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Predictable Monstrosities: Priti Patel Approves Assange’s Extradition

The only shock about the UK Home Secretary’s decision regarding Julian Assange was that it did not come sooner. In April, Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring expressed the view that he was “duty-bound” to send the case to Priti Patel to decide on whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 grafted from the US Espionage Act of 1917.

Patel, for her part, was never exercised by the more sordid details of the case. Her approach to matters of justice is one of premature adjudication: the guilty are everywhere, and only multiply. When it came to WikiLeaks, such fine points of law and fact as a shaky indictment based on fabricated evidence, meditations on assassination, and a genuine, diagnosed risk of self-harm, were piffling distractions. The US Department of Justice would not be denied.

“Under the Extradition Act 2003,” a nameless spokesman for the Home Office stated, “the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.”

Evidently, overt politicisation, bad faith, and flimsy reassurances from the US Department of Justice on how Assange will be detained, do not constitute sufficient grounds. But the cue came from the courts themselves, which have done a fabulous job of covering the US justice system with tinsel in actually believing assurances that Assange would not be facing special administrative detention measures (SAMs) or permanent captivity in the ADX Florence supermax in Colorado. “In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”

In such a scatterbrained, and amoral cosmos that marks decision-making in the Home Office, no mention has been made of the surveillance operation against the publisher in the Ecuadorian embassy, orchestrated at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency. None, either, of contemplated abduction or assassination, or the frail mental health Assange finds himself.

As late as June 10, a letter from the group Doctors for Assange, comprising 300 doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, noted that the Home Secretary’s “denial of the cruel, inhumane treatment inflicted upon Assange was then, and is even more so now, irreconcilable with the reality of the situation.”

In April, an umbrella grouping of nineteen organisations dedicated to press freedom and free speech urged Patel, in reviewing the case, to appreciate that Assange would “highly likely” face isolation or solitary confinement US conditions “despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate the risk of suicide.”

The co-chairs of the Courage Foundation’s Assange Defense Committee, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Alice Walker, reflected on the depravity of the order in a statement. “It is a sad day for western democracy. The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him – the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest – is an abomination.” As for the UK, it had “shown its complicity in this farce, by agreeing to extradite a foreigner based on politically motivated charges that collapse under the slightest scrutiny.”

Similar views were expressed by Amnesty International (“a chilling message to journalists the world over”) and Reporters Without Borders (“another failure by the UK to protect journalism and press freedom”). There was even concern from Conservative MP David Davis, who expressed his belief that Assange would not “get a fair trial.” The extradition law was, as matters stood, lopsided in favour of US citizens.

 

 

All this is consistent with Patel, who seems to relish the prospect of sending individuals to a place where human rights are marginal jottings on a policy paper. The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Partnership, as it is euphemistically termed, is her pride and joy, albeit one currently facing strenuous legal opposition.

Under the arrangement, individuals crossing the channel will receive one-way tickets to Rwanda to have their claims processed without a prospect of settling in the UK. The Rwandan government, hostile to contrarians, the rule of law and refugees, will be subsidised for their pain and labours.

To this sadistic streak can be added her admiration for the Espionage Act being used to prosecute Assange. This fact should have disqualified her in any country operating under the rule of law. Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a Conservative no-confidence vote this month, Patel’s National Security Bill passed its second reading in Parliament. The bill articulates an offence of “obtaining or disclosing protected information” that includes “any information… which either is, or could reasonably be expected to be, subject to any type of restrictions of access for protecting the safety and interests of the UK.”

In a polite nod of deference to US law, the proposed law states that an offence is committed when a person “obtains, copies, records or retains protected information, or discloses or provides access to protected information” for a purpose “that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom” and if “the foreign power condition is met.” The requirement there is that the act is “carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power,” including instances where “an indirect relationship” exists.

Assange has 14 days to appeal this insidious rubber stamping of judicially sanctioned brutality. His legal team are hoping to use the High Court as the route to highlight the political dimension of the case and draw attention back to the way the extradition law was read.

If the defence fail, Assange will be sent across the Atlantic, entrusted to officials, some of whom considered murdering him, to be made an example of. It will be the clarion call to regimes across the world that punishing a publisher is something supposed liberal democracies can do as well, and as deviously, as anybody else.

 

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17 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    FREE JULIAN ASSANGE IMMEDIATELY!!

    IT is a civil duty to expose alleged war criminals even if the POTUS is included among their ranks.

  2. Terence Mills

    Now that Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has made a political decision to allow extradition there is little point in pursuing Boris Johnson to reverse her decision. She would have included the British PM in her deliberations and it would be most unlikely that Boris would now countermand her decision.

    Australia ought now to focus any advocacy towards the US government, making a case for the criminal charges and extradition request to be abandoned. Particularly as the original source of the classified leak, Chelsea Manning, had her sentence commuted by Obama – she is now free. Evidently a former US President didn’t see any reason to keep Manning in jail and as Assange was acting as a journalist there is even less reason to pursue him : that’s just shooting the messenger.

    I have much more faith that Albanese and Wong will do something about this, clearly the Morrison regime didn’t care about justice or human rights.

  3. Phil Pryor

    There is something Priti Ugli about this case, The USA has intruded, occupied, offended, coerced widely, and Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places have suffered, with hundreds of thousands of innocent and unfortunate people killed. I call such intrusive slaughter murder, a wilful and deliberate act driven by policy, perverted personnel, dirty doctrine. Outing the acts, the murders, even the people involved, seems right and honest. Yet leaders, who are so often executive murderers by policy, orders, decisions, rarely get nailed, as they are vehicles protected by culture, media, loyalties. Free Assange, who can be easily watched, if that is “necessary.” The UK under Joris Bonkerdrinka is more than ever susceptible to USA coercion and pressures. Evil.

  4. David Baird

    A predictably priti awful act by Patel. She obviously adheres to the notion that the most egregious thing a whistle-blower can do is to seriously embarrass a government over its actions, in this case the US (and, by association, its allies) in the use of drones to murder innocents, all captured on their video and utterly undeniable. Whistle-blowers, whether journalists or not, will always be in the line of fire from embarrassed governments whose vengeance knows no limit. In Russia they are simply eliminated, in the ‘free’ West they are persecuted, prosecuted and gaoled for decades.

  5. margcal

    The US is a warmongering nation of the first order.

    Priti Patel fits right in with our LNP when it comes to “care” of refugees.

    There is obviously much more that could be said but those two things are enough to to “say it all”.

  6. wam

    She would rival dutton for insensibility, perhaps, albo could appeal, on the grounds of no fair trial, to the lords to overturn the decision and deport assange home?

  7. A Commentator

    I’ve said previously, that I think Assange has suffered enough with his self imposed gaol time.
    There seems little point in extraditing him
    However I expect that Assange will primarily be remembered for his vital role in getting Trump elected.
    To me, Assange appears motivated more by an anti western democracy orientation than by free speech and disclosure.
    Who can forget the intervention of Putin on his behalf
    Putin supporting Assange’s rights as a journalist, while suppressing the press and persecuting journalists in Russia.
    Assange doesn’t deserve punishment, nor does he warrant admiration

  8. Michael Taylor

    Hi, AC.

    When doing Pitjantjatjara language at uni many moons ago our tutor told us the story about a very famous case in SA.

    In 1959 an Aboriginal man – Rupert Maxwell Stuart – was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Ceduna.

    I don’t recall the exact details of the trial but it went something like this: the prosecutor sarcastically said to Stuart; “You didn’t rape and kill that child, did you?”

    Stuart replied; “Yes.”

    Wow. A confession! Lock him up and throw the keys away!

    There were a couple of retrials (I don’t know when, but I understand he’d already served a fair time in custody), but the last retrial had the expert opinion of an interpreter.

    The interpreter was able to explain to the court that in Stuart’s native language, when a person is asked; “You didn’t rape and kill that child, did you?” … a response of “Yes” meant that he was agreeing to the question that he didn’t rape and kill that child. “Yes, you are correct. I didn’t rape and kill that child.”

    The charges were dropped. Stuart was now a free man.

    A fascinating story about a tragic event.

    A newspaper editor in Adelaide had for years been advocating for a retrial.

    The editor’s name is Rupert Murdoch. It’s probably the only worthwhile thing old Rupert has ever done.

    By your reckoning, perhaps I should judge Rupert Murdoch on that one event in his life.

  9. Terence Mills

    I see that Adam Bandt refuses to be photographed at press conferences (or elsewhere) with the Australian flag ; it has to be removed and leave just the aboriginal and Torres Strait flags before he will speak to the nation.

    He say that the presence of the Union Jack in the corner of our national flag is offensive to him and certain groups of aboriginal people.

    Does that mean if you want to scare him off you introduce an Australian flag and he cowers : a bit like garlic offends Dracula ?

    Is that what they mean by virtue signalling ?

  10. A Commentator

    MT, here’s my suggestion…
    I’ll stop pointing out Assange’s failings when you decide Murdoch has been sufficiently criticised

  11. Michael Taylor

    PS: I thought you’d be impressed that I speak Pitjantjatjara. 😁

  12. A Commentator

    I am impressed! And I was going to mention that.
    But I thought receiving a public compliment from me might ruin your reputation!

  13. A Commentator

    I’m only semi lingual now, you’ll have noticed that I’m struggling with basic English expression!

  14. A Commentator

    and palya to you

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