Assange Extradition Hearings Scheduled as Assault on Press Freedom Spreads

The day after journalist Glen Greenwald was charged with cyber crimes in Brazil, the timetable for the WikiLeaks publisher’s extradition case  was set in London, writes Nozomi Hayase.

By Nozomi Hayase
Common Dreams

At the hearing on Wednesday, at Westminster in London, the timetable for Julian Assange’s U.S. extradition case was worked out. Assange’s U.S. legal teams applied to have the extradition hearing split. His defense lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, emphasized to the court that they won’t be ready to call the main body of their evidence until after the first week of the hearing, which is now set to start at the end of February.

Assange’s extradition hearing is now set to proceed in two parts: From the beginning of Feb. 25, for one to two weeks and then to resume on May 18 for three more weeks.

Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of espionage for publishing of documents concerning the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and torture in the Guantanamo Bay prison. During his previous hearing on Monday, Jan. 13, his lawyer, Gareth Peirce, raised concern that Assange’s lack of access to legal counsel had made it difficult for him to adequately prepare for his defense as he faces sentences that carry prison time of up to 175 years.

Recently, new evidence has emerged showing that the CIA hired the Spanish security company, US Global, to spy on Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, while Assange was living under political asylum. The targets of this surveillance included his lawyers, doctors and visitors. Now, three former employees of the company came forward as witnesses confirming that their then-boss, David Morales, ordered workers to install new embassy video cameras with audio recording capacity in December 2017.

Juilan Assange leaving London court in a police van, Jan. 13, 2020. (Ruptly video screenshot)

Outside the court after the hearing, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said, “We have now learnt from submissions and affidavits presented by the US… that they do not consider foreign nationals to have a First Amendment protection.” He reiterated how this is a political persecution of a journalist, and is a grave attack on press freedom worldwide.

John Reed, a representative from “Don’t Extradite Assange,” the U.K.-based campaign effort set up by WikiLeaks, also spoke to the press:

“If Assange is extradited he will immediately be placed under Special Administrative Measures. That means that he will not be able to speak to the press or the public, and neither will his legal team… He will be put in a black hole … .” 

He then alerted the public, “This is war on journalism. No journalism can be safe in this current prosecution. If the trial of Julian Assange is allowed to go ahead, this would happen.”

Press Freedom Warnings 

Assange’s legal team has been warning about the threat to press freedom by the U.S. government’s judicial overreach in prosecuting a foreign journalist with a two-edged sword that both denies First Amendment protection and applies the Espionage Act.

The established media sounded the same warning when the charges against Assange were revealed in late 2018. The New York Times wrote that “charges centering on the publication of information of public interest …would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms.” The Atlantic ran a commentary saying, “If the U.S. government can prosecute the WikiLeaks editor for publishing classified material, then every media outlet is at risk.”

Glen Greenwald, at right, with his family in Brazil. (Twitter)

Now, the “Assange precedent” seems to be extending its reach. On Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, a journalist at The Intercept, was charged with cybercrimes in Brazil. Press-freedom groups swiftly came to his defense, condemning the Brazilian government’s act of criminalization of journalism. James Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, pointed out the striking similarities between Greenwald’s case and that of Assange:  

“Terrible to see this. The theory that journalists can be prosecuted for publishing info that others obtained unlawfully (which I assume is the theory here, notwithstanding prosecution spin) is of course the basis for the US’s indictment of Assange, too.”

As the assault on the First Amendment escalates around the globe, Assange, a prisoner of this war, remains in complete isolation in Belmarsh Prison in London. Since Sept. 22, 2019, he has been detained solely for the purposes of the U.S. extradition request.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has raised concerns and indicated that Assange, whose health has entered a ‘downward spiral’ inside prison, is a victim of psychological torture.

This is the most important press freedom case of 21stcentury. The public must engage in order to end this war on journalism.

Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is an essayist and the author of “WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening. Follow her on Twitter: @nozomimagine

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Assange Extradition Hearings Scheduled as Assault on Press Freedom Spreads

  1. Lily
    January 30, 2020 at 08:19

    There is a nice suggestion, a comment to an artikel on Julian Assange:

    A big central road in Berlin called Kurfürstendamm ought to be renamed in Assange – Allee.

  2. Josep
    January 30, 2020 at 03:38

    OT Question: With Greenwald now under criminal charges, how will this affect Brazil’s relationship with BRICS?

  3. jmg
    January 29, 2020 at 09:29

    Honoris Causa for Julian Assange in Brussels:

    > Julian Assanges’ Father accepts first Academic Honoris Causa at the Palais des Académies in Brussels on belhalf of his son

    Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) — Twitter — Jan 29, 2020

  4. Lily
    January 29, 2020 at 03:36

    The Council of Europe has asked the member states to fight Assange’s extradition to the US and to demand the “immediate release of the Australian Journalist.”


  5. dean 1000
    January 28, 2020 at 18:31

    Of course the First Amendment applies to foreign nationals simply because it says that Congress shall make no law abridging free speech. All legislative powers are vested in congress. No other agency or element of the federal government is vested w/legislative powers.

    The 4th amendment is national in scope. The people it refers to are the the people referenced in the preamble – the people(of)the United States rather than people merely (in) the US to get a job or an education, see the Grand Canyon, or spy for a foreign government or corporation.
    However I understand that congress has granted 4th amendment like rights to everyone within its jurisdiction. It that is so, Assange may benefit from the exclusionary rule if it is needed. Don’t hold your breath. Assange has been denied every right he has except eating prison gruel. He can’t get a fair trial here.

    Thomas Paine of revolutionary fame was a citizen of England. Apparently this administration would deny Thomas Paine his right to publish “The American Crisis” (1774), “Common Sense” (1776), and at least 5 more. If so, this administration would not exist and president Trump and the Attorney General would be singing God save the Queen.

    Of course the 5th and 6th amendments are so broad in scope they apply to everyone. I think the 7th and 8th do also. Obviously the 9th and 10 amendment apply only to US citizens.

  6. Republicofscotland
    January 28, 2020 at 10:14

    Its interesting to note that the lags at Belmarsh care more about Assange (by rioting that Assange was in solitary confinement) than the UK judicial system and the UK government.

  7. January 27, 2020 at 23:05

    Is the Magna Carta no longer law and a guide in the uk today ? When did the British lose their way?

  8. January 27, 2020 at 23:03

    Is the Magna Carta no longer law and a guide in the uk today ? When did the British lose their way?

  9. Donald A Thomson
    January 27, 2020 at 17:44

    It’s interesting that the owner and editor of the New York Times have complete faith in Trump to not apply the Espionage Act to them, in spite of being as guilty as Assange under that Act. Given that they claim he’s trying to establish a dictatorship in the USA, this faith proves they know they’re lying. The claim that the First Amendment still applies to US citizens even if it doesn’t apply to others is laughable. It literally applies to people. If that means nothing, it means nothing.

    It’s also obvious that they have no commitment to freedom of speech.

  10. Cook with no Hat
    January 27, 2020 at 15:19

    I hope his team are at least considering a strategy of delaying proceedings until the US election (in case the new President would be more likely to dismiss extradition proceedings) or inauguration.

    The whole thing is disgusting and they’ve already won (along with Manning’s treatment), in terms of showing other potential troublemakers what’ll happen to them. But of course for Assange’s individual sake I hope he doesn’t die, and goes free. And in time wins hundreds of millions in lawsuits against the UK, US, and others.

  11. doris
    January 27, 2020 at 11:21

    “This is the most important press freedom case of 21stcentury. The public must engage in order to end this war on journalism.”

    Sorry, but the US public is too stupid to defend the rights of the free press, and Britain and Australia seem to be the same. The truth has become an enemy of the state, and the public goes right along with it.

  12. jmg
    January 27, 2020 at 09:16

    Thread from Strasbourg today:

    “At the Council of Europe today where there is going to be a meeting on the #Assange case shortly.”

    Naomi Colvin (Blueprint for Free Speech) — Twitter — Jan 27, 2020

    • jmg
      January 29, 2020 at 05:42

      News from Strasbourg:

      > The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on member states to oppose the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States and resolve that “he must be promptly released.” Assange is fighting extradition to the United States in an unprecedented Espionage Act prosecution for journalistic activity. His extradition hearing opens at Woolwich Crown Court in London on 24 February 2020.

      (Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly calls for Assange’s “prompt release” — Bridges for Media Freedom — 28 January 2020)

  13. Joe Tedesky
    January 27, 2020 at 08:21

    As far as I’m concerned with the bulk of the press and their lack of news coverage in regard to Julian Assange is complicit in this offense against the First Amendment. Shame on the media as they await their own fate too come.

  14. Sally Snyder
    January 27, 2020 at 07:43

    Here is an article that looks at the state of political and civil freedom in the United States and compares it to that of other nations throughout the world:


    Our freedom is rapidly becoming an endangered species.

Comments are closed.