The British home secretary is under pressure as she’s about to decide whether to extradite WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
At some point during the next nine days, British Home Secretary Priti Patel will decide whether or not to extradite imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges for publishing accurate information revealing U.S. war crimes.
Pressure is building from both sides on the home secretary. Press freedom and human rights organizations, a Nobel laureate, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, journalists and Assange supporters have appealed to Patel to let Assange go.
While it would be deemed improper for outside influence to be brought on judges, it would not be fanciful to imagine that behind the scenes Patel is getting the message from the U.S. Department of Justice and possibly from U.S. and U.K. intelligence services about what is expected of her.
The home secretary should know without prodding what the U.S. and British governments want her to do. Patel is a highly-ambitious politician who no doubt will calculate how her decision will impact her career.
“Politicians think about their next election, they think about their voters … that’s what makes them tick,” Kristinn Hrafnnson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, told Consortium News at a protest outside the Home Office in London last Wednesday. “For the first time it’s in the hands of a politician, and Priti Patel, if she wants to think about her legacy … she should do the right thing.”
“Politics is a strange beast,” Hrafnsson said. “Anything can happen. I’m hoping this is something that will be taken up in the Cabinet here. Let’s not forget that Boris Johnson was a journalist. He was part of the media community and should have better understanding of this case than many others.”
Patel is acting after the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision to overturn a lower court ruling barring Assange’s extradition on health grounds and the danger of U.S. prisons. The High Court decided solely on conditional U.S. promises that Assange would be well treated in custody.
With the courts no longer involved and the decision solely in Patel’s hands, the case now is purely political, meaning political pressure can be brought to bear on the home secretary.
“The home secretary has the discretion to block this extradition, and there is a lot of pressure from civil society and press freedom groups for her to do so,” said Stella Assange at a film screening on Thursday.
She said the “heaviest” pressure had come from Dunja Mijatovic, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, “urging Patel to block it.” Mijatovic wrote to Patel on May 10, saying:
“I have been following the developments in Mr Assange’s case with great attention. In the judicial proceedings so far, the focus has mainly been on Mr Assange’s personal circumstances upon his possible extradition to the United States. While a very important matter, this also means, in my opinion, that the wider human rights implications of Mr Assange’s possible extradition, which reach far beyond his individual case, have not been adequately considered so far.
In particular, it is my view that the indictment by the United States against Mr Assange raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including information that exposes human rights violations. The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Mr Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond.
Consequently, allowing Mr Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.”
Letter from Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace laureate to UK Secretary of State Priti Patel
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquive has also written to Patel. “I join the growing collective concern about the violations of the human, civil and political rights of Mr. Julian Assange,” the Argentine wrote. He called the extradition request “illegal and abusive” and said it imperiled press freedom and could bring “potentially fatal consequences” to Assange.
Julian Assange's wife collected the Gunther Wallraff prize on behalf of her husband in Germany on Thursday. The imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher continues his fight against extradition and a 175 year sentence for publishing truthful information, including revealing war crimes pic.twitter.com/ILYdTJtlMi
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 21, 2022
Amnesty International released a statement at the end of April calling on Patel to deny extradition. “If the Home Secretary certifies the US request to extradite Julian Assange it will violate the prohibition against torture and set an alarming precedent for publishers and journalists around the world,” Amnesty said. It went on:
“Prolonged solitary confinement is a regular occurrence in the USA’s maximum-security prisons. The practice amounts to torture or other ill-treatment, which is prohibited under international law. The assurances of fair treatment offered by the USA in Julian Assange’s case are deeply flawed and could be revoked at any time. Extradition to the USA would put Assange at risk of serious human rights violations, and hollow diplomatic assurances cannot protect him from such abuse.
If the UK government allows a foreign country to exercise extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction to prosecute a person publishing from the UK, other governments could use the same legal apparatus to imprison journalists and silence the press far beyond the borders of their own countries.”
“There has been a huge mobilization all over Europe in many countries and 1,800 journalists have written an open letter to Priti Patel saying that this case should be blocked because it affects their safety because of the implications for global press freedom,” Stella Assange said.
Reporters Without Borders submitted a petition to Patel on Thursday with 65,000 signatures. It was delivered to British embassies in eight countries, Assange said. More than 700,000 Australians have also signed a petition.
New Australian Government
The election on Friday of just the fourth Labor government in Australia since the Second World War may bode well for Assange. The new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said publicly that Assange should be returned to his native Australia.
"Enough is enough. I can't see what is served by keeping Julian Assange incarcerated"
New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese @AlboMP #FreeAssangeNOW #auspol pic.twitter.com/lqKGQ5dziH
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 22, 2022
It is now up to the new prime minister to pick up the phone and call Joe Biden to tell him that “enough is enough” means the prosecution must be dropped and Assange sent home. He also knows Patel’s phone number.
“Albanese, I hope he will stick to his promises and convictions,” Hrafnsson said. But he is skeptical. “I’ve been a journalist for 30 years to rely on politicians is something … I’d rather be betting on the card table I guess.”
Julian Assange's wife speaking to @theprojecttv: "70% of Australians want Julian to come home – the incoming government must give expression to the will of the Australian people" @StellaMoris1 #FreeAssangeNOW pic.twitter.com/GE23sycg4a
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) May 21, 2022
If Patel decides to extradite Assange it’s not the end of the legal road for Assange. He has the option of launching a “cross” appeal to the High Court. Though he won in magistrate’s court on health grounds and the condition of U.S. prisons, the judge ruled on every other point of law in Washington’s favor.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied that the case was a political offense in violation of the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty; that it violated the U.S. first amendment and threatened press freedom; and that Assange’s rights to due process were violated when it was revealed that the C.I.A. had spied on privileged conversations with his lawyers and she ignored testimony that the C.I.A. had discussed kidnapping or poisoning Assange.
“The judges will have all the other elements, the important elements, that were discussed by the magistrate’s court but disregarded by the High Court because it was not the appeal point,” Hrafnsson said. The U.S. appeal was only about Assange’s health and U.S. prison conditions and Washington won because it convinced the judges of the credibility of its conditional assurances to treat Assange humanely.
Since Baraitser’s Jan. 4, 2021 decision, other facts have emerged that could form part of the cross appeal. The C.I.A. plot against Assange was further corroborated by U.S. officials in a Yahoo! News report. A key U.S. witness on computer charges against Assange recanted his testimony. And Assange’s health has further deteriorated when he suffered a mini-stroke last October.
Assange’s legal team hopes the High Court will hear the cross appeal on at least some of the nine points it would raise. “If Priti Patel signs the extradition, then we will be given the opportunity to seek to appeal on all the points that were lost,” said Stella Assange. “It’s basically as if we had lost back in 2021. That’s the position we are in now. ”
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News 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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The whole free world except the blue-blooded reptilians of the First World’s establishments readily love going along with the humanely principled views of Stella, Dunja and the myraid of hundred thousands of petitioners worldwide that Assange be blocked from being extradited to the US and returned to an Australia now headed by Antony Albanese. The implications and global ramifications of not doing so would be very unpredictable, consequentially. It is rather ironic that in an age of increasingly blowjobbers and slaveish Indian-lapdogs of the West easily moving into positions of national and global power, conscientious whistle-blowers like Assange should unjustly be potentially-fatalistically incarcerated in the US. Surely, Priti can’t be that wokey idiotic !
Priti Patel is a mere vehicle, it would be naive of us to believe that the decision is in her hands. Every aspect of Julian Assange’s treatment by the British government has been a travesty of justice.
I see a likeness of the UK Government in the matter of Assange to the recent Australian Government and the Biloela family. Look what happened to the Morrison government in Australia and learn. The words JUSTICE and MERCY come to mind.
This is what happens when a US deep state operation gets exposed killing innocent people ,this is how they react. If what they are doing is justice then every journalist and media company who printed information Assange leaked or showed footage of it should be occupying cells on the same row as he is .That wont happen .These are the very same people who pull Biden’s puppet strings and tried to get to bring in a Government Disinformation Board not to fight disinformation but rather control all information and punish dissent,criticism and exposure. If this is the kind of footage and information they have hidden in their black vaults imagine what they have stashed away about other operations say like…….Ukraine
The corrupt Tories are running the UK into the ground. Get rid of this lot starting right at the top: Boris Johnson
Put Tony Blair into a high-security prison. He is a major war criminal. And the longer the dishonorable UK judicial system abuses Julian Assange, the more visible Blair’s crimes against humanity are.
Labor has just won the election here in Australia, our new PM is Anthony Albanese,a very decent honest man/ for a politician that is/…. He usually keeps his word,and knowing the form of most politicians it would be a bad look if after a couple of days in power he breaks this promise…….. I dont think he will…………..
In regards to Pm Albanese ‘Enough is Enough’.
Yes I remember him saying that.
The new Pm has also been quoted saying this on the same day.
‘’I don’t have sympathy for many of his actions”.
Well I do! Not only that, but respect as well!
A lot more than I can say for the majority of puppet politicians.
From what I’ve read, The new Pm has only said he wants him set free.
He has not said he is going to do anything about it yet.
Has anyone heard differently? That would be some welcome news.
Words without action mean very little, and as we know, Julian is running out of time.
Hopefully Albanese surprises most of us, and does what the majority of politicians seem unwilling to do.
To say what they mean, and do what they say!
Not just lie for votes.
To the new Pm of Australia
If you have any real guts and backbone,
now is the time to show it Mr Albanese.
Yes, just Like Julian has done.
That’s what true leaders do!
He is someone you could model yourself on.
Enough is Enough.
Think of you often Julian,
More than u could ever know
Hang in there…
Given Patel’s links to the security services, it’s difficult to be optimistic for Julian.
The article proves no intelligence influence on Patel over Assange.
All those who believe that the decision will be left to Patel, raise your hands.
Can`t they appeal to a european court? I think judges on the continent will be much more favourable to their request. This would put pressure from the EU onto Britain. Since they are not part of the club anymore they can be sanctioned just like russia.
If you’re putting your faith in PP all I can say is you haven’t paid attention to her record
Who is putting their faith in Priti Patel?
The British and American governments !
Whatever decision Patel makes it will attempt to be hidden by the MSM and government. Potentially we can expect some maximum distraction event like the queen’s jubilee or monkey pox restrictions or a Ukrainian event.
Thank you for keeping Assange in the spotlight these many years. May Julian Assange, who has given so much to humanity, one day soon walk free.
For a far less populated nation as Australia to submit to govt petition with such greater amount of signatures… (Besides the obvious: Mr Assange’s national origin)… mandatory voting could mean greater citizen awareness of issues.
Which leads to previous story of US Press groups silence on same!
Uhhh… (All except CN of course)… so TNX!