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September 21, 2019

The fate of Assange

Opinion

September 21, 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in the United States over the coming eight days and will be feted by President Donald Trump and other representatives of his administration.

Morrison will be the first Australian prime minister to be treated to a state dinner by the US president in over a decade. They will discuss Australia’s stepped-up role in the US confrontation with China and Washington’s advanced preparations for a war of aggression against Iran, along with how to best advance the interests of the corporate and financial elite of both countries.

If Assange were imprisoned by the Chinese, Russian or Iranian regimes, the response would doubtless be very different. Ministers would claim that they were making urgent diplomatic representations and they would piously speak about their responsibilities to Australian citizens unjustly imprisoned abroad. The silence on Assange is all the more criminal, as the flagrant illegality of the proceedings against him become ever clearer.

On September 13, a British judge unilaterally decreed that Assange would remain in a British prison, despite the fact that his custodial sentence for a trumped-up bail charge lapses on September 22. In other words, the WikiLeaks founder will remain behind bars indefinitely, as the British political and legal establishment seeks to extradite him to the US to face charges that carry a life sentence of 175 imprisonment.

The British judge delivered her “ruling” despite the fact she was presiding over an administrative hearing that was not supposed to determine whether Assange remained behind bars. The hearing ended the charade that Assange was being imprisoned for the supposed “breach of bail,” stemming from his successful application for political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. He is explicitly being held as a political prisoner on behalf of the Trump administration, as the US seeks to prosecute him for WikiLeaks’ exposures of illegal wars and global diplomatic intrigues. And the vendetta against Assange is being carried out in violation of basic legal and democratic norms.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer found in May that Assange had been subjected to a nine-year campaign of vilification and “public mobbing,” which amounted to “psychological torture.” He warned that Assange’s detention in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison was compounding the trauma. Assange’s health is deteriorating rapidly. The British authorities, however, have rejected all calls for Assange to be provided with adequate care, and have kept him in a high security prison designed for convicted terrorists, murderers and other serious offenders.

The Courage Foundation has reported that the conditions his detention have become even more repressive. He “is currently being held in solitary confinement at HMP Belmarsh. He remains in the health ward and is only transported in and out of his cell under so-called ‘controlled moves,’ meaning the prison is locked down and hallways are cleared. Furthermore, the prison hasn’t delivered mail to him for over a month, and Julian is unable to call his parents or his US lawyer.”

The US government has imprisoned the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning for more than six months to force her to give perjured testimony against the WikiLeaks founder. She was joined last month by Jeremy Hammond, an activist who also leaked information to WikiLeaks, and is similarly being pressured to make false statements to manufacture a case against Assange.

This far-reaching assault on democratic rights is supported by the political and media establishment. The Labor opposition has played a key role in the protracted campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. In 2010, when senior US politicians were calling for Assange’s assassination, the Greens-backed Labor government of Julia Gillard denounced WikiLeaks as a criminal organisation and pledged to assist the US to destroy it. Assange has also been abandoned by the Greens, the unions and pseudo-left organisations that once claimed to support him. Since he was illegally expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy and arrested by British police, Greens MPs have made only a handful of pro forma, mealy-mouthed statements of “concern” about his plight.

They have all rejected calls for a public campaign to free Assange. This week, Morrison was not once challenged in the Australian parliament about his refusal to raise Assange with Trump in the week leading up to his US state visit. The record demonstrates that a movement in defence of Assange and all democratic rights will not emerge from the official political and media establishment.

The piece has been extracted from “Julian Assange: The great unmentionable as Australian leader wines and dines with Trump” published by WSWS on

September 29.

Courtesy: WSWS.org

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