The Strange Case of the Assange Extradition Trial

…and the inversion of justice in an upside down world

In this upside down world the UK Assange extradition trial takes some beating. Firstly, it wholly concerns allegations that the US government, in the court martial of Chelsea Manning, has already agreed are unfounded. Since when however, has the US let such things as proven facts get in the way of injustice.

Despite from the outset, the Prosecution’s best attempts to divide mainstream media from Assange, they really needn’t have bothered as the media it appears — including the Guardian who have been a willing partner in publishing Wikileaks material — has already made the decision to hang him out to die. For what it was worth, the attempts backfired spectacularly when the magistrate (for there will be no public jury to decide Assange’s fate) decided to lower the bar further by suggesting that all media outlets that published the sensitive materials in question are liable to be prosecuted for the same offence as Assange. Not, aiding and abetting the hacking and collection of confidential data that the US has (falsely) accused Assange of, but the mere act of publishing the data. According to the magistrate, this is a breach of the official secrets act, covers dual criminality and therefore paves the way for his extradition. Why then, one may ask, does the Guardian not appear to be getting ever so slightly twitchy? shhhhh…keep quiet, pretend she didn’t say that and no one will ever notice: the silence is deafening.

Along with a magistrate so accommodating to be complicit, the Prosecution now had several interesting legal contortions to perform. Political offences specifically excluded from the 2007 US/UK extradition treaty? Not to worry, just discard the Treaty. Because, the legal shenanigans continued, the earlier 2003 Extradition Act does not explicitly mention political offences, then there is no need to take into account a later Treaty — secondary legislation drafted specifically as a means to supplement the earlier 2003 Act — because that’s how legislation is supposed to work, apparently. Sounds like a dodgy legal argument? Not to worry, plenty more to follow. Apparently, there are now two distinct types of political action: pure and relative. It is the ‘relative’ type, such as assault or vandalism conducted with a political motive that Assange is now (strangely) accused of. The UK and USA conveniently now only accept the ‘relative’ definition under the treaty not the ‘pure’ type, covering espionage and treason, which perhaps sounds like a better fit for the espionage allegations made against him.

Clutching at further straws, the Prosecution continued to argue that none of this matters anyway, because the case in question doesn’t actually cover a political offence. This is because it now appears that it is impossible to commit a political act against the USA, outside of the USA. Not to worry though, criminal acts, which Assange is conveniently accused of, are of course covered. Lest not we forget, this is the USA we are talking about, a country that has awarded itself universal jurisdiction to prosecute any individual (or country) they please, by any — legal or extrajudicial — means necessary. In this scary upside-down world.

To make matters worse, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the magistrate refused Assange, who suffers from respiratory problems, bail. He is at high risk of severe complications if he contracts the disease. This, despite already serving a punitive fifty week sentence in a maximum security prison for his initial bail offence. The farce is to be continued…if he survives.

Thanks to the irrepressible for shining a light on this dark chapter of state authorised injustice.

Someone from the Left who cares about his fellow humans and the world they inhabit