CN Live! simulcasted a production by Hot Potato of ‘WikiLeaks on Trial’ where the public formed the jury.
BECOME A JUROR here.
By Catherine Vogan
Special to Consortium News
Playwright Jenny Bassett and Hot Potato Productions have created an online courtroom drama where the audience plays the role of jury.
Given the frustration the public, evicted NGOs and other would-be observers have felt trying to gain access to the Assange proceedings, this interactive play offers not only a factual reconstruction but a theatrical essential: catharsis.
Actors donned the mantle of Prosecution and Defense. A Clerk of the Court will then usher the audience into private breakout rooms to deliberate. Then it’s back to the courtroom for Act Three, the verdict.
The handful of journalists around the world who were permitted to observe Assange’s months in court may experience a momentary sense of déjà vu.
The Crime CVP video-link technology is similar, in form at least, to the platform of the theatrical production. Prosecution lawyer James Lewis ‘zoomed in’ when there was a courtroom Covid scare; defense lawyer Mark Summers remotely attended the judgement; and many of the witnesses, including Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and First Amendment expert Trevor Timm, testified from home due to the risk of travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There was no jury for the Assange hearing. In this landmark case for press freedom, his life was in the hands of one person, Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who demonstrated her bias and contempt freely for his lawyers.
Astonishingly, Baraitser denied them time to prepare a response to a second superseding indictment, a year late and with a new raft of indictable allegations, which she later referred to in her judgement.
Baraitser’s ruling also ignored expert witness testimony, notably from Paul Eller, a former U.S. military forensic examiner, in favour of upholding the charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, in order to obtain classified information. Unsurprisingly, Judge Baraitser was criticized by the International Bar Association and widely condemned by the press.
As one of those journalists who struggled to report on what many refer to as a Show Trial, the author is not going to be able to resist taking part in the ‘Wikileaks on Trial’ performance. Will the jury rule differently than the judge? It matters little.
What counts is their participation and the semblance of a fair trial, but for all of my colleagues threatened with espionage charges for doing their job, one would hope that the play and the real-life trial end well—with Assange’s freedom.
NOTE ON THE PLAY: If extradited, Assange would stand trial in the Eastern District of Virginia; the Congressman who visited Assange at the embassy offered a pardon in exchange for proof that Russia was not the source of DNC and Podesta emails; and the Spanish surveillance company that spied on Assange is UC Global.
Catherine Vogan is the executive producer of CN Live!