A Year of Silencing Julian Assange

On this date in 2018, the Wikileaks publisher was cut off from the work of journalism, reports Elizabeth Vos. 

By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News

One year ago Thursday, Ecuador’s government under President Lenin Moreno silenced Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “… March 28, marks one year that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been illegally gagged from doing journalism—any writing that expresses a ‘political opinion’? even on his own treatment, after pressure from the U.S. on Ecuador.”

On this date in 2018 Moreno imposed on Assange what Human Rights Watch’s legal counsel Dinah Pokempner described as looking “more and more like solitary confinement.” Moreno cut off Assange’s online access and restricted visitors to the Ecuador embassy in London where Assange has had legal political asylum since 2012. 

Moreno cited Assange’s critical social media remarks about Ecuador’s allies, the U.S. and Spain. Assange’s near-total isolation, with the exception of visits from legal counsel during week days, has been augmented by the Ecuadorian government’s imposition of a complex protocol,” which, although eased slightly in recent months in respect of visits allowed, has not improved Assange’s overall status over the last 12 months. In some respects, it seems to have worsened.

Truck in D.C. (Pamela Drew, Twitter)

Truck in D.C.,March 28, 2019. (Pamela Drew, Twitter)

WikiLeaks’ Courage Foundation described the terms of the protocol:

“Explicit threats to revoke Julian’s asylum if he, or any visitors, breach or are perceived to breach, any of the 28 ‘rules’ in the protocol. The ‘protocol’ forbids Julian from undertaking journalism and expressing his opinions, under threat of losing his asylum. The rules also state that the embassy can seize Julian’s property or his visitors’ property and hand these to the UK police, and report visitors to the UK authorities. The protocol also requires visitors to provide the IMEI codes and serial numbers of electronic devices used inside the embassy, and states that this private information may be shared with undisclosed agencies.”

The protocol does not spell out all the restrictions imposed on Assange and his supporters over the last year. A bombshell report by Cassandra Fairbanks on Tuesday revealed Ecuador’s demand that Assange and his lawyer be scanned before entering a “highly bugged and monitored” conference room with a journalist.

Describing her experience, Fairbanks said she had been: “Locked in a cold, surveilled room for over an hour by Ecuadorian officials, as a furious argument raged between the country’s ambassador and Julian Assange.”

The argument reportedly centered on Assange’s refusal to submit to a body scan in order to enter the conference room, where Fairbanks waited. Fairbanks reported that Assange shouted at the Ecuadorian ambassador, accusing the latter of acting as an agent of the United States government. The ambassador then told Assange to “shut up,” she reported.

WikiLeaks, writing via social media, has confirmed the “factual elements” of Fairbanks’ story.

Subject to Body Scans

Assange and his lawyers are now subjected to body scans in addition to conditions that, in the opinion of Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa, already amounted to torture. In his argument with the ambassador, Assange protested that he was being treated like “a prisoner” and not a political asylee.

Assange’s supporters have claimed that rather than risk a public-relations fallout by removing Assange from the embassy by force, the U.S., UK and Ecuador are acting to hasten Assange’s physical and mental demise in hopes he will be forced to leave the embassy or become incapacitated.

WikiLeaks’ new Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT in a televised interview: “We, of course, know that Lenin Moreno in Ecuador is willing to sacrifice Julian Assange for debt relief, that was reported by The New York Times in early December.”

The Courage Foundation summarized Assange’s plight:

“Julian Assange is the only publisher and journalist in the EU formally found to be arbitrarily detained by the UN human rights system. He is in dire circumstances, faces imminent termination of his asylum, extradition and life in a US prison for publishing the truth about US wars, and has been gagged and isolated since 28 March 2018. He has been kept in the UK from his young family in France for eight years (where he lived before being arbitrarily detained in the UK), has not seen the sun for almost seven years, and has been found by the United Nations to be subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Julian Assange. (Wikimedia Commons)

Julian Assange. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Thursday Ecuador’s foreign minister threatened additional “‘firm and sustained’ measures against Assange after reports on the offshore scandal involving the president and his brother,” WikiLeaks tweeted.

Since Assange was cut off from the outside world, efforts by the United States to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks have been exposed. That Assange had already been charged was inadvertently revealed by a cut-and-paste error by the U.S. attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Virginia. The prosecution of the publisher pertains to WikiLeaks’ Chelsea Manning-era publications, and possibly Vault 7, not to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Manning Back in Jail

Thursday also marks the passage of Manning’s third week of imprisonment for her refusal to testify before a grand jury convened to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange. Since being jailed, Manning’s supporters have reported that she has been kept in solitary confinement, where she will remain indefinitely until either the grand jury is disbanded or she agrees to testify without legal counsel and under a veil of secrecy.

Presumably, prosecutors hope to coerce Manning to backtrack on her testimony during her court-martial in 2013, in which she testified she acted alone, and instead indicate that Assange worked to incite or aid her in retrieving leaked material. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges described the situation as “the new inquisition.”

The end of the collusion conspiracy theory came as a victory for Assange and WikiLeaks. Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it clear there would be no indictments against either for their roles during the 2016 election.

However, the damage has been significant, with Assange unable to comment and WikiLeaks saddled with residual, unresolved smears. Over the last three years, cable news pundits endlessly vilified WikiLeaks and Assange by claiming the publisher coordinated with the Trump presidential campaign and became an instrument of the Kremlin in 2016.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has allowed its outlandish story alleging that secret meetings took place between Assange and Paul Manafort in Ecuador’s London embassy three times between 2013 and 2016 to go un-retracted and unexplained. WikiLeaks has called the story “an intentional front page fabrication,” and launched a Gofundme campaign to raise funds to sue the newspaper. Hrafnsson confirmed the lawsuit is progressing.

On March 28 last year, friends and supporters of Assange spontaneously came together on hearing the news that he had been cut off from the outside world by the Ecuadorian government. For more than 10 hours, participants and viewers from across the planet raised their voices to protest the injustice of Assange having been gagged.

The initial Reconnect Julian event led to subsequent Unity4J vigils. Over the past 12 months, demonstrations of support have unfolded across the globe, including many events organized by the Socialist Equality Party and a plethora of unaffiliated actions in solidarity with Assange.

The WikiLeaks founder’s mother, Christine Assange,  wrote via social media: “At critical times throughout history, leaders have emerged to lead the fight for freedom. They risk their lives and liberty to do so. Most of us don’t have their courage, but we can unite to protect them.#FreeAssange #FreeManning

Earlier Thursday, trucks emblazoned with supportive messages for Assange and Manning appeared in London and Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance journalist and contributor to Consortium News.   

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18 comments for “A Year of Silencing Julian Assange

  1. N. Joseph Potts
    April 3, 2019 at 22:15

    The US (and others) have been doing this for a long time. Back in 1865, the victorious Union Army brought Confederate Major Henry Wirz to Washington in chains, convicted him of war crimes in an early Nuremberg show trial, then offered him clemency if he would implicate Robert E. Lee and/or Jefferson Davis in his “crimes.”

    He was hanged that year.

  2. March 31, 2019 at 13:31

    This is a good summary of events.

    For me, what the story shows is the capacity of power simply to ignore all proper procedures, protocol, and civilities.

    It does this without the least investigation by the press or objection from leaders on all sides in Washington.

    Of course, it could be still blunter and more openly brutal, with armed men simply dragging Assange away to prison somewhere, but that kind of completely open abuse of authority tends mostly to be avoided by the United States and compliant helper states like Britain.

    So, we have this elaborate charade of a man having been granted asylum, but being quietly treated as though he were a prisoner in solitary confinement, and of governments superficially complying with international law, while quietly doing all they can to suppress its meaning and spirit.

    This is a familiar pattern now. It is the way the United States carries on its affairs in dozens of places, as with the bloody Neocon wars where certain charades are carried out to destroy countries rather than the kind of openly lawless assault we saw in Iraq or in Vietnam. It’s what we see in Venezuela too.

    And just as with Assange’s case, the press is silent about details and absolutely avoids anything that could be called investigation. Virtually every politician of both parties carries on the same way, as do leaders of America’s major institutions.

    The only voices for justice, for the actual rule of law, are the largely powerless, and their voices are only heard if you go out of your way to hear them because the conventional press is simply part of the imperial apparatus.

    It truly is a creepy, insidious use of power, and it involves a continuous and expanding web of lies and pretense. It is the world America, that self-proclaimed land of liberty and rights and humanity, has given us. Brass knuckles covered over in pretty velvet gloves.

  3. jerry
    March 31, 2019 at 12:27

    Truth to the USA is like kryptonite to Superman.

    In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

  4. Ariel Ky
    March 31, 2019 at 00:54

    It breaks my heart.

  5. anon4r2
    March 30, 2019 at 20:28

    That embassy is far less protected than NK’s:
    Offer the SK dissidents a wiki expose of NK.
    A squad of “constables” mistakes his identity.
    A diplomatic mission offers extradition but melts.
    UK vets deliver his uniform and parade him off.
    He “dies” and the ambulance disappears to safety.
    A demonstration covers an intruding band’s flight.
    A lookalike caterer swaps disguises, later exposed.
    Is there really no one of guts and initiative in UK?
    Where the police don’t even carry guns?
    Every last man lost in greed or dreams?
    The People of the United States want Assange freed!
    How many will defend UK if you defend our tyrants?

  6. Robert Mayer
    March 30, 2019 at 18:21

    Tnx CN & Ms Vos… I especially appreciate ur reference2 Ms Fairbanks’ documentation of Mr Assange’s detention… Banana indeed!

    Warrantless wire (& cel/modem) tapping…
    physical attacks on press… vid footage govt altered… public assembly4 pol purpose needs police permit… 2 mil vote shortfall & fasc potus… so called patriot act… & the ultimate2 come: if Real ID isn’t RFID loaded… 2 track… I’ll kiss ur…uh… U kno!
    Bill of Rights: say wat?
    Have we become THE banana democracy?

  7. Ben Zian
    March 30, 2019 at 17:50

    We talk much about free speech and freedom; yet the reality one is afraid to comment as they may be retaliations. physical and financial. solutions to our world problems could be simply resolved if we were free to give our opinions; but the powerful forces to be are keeping us in chains. I am sure you are saying. Ben you should say what you wish, you must show courage. Well my answer is I am not afraid what me happen to me, it is of what could happened to my family, and for that reason I am a chicken.

  8. March 30, 2019 at 10:13

    This is a good summary of events.

    For me, what the story shows is the capacity of power simply to ignore all proper procedures, protocol, and civilities.

    It does this without the least investigation by the press or objection from leaders on all sides in Washington.

    Of course, it could be still blunter and more openly brutal, with armed men simply dragging Assange away to prison somewhere, but that kind of completely open abuse of authority tends mostly to be avoided by the United States and its compliant helper states like Britain.

    So, we have this elaborate charade of a man having been granted asylum, but being quietly treated as though he were a prisoner in solitary confinement, and of governments superficially complying with international law, while quietly doing all they can to suppress its meaning and spirit.

    This is a familiar pattern now. It is the way the United States carries on its affairs in dozens of places, as with the bloody Neocon wars where certain charades are carried out to destroy countries rather than the kind of openly lawless assault we saw in Iraq or in Vietnam. It’s what we see in Venezuela too.

    And just as with Assange’s case, the press is silent about details and absolutely avoids anything that could be called investigation. Virtually every politician of both parties carries on the same way, as do leaders of America’s major institutions.

    The only voices for justice, for the actual rule of law, are the largely powerless, and their voices are only heard if you go out of your way to hear them because the conventional press is simply part of the imperial apparatus.

    It truly is a creepy, insidious use of power, and it involves a continuous and expanding web of lies and pretense. It is the world America, that self-proclaimed land of liberty and rights and humanity, has given us. Brass knuckles covered over in pretty velvet gloves.

  9. sandra moffat
    March 29, 2019 at 11:47

    Can the ACLU do nothing about the torture of Assange? For the USA to force Ecuador to try tp break him down in almost medieval ways is an outrage – as is the continued incarceration of those in Guantanamo . Neither have anything like justice in their future without international protest. US candidates need to be asked where they stand on this….

  10. Skip Scott
    March 29, 2019 at 08:28

    I want to know why Trump’s MAGA fans are not up in arms over the Trump administration’s pursuit of Julian Assange. After all, it was Trump who said “I love Wikileaks!”, and the DNC emails that Wikileaks released revealed the utter corruption of that organization to his benefit. Trump needs to grow a pair and call off the hounds. Trump’s supporters need to make it clear to him that they are paying attention and have noticed his hypocrisy. Trump has caved to the “Deep State”, and they need to call him out on it.

    • Skip Scott
      March 30, 2019 at 08:23

      Still waiting for some MAGA fan to make a coherent response. The silence is deafening.

  11. john wilson
    March 29, 2019 at 06:05

    Whilst I support Assange 100% I can’t understand why the Ecuadorian embassy doesn’t just push Assange out through the front door into the hands of the UK police. They would be thanked by the British and the US and maybe get some military or economic favours in return. We live in a world where international law has ceased to exist so why does Ecuador carry this burden on for years?

    • Skip Scott
      March 29, 2019 at 10:01

      John-

      I suspect that they are doing the USA and UK’s bidding by keeping things as they are. Assange has been muzzled. Out of sight, out of mind. I doubt they really want to stir things up by actually prosecuting Assange when they can keep him virtually imprisoned and silenced in the Ecuadorian embassy.

    • Ken
      April 4, 2019 at 20:07

      I would speculate that taking such drastic actions as pushing him out would create a backlash that they would consider hard to quell. Better to stress him (& Manning) physically, emotionally, psychologically to the pt. of his “requiring removal for treatment” aka rendition, precisely why time is of the essence for great show of support on the streets & in front of the embassy.
      BTW, why is my commentary being removed when nothing in it is inappropriate?

  12. geeyp
    March 28, 2019 at 23:05

    IMO, this shows the facts cleanly and clearly stated. Thank you again, Ms. Vos for your level headed, consistent, work.

  13. KiwiAntz
    March 28, 2019 at 18:17

    The Mueller Report not only exonerates Trump & puts to rest the Russiagate, collusion delusion Hoax, but also exonerates WikiLeaks & Julian Assange who repeatedly stated, right from the start, that this was a phoney narrative & massive hoax perpetuated by HRC & the Democratic Party to explain away their hopeless loss in the 2016 Election! A DNC insider who used a thumbdrive or USB stick to steal information from the DNC server to provide the excuse that this was a Russian hack to meddle & influence the Election, all utter nonsense & a total American fabricated lie from a Country that has mastered the art of the lie to unprecedented levels of dishonesty! And if Mueller had done his job properly, he would have subpoenaed HRC, Christopher Stelle who wrote the phony report that enabled the FISA warrant & obtained the DNC server for forensic examination to establish & confirm what Assange repeatedly stated, that this was a inside job, not a Russian cyper hack setup by the Democratic Party to destroy Trump & reverse the results of the 2016 Election using Russia as the fall guy for this disgusting con! Now this conjob has been exposed as a total bunch of BS & a massive hoax, the people who fabricated this soft coup attempt need to be held accountable & trialled for Treason with the Death Penalty as punishment for these crumes! And Julian Assange must be immediately cleared of any wrong doing for exposing this devious plot! Will it happen? Not a snowballs chance in hell!

    • Skip Scott
      March 29, 2019 at 10:04

      Actually the Mueller report says that Russia hacked the emails and provided them to Wikileaks, though of course no proof has been presented. Mueller just cleared the Trump campaign of “collusion”. They will never give up the idea of Putin as the “evil bogeyman”.

    • March 29, 2019 at 11:08

      Considering his actions it is clear Trump is beholden to Zionists not Russians.

      All this phony issue and no investigation of War Crimes from Bill Clinton to today.

      What is in the 30,000 emails H illegally deleted.

      And is the $10 million from the Russians for 1/3 of USA’s uranium resources to Clinton foundation legal? (H)

      What about the $50 million from the Saudi’s for the largest arms deal in history ( to destroy Yemen and defeat Al Queda’s most lethal opponents, the Houthi’s) to the Clinton Foundation.

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