Craig Murray: The Film About Julian Assange

Ithaka is a heart-rending film that offers an important rebuttal to more than a decade of propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the WikiLeaks publisher. 

By Craig Murray

Away from the Tory Babel over who will be the top “world-leading” sociopath, I just spent two evenings in the company of decent people. John and Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s father and brother, were in Glasgow and Edinburgh for the screening of Ithaka, the documentary that follows the fight by Julian Assange’s family to have him freed. I was moderating the Q & A. 

The odd pub may also have been visited.

Ithaka is heart-rending, and it has an important message in rehumanizing Julian after over a decade of concerted (I use that word advisedly) propaganda aimed at dehumanizing him.

[Related: WATCH: CN Live! — ‘The Assange Family Struggle’]

The sheer baseness of the extraordinary lies told by the mainstream media about his personal hygiene — leaving toilets unflushed and even smearing Embassy walls with excrement — is something straight out of Joseph Goebbels’ playbook. 

The cold calculation behind Assange’s treatment in his last months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, when he was denied access to wash and shave, in order to produce the apparent monster for the photos of his arrest, is a true example of evil unfolding. 

Two days before his expulsion I telephoned the embassy and spoke to the first secretary (a call I recorded). I explained that if, as we understood, Julian were no longer welcome, they only had to say so and he would leave voluntarily to the police station. Instead, we had that calculated piece of theater. 

Presentation aside, it also enabled them to retain all of Julian’s possessions, including all his legal papers covered by client-attorney privilege relating to his defence.

As we heard in the extradition hearing, all of those papers were taken to Quito and then given to the C.I.A. This was admitted by counsel for the U.S. government who claimed that “Chinese walls” — a direct quote — within the U.S. government prevented the C.I.A. from passing any of that information to the Justice Department, which is running the case.

If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. But the fact is that it is the U.S. government that is applying for extradition and the U.S. government has stolen the legal papers of the other party in the case. In any other case this would lead to the case being kicked out immediately. 

If you add that together with the fact that the extradition treaty specifically bars political extradition, that the U.S. government’s key witness is a convicted fraudster and pedophile who was paid for his evidence (which he has since denounced), and that no journalist in the U.S. has ever been charged with espionage before, you begin to start to understand the depth of state depravity that has kept Julian in the U.K.’s strongest security prison for four birthdays. 

Pompeo Calls on Patel

I found this curious. Mike Pompeo, former U.S. secretary of state, who oversaw the plot to kidnap or potentially assassinate Julian in the Ecuadorian embassy, called on U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel on June 30, just after she signed Julian’s extradition order and also just after Pompeo had been summoned by a Spanish court to give evidence on the plot.

That photo is more unusual than might be immediately realized. With a Democrat in the White House, it is extremely rare for a senior British cabinet minister, acting in an official capacity, openly to flaunt friendship with senior Republicans from the defeated administration and to hold official meetings with them. 

Pompeo is now a private citizen. He could quite naturally be meeting Patel as a friend in her home — but officially, at the Home Office? This is really not done, or if exceptionally needed, it is done quietly.

What did they discuss in the Home Office?

Here is something else downright peculiar. According to The Wall Street Journal, Priti Patel asked the U.S. government to give her public congratulations for agreeing the extradition of Julian Assange:

“After Ms. Patel’s ruling on June 17, for example, a U.K. official asked the U.S. Embassy in London if officials there or at the Justice Department could release a statement welcoming Ms. Patel’s ruling, adding that she would appreciate such a show of support, according to people familiar with the request.”

The Justice Department declined to issue such a statement.

There is a very strange smell surrounding this extradition.

The film Ithaka is not a dissection of the legal issues, nor an in-depth recounting of the Assange case. It rather focuses on the devastating effect of his cruel imprisonment on his family, both his wife and children, and on his father John Shipton. 

[Related: WATCH: CN Covers Assange Movie Premiere in Sydney]

John’s personal crusade to save his son is the main focus. The insight into the fundamentals of the case — that the man who did most to expose war crimes is the man locked up and tortured, not the people who committed the war crimes — mostly come from interviews with Professor Nils Melzer, then U.N. special rapporteur on torture.

Nils Melzer. (UN Photo)

Do go see the film — which has had excellent reviews from mainstream film critics. Chairing the Q&A sessions afterwards I have been struck by the number of tear-stained eyes when the lights go up and the audience mood shifts from sorrow to anger fairly quickly. It is a remarkable film.

Let me give my own insights. As a technical bit of film-making, it is edited down from what must have been thousands of hours of footage. During the various stages of extradition hearings, I was personally miked up every single day for the film for a total of over five weeks. Tens of hours of conversation between John and myself were recorded, not one second of which made it into the film. 

That is absolutely not a complaint, you see more than enough of me. It is merely an illustration of the remarkable editing down on this film. Over a thousand hours were left on the cutting room floor to get down to just two in the film.

That of course gives the director, Ben Lawrence, and his editor massive ability to shape the narrative by selection. Ben has chosen to illustrate the bleakness of Julian’s isolation by emphasising the loneliness of John and Stella’s quest. I am sure that is artistically valid and it presents a real truth – nobody can truly share the despair of the family, and in the long dark night of the soul they are alone. 

But I do wish to assure you that the families are surrounded and supported by a group of really loving and caring people, very much more involved than I am. They are not foregrounded in the film for reasons of narrative selection, but they exist and they know they have the eternal gratitude of Julian and his whole family and many of the rest of us. 

I would further add that John Shipton’s eclectic mind and deeply philosophical nature are brought out wonderfully, but his immense charm and also his great pleasure in social company perhaps do not come across on the screen. Ben has focused on the more angular bits of John’s nature. 

None of that in any way detracts from the experience of a superb film by Ben Lawrence, produced by Julian’s quieter but very talented brother Gabriel. Undoubtedly the public perception has already been turning in Julian’s favour. Don’t just go see the film: take somebody who might have their eyes opened to the truth.

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. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

9 comments for “Craig Murray: The Film About Julian Assange

  1. July 14, 2022 at 14:05

    Hear this brand new and great song for Julian written by journalist-musician Finian Cunningham

    And this is my poem.

    Join Our Messenger Julian

    You will be more
    More than just yourself
    In fellowship will you be your true self

    We become more
    When we integrate what Julian Assange has revealed
    When we say no to his hangmen

    You are not an island unto yourself
    You are yourself
    When we are in one another’s hands

  2. Billy Field
    July 12, 2022 at 17:01

    This Friday will be the 138th weekly demonstration at Sydney Town Hall to call on Australian Gov to act to free Julian Assange. Most everybody who passes now knows this is the most outrageous front to justice, democracy & human rights…& one could ad “Human decency & honesty” & lot more. These demonstrations have been completely ignored by politicians & media. So much for “exporting democracy” to foreign nations. Interestingly it’s fair to say the loss of credibility over this matter is in part why the last Govt was sacked & the two enormous major coalition parties received only about 30% of the vote each. Utubes of these weekly demonstrations – search GongSteve. hxxps://

  3. Gordon Hastie
    July 12, 2022 at 10:30

    Thanks, Craig.

  4. Todd
    July 12, 2022 at 08:37

    Where can I stream/watch this film in the United States?

  5. Airlane1979
    July 12, 2022 at 03:12

    A film that would be worth seeing. However, unlike the freely-available ‘Planet of the Humans’ by Michael Moore & Jeff Gibbs, anyone not living close to one of the cinema screenings has to pay a tenner for a few days’ online access to it on a streaming service. Perhaps the makers prefer that only the wealthy Professional & Managerial Class watch it. After all, the working class and the poor are of no interest to the campaigning elite, y’know, the Greenpeace Class.

  6. Graeme
    July 12, 2022 at 01:14

    Craig is right, this is an extremely moving film about two of Julian’s main supporters: Stella, their boys, and John.
    It is heartbreaking.
    And as Nils Melzer in The Trial of Julian Assange mentions, the definition of torture also accommodates the impact on the loved ones of the one who is the primary target.

    It was shown in Australia on free-to-air-TV; probably the first time that the national broadcaster, the ABC, has shown a piece on Julian that has not mentioned the libelous comments made about him by foulmouthed ‘journalists’ at the ABC, Guardian, etc.

    Sadly, here in Australia, the reviews of Nils Melzer’s book are thin on the ground; a couple in independent online outlets, but none on corporate or national-broadcaster outlets.

    Ithaka made me cry, made me angry, made me disgusted with Australian governments’ decade of obeisance, and reminded me to what extent the so called guardians of liberal democracies are little more than bullhorns for government policies.

  7. July 11, 2022 at 22:23

    Pompeo’s visit is perfectly understandable, given the likelihood of his return to the State Department come January 2025, when Caligula Drumpf (or one of his political proteges) is sworn in as the chief executive. Pompeo knows that the senile Biden is no more than a placeholder, there to give enough time for the Republicans to sufficiently rehabilitate their party’s image in the eye of the American public following four years of do-nothingness from an increasingly doddering old boy who long ago lost what few marbles he had in his possession. Therefore, Pompeo can afford to act as a shadow secretary of state.

    • Annie MCSTRAVICK
      July 12, 2022 at 12:16

      For a government minister to publicly meet with a foreign politician who is part of the opposition goes against all diplomatic protocol.

  8. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 11, 2022 at 17:49

    Thanks for this, Craig. I met John Shipton last year in Oakland, California while he was on his U.S. trip with Gabriel. John’s great charm and also great strength and quiet determination were like a light emanating from him. I got a chance to chat with him briefly after the presentation by John, Gabriel, Alice Walker, Daniel Ellsberg (via videolink), and Mumia Abu Jamal (also by videolink). I let him know how we supported Julian and that I had written to him in Belmarsh. There was a real human connection between John and everyone he spoke with. An admirable man.

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