Chris Hedges: A Mockery of British Justice

British courts for five years have denied due process to Julian Assange as his physical and mental health deteriorates. That is the point of his show trial.

The Crucifixion of Julian Assange – by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges

Prosecutors representing the United States, whether by design or incompetence, refused — in the two-day hearing I attended in London in February — to provide guarantees that Julian Assange would be afforded First Amendment rights and would be spared the death penalty if extradited to the U.S. 

The inability to give these assurances all but guaranteed that the High Court — as it did on Tuesday — would allow Julian’s lawyers to appeal. Was this done to stall for time so that Julian would not be extradited until after the U.S. presidential election? Was it a delaying tactic to work out a plea deal? 

Julian’s lawyers and U.S. prosecutors are discussing this possibility. Was it careless legal work? Or was it to keep Julian locked in a high security prison until he collapses mentally and physically? 

If Julian is extradited, he will stand trial for allegedly violating 17 counts of the 1917 Espionage Act, with a potential sentence of 170 years, along with another charge for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” carrying an additional five years.

The court will permit Julian to appeal minor technical points — his basic free speech rights must be honored, he cannot be discriminated against on the basis of his nationality and he cannot be under threat of the death penalty.

No new hearing will allow his lawyers to focus on the war crimes and corruption that WikiLeaks exposed. No new hearing will permit Julian to mount a public-interest defense. No new hearing will discuss the political persecution of a publisher who has not committed a crime.

The court, by asking the U.S. for assurances that Julian would be granted First Amendment rights in the U.S. courts and not be subject to the death penalty, offered the U.S. an easy out — give the guarantees and the appeal is rejected. 

It is hard to see how the U.S. can refuse the two-judge panel, composed of Dame Victoria Sharp and Justice Jeremy Johnson, which issued on Tuesday a 66-page judgment accompanied by a three-page court order and a four-page media briefing

The hearing in February was Julian’s last chance to request an appeal of the extradition decision made in 2022 by the then British home secretary, Priti Patel, and many of the rulings of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in 2021

If Julian is denied an appeal, he can request an emergency stay of execution from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) under Rule 39, which is given in “exceptional circumstances” and “only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.” 

But it is possible the British court could order Julian’s immediate extradition prior to a Rule 39 instruction, or decide to ignore a request from the ECtHR to allow Julian to have his case heard there.

Julian has been engaged in a legal battle for 15 years. It began in 2010 when WikiLeaks published classified military files from the wars in Iraq andAfghanistan — including footage showing a U.S. helicopter gunning down civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Baghdad.

Pro-Assange rally in Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 14, 2010. (Takver, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Julian took refuge in the embassy of Ecuador in London for seven years, fearing extradition to the U.S. He was arrested in April 2019 by the Metropolitan Police, who were permitted by the embassy to enter and seize him. He has been held for nearly five years in HM Prison Belmarsh, a high-security prison in southeast London.

The case against Julian has made a mockery of the British justice system and international law. While in the embassy, the Spanish security firm UC Global provided video recordings of meetings between Julian and his lawyers to the C.I.A., eviscerating attorney-client privilege. 

The Ecuadorian government — led by Lenin Moreno — violated international law by rescinding Julian’s asylum status and permitting police into their embassy to carry Julian into a waiting van. 

The courts have denied Julian’s status as a legitimate journalist and publisher. The U.S. and Britain have ignored Article 4 of their Extradition Treaty that prohibits extradition for political offenses. 

The key witness for the U.S., Sigurdur Thordarson — a convicted fraudster and pedophile — admitted to fabricating the accusations he made against Julian in exchange for immunity for past crimes.

Julian, an Australian citizen, is being charged under the U.S. Espionage Act although he did not engage in espionage and was not based in the U.S when he was sent the leaked documents. 

The British courts are considering extradition, despite the C.I.A.’s plan to kidnap and assassinate Julian, plans that included a potential shoot-out on the streets of London, with involvement by London’s Metropolitan Police. 

Julian has been held in isolation in a high-security prison without trial, although his only technical violation of the law is breaching bail conditions after he obtained asylum in the embassy of Ecuador. This should only entail a fine. 

Finally, Julian did not, unlike Daniel Ellsberg, leak the documents. He published documents leaked by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. 

Three of the nine legal grounds were accepted by the judges as potential points for appeal. The other six were denied. The two-judge panel also rejected the request by Julian’s lawyers to present new evidence. 

Julian’s legal team asked the court to introduce into the case the Yahoo! News report that revealed, after the release of the documents known as Vault 7, that the then-director of the C.I.A., Mike Pompeo, considered assassinating Julian. 

Pompeo as C.I.A. director calling WikiLeaks a nonstate hostile actor in April 2017. (C-Span Screenshot)

Julian’s lawyers also hoped to introduce a statement from Joshua Dratel, a U.S. attorney, who said that Pompeo’s use of the terms “non-state hostile intelligence service” and “enemy combatant” were phrases designed to give legal cover for an assassination.

The third piece of evidence Julian’s lawyers hoped to introduce was a statement from a Spanish witness in the criminal proceedings underway in Spain against UC Global. 

The C.I.A. is the engine behind Julian’s extradition. Vault 7 exposed hacking tools that permit the C.I.A. to access our phones, computers and televisions, turning them — even when switched off — into monitoring and recording devices.

The extradition request does not include charges based on the release of the Vault 7 files, but the U.S. indictment followed the release of the Vault 7 files. 

Justice Sharp and Justice Johnson dismissed the report in Yahoo! News as “another recitation of opinion by journalists on matters that were considered by the judge.” They rejected the argument made by the defense that Julian’s extradition would be in violation of Section 81 of the U.K. Extradition Act of 2003, which prohibits extraditions in cases where individuals are prosecuted for their political opinions. 

The judges also dismissed the arguments made by Julian’s attorneys that extradition would violate his protections under the European Convention of Human Rights — the right to life, the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial and protections against punishment without law respectively. 

The U.S. largely built its arguments from the affidavits of the U.S. prosecutor Gordon D. Kromberg. Kromberg, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia has stated that Julian, as a foreign national, is “not entitled to protections under the First Amendment, at least as it concerns national defense information.”

Ben Watson, king’s counsel, who represented the U.K. government during the two-day hearing in February, conceded that if Julian is found guilty under the Espionage Act, he could receive a death penalty sentence.

The U.S. and the U.K secretary of state were urged by the judges to offer the British court assurances on these three points by April 16. 

If the assurances are not provided, the appeal will proceed. 

If the assurances are provided, lawyers for both sides have until April 30th to make new written submissions to the court. At that point, the court will convene again on May 20 to decide if the appeal can go forward.

The goals in this Dickensian nightmare remain unchanged. Erase Julian from the public consciousness. Demonize him. Criminalize those who expose government crimes. Use Julian’s slow motion crucifixion to warn journalists that no matter their nationality, no matter where they live, they can be kidnapped and extradited to the U.S.

Drag out the judicial lynching for years until Julian, already in a precarious physical and mental condition, disintegrates. 

This ruling, like all of the rulings in this case, is not about justice. It is about vengeance.  

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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11 comments for “Chris Hedges: A Mockery of British Justice

  1. bardamu
    March 29, 2024 at 17:33

    With thanks once again to Hedges’ considerable insight, this is not merely a mockery of British justice, but a move to crush what remains of it.

    The US refuses to assure Assange’s safety because it has Assange imprisoned and because it wishes to establish a precedent. The precedent involves at least several points:

    * The US need not answer to English or international law
    * The US need not answer to its own laws or Constitution
    * The US claims active jurisdiction over the “Western” world of its supposed allies

    It’s actually true: it is not primarily one man, Julian Assange, whom the tyrants are after. He is imprisoned because he refused to be enslaved, and I do not mean to soften the tragedy of that. But they are here for the rest of us.

  2. Fastball
    March 29, 2024 at 13:34

    At this point, the UN and the western powers in general are outright denying realities that are right under everyone’s noses. The question in my mind is at what point does the world community act meaningfully in the face of this reality denying. Merely calling for a cease fire in Gaza and petitioning western governments as with Assange apparently isn’t working. So additional steps must be taken. I don’t know exactly what those steps might be but they are necessary. One possibility might be for all countries to withdraw from the farce that is the United Nations and form a new international body outside US control that the U.S. and its lackeys will have to apply to join, with stringent requirements for their membership and their exclusion from any analog to what is now the UN “Security” council.

    Mr. Assange must be wrested from US/UK control with serious consequences if they fail to give him up. Sanctions should be levied on the US and UK as they have so often sanctioned others in the past. This should among other things entail an oil embargo.

    As an American, I don’t say this lightly. This would entail serious hardships for my countrymen, but I see few other ways to get my government to listen.

  3. LeoSun
    March 29, 2024 at 12:00

    3.29.24 “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into? I’m a human corkscrew. All my wine is blood. They’re gonna kill me, mama. They don’t like me, bud. So Jesus went to Heaven; And he went there awful quick. All them people killed him. And he wasn’t even sick. So come and gather around me. My contemporary peers; And, I’ll tell you all the story of “Jesus. The missing years.” *John Prine.

    “The Crucifixion of Julian Assange,” by Mr. Fish, is a true to life painting of another very public execution, imo, by design! The judge, the jury, the executioners aka “The Beast.” The “powers that be,” that hold the power to SET Julian Assange, FREE!

    The Beast, “AUKUS,” lives. AUKUS for whom Julian Assange has taken the bullet for, year after year after year after year. 15 YEARS!!! “HANDS OFF!!! Once, again, everything’s “On Hold!“ The Beast lays down its f/rules. Their plan. The f/qualifiers, to play their f/game, to FREE, Julian Assange. Julian Assange’s “Life” depends on it; AND, everything is life!!!

    The Beast’s “Game, to FREE, Julian Assange,” is a slow, torturous, inhumane, thorn filled road to the ‘cross-over,” death. The s l o w death of Julian Assange @ the dirty, grubby, infected, bloody claws of the Beast. “The Beast won’t go to sleep!” Its tentacles f/with Julian Assange’s family, counsel, attys., lawyers, advisors, friends, who have jumped through every f/hoop! Gotten to the end, to find, there are more f/hoops, to jump through!!! “Gimme an “F”…., Gimme uh “U”….. Gimme me uh, ….. etc., etc., etc.

    No one is safe. “It’s NOT just,” the persecution of Julian Assange, isolated, deprived, incarcerated w/o f/charges, in Belmarsh Prison. The investigative journalist edited, published, exposed the Beast’s war crimes. The Beast’s deception, destruction and the murder of innocents, caught in the U.S.’esss man-made line of fire!!!

    Everybody, knows, the Beasts have incarcerated Julian Assange, a journalist, a publisher, a founder of WikiLeaks, for investigative journalism & publishing the wholly f/truth! Showing the world who’s pack’n & unloading on innocents.

    Times Up! ENOUGH!!! The universe implores “AUKUS,” to SET Julian Assange, FREE. TY. It remains, “the BEST favour is to rescue the one, in most need, Julian Assange!!!” TY, Chris Hedges, Mr. Fish, CN, et al.

    Keep It Lit.”

    * “Jesus. The Missing Years,” hxxps://

  4. Jimm
    March 29, 2024 at 10:32

    “Prosecutors representing the United States, whether by design or incompetence, refused— in the two-day hearing I attended in London in February, to provide guarantees that Julian Assange would be afforded First Amendment rights and would be spared the death penalty if extradited to the United States”. How does Chris Hedges, with all his life experiences and all he has so elegantly written about, even suggest incompetence by US prosecutors as a reason for those guarantees being provided? These US actions are purely by design and are the fruit of their conspiring with other NATO thug governments to produce these results. The absolute greatness of the soft spoken Assange is his refusal to bend to the cabal that is persecuting him. The world is indebted to him for his immense contributions.

  5. Red Star
    March 29, 2024 at 08:33

    “The goals in this Dickensian nightmare remain unchanged. Erase Julian from the public consciousness.”

    Already under way. My local press here in north east England has totally ignored the case.

    They are part of the Newsquest group, which is ultimately American owned. Which may go some way to explain why the Assange case is ignored, but anti-China articles dominate.

  6. Em
    March 29, 2024 at 07:05

    British Justice is akin to American justice!
    They are figments of hopeful imagination.
    They deserve to be mocked, by all the world who rely on authentic, unbiased justice for personal redress of injustices.
    In the show trial against Julian Assange, Justice itself is is the conflict of interests. It should recuse itself, by standing down so that the victim, Julian Assange, gets to walk free, and live his life!

  7. michael888
    March 28, 2024 at 15:54

    “This ruling, like all of the rulings in this case, is not about justice. It is about vengeance. ”

    More likely it is about power and control, and sending a message to other truth tellers (“nothing personal.”)

  8. CaseyG
    March 28, 2024 at 11:06

    sigh——-It appears that there is no JUSTICE in the US or in the UK. for Julian This disgusting means of murdering Julian Assange by both the US and the UK will no doubt bring grief to their families. But they have already brought grief to so many truth tellers. Remember Government liars—-people will remember you and what you have done to an honest man.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    March 27, 2024 at 21:45

    English justice isn’t.

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    March 27, 2024 at 19:47

    Chris Hedges is spot on. We are doing to Assange what was done to Kashoggi, only more slowly. That is vengeance also. To see Assange freed would be the greatest outcome imaginable. But there is another outcome which our government predators haven’t considered. No one can take anything said by our government seriously on any level ever again. Every obfuscation going forward is now just a search for the truth of the lie. Good luck to either party deciding to make that your political slogan in the future.

    • JonT
      March 28, 2024 at 10:46

      “No one can take anything said by our government seriously on any level ever again….”

      I agree. And not just the government. I am not a lawyer, but judges not allowing evidence which seems so relevant to the case, seems a huge abuse of power, almost as if they want the whole case over and done with and just go away. Well that’s easy: in the name of common sense FREE JULIAN ASSANGE. NOW.

Comments are closed.