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Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Filthy: the treatment of Julian Assange

‘To this day,’ wrote the journalist and humourist Patrick Campbell in 1967 , ‘I remain pretty well unmoved by politics... But when something happens today, as it often does, that has the flavour of Berlin, in 1933, I’m very liable to describe it as ‘filthy’. It’s the nearest I can get to making a protest on behalf of humanity.’
The way that Julian Assange has been and is being treated, is filthy. With what anger and shame must we read of the extradition proceedings that make British justice stink like an unburied corpse – see the account Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan and himself a whistleblower,  gave last October :
‘The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election; a simple clarification the mainstream media appears incapable of understanding.’
Even the Swedish authorities wanted to drop the rape allegations, only for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service to email them with ‘Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!’ (The triple exclamation marks, sic. )
The Australian Embassy refused to assist their citizen , so Assange went to the Ecuadorian Embassy, disguised as a courier, and had to stay there on the first floor overlooking Harrods, for seven years, effectively in solitary confinement, while our Government, playing Pussy, waited for him outside his hole, blowing £11 million in police costs in the first three years .
When Ecuador’s President, the anti-globalist Rafael Correa, ended his third term of office he continued to support the cause of the ‘Maus’ but last April the new incumbent, Correa’s former deputy Lenín Moreno invited Scotland Yard into his diplomatically immune territory to take Assange by force. Correa tweeted: ‘Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.’
Some may think I have failed under Godwin’s Law by drawing a comparison with the totalitarianism of the Thirties and after; but my mother was there at the time, in high school. She loved to read in the school’s library but one day she went in and the shelves were full of big gaps: the socialist and Jewish writers and philosophers had been removed. All the teachers had joined the Party; and her classmates, too, but Opa (our granddad) wouldn’t let her – a gentleman farmer, he considered the movement full of scum. Mum had to fight boys in the playground but being sporty and thickset, won her battles. For the rest of her life she opposed all forms of what she called ‘fanatism.’
The conduct of the proceedings has to be read to be believed – Murray is reporting regularly . They are now taking place in Woolwich Crown Court, almost a granny annexe for the top-security Belmarsh Prison that was designed to hold the country’s most dangerous terrorists. Bearing in mind the fact that Assange attends court in a bulletproof glass cubicle where he finds it hard to follow what is said and cannot communicate freely with his lawyers, the prison management’s behaviour is also scarcely credible :
‘Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part.’
When did you last hear of counsel for the prosecution having to support the defence in their attempts to persuade the magistrate that ‘it was common practice for magistrates and judges to pass on comments and requests to the prison service where the conduct of the trial was affected, and that jails normally listened to magistrates sympathetically’?
The Guardian is something of a repentant sinner: having made liberal use of Assange’s outfit’s information, they published a crucial password in their book on Wikileaks that could be used to crack open the encrypted documents that have so embarrassed the United States and some of its allies.
In 2010 the Guardian wanted him to go back to Sweden to face charges (with the risk of being seized and taken to the US) ; they said his fight against authoritarianism was ‘simplistic, hypocritical, as much an authoritarian conspiracy as the United States government is; we should disavow Assange's perspective entirely; the ends do not justify the means’ .
Well, as William Randolph Hearst said, ‘News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising.’ The Guardian’s staff have finally realised comment is not free: that if they support what is beginning to seem like a show trial of a fellow journalist, the cats may come for them too, one day. So their line is now, ‘Don’t do it.’
Assange does not have to be Simon-pure for us to support him (the terms ‘journalist’ and ‘ascetic’ are rarely found together). In fact, it’s not him alone we are or should be championing: it is justice, the unbiased independence of the judiciary – independence even against a powerful foreign ally - and our blood-bought, centuries-old culture of freedom. Welcome back, prodigal sons of the Manchester Guardian: we shall fatten the calf for you.


Paddington said...

Not all of Mum's teachers were gone. Her history teacher was replaced by the janitor, a Party loyalist.

Sackerson said...

I didn't say they were gone, just the books! I wonder how much the janitor knew; enough, he would doubtless have said.