by the legal experts is a meticulous review of Assange’s case, and came to an unambiguous conclusion – that the campaign against Assange has been based upon gross violations of domestic and international law. It demonstrated that this unprecedented situation is the culmination of ten years of legal abuses.

The letter also referred to the blatant illegality of the attempt to extradite Assange to the US. If handed over to his American persecutors, Assange “faces a show trial at the infamous ‘Espionage court’ of the Eastern District of Virginia before which no national security defendant has ever succeeded.” He would be denied the right to a trial before a jury of his peers, instead being judged by a handpicked collection of intelligence agents and government patsies.

The letter also stated that Assange’s rights to legal privilege in such a proceeding has already been violated by the well-documented surveillance conducted against him, as a political refugee in Ecuador’s London embassy, by the US Central Intelligence Agency. The unlawful recordings of his discussions with attorneys, constituted an “irremediable breach of Mr Assange’s fundamental rights to a fair trial under Art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and due process under the US Constitution.” The protection of legal privilege contained in the ECHR, has, the letter stated, long been recognised in English common law, while the inalienable right to a fair trial is enshrined in the United Nations Model Treaty on Extradition.

The dispatch of Assange to the US would be unlawful under the existing treaty arrangements between the US and Britain, which explicitly prohibit extraditions for political offences. Assange has been charged on the basis of an explicitly political legislation, the US Espionage Act.

The gross contempt for democratic procedure can be seen in the veil of secrecy drawn over these court hearings. For instance, last Friday only five journalists were allowed into the courtroom and the dozens of journalists and international observers dialling in by telephone were not connected.

There is only one interpretation to be had about this case which is that there is a state conspiracy insofar as Julian Assange is concerned. It is a sustained offensive against the democratic rights of the working class. Assange exposed imperialist war crimes and the diplomatic shenanigans and intrigues, which everyone suspected but couldn’t prove. His “leaks” galvanised a global whiplash, which did not go down well with those in power.

At this point of time, it is crucial for the international working class to rise up in Assange’s defence. There is a fundamental link between Assange’s persecution, the defence of democratic rights and the struggle against the capitalist system, which is intent on plunging the world into war and barbarism.

Next article – I(don’t)care – Workers rorted, the rich get richer

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