Even before Covid-19 began sweeping through Belmarsh Prison, Craig Murray thought the British government was seeking Assange’s death in jail. Now he finds the evidence overwhelming.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Julian Assange was to appear at a case management hearing on Tuesday by video link from Belmarsh prison. But three eyewitnesses in the court tweeted that they heard a clerk say that Assange would not appear on video because he was “unwell.” It is known that the coronavirus is present in Belmarsh. At least one prisoner has died there of Covid-19 and a third of the prison’s staff is said to be isolated. We cannot confirm a second death. There has been no further word about Assange’s health. He has long suffered from a lung disorder. Australian MP Andrew Wilkie has joined other MPs in requesting that Assange be released on bail because of the outbreak.
By Craig Murray
Mark Sommers QC, the extremely erudite and bookish second counsel for Julian Assange in his extradition hearing, trembled with anger in court on Tuesday. Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser had just made a ruling that the names of Julian Assange’s partner and young children could be published, which she stated was in the interests of “open justice.”
Assange’s partner had submitted a letter in support of his Covid-19 related bail application (which Baraitser had summarily dismissed) to state he had a family to live with in London. Baraitser said that it was therefore in the interests of open justice that the family’s names be made public, and said that the defense had not convincingly shown this would cause any threat to their security or well-being. It was at this point Sommers barely kept control. He leapt to his feet and gave notice of an appeal to the High Court, asking for a 14-day stay. Baraitser granted four days, until 4 p.m. on Friday.
I am in lockdown in Edinburgh, but received three separate eye witness reports. They are unanimous that yet again Baraitser entered the court carrying pre-written judgements before hearing oral argument; pre-written judgements she gave no appearance of amending.
Covid-19 Deaths in Prison
There have been two Covid-19 deaths in Belmarsh prison so far. For obvious reasons the disease is ripping through the jail like wildfire. The Department of Justice is admitting to one death and refuses to give statistics for the number of cases. As even very sick prisoners are not being tested, the figures would arguably not mean much anyway. As the court heard at the bail application, over 150 Belmarsh prison staff are off work self-isolating and the prison is scarcely functioning. It is the most complete definition of lockdown.
The Prison Governors’ Association submitted to the House of Commons Justice Committee (which yesterday morning considered prisoner releases in closed session) that 15,000 non-violent prisoners need to be released to give the jails any chance of managing Covid-19. The Department of Justice has suggested releasing 4,000 of whom just 2,000 have been identified. As of a couple of days ago, only about 100 had actually been released.
The prisons are now practicing “cohorting” across the estate, although decisions currently lie with individual governors. Prisoners who have a cough – any cough – are being put together in segregated blocks. The consequences of this are of course potentially unthinkable. Julian has a cough and chronic lung condition for which he has been treated for years – a fact which is not in dispute.
Baraitser on Tuesday again followed her usual path of refusing every single defense motion, following pre-written rulings (whether written or merely copied out by herself I know not), even when the prosecution did not object. You will recall that at the first week of extradition hearing proper, she insisted that Julian be kept in a glass cage, although counsel for the U.S. government made no objection to his sitting in the body of the court, and she refused to intervene to stop his strip searching, handcuffing and the removal of his court papers, even though the U.S. government joined the defense in querying her claim she had no power to do this (for which she was later roundly rebuked by the International Bar Association).
Defense Requests Postponement
The U.S. government on Tuesday did not object to a defense motion to postpone the resumption of the extradition hearing. The defense put forward four grounds:
1) Julian is currently too ill to prepare his defence.
2) Due to Covid-19 lockdown, access to his lawyers is virtually impossible.
3) Vital defense witnesses, including from abroad, would not be able to be present to testify.
4) Treatment for Julian’s mental health conditions had been stopped due to the Covid-19 situation.
Baraitser airily dismissed all these grounds – despite James Lewis QC saying the prosecution was neutral on the postponement – and insisted that the May 18 date remains. She stated that he could be brought to the cells in Westminster Magistrates Court for consultations with his lawyers. (Firstly, in practice that is not the case, and secondly these holding cells have a constant flow of prisoners which is very obviously undesirable with Covid-19).
CN Live! interview with Deepa Driver, who was in the courtroom on Tuesday:
It is worth noting that the prosecution stated that the U.S. government’s own psychiatrist, appointed to assess Julian, had been unable to access him in Belmarsh due to Covid-19 restrictions.
This is getting beyond me as it is getting beyond Mark Sommers and the defense team. Even before Covid-19 became such a threat, I stated that I had been forced to the conclusion the British government is seeking Assange’s death in jail. The evidence for that is now overwhelming.
Here are three measures of hypocrisy.
Firstly, the U.K. insists on keeping this political prisoner – accused of nothing but publishing – in a Covid-19 infested maximum security jail while the much-derided Iranian government lets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe out and hopefully will release her altogether.
Which is the inhumane regime?
Secondly, “open justice” allegedly justifies the release of the identities of Julian’s partner and kids, while the state enforces the secrecy of Alex Salmond’s busted accusers, even though the court heard evidence that they specifically colluded to destroy him using, as a deliberate tool, the anonymity afforded to people making sexual accusations.
Thirdly, nobody cultivates her own anonymity more than Vanessa Baraitser who has her existence carefully removed from the internet almost entirely. Yet she seeks to destroy the peace and young lives of Julian’s family.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.
This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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common traits in Skripal, Assange and Covid cases; 1: UK governance a principal protagonist, 2: Destruction and obfuscation of evidence, 3: Tertiary involvement of unidentified parties, 4: Clear examples of acting beyond their powers, (ultra vires).
As I have said before, the public worldwide deserves to see pictures of Vanessa Baraitser, that we may all behold the visage of such an important actor on the world stage.
That she has no qualm, whatever, in revealing the identity of someone who supports Assange to the extent of offering Assange refuge in their own home, despite the dangers attending such compassion and largess, makes clear beyond reasonable doubt that Baraitser has fully earned “standing” as notorious.
Given the wholesale spying and photographic recording that virtually every other human being in most western nations must endure, must tolerate, must accept, Taraitser’s ability to remain essentially anonymous must require massive official assistance, must suggest that the most vicious of the elite are afforded the privilege of disappearing from public view even as their behavior, in judgment or policy, can never be held to meaningful account.
This blatant two-tiered system , be it of “law”, of consequence, or of status, flies in the face of any claim either of the “Rule of Law”, or of “democracy”, and certainly makes brutal mock of even the most flimsy pretense of “justice”, a mockery evident throughout the trials AND tribulations of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
That this mockery of justice and democracy has flourished in Sweden, in the U.K. and in the U$, may well no longer be surprising, yet it remains despicable, ubiquitous, and without any honest excuse whatsoever.
Were the many not so manipulated in their thinking by the corporate media,
then it might be realized that what the torture of Assange and Manning has shown is precisely a part of the larger failure of many western governments to come to rational, humane, and democratic grips with the pandemic now having particularly devastating consequences for the many especially in the U.K. and the U$, including the risk of exposure to Covid-19 which Julian Assange, daily faces, while an anonymous Baraitser has elite protection and a most comfortable upper class dwelling to return to after doing the dirty work of passing her predetermined judgment on a human being on trial for his life, literally, for the “crime” of revealing actual crimes against humanity.
The elite certainly believe and assume they are above consequence, above being held to the slightest of account.
It might be worthwhile to picture that hubris, to see what it actually looks like.
Interestingly enough, it has just been reported that Sweden has the worst Covid-19 death count among Nordic countries.
Three nations with an empty “form” of law, display the same failure in terms of protecting their citizens (or subjects, in the U.K.) from the pandemic.
Perhaps this is not mere coincidence but, in fact, a reflection of shared elitist indifference to neoliberal consequence for the many as well as shared disdain for actual justice?
Will the people of these nations recognize their common plight and shared lack of honest governance?
Or do all three nation tend to regard themselves as special, different, unique, and inherently superior?
Do myths or reason dominate their media, truth or hagiography their history?
Barely weeks after the Magnitsky amendments were proclaimed in the UK, based on a fabricated tale by Bill Browder, we have an actual attempt by the judiciary to torture and possibly cause the death of Assange. The US has sanctioned scores of individuals on concocted evidence from Browder, now he has the ability to do the same in the UK, based on a story that never happened.
The entire tax fraud was a smokescreen to hide the fact that Browder’s accountant Magnitsky, was the fall guy for Browder’s refusal to pay outstanding taxes going back to 2002. It was invented to protect Browder from extradition to Russia, by making it “political”, unlike of course the mistreatment of Assange.
He is also lobbying Australia along with supporter Griffey Robertson QC, to pass another abusive act. If they succeed, I can confidently say, it will not be used on UK officials if anything happens to Assange. The transatlantic hypocrisy knows no bounds.
When I read that this extremely private, frightened little magistrate exposed Julian’s family’ privacy, I truly gasped out loud. As noted, she has gone against him every step of the way. I wish that someone would get her out of his way.
I have followed this case for 2 years and am appalled by the injustice, lies and cruel treatment of an innocent journalist. That he should ever have been held in prison, let alone in Belmarsh Maximum Security prison and in solitary confinement is a totally disgusting disgrace.
Shame on the EVIL judge Baraitser and the complicit UK Government. Legal actions should be commenced against Baraitser & Arbuthnot.
When a publisher is attacked for telling the Truth—but war mongers Bush/ Cheney , Obama , and “We came, we saw, he died,” from the bloodthirsty Hillary , and then Trump can kill whoever, whenever— and then a Judge named Vanessa writes her own laws——-when all these person can kill and walk away——–there really is no rule of law anywhere—-at least in high government positions—-so what happens next?
If this were a dystopian novel, there would merely be a “series of unfortunate events,” which arrive to right the universe in its correct and honorable position . But Superman does not exist, nor does Wonder Woman. When governments lack humanity——–the whole world suffers and nation implode from within. Are we there yet?
Absolutely – where is the humanity – the entire justice and political systems need a complete overhaul. The man published emails from a murderous satanic warmonger and he sits in jail risking his life so that the world knows the truth – and Killery walks free to keep doing what she does best – manipulating and having people killed.
Hearing the names “Covid19” & “Julian Assange” inside of one sentence is level to worry rapidly leading too frightening. Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser’s extreme measures against Assange’s defense are cruel spirited. Her knowingly endangering the life of a publisher for only doing his job should be tried in a high court all by itself. But this opportunity seeking magistrate blows fair treatment of the defense of the world’s most renowned truth reporter too the wind and for what crime? Only the crime of the public knowing the truth of what goes on inside the mechanism of their own governments. Is this a crime that the citizen taxpayer doesn’t have a right to know? This Magistrate puts it all out in the open when she insist that the Assange Family should be paraded in the public hanging square… so evil, so medieval in Baraitser’s nature as to reveal how none of the emperors of our corporate owned western society have no clothes!
Vanessa Baraitser seems to belong to the Stalinist school of law; which I thought died in 1954.
You could also say that she is waging biological warfare on him in effect.
I suspect that Soviet spies in Britain and the US got fairer legal proceedings than what Julian is getting. Apparently a journalist, that shows the raw, violent and hypocritical underbelly of the world’s hegemon, is more dangerous than a Russian spy.
What horrible people these are – this judge, the women who tried to take out Salmond.
They presume to represent the Law, but they cheapen it. They betray everyone.