Telling the story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks it is difficult to decide whether to start from the beginning or the end, or at least the most recent events, which it is not yet possible to describe as “the end” but also not possible to say are NOT ‘the end”. Julian has not been in communication with the public since last March, when his Internet access was cut off by the Ecuadorian Embassy. Despite some signs since then that the Australian government would begin to face its legal obligations towards its own citizen Julian Assange, the hopes these signs aroused have proved to be baseless. The generosity and courage displayed by Ecuador’s previous president Rafael Correa, when he offered Julian asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, have proved too burdensome for his less generous and less courageous successor Lenin Moreno. It has not proved politically possible (in part because of the stance of the Ecuadorian Parliament) for Moreno simply to throw Assange out of the Embassy to be arrested by the British and subsequently, it seems, extradited to the USA to be charged with espionage, so the tactic chosen by Mr. Moreno has been to initiate petty – and not so petty – harassment, presumably so as to break Julian’s will and force him to leave the Embassy on his own initiative. The only visitors Assange has been allowed have been his lawyers and, with the Embassy now refusing to provide him with food, it has been left to his lawyers to bring it to him. On a recent weekend, with the Embassy closed, the lawyers were refused admission, and Julian was obliged to spend the weekend without food.
The recent public statement by Julian’s mother Christine Assange gives some insight into the present situation:
“The life of my son Julian Assange is in immediate and critical danger. Despite Julian being a multi-award-winning journalist, much loved and respected for courageously exposing serious high-level crimes in the public interest, he is right now alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, being tortured in the heart of London. The modern-day cage for political prisoners is no longer the Tower of London. It is the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Here are the facts: Julian has been detained nearly eight years, without charge. For the past six years the UK Government has refused his request for access to basic health needs: fresh air, exercise, sunshine for Vitamin D, and access to proper medical and dental care. As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated and his examining doctors warn these detention conditions are life-threatening. A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes in the embassy in London.
In 2016 after an in-depth investigation the United Nations ruled that Julian’s legal and human rights had been violated on multiple occasions, that he’d been illegally detained since 2010 and they ordered his immediate release, safe passage, compensation. The UK government refused to abide by this UN decision. The US government has stated that Julian’s arrest is a priority. They want to get around the US journalists’ protections under their First Amendment by charging him with espionage. They will stop at nothing to do it.
As a result of the US bearing down on Ecuador, his asylum is now under immediate threat. The US pressure on Ecuador’s new president resulted in Julian being place in strict and severe solitary confinement for the last seven months, deprived of any contact with his family and friends. Only his lawyers could see him. Two weeks ago (late October) things became substantially worse. The former president of Ecuador Rafael Correa, who rightfully gave Julian political asylum from US threats against his life and liberty, publicly warned that when US Vice-President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador a deal was done to hand Julian over to the US. He stated that because the political cost of expelling Julian from their embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally.
A new impossible inhumane set of rules and protocols was implemented at the embassy to torture him to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. At the same time a member of the Ecuadorian government repeatedly tried to cancel his Ecuadorian citizenship so he can be extradited directly to the US. While his lawyers challenged the latest violation of his human rights under the Ecuadorian Constitution their government lawyer has warned Julian that even his very testimony describing his suffering could be in breach of their new protocol and grounds for embassy expulsion. They denied him visits from his lawyers before the next hearing on Monday, jeopardizing the preparation of his case and further increasing his isolation, anxiety and stress. They are setting my son up to give them an excuse to hand him over to the US, where he will face a show trial.
Over the last eight years he has had no proper legal process. It has been unfair at every turn, with much perversion of justice. There is no reason to consider that this would change in the future. The US Wikileaks grand jury producing the extradition warrant is held in secret. It has four prosecutors but no defence and no judge. The UK/US extradition treaty allows for the UK to extradite Julian to the US without a prima facie case. Once in the US, the National Defense Authorization Act allows for indefinite detention without trial. Julian could very well be held I Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison or face a death penalty.
My son is in critical danger because of a brutal political persecution by the bullies in power whose crimes and corruption he has courageously exposed when he was editor in chief of Wikileaks. The same corrupt entities who in government tut tut about bullying, fake news and human rights, these same bullies are bullying my son to death. It would appear that courageous, truthful, multi-award-winning journalism is now life-threatening.
The legal channels have been subverted and are therefore unlikely to save him. Because it is a transnational political persecution by a savage superpower in collusion with its allies, saving Julian will require the outrage of the people of the world. I am asking you to make a noise, a big noise, and to keep making a noise until my son is freed. We need to make our protest against this brutality deafening.
I call on all you journalists to stand up now because he is your colleague and you are next. I call on all you politicians who say you went to parliament to serve the people to stand up now. I call on all you activists who support human rights, refugees, the environment, and are against war, to stand up now because Wikileaks has served the causes that you fight for and Julian is now suffering for it, alongside of you. I call on all citizens who value freedom, democracy and a fair legal process, to put aside your political differences and unite and stand up now.
Most of us don’t have the courage of our whistleblowers, or the journalists like Julian Assange who publish them so that we may be informed and warned about the abuses of power. But we can stand up en masse and protect them. Throughout history when the abuses of power became too much for the people to bear they united and stood up and stopped them. This is a moment when we must say “no”. This is enough. We the people will not stand by and watch this brave journalist die.”
The advice Julian Assange’s mother gives is for us to “make a noise” and although such a noise may be an indispensable component for further progress, it really requires supplementation. There are other issues that can be enlisted for the defence of Assange which many of his defenders are either ignorant of or regard as too “hot” or controversial for them to be willing to touch. There are the thousands of e-mails exchanged between Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign manager John Podesta. Wikileaks published them just before the 2016 presidential election and they are so incriminating that they are said to have contributed to Trump’s winning that election. Hillary and her supporters claim that they were hacked by “the Russians” but there is an alternative story that the leaker was Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, who was then murdered. Some Republican Congressmen have attempted to bring the issue of the Podesta e-mails to the public and even have Assange testify before Congress, but the issue has (so far?) not progressed. Although the revelation evidently has the potential to benefit Trump, he has not pursued it as much as he might, and may have his hands tied more than “the masses” do. But for the masses to go further than Trump or even Julian Assange’s mother in “the noise” they are prepared to make presupposes a decisiveness that has not yet appeared on a large enough scale.
Julian Assange has been on the scene for a long time. Wikileaks was founded in 2006 and Assange came to international prominence in 2010 with the publication of a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning documenting war crimes in Iraq and Afganistan. The story of Assange’s transition from the status of darling of American and European liberal journalists to his present status of pariah, sick, isolated, unable to communicate and largely abandoned by most of the people who once lionized him, is dramatic and tragic, but will have to be pursued in a sequel.
N.B. Postscript. Everything that needs to be said in a sequel is said here by Nozomi Hayase.
The writer of the above article has also written an entire book on the history of Wikileaks, available as a paperback but also free as an e-book. http://nozomihayase.com/book/