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Julian Assange: Covid Risks and Campaigns for Pardon

Before the January 4 ruling of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in the extradition case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher will continue to endure the ordeal of cold prison facilities while being menaced by a COVID-19 outbreak. From November 18, Assange, along with inmates in House Block 1 at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, were placed in lockdown conditions. The measure was imposed after three COVID-19 cases were discovered.

The response was even more draconian than usual. Exercise was halted; showers prohibited. Meals were to be provided directly to the prisoner’s cell. Prison officials described the approach as a safety precaution. “We’ve introduced further safety measures following a number of positive cases,” stated a Prison Service spokesperson.

Assange’s time at Belmarsh is emblematic of a broadly grotesque approach which has been legitimised by the national security establishment. The pandemic has presented another opportunity to knock him off, if only by less obvious means. The refusal of Judge Baraitser to grant him bail, enabling him to prepare his case in conditions of guarded, if relative safety, typifies this approach. “Every day that passes is a serious risk to Julian,” explains his partner, Stella Moris. “Belmarsh is an extremely dangerous environment where murders and suicides are commonplace.”

Belmarsh already presented itself as a risk to one’s mental bearings prior to the heralding of the novel coronavirus. But galloping COVID-19 infections through Britain’s penal system have added another, potentially lethal consideration. On November 24, Moris revealed that some 54 people in Assange’s house block had been infected with COVID-19. These included inmates and prison staff. “If my son dies from COVID-19,” concluded a distressed Christine Assange, “it will be murder.”

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Belmarsh has angered the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer. On December 7, ten years from the day of Assange’s first arrest, he spoke of concerns that 65 out of approximately 160 inmates had tested positive. “The British authorities initially detained Mr. Assange on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Sweden in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct that have since been formally dropped due to lack of evidence.” He was currently being “detained for exclusively preventive purposes, to ensure his presence during the ongoing US extradition trial, a proceeding which may well last several years.”

The picture for the rapporteur is unmistakable, ominous and unspeakable. The prolonged suffering of the Australian national, who already nurses pre-existing health conditions, amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Imprisoning Assange was needlessly brutal. “Mr. Assange is not a criminal convict and poses no threat to anyone, so his prolonged solitary confinement in a high security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis.” Melzer suggested immediate decongestion measures for “all inmates whose imprisonment is not absolutely necessary” especially those, “such as Mr Assange, who suffers from a pre-existing respiratory health condition.”

Free speech advocates are also stoking the fire of interest ahead of Baraitser’s judgment. In Salon, Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, penned a heartfelt piece wondering what had happened to the fourth estate. “Where is the honest reporting that we all so desperately need, and upon which the very survival of democracy depends?” Never one to beat about the bush, Waters suggested that it was “languishing in Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh.” To extradite Assange would “set the dangerous precedent that journalists can be prosecuted merely for working with inside sources, or for publishing information the government deems harmful.” The better alternative: to dismiss the charges against Assange “and cancel the extradition proceedings in the kangaroo court in London.”

In the meantime, a vigorous campaign is being advanced from the barricades of Twitter to encourage President Donald Trump to pardon Assange. Moris stole the lead with her appeal on Thanksgiving. Pictures of sons Max and Gabriel were posted to tingle the commander-in-chief’s tear ducts. “I beg you, please bring him home for Christmas.”

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has added her name to the Free Assange campaign, directing her pointed wishes to the White House. “Since you’re giving pardons to people,” she declared, “please consider pardoning those who, at great personal sacrifice, exposed the deception and criminality in the deep state.”



Pamela Anderson’s approach was somewhat different and, it should be said, raunchily attuned to her audience. She made no qualms donning a bikini in trying to get the president’s attention. “Bring Julian Assange Home Australia,” went her carried sign, tweeted with a message to Trump to pardon him. Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Intercept, proved more conventional, niggling Trump about matters of posterity. “By far the most important blow Trump could strike against the abuse of power by CIA, FBI & the Deep State – as well as to impose transparency on them to prevent future abuses – is a pardon of @Snowden & Julian Assange, punished by those corrupt factions for exposing their abuses.” Alan Rusbridger, formerly editor of The Guardian, agrees.

While often coupled with Assange in the pardoning stakes, Edward Snowden has been clear about his wish to see the publisher freed. “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange. You alone can save his life.” As well meant as this is, Trump’s treasury of pardons is bound to be stocked by other options, not least for himself.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Pardons…what a feast of filth for the Trump types, a huge donut of circularcaked shit, head up anus, entrenched in oblivion to ethics, morals, decency, adulthood and awareness. Trump is one of many who should be up against a wall to pay in finality, while the Snowden and Assange types are heroic in intent and result and have shown us the way possible to get some little honesty back into public life, political machinations, underhand dealings. Why do the biggest turds float to the top of political perverted ponds of power?

  2. Josephus

    Nonsense Karen. Some of what you say does not even make sense- eg how can Snowden give birth, safe or otherwise? Assange exposed war crimes, which matter was also taken up by the media. At the very least he should be tried in his own country. The grovelling before the vengeful USA and the betrayal by his own country are disgusting. He is innocent till proven guilty. He redacted names of spies, by the way. Assange may not be a very likeable person but this is not a beauty contest. It is matter of a fair , open trial at home. Justice must be served here, not give in to vicious revenge by the military of a foreign power.

  3. Roswell

    He is a nasty nhilist who enjoys the limelight…

    Got me stuffed how being holed up in an embassy for seven years and then rotting in jail for a year is enjoying the limelight.

  4. Caz

    I would like to remind you Karen, that Julian Assange has not been charged with a crime. He is being held illegally in prison while British so-called justice decides if he should be extradited to the US T to face charges. Why is he handcuffed in the dock? Why wasn’t he granted bail. He could have forfeited his passport as people usually do on bail if they are a flight risk.
    No, he is being kept in solitary confinement with the hope he will die and let the Brits off the hook.
    Julian is a political prisoner and if you want to know how the Brits treat political prisoners, read the report of John Mandeville, thé Irish Patriot.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Go down, deep, into the mysteries of subterranean memory, and there is mulch, worm holes, rabbit warrens, Sydney exploiting and profiteering tunnelling, natural apertures for drainage, silt in strata, ancient bones, sites for archaeological speculation, dinosaur dung, coal formation deposits, Karen, primitive stupidities deeply buried…

  6. Andrew Smith

    The passivity that surrounds the Assange case by media, MPs and society in both the UK and Australia simply shows how US authoritarian governments can dictate to their allies, who then simply ‘follow orders’ …..

  7. DrakeN

    @ Karen Kyle: “Nope……..Assange broke the law.”

    So did Emmeline Pankhurst who was also imprisoned several times.

    Law and justice are rarely synonymous.

    The gaoling of homosexuals was a legal requirement until very recently.

    You really do spout a lot of unmitigated nonsense.

  8. DrakeN

    The likes of Pankhurst and homosexuals are being routinely persecuted in many modern legislatures including some industialised nations and supposedly advanced cultures.

    Blinkers off, Karen.

    As for the condescending “sweetcakes” you are, once again, way off the mark.

  9. DrakeN

    Do you mean our “community standards” which fail to adequately protect the weak and vunerable from exploitation by monied predators; which lock up and assault a disproportionate number of indigenous youths for simply “being cheeky” and swearing; which “pork barrel” constituencies for political advantage; which demand reductions in measures designed to reduce the spread of a horrible and debilitating virus; et-bloody-cetera?
    You really are pathetic, Karen.

  10. ajogrady

    Karen Kyle using your logic of where Assange will be tried.

    He will be tried in the US because that’s where he did the spying and hacking.
    Then Australian soldiers should be tried in Afganistan as that is where their crimes are alleged to have occured.

  11. Roswell

    I’ve noticed two things about Karen Kyle:

    Everything she says is right, and even if wrong (which is often the case) she will argue her point tirelessly.

    Her hatred of the Middle Eastern countries (and people) is unmistakable.

  12. Florence Howarth

    Karen a risk to who? What did he reveal that the public should have known about? Truth is he revealed crimes kept hidden by governments. Most of what was labelled secret were rubbish. Same as when Whitlam minister raided ASIO, leading to all being released.

  13. DrakeN

    It’s a waste of time asking that, Florence; her familiarity with reality is somewhat vague.

  14. Watchdog

    Karen I’m cranky.
    “We have an evolving democracy thank God”
    “He deserves everything he gets” (Assange)

    Your prevarication and presumption that mainstream acquiescence is a weakness to be exploited, can only be described as mendacious. Your earlier debating (as to the efficacy of god on the aim network) should have been a wake up call for you.
    God isn’t real. Assange is. It about time you took of the blinkers.

  15. Matters Not

    Sociologists generally accept that reality is a construct and therefore somewhat different for each individual. Here’s a few thinkers who have explored the concept and in no particular order. Edmund Husserl, Alfred Schutz, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Jürgen Habermas, George Herbert Mead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gregory Bateson, Harold Garfinkel, Erving Goffman, Anthony Giddens, Michel Foucault, and Berger and Luckmann of course who wrote The Social Construction of Reality published in 1966.

    Yes people construct their own reality and it has consequences.

  16. leefe

    Karen Kyle:

    ” … the fact that autistic people just don’t get things that the rest of us comprehend easily enough.”

    There are so many inaccuracies in that partial sentence that it’s hard to know where to start when correcting them.

    Autism is not about intelligence. Those of us on the autism spectrum simply have brains that operate somewhat differently to allistic people (ie “the rest of us”).
    Autism is not monolithic. Even the term “spectrum” is misleadiing because it is one dimensional. Autism is more like a three dimensional shape (if not even more complex), and individuals can be at any point inside that shape with, if you like, vastly differing differences.

    You know what many autistic people have the most difficulty in understanding? Illogic. Inconsistency. Hypocrisy. Injustice. Rules – written or unwritten – that don’t make sense.

  17. Michael Taylor

    So true, leefe. Well said.

    I have an autistic son so I was a little disturbed by Karen’s comment.

    Autistic people see the world through a different lens, but that is not a bad thing.

    My son’s people skills don’t score highly. He excels elsewhere though. In days of old he might have been called an “idiot savant”, yet in our time he is simply a genius. His level of intelligence is frightening. His photographic memory is amazing.

    I thought that an excellent memory was not necessarily a sign of intelligence, but then this …

    He was nine. He understood the concept of the Big Bang – which we were discussing – and the vastness of space and all that it contains and I said to him that the one thing I couldn’t comprehend was the concept of time. When did it begin? When does it end? I just couldn’t get my head around it. And then he said to me; “Have you ever considered that time might be able to go backwards?” Wow.

    And just to prove how intelligent he was I also asked him how many brain cells he thought I had. He answered; “Two”.

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