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A Political Solution for Assange: Jennifer Robinson at the National Press Club

It was telling. Of the mainstream Australian press gallery, only David Crowe of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age turned up to listen to Jennifer Robinson, lawyer extraordinaire who has spent years representing Julian Assange. Since 2019, that representation has taken an even more urgent note: to prevent the WikiLeaks founder from being extradited to the United States, where he faces 18 charges, 17 confected from the archaic Espionage Act of 1917.

In addressing the Australian National Press Club, Robinson’s address, titled “Julian Assange, Free Speech and Democracy,” was a grand recapitulation of the political case against the WikiLeaks founder. Followers of this ever darkening situation would not have found anything new. The shock, rather, was how ignorant many remain about the chapters in this scandalous episode of persecution.

Robinson’s address noted those blackening statements from media organisations and governments that Assange was paranoid and could leave the Ecuadorian embassy, his abode for seven years, at his own leisure. Many were subsequently “surprised when Julian was served with a US extradition request.” But this was exactly what WikiLeaks had been warning about for some ten years.

In the Belmarsh maximum security prison, where he has resided for 3.5 years, Assange’s health has declined further. “Then last year, during a stressful court appeal hearing, Julian had a mini stroke.” His ailing state did not convince a venal prosecution, tasked with “deriding the medical evidence of Julian’s severe depression and suicidal ideation.”

The matter of health plays into the issue of lengthy proceedings. Should the High Court not grant leave to hear an appeal against the June decision by Home Secretary Priti Patel to order his extradition, processes through the UK Supreme Court and possibly the European Court of Human Rights could be activated.

The latter appeal, should it be required, would depend on the government of the day keeping Britain within the court’s jurisdiction. “If our appeal fails, Julian will be extradited to the US – where his prison conditions will be at the whim of intelligence agencies which plotted to kill him.” An unfair trial would follow, and any legal process citing the First Amendment culminating in a hearing before the US Supreme Court would take years.

The teeth in Robinson’s address lay in the urgency of political action. Assange is suffering a form of legal and bureaucratic assassination, his life gradually quashed by briefs, reviews, bureaucrats and protocols. “This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to wait for a legal fix.”

Acknowledging that her reference to the political avenue was unusual for a lawyer, Robinson noted how the language of due process and the rule of law had become ghoulish caricatures in what amounts to a form of punishment. The law has been fashioned in an abusive way that sees a person being prosecuted for journalism in a hideously pioneering way. Despite the UK-US Extradition Treaty’s prohibition of extradition for political offences, the US prosecution was making much of the Espionage Act. “Espionage,” stated Robinson, “is a political offence.”

The list of abuses in the prosecution is biblically lengthy. Robinson gave her audience a summary of them: the fabrication of evidence via the Icelandic informant and convicted embezzler and paedophile Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson; the deliberate distortion of facts; the unlawful surveillance of Assange and his legal team and matters of medical treatment; “and the seizure of legally privileged material.”

Much ignorance about Assange and the implications of his persecution is no doubt willed. Robinson’s reference to Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, was apt. Here was a man initially sceptical about the torture complaint made by Assange and his team. He had been convinced by the libel against the publisher’s reputation. “But in 2019, he agreed to read our complaint. And what he read shocked him and forced him to confront his own prejudice.”

Melzer would subsequently observe that, in the course of two decades working “with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

The concern these days among the press darlings is not press freedoms closer to home, whether they be in Australia itself, or among its allies. The egregious misconduct by Russian forces in the Ukraine War or China’s human rights record in Xinjiang are what counts. Villainy lies elsewhere.

The obscene conduct by US authorities, whose officials contemplated abducting and murdering a publisher, is an inconvenient smudge of history best ignored for consumers of news down under. The Albanese government, which has continued to extol the glory of the AUKUS security pact and swoon at prospects of a globalised NATO, has shelved any “political solution” regarding Assange, at least in any public context. The US-Australian alliance is a shrine to worship at with reverential delusion, rather than question with informed scepticism. The WikiLeaks founder did, after all, spoil the party.

On a cheerier note, those listening to Robinson’s address reflected a healthy political awareness about the tribulations facing a fellow Australian citizen. The federal member for the seat of Kooyong, Dr. Monique Ryan, was present, as were Senators Peter Whish Wilson and David Shoebridge. As Ryan subsequently tweeted, “An Australian punished by foreign states for acts of journalism? Time for our government to act.”

Others were those who have been or continue to be targets of the national security state. The long-suffering figure and target of the Australian security establishment, Bernard Collaery, put in an appearance, as did David McBride, who awaits trial for having exposed alleged atrocities of Australian special service personnel in Afghanistan.

Such individuals have made vital, oxygenating contributions to democratic accountability, of which WikiLeaks stands proud. But any journalism that, as Robinson puts it, subjects “power to scrutiny, and holding it accountable,” is bound to incite the fury of the national security state. Regarding Assange, will that fury win out?

 

 

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12 comments

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  1. King1394

    Damning that the mainstream press did not attend their own function to hear the situation regarding Assange explained. If the journalists refuse to find out the unpalatable information and explore and publish the situation, they can’t really claim to be more than essay writing hacks. There are too many of these but I guess if you need a secure job to keep the mortgage, private health insurance, car payments etc ticking over, you have to conform to your owner’s views

  2. New England Cocky

    FREE JULIAN ASSANGE IMMEDIATELY!!!

  3. Clakka

    Cats got their tongues? Cold hard journalistic ethos, would that they call themselves journalists! Representative of what – the incorporated desecration of the increasingly cringing Fourth Estate? Paragraph writers, peaceniks and cultural assassinators, saturated with bling and cynicism giving rise to an ever broadening world of professional bad-thinkers, liars, oppressors, industrialised murderers and their despotic regimes. May as well apply the pomade, join with the happy-clappers and hear no, see no, speak no, on the road to no-risk nowhere and atrophy. Perhaps they’re unsure of their oblivion – opaque, transparent or invisible? Maybe we’ll all just go by a shot in the dark?

  4. Clakka

    Good onya NEC.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Thieves, murderers, cynics, liars, perverts, double crossers, misfits, incompetents, crooked crims, media maggots, so many of these in HIGH OFFICE and at respectable levels of grovellation by all the masses of peasants, still run the stinking show of punish the ranks breakers, the alternatives to this FILTH.

  6. Regional Elder

    The boycotting of Jennifer Robinson’s excellent address to National Press Club by Murdoch’s minions is hardly surprising. After all, Murdoch keeps a tight leash on his scribes and of course attracts those who share his view of the world, to masquerade as ‘ journalists ‘ .

    And consider also that Murdoch, via his media outlets in 2002-2003 was one of the most vigorous proponents of an invasion of Iraq anywhere. It was in Iraq, that the evidence of American war crimes, being the killing of civilians and journalists, were made public via information originally conveyed to WikiLeaks, at a time when Assange was influential there. This article by John Menadue a few years ago makes interesting reading.

    The Iraq War, the Murdoch War and media culpability

    Indeed, as Robert Manne described Iraq was ‘Murdoch’s war’. Of course, he doesn’t want any blow back his way from detailed scrutiny of the lies that were told in 2002, in 2003 when the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ invaded Iraq, and in the years immediately following.

    Thus, the mainstream NewsCorp view is that Assange was a rogue, who violated their code of silence about what was really going on in Iraq, and consistent with the American military establishment view, that he is expendable. Thus the UK the client state of the U.S., and a nation that spawned the phenomenal influence of Rupert Murdoch, is obligingly torturing Julian Assange in a way that the United States hawks approve of.

  7. Terence Mills

    RE

    Thanks for that : I agree with you analysis.

  8. Clakka

    Indeed, the entire political / legal (?) process surrounding Assange’s prosecution is a putrescence of lies, misrepresentations, scapegoating, cover-ups, extrajudicial actions, malfeasance, cross-jurisdictional manipulation, political collusion and force majeure, ad infinitum.

    That Assange is paying the price meted out by the most powerful, yet desperate and crumbling empires in history is no surprise.

    Whilst for MSM, Murdoch is undoubtedly the media puppet-master, others, notably The Guardian (UK) and the New York Times, cowed and lying initiators, can be seen as co-conspitorial manipulators in his demise. And the rest across the world a subservient cling-on to their toadying autocrats and dependent fascist states.

    The promulgations of such as Mark Davis and other non-aligned journalists maintain the skill, courage and ethos to throw light upon the evidence of organised and ritual foul play. The web of which goes back many decades ….. I do not forget the involvement of Madelaine Albright in the setting up of Saddam’s incursion into Kuwait, and the later extortionate “reconstruction” – the initiation of the Third World (energy) War, still underway. What hope for the emanation of a political solution for Assange via the quivering sphincters of the AUKUS arrangement?

  9. Caz

    While many of the Murdoch hacks ( I refuse to call them journalists) are beholden to Rupert for their livelihood, the Labor government isn’t or should never be. I am absolutely disgusted with the fett dragging lack of progress in bringing Julian home. Are we equal partners in the AUKUS pact or are we still looked upon as a prize cash cow that the US and UK can exploit? I’m beginning to think we are being taken for fools. Woe betide the Albanese government if Julian Assange dies in Belmarsh .

  10. Canguro

    America is the “whirling death machine.”

    “All these systems, [the] court system, [the] military, [the] prison system, the intelligence apparatus, have all been going through this buildup, buildup, buildup over several decades. [A] nationalist authoritarian regime.” [Chelsea Manning].

    These observations from the person whom some American politicians (like Mike Huckabee) called for her to be executed after her arrest and prior to her sentence. Others (like Hillary Clinton) publicly condemned her endangering the beast and its capacity to run rampant and unhindered across the face of the planet.

    These are the types of malevolent forces that are summoned and arrayed against Julian Assange. It’s difficult to see a crack where the light gets in.

  11. Terence Mills

    I go back to the original decision which, in the terms of the Extradition Act, dismissed Assange’s extradition based on his mental health condition.

    The extradition act has not changed : the Court ordered Assange’s discharge on the grounds that extradition to the US would be oppressive under section 91(3) of the UK’s Extradition Act 2003 given his mental condition.

    We need to return to that decision which was in all respects correct in accordance with the law.

  12. Pingback: Australian nuclear news this week – and more | Nuclear Australia

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