In the land of Magna Carta this disgraceful case ought to have been hurled out of court long ago.
By John Pilger
Special to Consortium News
When I first saw Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison, in 2019, shortly after he had been dragged from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, he said, “I think I am losing my mind.”
He was gaunt and emaciated, his eyes hollow and the thinness of his arms was emphasized by a yellow identifying cloth tied around his left arm, an evocative symbol of institutional control.
For all but the two hours of my visit, he was confined to a solitary cell in a wing known as “healthcare,” an Orwellian name. In the cell next to him a deeply disturbed man screamed through the night. Another occupant suffered from terminal cancer. Another was seriously disabled.
“One day we were allowed to play Monopoly,” he said, “as therapy. That was our healthcare!”
“This is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” I said.
“Yes, only more insane.”
Julian’s black sense of humour has often rescued him, but no more. The insidious torture he has suffered in Belmarsh has had devastating effects. Read the reports of Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, and the clinical opinions of Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London and Dr. Quentin Deeley, and reserve a contempt for America’s hired gun in court, James Lewis QC, who dismissed this as “malingering.”
“Julian’s black sense of humour has often rescued him, but no more. The insidious torture he has suffered in Belmarsh has had devastating effects.”
I was especially moved by the expert words of Dr. Kate Humphrey, a clinical neuropsychologist at Imperial College, London. She told the Old Bailey last year that Julian’s intellect had gone from “in the superior, or more likely very superior, range” to “significantly below” this optimal level, to the point where he was struggling to absorb information and “perform in the low to average range.”
At yet another court hearing in this shameful Kafkaesque drama, I watched him struggle to remember his name when asked by the judge to state it.
For most of his first year in Belmarsh, he was locked up. Denied proper exercise, he strode the length of his small cell, back and forth, back and forth, for “my own half-marathon,” he told me. This reeked of despair. A razor blade was found in his cell. He wrote “farewell letters.” He phoned the Samaritans repeatedly.
At first, he was denied his reading glasses, left behind in the brutality of his kidnapping from the embassy. When the glasses finally arrived at the prison, they were not delivered to him for days. His solicitor, Gareth Peirce, wrote letter after letter to the prison governor protesting the withholding of legal documents, access to the prison library, the use of a basic laptop with which to prepare his case. The prison would take weeks, even months, to answer. (The governor, Rob Davis, has been awarded an Order of the British Empire.)
Books sent to him by a friend, the journalist Charles Glass, himself a survivor of hostage-taking in Beirut, were returned. Julian could not call his American lawyers. From the start, he has been constantly medicated. Once, when I asked him what they were giving him, he couldn’t say.
Right to Appear in Court
At last week’s High Court hearing to decide finally whether or not Julian would be extradited to America, he appeared only briefly by video link on the first day. He looked unwell and unsettled. The court was told he had been “excused” because of his “medication.” But Julian had asked to attend the hearing and was refused, said his partner Stella Moris. Attendance in a court sitting in judgement on you is surely a right.
This intensely proud man also demands the right to appear strong and coherent in public, as he did at the Old Bailey last year. Then, he consulted constantly with his lawyers through the slit in his glass cage. He took copious notes. He stood and protested with eloquent anger at lies and abuses of process.
The damage done to him in his decade of incarceration and uncertainty, including more than two years in Belmarsh (whose brutal regime is celebrated in the latest Bond film) is beyond doubt.
But so, too, is his courage beyond doubt, and a quality of resistance and resilience that is heroism. It is this that may see him through the present Kafkaesque nightmare — if he is spared an American hellhole.
I have known Julian since he first came to Britain in 2009. In our first interview, he described the moral imperative behind WikiLeaks: that our right to the transparency of governments and the powerful was a basic democratic right. I have watched him cling to this principle when at times it has made his life even more precarious.
Almost none of this remarkable side to the man’s character has been reported in the so-called free press whose own future, it is said, is in jeopardy if Julian is extradited.
Of course, but there has never been a ”free press.” There have been extraordinary journalists who have occupied positions in the “mainstream” — spaces that have now closed, forcing independent journalism on to the internet.
There, it has become a “fifth estate,” a samizdat of dedicated, often unpaid work by those who were honourable exceptions in a media now reduced to an assembly line of platitudes. Words like “democracy,” “reform,” “human rights” are stripped of their dictionary meaning and censorship is by omission or exclusion.
“Almost none of this remarkable side to the man’s character has been reported in the so-called free press whose own future, it is said, is in jeopardy if Julian is extradited.”
Last week’s fateful hearing at the High Court was “disappeared” in the “free press.” Most people would not know that a court in the heart of London had sat in judgement on their right to know: their right to question and dissent.
Many Americans, if they know anything about the Assange case, believe a fantasy that Julian is a Russian agent who caused Hillary Clinton to lose the presidential election in 2016 to Donald Trump. This is strikingly similar to the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which justified the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of a million or more people.
They are unlikely to know that the main prosecution witness underpinning one of the concocted charges against Julian has recently admitted he lied and fabricated his “evidence.”
Neither will they have heard or read about the revelation that the CIA, under its former director, the Hermann Goering lookalike Mike Pompeo, had planned to assassinate Julian. And that was hardly new. Since I have known Julian, he has been under threat of harm and worse.
On his first night in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, dark figures swarmed over the front of the embassy and banged on the windows, trying to get in. In the U.S., public figures — including Hillary Clinton, fresh from her destruction of Libya — have long called for Julian’s assassination. The current President Joe Biden damned him as a “hi-tech terrorist.”
The former prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, was so eager to please what she called “our best mates” in Washington that she demanded Julian’s passport be taken from him — until it was pointed out to her that this would be against the law. The current prime minister, Scott Morrison, a PR man, when asked about Assange, said, “He should face the music.”
It has been open season on the WikiLeaks’ founder for more than a decade. In 2011, The Guardian exploited Julian’s work as if it was its own, collected journalism prizes and Hollywood deals, then turned on its source.
Years of vituperative assaults on the man who refused to join their club followed. He was accused of failing to redact documents of the names of those considered at risk. In a Guardian book by David Leigh and Luke Harding, Assange is quoted as saying during a dinner in a London restaurant that he didn’t care if informants named in the leaks were harmed.
Neither Harding nor Leigh was at the dinner. John Goetz, an investigations reporter with Der Spiegel, actually was at the dinner and testified that Assange said nothing of the kind.
The great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told the Old Bailey last year that Assange had personally redacted 15,000 files. The New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager, who worked with Assange on the Afghanistan and Iraq war leaks, described how Assange took “extraordinary precautions in redacting names of informants.”
In 2013, I asked the film-maker Mark Davis about this. A respected broadcaster for SBS Australia, Davis was an eyewitness, accompanying Assange during the preparation of the leaked files for publication in The Guardian and The New York Times. He told me, “Assange was the only one who worked day and night extracting 10,000 names of people who could be targeted by the revelations in the logs.”
Lecturing a group of City University students, David Leigh mocked the very idea that “Julian Assange will end up in an orange jumpsuit.” His fears were an exaggeration, he sneered. Edward Snowden later revealed that Assange was on a “manhunt timeline.”
Luke Harding, who co-authored with Leigh the Guardian book that disclosed the password to a trove of diplomatic cables that Julian had entrusted to the paper, was outside the Ecuadorian embassy on the evening Julian sought asylum. Standing with a line of police, he gloated on his blog, “Scotland Yard may well have the last laugh.”
The campaign was relentless. Guardian columnists scraped the depths. “He really is the most massive turd,” wrote Suzanne Moore of a man she had never met.
The editor who presided over this, Alan Rusbridger, has lately joined the chorus that “defending Assange protects the free press.” Having published the initial WikiLeaks revelations, Rusbridger must wonder if the Guardian’s subsequent excommunication of Assange will be enough to protect his own skin from the wrath of Washington.
The High Court judges are likely to announce their decision on the U.S. appeal in the new year. What they decide will determine whether or not the British judiciary has trashed the last vestiges of its vaunted reputation; in the land of Magna Carta this disgraceful case ought to have been hurled out of court long ago.
The missing imperative is not the impact on a collusive “free press.” It is justice for a man persecuted and willfully denied it.
Julian Assange is a truth-teller who has committed no crime but revealed government crimes and lies on a vast scale and so performed one of the great public services of my lifetime. Do we need to be reminded that justice for one is justice for all?
First published by Consortium News.
John Pilger’s 2003 film, Breaking the Silence, about the “war on terror” is available to view here.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
These views all ascribe to my own and thousands of other like minded people. The way the media vilified him was and is appalling. It’s strange too that the slurs from the Equadorian embassy only happened when a new leader of that country had been elected and America had given millions of dollars to Equador. We never heard of any problems under the previous president.
People seem so dummed down by TV and companies like Net Flicks or the government run news they never find the time to seek the real truth anymore. I’m afraid it will come back to haunt them.
Free Julian now! He has done nothing wrong and in my eyes is a HERO. His treatment by my country is disgusting and makes me angry, ashamed and very, very sad. Please take care Julian, you deserve BETTER!!!
Thanks so much John for all you have given us. The fight continues, and we will not stop, regardless of the outcome.
Good onya cobber,
What can we do to #FreeJulianAssange? Each day is a day too long! and thank you – again – for your article.
Silence & lies (of omission)
rain thunderclaps for kicks
make earth-bound forms
scatter as bricks fly
Salt deserts/jungles w/
finely pre-cision-ed shells
sabotage horizon w/
dread seed firm-
tap-tap ‘til innocence
squirms for them
Who keeps such secrets?
To what purpose?
Filthy lucre buys
silence & lies
Well done good sir (and well said)!
The world is watching and this is test to what Western governments especially in this the UK and U.S have always accused other countries especially developing ones of violating free speech,freedom of press,arresting and imprisonment of journalists for what they report.Julian Assange’s case will now make everything clear whether or not they’ve always practiced what they preach.
The petition has paved the pathway for the people to the International Criminal Court (ICC). To investigate “public officers” of Britain, Ecuador, Sweden and Australia. All four are ratified to the 1997 Rome Convention to the ICC. In short the ICC can investigate and prosecute with no statute of limitation on commencing an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity
Because cases of verified mental torture are “crimes against humanity” as per ICC.
From here on it is up to the people.
Free Julian Assange, before it’s too late. STOP USA EXTRADITION – Sign the 658,100+ Global Petition! Everyone from any nation can sign.
Pray for Julian and independent journalism. State sanctioned murder before our very eyes in tandem with the UK exposed as an arm of the US Security State. The silence from Kier Starmer on this grave issue is alarming and disturbing.
How could USA and some Western countries call their countries the Land of the Free when there is no real Freedom for revealing the Truth about their governments? Julian Assange is one such person who dared to reveal the Truth and must Be Freed according to their Principles.
Kia kaha John, Julian and Stella.
“Do we need to be reminded that justice for one is justice for all?”
We sure do, and the more often, the better.
Americans and Brits need constant reminders that justice is the farthest thing from the minds of most plutocrats and their stooges in the corporate media. Assange has led the fight against war crimes and crimes against humanity by ruling elites.His defeat is our defeat.
As for the “vaunted reputation” of the British judiciary, they have always been handmaidens of the British aristocracy. Why does the scorpion sting?
The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights have always been under attack by wannabe tyrants. Julian Assange and Wikileaks have shown us an effective way to fight back.
basic legal principals lex loci and lex fori make this case a nonsense–you cant be charged with an offence in another country unless you committed the offence while you were there…the spy catcher case a classic example….unless the uk is now part of the usa lol
A 1961 amendment to the Espionage Act gave it universal jurisdiction. You can break the U.S. law anywhere you are in the world, according to the Act. Of course Britain did not have to honor that and could have rejected the extradition request, but it has recognized it.
By any chance could this be the U.S. Global empire’s CIA at work?
And at home in the U.K. is C.S. Lewis’s “Maugrim” the white
witches’ chief of the secret police. And ” Pompeo as Nazi leader Hermann
Goering’s lookalike”–Some John Pilger “black humor” learned no doubt
What has happened to the United States and Britain? They are dominated by a billionaire cult that doesn’t really care what they are doing to the planet or the people with their constant wars (to drain the public purse) and omnipresent surveillance. Free Assange. Reinstate the freedom of the press and its duty to supply truth to the people.
Received today from the state department…
For what it’s worth:
Now if we could get just the majority of brain dead Americans to understand what the great injustice to Assange means for the rest of us who are certainly to be served from the same plate (scale).
One would think that the self serving simple minded American could at least grasp the very simple concept of self preservation. You all know that little thing called life itself.
I suppose that as long as the feed troughs are full of slop the piggies will be more than willing to sacrifice themselves to some ignoramus of a supposed higher calling.
After the massive numbers of those willing to gobble up the garbage of one Donald J Trump I am totally convinced one should never underestimate large groups of stupid people.
As the per the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot’s song the Edmond Fitzgerald :
When supper time came the old cook came on deck /Saying “Fellows it’s too rough to feed ya’/At 7PM it grew dark, it was then/He said, ‘Fellas it’s been good to know ya’
The former was taken from an article in the Toronto Star, Oct 19, 2020. Discussing Lightfoot’s changing of the lyrics, the former being, At 7PM the main hatchway caved in,
Please, please keep campaigning for truth and justice. I would never have believed that this could happen here, it only happens in ‘developing’ countries.
Thanks so much John and the team at Consortium News. Always informative, Iam a regular and loyal supporter. Also respect, mint press, pearls and irritations etc. Keep up the great work guys, there are a lot of us relying on good people like you
The treatment of Julin Assange by the English judical system is disgusting and imho equal to what Stalin did to millions of Russian citizens.
Quite obviously Julian is treated with pharmaceutical, mind changing drugs which is a crime in itself. Having difficulties to remember ones own name is an alarming sign. No government should be allowed to do this.
I do agree wholeheartedly with what Roger Waters said in his video on RT.com. The English Government has become one of the ugliest governments in the world. I can understand why Roger hates it the way he does.
Thank you John. Thank you CN.
I have little to add except that what is happening here should be common knowledge
A random comment from elsewhere—reflecting what so many of us feel:
“Hey Australia, why do you cowards remain silent while the US and the UK are publicly torturing (to death) one of your native sons, who has never been convicted of any crime worth the name but rather has done the world a great service? Have you no shame? Or are you terrified of incurring the displeasure of your American masters?”
“Clearly it is the intent of the hypocritical US and UK governments (with despicable Australian government complicity) that Julian Assange will die in Belmarsh Prison for revealing to the world that the US government is guilty of war crimes. What we are witnessing is a gradual judicial murder.”
In my 70 years on this planet, particularly the last 20 of them post-9/11, I have come to see much that has purposely, and purposefully, been withheld and perverted in order to reframe our national history in and of the United States of America.
Have had to come to terms with a manifold duality of perception so contrived and contorted, that in so many of my 40+ juvenile years I actually believed that my country was actually engaged in its purported enterprise of elevating all of mankind, our tax $ going to lifting our diverse world peoples’ common condition—surely a noble, a MOST noble endeavor as a summary of all that civilisation had wrought up to this nexus.
Where technology melded with good intention would suffice to lift us from our previous and primary dependency on our amygdala, our primordial ‘fight or flight’ stimuli; that most base expression of consciousness.
But no, this is not how it has played out at all. At all.
The twisted branch in our evolutionary quest has through random selection granted Evil a predominate role in human affairs.
Granted psychopathy an energy of persistence that dominates any and all even momentary passivity that doing ‘Good’ might generate. A man doing Good must rest from his labors, a well-deserved sleep of untroubled dreams. In the meantime the psychopath is always energised, ffs even INCORPORATED for 24/7/365—always compelled to destroy by his/her ungodly quest for domination and destruction of anything a man doing Good might have accomplished unselfishly.
Silly us, we dreamers of a higher consciousness and truth as our ever-guide. Silly us, for believing “We are better than this!” Silly us that our children and grandchildren will be able to live out our better efforts and dreams of a brighter future based upon our common dreams of elevation from the primordial tar pits from which we yet attempt to rise.
Even as the incorporated and militarised psychopaths ever-drag our aspirations back down into the murk of their own demonic possession via “Law,” and the “Courts,” and obscenely celebrate their own surrender into the dark forces that hold them in their thrall, their part of being such soulless and amoral minions for the totalitarian state that continues to stifle and smother the true rare heroes, and I fear, the potential long line of coming martyrs to follow Julian. He who dared for truth’s sake to righteously challenge them, he who dared and now fortifies the rest of us to resist those who continue to torture him and impede our own civilisation’s upward progress, to those it can only be said… “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” (At least, that’s the Christian take on it.)
Silly us. That’s me. And fuck each and every one of you pitiful ‘national security’ orcs and enablers of this usurped and perverted regime that has taken, stolen, the dream and promise of the United States of America. Your torture of a good man is noted, by God.
Dave you have so much right here, however we can beat the hell out of ourselves but we are hardly all the blame and doing so will change nothing.
See the Bretton Woods Conference wiki circa July 1944. It sure seems to be that those like the Dulles brothers were way ahead of the rest of the “Hoofties” living the American dream out across America at the time. Most all of whom were bereft of the blue blood international life style and high quality (?)educations.
I’m, 72 born 1949 and I can tell you from personal experience that what happened after 911 was by fiat. An unspoken plan to facilitate a phenomenal power grab. Something that was as well thought out by the Deep State.
I recommend going and reviewing all facts and actions even remotely connected to drug trade, the Inslaw / Promise scandal, Iran Contra, the BCCI scandal, 911 and now the Pandora Papers. It’s about control, not liberty or freedom
A PHD sociologist asked me once if I thought there were more very good people on the planet or more vary bad.
I responded, I thought there were likely more good than bad. I see my error now. There may well be more good than bad but not nearly enough of them.
I have been educated by hanging out here with some very smart people. It now seems to me that the group of super wealthy, stuff shirted, blue bloods, those just like them and their heirs who condemned Germany to the likes of Hitler as the result of WWI, are still haunting us. If we don’t make a quantum effort to free ourselves from their evil powers we are doomed.
Speaking of doomed. First thing on the agenda is to prove to all just how ignorant the concept of hypersonic weapons and the arms race that is sure follow are. A bunch bull just like with the nukes. Ask your self one question. What the hell is the difference, once your dead your dead!
Thanks Dave and CN
Robert I am 81 and you should know it all started around 46
when a bunch of Dudes
were sailing the Adriatic with a movie star.
A large number of politicians, journalists and others involved in the torture of truth tellers like Assange should be on trial by authorities and on fire by real Reporters like Bob Parry and Gary Webb (another victim of torture by federal agents and cowardly Journalists.]
I am for Pardons for Hale, Manning and Winner. And bring Snowden home a free man.
What is done with the journalists of The Guardian, NYT and Der Spiegel?
Assange was really raised, i read. In an interview he told that the communication with Der Spiegel was ok now. But NYT difficult and The Guardian has not come to peace. Do you know if i remember this well?
There is told that Assange was some naive to give them the key/code. But he told Nils Melzer ( UN) that The Guardian broke the contract which he drawned up.
I read all the stuff i could find about Assange case. At first i thought that AUS had not known about the demonization of Assange, but soon i came to the conclusion like Jack Flanigan.
So now the three govt’s , coming together with a big submarine in the Chinese Ocean, are at stake here too.: AUS, UK, US. All preparing for a new war against China (Trump)! What kind of govt’s they are?
As Assange said, making money in war industry with peoples taxmoney and that for the wallet of global elite.
Rodger Water of Pink Floyd says Assange was in their way of new politics. #FreePress #FreeAssange
Part of the US Governments business model is to impose inhume conditions on their targets during the process, after the process with the intended goal of reduction of life, reduction of wealth and most importantly to the government actors is reduction of your health as the primary function of their business model. U.S. Government actors use names like “Special Housing Unit” which is in fact and reality solitary confinement. The sickest individuals in the United States all rise to key positions to execute their sadist practices on the unaware and un-informed. Torture is always a key element in US and Washington DC led persecutions.
Forthright and to the point as usual from John Pilger. His description of Mr. Assanges health is very moving. To be set up like this by the state is an absolute scandel. I will never trust British justice again if Julian Assange loses this appeal.
Thanks, John. With Rob’t Parry and Rob’t Fisk gone, there’s far too few of your uncorrupted generation left. But many honest, competent new journalists are arising in the alternative media, hopefully in time.
Jack Dresser, Ph.D., retired psychologist and NIH-funded scientist
National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East
www (dot) al-nakba-history (dot) com
God all bloody mighty!! What is wrong with us Australians? Where is our reputed sense of a “fair go” to stick up for the iconic “underdog” and to champion the principles of fairness, transparency and accountability and justice.
Our parliaments, state and federal, and the mainstream media (which purport to represent our values) are inhabited by the unwholesome feral scum who, it seems, are the true representatives of Australian values.
With the exception of a few lone voices there can be no doubt Australia has abandoned Julian to watch football and cricket.
I am ashamed for what I have not done due to lazy selfish inertia and I acknowledge this comment exposes me as being a self righteous hypocrite but there is a lot of us here in good old OZ.
All bloody almighty, indeed, Jack
It is just one thing that has made us what we are now and that is the subservience to the US hypocrites, in train since Whitlam was pilloried and on and on since then, growing in strength , downhill.
We bowed and scraped to the Poms since 1788 and now its the likes of Bush, Cheney, Pompeo, Clinton and the current incumbent, Blinken. It’s a case of “Jump Australia”. “How high, Biden” and until we get some politicians who have guts, putting Australia first, so it will continue.
Australia, now one of the most feeble countries in the world.
Couldn’t agree more with both you and Jack.
Just look at the current self-serving government. The worst in our history.
The likes of Robert Parry and Robert Fisk, sadly no longer able to give us the truth, but thankfully we can still rely on others like John Pilger, who all his life has been a voice for truth. And Consortium, always telling it how it is.
Full marks to them all.
Rex, I agree. We are feeble and pathetic. It seems our politicians and media expect we always have to “punch above our weight” and tell ourselves how good we are. Amongst other things, in order to attempt to create this image, we will recruit (steal? bribe?) sports people from other countries to bolster our rankings; how feeble and pathetic. In the meantime we give no support, succor, protection or support to deserving individuals on the grounds of humanitarian issues or other situations. Our priorities are all wrong.