In her ruling in January against extraditing the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher, Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser expressed a high degree of understanding for the CIA wanting to rub out Assange, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Lawyers for Julian Assange may try at the U.S. appeal hearing later this month to introduce weightier evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency seriously discussed killing or abducting the imprisoned journalist.
The lower court hearing before Judge Vanessa Baraitser in September last year already heard sworn testimony from a former partner and former employee of the Spanish security company UC Global that a U.S. intelligence agency had talked about poisoning or kidnapping Assange. This testimony is already evidence in the case.
In the wake of the Yahoo! News report in which that testimony was confirmed and substantially expanded, Assange’s lawyers may want to submit details from that report to demonstrate that fears of abduction and murder haunted Assange, leaving him in a mental state so fragile that Baraitser ruled against sending him to the U.S. — and possibly to an American dungeon where he’d be likely to take his life even before he got there.
The U.S. appeal at the High Court hinges on whether Assange really is as suicidal as Baraitser ruled, or is a malingerer like U.S. prosecutors allege. The inclusion of the Yahoo! details could bolster Assange’s lawyers’ argument that his psychological state is exacerbated by reality and not fancy. In fact legitimate fears that he could be assassinated go back to at least October 2010, when the CIA refused to say if there were such plans after a Freedom of Information Act request. This tweet is from eleven years ago:
CIA refuses to confirm or deny plot to assassinate WikiLeaks editor; open government-Obama style http://is.gd/gLvcn
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 6, 2010
Those existing fears were likely stirred up when Assange heard the UC Global witness testimony read at his hearing.
Whether the High Court admits the new Yahoo! evidence — really a fleshing out of evidence already admitted to the lower court — could be the pivotal question in the appeal. The High Court will ultimately have to decide whether Baraitser was correct in ruling that Assange was too sick to be sent to the United States.
Baraitser accepted that U.S. prison conditions were so brutal and Assange so unstable that she wouldn’t send him to the U.S. But what would a British judge in an extradition case decide if they knew that it was far worse than that: that the intelligence services of the requesting government had plotted murder and rendition against the person being sought?
That’s why the question of whether the Yahoo! material is admitted is so crucial. But so too is how the lower court already dealt with the essence of the evidence which Baraitser did admit. If Assange’s legal team tries to submit details from the Yahoo! report the High Court will likely look at how the UC Global witnesses testimony was handled by Baraitser.
How she reacted to that testimony might provide a glimpse into the thinking of the High Court as well, although one might hope it will take a different view in light of the greater details revealed by Yahoo!
In her 132-page ruling on Jan. 4 against extraditing Assange, Baraitser discussed the evidence of a plot to kill or kidnap him.
She exhibited a high indifference to Assange’s safety and even displayed sympathy with the U.S., saying that plans discussed to poison or kidnap him from the Ecuadorian embassy were essentially understandable.
She matter-of-factly read aloud to the court:
“They [the defense] alleged that the US authorities discussed more extreme measures such as kidnapping or poisoning Mr. Assange. I have declined to make findings of fact regarding whether this took place, as the allegations are currently being investigated in Spain. I merely note here that if the allegations are true, they demonstrate a high level of concern by the US authorities regarding Mr. Assange’s ongoing activities.”
She did not condemn such a potential extrajudicial killing or abduction in the heart of London, just steps from Harrods, and within the sovereign territory of another nation with which Britain has diplomatic relations. Baraitser notes that she did not make an effort to discover if “the allegations are true.” But then says if they are true, it would not demonstrate a high level of concern about the commission of a state crime, but rather shows just how upset Assange made the Americans.
This kind of judicial thinking is beyond alarming and shows that even if the Yahoo! revelations are admitted to the High Court, it may have little sway on a judiciary that seems in lockstep with whatever the U.S. wants.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe
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What “the high level of concern demonstrated by US authorities regarding Mr. Assange’s ongoing activities” reveals is that BOTH GOVERNMENTS: That of the United States and that of the United Kingdom;
Have realized activities that constitute crimes within their respective jurisdictions.
What remains unresolved is whether either of those governments can be held accountable for their uncalled for, illegal and immoral actions.
For my part, I say yes.
Anybody actually following the trial – and for this we need to thank poor Craig Murray, so cruelly and vindictively dealt with by the courts of his own country, Scotland – could not help but realise what a despicable job Baraitser was doing at the time, deviously manipulated and instructed as she was by her senior, the hopelessly compromised and morally bankrupt Emma Arbuthnot whose husband James Arbuthnot, Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom and chairman of the Defence Select Committee from 2005 to 2014, is so deeply and personally implicated in ensuring Julian’s arrest and abhorrent treatment.
I cannot miss this opportunity to comment on the latest example of our schizophrenic military and federal government leadership.
I am 100% positive on this fact Julian Assange has done nothing, zero, zip , nad to harm the U.S. and it’s standing in the world that even comes close to what the village idiot from Crawford Texas, Rum Dumb Donny, the tin man dick chainey, the rest of this cowardly crew including Mich mC Connel, Wiley coyote Bolton and Trump and Gen Powell have done collectively or individually.
Dogdamnit Joe let this man go free!
The British are specilized in MENTHAL TORTURE since their war against Dutch SOUTH AFRICAN farmers & later in India. Today it all comes back in the torture of Julian Assange!
I think I hate Vanessa Baraitser for being so close-minded.
How can this alleged human being be considered to have any relationship to justice?
The world is ruled by thugs. We are truly in a dark period which Humanity may not survive. Censorship is the primary tool and that is what the brave Assange was fighting against.
The US government have murdered citizens for far far less than they claim Julian Assange has done.
The US and its allies are to be put on ‘trial’ by a tribunal. They are accused of committing atrocities, for example in Iraq, and of torture at Guantánamo Bay. While the tribunal possesses no legal powers, it’s intention is to set the record straight and demonstrate that Assange is not the criminal here.
Not a surprise, really. England ran the world’s most viscous empire back in the day. Even though the empire has been gone for neigh on 70 years, the Brits still think of themselves as masters of the world.
Right out of Theatre of the Absurd.
Just a note that the text of the article is confusing in two places:
1. First sentence “may try at the U.S. appeal hearing” required several readings. There is no US appeal hearing. It is a UK appeal hearing, of an appeal by the US.
2. Second last paragraph “killing or abduction in the heart of London… within the sovereign territory of another nation with which Britain has diplomatic relations.” But of course London is in the UK, so what other nation could this refer to?
It is not in the least confusing.
1. The appeal belongs to the US, they are appealing not the UK.
2. Ecuador. The embassy of Ecuador is sovereign Ecuadorian territory.
I really really want to be optimistic regarding the outcome of the upcoming appeal, but seeing how things have turned out so far for Julian Assange, and how he has been treated, I cannot but fear the worst.
British justice is diseased and beyond redemption.
Don’t shoot the Messenger! He exposed absolute evil in the Podesta emails and they will do anything to keep you from knowing.
Murder is murder. That is what the Wikileaks film footage exposed – State sanctioned murder. That and more illegal and illicit exposures of acts by various governments were exposed. The Empire is crumbling just as all that came before us crumbled and collapsed. The treatment of Julian Assange by the State is just one example.
It would be nice if the US empire were indeed “crumbling” as I keep reading in so many comments and opinion pieces. The complete lack of evidence to support the assertion leads me to conclude it to be merely wishful thinking. This case is itself evidence of the continued strength of US imperial actions and policies. Why is the UK so enthusiastically following the US government’s demands? After all, Harold Wilson refused to commit British troops to Vietnam in the 1960s despite Johnson’s fervent wish he do so. But in 2021 even our courts comply with US demands.
I bet there were Russians saying the same thing about the USSR in the summer of 1989. These things are rarely predicted. Your belief in the Americans’ willingness to tolerate abuse from the upper classes is definitely understandable.
“Crumbling” is a bit of a reach. How about there is a war going on between people who prefer comfort and those who prefer comfort through justice. One cannot learn about the ferocity of the opposition to murder and other state-sanctioned crimes from a mainstream media taking cues (& orders) from their owners to be devoted to upholding such an evil status quo. After enough censorship and self-censorship it is easy to feel that evil is just winning undeterred.
He is referring to the crumbling of all that had been or might have been positive in the US. But as that crumbling is due to the massive corruption by money power of all branches of its federal and state governments and mass media, causing the emergence of empire, the crumbling indeed shows the “continued strength of US imperial” power.
Because, while the US empire is crumbling, the UK has crumbled.
The last nail in the coffin, to mix the metaphors, was the defenestration of Jeremy Corbyn; the crucifixion of Julian Assange depended on that.
It is no coincidence that the DPP who initiated the Assange extradition case succeeded Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
well said, Skip Edwards.
and if I may I’ll add – murder for profit is murder; state sanctioned murder for profit is murder
Thanks to the exposures including one that blew a whistle on itself – 20 years of wasted lives and treasure in beautiful Afghanistan – in the end we see the war profiteers exposed
A white supremacist exploitation of the natural resources of the black and brown countries by powerful oligarchs and too big to fail banks
James Simpson might get some comfort from:
States Gear Up for Fight to Keep the National Guard Out of War:
hxxps://www.military DOT com/daily-news/2021/07/11/states-gear-fight-keep-national-guard-out-of-war.html
Petition on Bring our Troops Home:
hxxps://bringourtroopshome DOT us
it’s a start, hopefully