Join my fight to free Julian Assange and stop US extradition
Join my fight to free Julian Assange and stop US extradition
This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)
Latest: Sept. 24, 2020
Hearing Update - 23rd September
Yesterday saw another difficult day at the Old Bailey, as the court heard that Julian’s autism would make extradition to the United States an “unbearable ordeal.”
The court heard evi…Read more
My partner, the journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, is fighting extradition to the United States and faces 175 years in prison. I and many others are joined in that fight - against extradition and his continuing imprisonment. We are appealing for your help.
The charges Julian faces concern the WikiLeaks exposures ten years ago of US war crimes and human rights abuses. As a result, the detail then hidden is now known to the world.
From 2010 until 2017 the Obama administration decided he could not be prosecuted – otherwise every newspaper publishing the same data should be prosecuted too. However, the Trump administration, from the outset, targeted him and charged him under US laws which date back 100 years, during which time they have never been used to prosecute any publisher or journalist. The US legislation allows for no defence of public interest.
He has been in Belmarsh Prison for 16 months, confined to a cell throughout the Covid pandemic for at least 23 hours a day. He has no visitors. Neither I nor his sons can see him. It is very difficult for us as a family.
The chilling effect
Most important of all, though, is that his “crime” is to have reported on matters the US would rather have kept hidden from view. He helped expose war crimes and human rights abuses. He revealed the killing of unarmed civilians and the torture of innocent people. No-one has been held responsible for the serious crimes Julian has exposed. If he, an Australian citizen living in the UK can be successfully prosecuted, so too can journalists and publications everywhere.
The politics of the intention are clear; brought by an administration that refers to the press and whistleblowers as the “enemy” and news of importance as“fake”.
Why are we raising funds?
Our resources are very limited. The Wikileaks releases were all issued, in an enormous exercise over a period of more than a year, without receiving payment. However, the legal costs to fight Julian’s extradition have already exceeded £500,000 – and will continue to increase. We are trying to raise as much as possible to contribute to those costs. Now it is a matter of David against Goliath.
In April last year, Julian was charged with 18 counts relating to receiving and publishing government documents, for which he faces a sentence of 175 years. A few weeks ago, just as his lawyers were consolidating preparation for a three-week hearing of defence evidence in September, the prosecution announced it was changing the indictment, hoping to double the reach of its claims, though the charges remained the same.
Despite the clear weakness of the core allegations, it triggers many important legal issues. Doing justice to Julians' case, that on its merits, factual and legal, ought without question to succeed, is a vast undertaking.
Investigating and understanding the detail, even before the threatened new indictment, is like climbing the Himalayas whilst the person most able to contribute is locked in a prison - and disabled, mentally and physically, from the level of engagement he wants and needs to give. Many witnesses need to be called, including experts from a range of disciplines - all essential to what is an unprecedented legal battle.
Everyone involved in the legal case is doing so at minimum remuneration or pro bono. Nevertheless, the sheer volume and range of work required, means that we need to continue to raise funds to cover the mounting costs.
Julian's extradition hearing
This CrowdJustice appeal is to raise funds to cover the legal costs of Julian’s extradition hearing in the Magistrates Court in England.
The full extradition hearing is due to begin on the 7th September 2020 at the Old Bailey which is being used as a Magistrates Court for this hearing. This is an unprecedented forum for an extradition case which acknowledges that the case has huge importance beyond Julian himself.
How can you help?
We all recognise the responsibility placed upon us, and what is at stake, and express our gratitude to anyone who feels able to contribute. Even small amounts, which might not feel like they make a difference, will collectively be of huge benefit - and will be gratefully received.
Please do share the link on this page with anyone who may think they might want to help.
Thank you for your support,
Julian Assange’s defence submissions
Sept. 24, 2020
Hearing Update - 23rd September
Yesterday saw another difficult day at the Old Bailey, as the court heard that Julian’s autism would make extradition to the United States an “unbearable ordeal.”
The court heard evidence from Dr Quinton Deeley, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in autism, who interviewed Julian at HMP Belmarsh in January this year.
"It's an outcome which he fears, which he dreads, he's described it as contemplating a sense of horror and he has ruminates about [it] at length and that is influenced by his autistic cognitive style and becoming preoccupied with matters."
"Half of the completed suicides are amongst that small proportion of people in solitary confinement [where Julian is likely to be held]. I think [suicide] is more likely than not [should he be extradited],” he told the court.
Following cross-examination from US Lawyers, Dr Deeley explained that Julian’s ability to maintain family relationships and effectively work did was not inconsistent with his autism diagnosis.
“Someone on the autistic spectrum can manage as parents and function in everyday life independently… a person on the autistic spectrum can be dutiful but it doesn't necessarily mean they have an acute or nuanced understanding of the thoughts, feelings and perspectives,” he said.
Dr Deeley went on to say that Julian’s intelligence does not contradict his autism diagnosis either. Rather, his “higher level speech function” and use of “neologisms” and “specialist terminology" is “characteristic of somebody on the autistic spectrum.”
Later in the day, the court heard from Professor Seena Fazel, the first witness called by the US. Following cross-examination by Julian’s lawyer, Professor Fazel agreed that it was right to diagnose Julian as a high suicide risk.
Following on from this, Professor Fazel conceded that they had never visited a US Federal prison and were only “superficially aware” of the conditions faced by prisoners.
Mr Fitzgerald, Julian’s Lawyer, went on to highlight that ADX Florence [where Julian would serve his sentence if convicted] has been described as a “clean version of hell” by its very own warden.
Finally, the court heard a written statement from clinical psychologist Dr Kate Humphreys assessed Julian at Belmarsh earlier in the year and concluded his mental state had deteriorated in prison.
Her statement read: “Mr Assange finds it difficult to sustain his attention for more than a few minutes before needing a break. He performed in the impaired range at processing speed."
“His episodic functioning was impaired or very week, he sometimes struggled to understand instructions… executive functions impaired… retention and working memory impaired… processing speed impaired."
“It's my opinion Mr Assange is currently functioning significantly below his optimal cognitive level. He's very slow, his attention span, memory is week or impaired.”
“It is my opinion Mr Assange's cognitive abilities are likely to fluctuate with his mental state.”
Following the evidence session, it was discussed whether customary closing speeches would be allowed owing to time limitations. Mr Fitzgerald applied to have a month between the last witnesses and closing speeches, however, the judge suggested that 5th October would be appropriate.
Given the introduction of the superseding indictment, Mr Fitzgerald suggested that would not give adequate time to prepare Julian’s case. Following discussions, Mr Fitzgerald stated that Julian’s team would make formal submissions to the court regarding a different date.
The hearing continues today.
Sept. 23, 2020
Difficult day of medical evidence - Tuesday Sept 22
Today was a very difficult day of evidence for those close to him to hear, focussing on Julian’s health.
A leading psychiatrist told the court that Julian suffers from hallucinations and is a high risk of suicide. He also discussed Julian’s history of depression and autism and acknowledged that he will be ‘embarrassed about this coming out in public’. He revealed that Julian is taking medications and has suffered a loss of appetite and problems with sleeping.
Professor Michael Kopelman told the extradition hearing he has visited Assange at maximum security Belmarsh Prison.
The emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London said: “He reported auditory hallucinations, which were voices either inside or outside his head, somatic hallucinations, funny bodily experiences, these have now disappeared.
"He also has a long history of musical hallucinations, which is maybe a separate phenomenon, that got worse when he was in prison.
"The voices are things like, 'you are dust, you are dead, we are coming to get you'. They are derogatory and persecutory."
The professor said that the combination of autism and depression meant Julian has an ‘almost obsessional rumination’ on his possible extradition.
He added: “I consider the risk of suicide, should extradition become imminent or if it should actually happen, to be very high. He has a history of depression and there are hallucinations present.
“The risk of suicide arises out of the other factors… but the imminence of extradition and or an actual extradition that will trigger the attempt in my opinion.
'It will be borne directly out of his clinic depression, anxiety and by his PTSD and executed by his single-minded determination of his ASD Asperger's. Suicidal ideation is nine times as common in ASD individuals than non-ASD. I think the combination of the depression and the ASD which makes Mr Assange ruminate, almost obsessively, about this topic.
Professor Kopelman continued: “He has confessed to the catholic priest, he has begun to draft farewell letters to family and friends, he has drawn up a will.”
More evidence on Julian’s health is being presented on Wednesday.
Sept. 21, 2020
Hearing summary 21st September
Today, the court heard wide ranging testimony from Computer Science professor, Christian Grothoff and journalists Andy Worthington and Cassandra Fairbank.
During his testimony at Julian’s hearing, Professor Grothoff told the court that Wikileaks could do nothing to keep diplomatic cables secret after the Guardian journalist, David Leigh, published the password to them in his book, "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy."
Professor Grothoff told the court that the cache of documents published by WikiLeaks were essentially, ‘useless to anybody who didn’t know the encryption key.’ However, when David Leigh published the password as the title of a chapter in his book, the documents entered the public domain.
Media organisations began publishing 251,000 diplomatic cables in late 2010 following a stringent redaction process. WikiLeaks then published the un-redacted version in September 2011, but the court heard this was only after they were in the public domain.
Professor Grothoff went on to say that should WikiLeaks have removed the files following the publication of David Leigh’s book, it would have only drawn attention to the sensitivity of the data. He went on to say that all WikiLeaks could do following David Leigh’s publication was ‘distract’ and ‘delay’.
During cross-examination from US Lawyers, Grothoff outlined that WikiLeaks and Julian were not the primary publisher of the information.
He said: “WikiLeaks was not the primary publisher of the un-redacted cables. [It was available in] hundreds of thousands [of books], I don't know how many his book sold.
“Mr Leigh was one of the only ones given access to the full set [of cables] and it was Mr Leigh that resulted in the [leak]. Mr Leigh was the one that resulted in unredacted unclassified materials [being published]. The weakest link in most computer systems is the human.”
Later in the session, Grothoff went on to discuss the pressure WikiLeaks and Julian were under in order to hand over the encryption key to Mr Leigh. The court heard that Leigh demanded access to the entirety of the 250,000 US cables and suggested that Julian would be ‘en route to Guantanamo Bay’.
The court heard that Wikileaks were quick to highlight that David Leigh had published the password in his book, as soon as it was discovered by blogger David Parry.
In an editorial only an hour following David Parry’s discovery, WikiLeaks wrote: “A Guardian journalist has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.”
Later in the session, the court heard a statement from Investigative Journalist, Andy Worthington who was unable to be present due to travel issues.
The statement read: “These detainees have been found to be subject to torture but I need to make good that proposition to understand the source of that [which are] the [US] Senate torture reports and [European Court of Human Rights sitting in] Strasbourg decisions.”
At the end of today’s session, the court heard from Cassandra Fairbanks, an American journalist with ties to pro-Trump media organisations.
She recounted a phone call with Arthur Schwartz, a wealthy donor to the Republican Party and ‘informal adviser’ to Donald Trump Junior.
She said: “He also told me the US was going into the embassy to get Assange. I responded that entering the embassy of a sovereign national and kidnapping a political refugee would be an act of war, and he responded 'not if they let us’.” She went on to say that Schwartz has intimidated her and insisted that she not advocate for Julian or WikiLeaks.
She revealed that when Julian was later removed from the Embassy, in a move coordinated by Ambassador Richard Grenell, it was as a result of ‘direct orders from the President.’
The extradition hearing will continue tomorrow.
Sept. 18, 2020
Summary of hearing on Sept 18
Julian today accused the court of censoring the account of German grocer Khaled El-Masri who claims he was tortured and sexually abused by the CIA. He stood up and interrupted proceedings after the judge agreed torture victim El-Masri’s evidence could be summarised and read – rather than him appear by videolink.
US Government lawyer Mr Lewis said: “We see no utility whatsoever in having Mr El-Masri in court. None whatsoever.”
Julian’s barrister Mark Summers QC then told the court of the wrongful imprisonment and torture of the German food retailer Mr El-Masri.
He read a statement in which El-Masri said: “At the end of 2003 I was travelling through Europe on a bus. At the Macedonian border I was kidnapped, held incommunicado and severely ill treated for 23 days until January 23 2004. I was handcuffed and blindfolded and at Skopje Airport and handed to a CIA rendition team who physically overwhelmed me, cutting off all my clothes except my blindfold…the Wikileaks publications were relied on by the European Court in obtaining the redress I have received.
“The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights nine years later made a series of findings confirming that the following had in fact occurred, that I was ‘severely beaten, sodomised, shackled and hooded and subjected to total sensory deprivation – carried out in the presence of state official of Macedonia and within its jurisdiction”.
As Mr. Summers paused Julian stood up and told the judge: “Madam I will not accept you censoring a torture victim’s statement to this court.”
The judge tried to speak over him and said: “Mr Assange you are well represented.”
Julian replied: “I have tried to convey those instructions.”
The judge rose and came back five minutes later, when Mr Summers summarised the remainder of the statement.
He said: “Mr El-Masri was beaten, shackled, hooded, sodomised and dressed in a nappy with a hood over his head. He was chained spread eagled to the aircraft, given anaesthetic and rendered unconscious.He then found himself in Afghanistan in a prison. He was held naked, humiliated, forced to use a bucket for a toilet. Over the next four months he was interrogated.
“He went on hunger strike and was force-fed with a tube on his nose. Eventually he was released at the end of May 2004 so he was in those conditions for five months. He was interrogated throughout including by the American prison director. He was released on the condition he is never to mention what happened to him, given his suitcase, taken back to the aircraft chained to the seat and flown back to Europe.”
Investigative journalist Nicky Hager also gave evidence today – and said that Julian leaking the Iraq murder video ‘was the equivalent of the death of George Floyd’ and electrified the world.
Speaking about the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, Mr Hager, who is the author of seven books on intelligence agencies said: “The publication of those murders was the equivalent of the death of George Floyd…they had a profound effect.”
The Kiwi also defended Julian’s personality, calling him ‘thoughtful, humorous and energetic’.
He added: “The person I got to know was completely different from the picture my friends and others were getting. I saw nothing of the awful, difficult person he was portrayed as through the media. He’s an Aussie guy with principles and is trying to find a way to make a difference.”
Later the court heard that Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon in exchange for politically beneficial information.
In a statement, Florence Iveson, who is one of Assange's lawyers said: “On August 15 2017 I was asked by Mr Assange to meet him at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Mr Assange informed me a US congressman had requested the meeting and he asked if I could attend to observe. The purpose was to convey an offer he wished to make in person.
“Mr Assange had been granted asylum in the embassy. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was accompanied by Charles Johnson. I had no idea Mr Johnson would be there. He explained he was assisting Mr Rohrabacher. They made clear they wanted us to believe they were acting on behalf of the president Trump was aware of and actively approved.
“Congressman Dana Rohrabacher [mentioned] exposure to US prosecutions and had come to talk about ‘what might be necessary to get him out’. He [Mr Rohrabacher] described as a ‘win-win’ solution that would allow Mr Assange to leave the embassy and get on with his life.”
Julian was then asked to identify the source of the leak in return of some form of pardon agreement.
Iveson added: “He would return to have a direct conversation with President Trump about what would be done to prevent the extradition.”
The hearing will continue on Monday.
Sept. 17, 2020
Sept 17 evidence - John Sloboda and Carey Shenkman
Julian Assange was so intent on not risking the lives of innocent people that he inadvertently removed harmless material before documents were released, the Old Bailey heard today.
Professor John Sloboda made the claim while giving evidence via video-link at Julian’s extradition hearing.
Mr Soloboda co-founded the NGO Iraq Body Count in 2002 which documented casualties of the Iraq war, as there was no official death count. Iraq Body Count also helped put in place the system used by Wikileaks to redact 400,000 War Logs.
Mr. Sloboda emphasised the importance of the Iraq War Logs. Including by revealing the previously unknown deaths of 15,000 Iraqi civilians.
He said: “We were aware, and it was impressed upon us, that the aim was a very, very stringent redaction before publication – that was the aim of Mr Assange and WikiLeaks.
“To ensure that information that could be damaging…would not be present in the logs.”
Florence Iveson, for Assange, asked: "By hand?"
“Absolutely not,” the professor replied, “It would have taken an army of people a very long time. My co-witness [Hamit Dardagan] came up with the idea. It could be done in a short time - weeks not hours. It was to take a relatively simple English language dictionary and then remove the words [in the logs] that were not present in that dictionary. Translator, driver, whatever. Occupations were one of the categories that we removed. There was pressure on Assange and WikiLeaks to hurry up. Those pressures were consistently rejected.”
Ms Iveson: “By all the media?”
Prof Sloboda: “I think it was the case that some of the media had redacted some of them by hand and wanted to publish those. But WikiLeaks' position was they did not want partial publication, they wanted all of it published and that was stuck to.
“A provisional publication date had been agreed and had to be delayed because we were not ready which is why it was pushed back.
“They were over-redacted. There was [redacted] material in there that was harmless.
The first thing was to get all the logs out there in an over-redacted form. They were published in a wholly appropriate, highly redacted form.”
Human rights lawyer Carey Shenkman appeared via video-link from his New York living room to testify about the Espionage Act - which has been his focus for the past six years.
He argued the practice of journalists publishing classified information ‘is routine and is encouraged by many government officials for their own gain or to advance policies.’
He said: “There was a customary practice the Justice Department would not use the Espionage Act to indict the press for publication. Scholars have always wondered what the scope of these laws are. It could apply to a person in the United Kingdom just re-tweeting on social media. It is one of the most contentious laws in the US for any scholar.”
Mr Shenkman claimed that while Obama 'backed down' from using the Espionage Act, Trump tripled investigations.
He said: “The Obama administration aggressively pursued journalist records in its Espionage Act leak investigations. In May 2013 federal investigators secretly seized two months of phone records of Associated Press reporters.
“During the 2013 prosecution of former State Department employee Stephen Kim under the Espionage Act, FOX News reporter James Rosen was treated as an accomplice in Kim's case – potentially criminally liable for his newsgathering activities.
“On May 14 the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder co-signed by fifty major news outlets.”
The following week Obama said 'journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.'
In October 2013 Obama 'told C-SPAN that the greatest regret of his tenure was his department's affidavit characterising James Rosen as a suspected co-conspirator in violation of the Espionage Act.'
Mr Shenkman said: “The widespread press outcry over leak investigations and efforts against the media arguably led the Obama administration to back down on pursuing journalists.
“Julian Assange was unlikely to face charges over publishing classified documents despite earlier aggressive pursuit of his case.”
Trump, by contrast, 'prosecuted disclosures of national security information more aggressively than any presidency in U.S. history,' said Mr Shenkman.
He added: "In 2017 that the Justice Department had increased its investigations into media leaks to 27, an increase representing a tripling of investigations from his predecessor.
“What is now concluded, by journalists and publishers generally, is that any journalist in any country on earth—in fact any person—who conveys secrets that do not conform to the policy positions of the US. administration can be shown now to be liable to being charged under the Espionage Act of 1917.”
Sept. 16, 2020
Evidence from Pentagon Papers whistleblower
A key witness today at Julian’s extradition hearing was Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked classified documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, detailing the history of the US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.
Ellsberg was also charged under the Espionage Act, although the charges were later dismissed. He said that what Julian did was in the public interest. He also warned that Julian would not get a fair trail in the United States.
He told the court that WikiLeaks’ disclosures in 2010 revealed truths about US action in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as his leaks had done for the Vietnam War.
Ellsberg said: “It was clear to me these revelations, like the Pentagon Papers had the capability of informing the public they had been seriously mislead about the nature of the war progress, the likelihood it would be ended successfully.
“It had the possibility of changing government policy towards negotiating and ending our involvement in the war.
“For the first time in 40 years since the Pentagon Papers the release of a sufficient quantity of government documentation… showed there were policies at work rather than merely incidents.”
Talking about the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which showed a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters which killed a dozen people in Baghdad, Ellsberg said: “I was acutely aware that what was depicted in that video deserved the term murder, a war crime. I was very glad that the American public was confronted with this reality of our war.”
Earlier in the day John Goetz, a former reporter from Der Spiegel magazine, assured the court that Julian had been careful to redact names of informants in hundreds of thousands of leaked documents, so they were never published.
Goetz, who worked with The Guardian and New York Times on the Afghan files, said there was no evidence harm came from the leaks. He said Wikileaks withheld 15,000 documents about the Afghanistan war to ‘protect innocents’ from harm and that Julian had taken care to ensure no-one was harmed by the release of documents.
The investigative journalist told the hearing: “I was asked to go to London and to meet with the Guardian and with Julian Assange because there was the prospect of us working together on a project about the Afghanistan war logs.
“I went over and was one of the participants in the early meeting in the bunker at the Guardian. All the partners were in the same room.
“We would all be partners in researching material but each outlet would do its own stories about the Afghanistan files.
“It was very unorthodox and it was different. It's fascinating because now it's far more common but at the time it was very unique.
“[The documents] were a fascinating first-hand eye-witness diary of what was happening in Afghanistan during the war.
“You could follow their activities and that hadn't been known that was very new and that's why it was a major story at the time.
“[Assange] was very concerned with the technical aspect trying to figure out how to find the names in theses massive, massive collection of documents… so we could redact them so we could take measures so they weren't published and no one would be harmed.
“It was designed to protect innocents from being harmed.”
Goetz discussed how the New York Times contacted the White house for permission and fair warning.
He said: “The White House was asking for redactions. It was communicated to the White House that 15,000 [Afghanistan war logs] documents would not be published because of the harm minimisation process and that is what happened.”
Goetz said the coalition of news organisations eventually broke down after two Guardian journalists published the password to a cache of classified documents in their book.
'WikiLeaks,' published in 2011 by David Leigh and Luke Harding, contained the code word that allowed access to more than 250,000 uncensored State Department cables.
He said: “They published a book where the password gets mentioned.”
Goetz said he initially thought Assange was 'paranoid and crazy' for his safety precautions.
He added: “I remember being very very very irritated by the constant unending reminders by Assange that we needed to be secure, to encrypt things, to use encrypted chats.
“It was the first time in my life I had ever seen or used a crypto phone.
“The amount of precautions around the safety of the material were enormous.
“I thought it was paranoid and crazy but it became standard journalistic practice.”
Sept. 15, 2020
Hearing report from Tuesday Sept 15
Today’s first evidence came from US lawyer Eric Lewis who was back on the stand. He said Donald Trump once wanted Julian assassinated – and is now behind a ‘politically motivated prosecution’.
However, Mr Lewis, a senior partner at DC law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss in Washington DC, also explained how the US President made ‘140 positive mentions’ of Julian after WikiLeaks published Democratic National Committee emails which benefited him in 2016.
In his statement, Mr Lewis said: “The prosecution of Julian Assange is part of Trump's efforts to distract attention from the help that WikiLeaks gave, to focus attention on the earlier leaks, which are much more politically potent for him. He wants to put Mr Assange in jail and keep him quiet.”
He added in court today: “'President Trump has the view in 2010 where he called for the death penalty for Assange. He changed his view in the campaign with 140 positive mentions of Wikileaks and then became extremely negative towards Wikileaks and Mr Assange.”
Mr Lewis continued: “WikiLeaks and Mr Assange pose a threat to the legitimacy of Trump's (election) campaign that he is desperate to squash by diverting attention and imprisoning Mr Assange. WikiLeaks is a vulnerability for Trump because of the evidentiary links between his campaign and WikiLeaks.
The Chairman of Reprieve US was also quizzed in court about his assertion that Julian faces up to 175 years in prison if he is extradited to the US.
He replied: “Mr Assange's maximum is 175 years. I have gone through the sentencing guidelines. There has never been a case like this one.”
In the afternoon, the court at London’s Old Bailey heard from witness Tom Durkin, a Chicago-based academic and lawyer, who discussed why Julian was not prosecuted by the Obama administration.
He said: “It seems to me that there was a reason for the Obama administration's Attorney General not to prosecute. 'My guess is that case was probably declined. That doesn't mean they can't re-open it but that is what happened. They decided not to go ahead. They declined the case. Donald Trump decided to reinstate the charges.”
The co-founder of law firm Durkin & Roberts said: “I don't believe he will get what I consider to be a fair trial in the United States.'
Mr Durkin added: “Mr Assange will not know what his lawyers have learned from the classified evidence nor will his lawyers be able to ask Mr Assange what he might know about the materials they have been granted access.
"This leads, in my opinion, to a deprivation of a defendant’s ability to mount a defence in any case involving classified materials.
"In that Mr Assange’s case involves virtually nothing but classified evidence, it leads me to question in my professional opinion how it is that he will be able to mount a meaningful defence under these circumstances.
"It is my professional opinion that the likelihood of Mr Assange being able to mount a fulsome and meaningful defence to these charges is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent."
Mr Durkin said Julian would be pressured into a plea bargain to avoid a 'draconian' sentence if extradited.
He explained: “They would put something on the table that you can't refuse because of the consequences. Most clients understand the risk and in the final analysis they have to accept the risk of those guidelines which are very draconian.”
"Mr Assange – in addition to the aforesaid obstacles in receiving a fair trial based upon classified evidence, pre-trial detention and discovery problems – will face enormous pressure to plead guilty rather than exercise his constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial."
He added: “Assange would likely receive a sentence of imprisonment that will constitute the rest of his likely natural lifespan.”
German journalist John Goetz will give his evidence tomorrow morning with Daniel Ellsberg, famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, due to testify in the afternoon.
Sept. 14, 2020
Julian's hearing resumes
Julian’s extradition hearing resumed at the Old Bailey today after a COVID-19 scare halted proceedings at the end of last week.
It was established on Thursday that the partner of a junior lawyer in court had 'Covid-like symptoms' but a test on Friday revealed they were suffering from a cold.
As a result, Mark Summers QC, Julian’s lawyer, applied to the judge to make wearing a face mask in court mandatory. The judge let the court know that anyone who wanted to wear one was welcome to do so, but not when they address the court and it would remain a personal choice.
The main witness, called by Julian’s team, today was Eric Lewis, a lawyer and the Chairman of Reprieve US. Appearing via video-link, Lewis detailed the lack of protections and harsh conditions that Julian would be subject to in the United States.
When asked by Edward Fitzgerald, Lewis told the court that US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo believed that the first amendment did not apply to “foreigners” and that the US Government had been intent on putting Julian behind bars for decades.
Following questioning from Mr Fitzgerald, Lewis went on to say that Julian would be the subject of “administrative segregation” if he were extradited to the US. The court heard that Julian would be detained for 22-23 hours a day in an American Prison. “He'll come out for a shower or some recreation at night when the other prisoners are sleeping [and Assange will be kept] shackled. That's the general proposition,” Eric Lewis told the court.
Lewis went on to describe how the prison conditions of high-security prison ADX Florence in Colorado were “dehumanising” and “not fit for humanity” and the conditions would pose particular difficulties for Julian given his vulnerable condition.
Lewis also outlined his belief that the US Government was intent on putting Julian behind bars. He said ‘In my view it is an abuse of the criminal law enforcement authority. Even the [counts] at the lower end [of sentencing guidelines] are in the 20+, 30+ [years] category. This indictment and particularly the second superseding indictment all point to a very aggressive approach to sentencing on the part of the government and obviously the judge has discretion, but all signs point to many decades.'
Mr Lewis concluded his evidence by describing the attempted extradition of Julian as a politically motivated attack. He said: “I conclude, on the basis of overwhelming evidence of the modus operandi of the current US president and senior officials in his administration . . . that this is a politically motivated prosecution.”
“Leaking is not necessarily illegal; and publication of leaked documents is certainly not illegal. Trump’s campaign against leakers is a purely political decision arising out of a drive by the president to protect his image.”
The afternoon session did not hear any evidence owing to technical difficulties which lasted a number of hours. The hearing was adjourned early by Judge Baraitser and it was agreed between opposing lawyers that further discussions would be had to see whether cross-examination could be sped up in order for the case to progress.
The hearing will continue at the Old Bailey tomorrow.
Sept. 10, 2020
Hearing adjourned because of COVID-19 fear
Julian’s extradition hearing has been adjourned until Monday because of concerns that one of the lawyers may have COVID-19 – and also that the virus could now be present in the courtroom.
The court heard that the husband of one of the US barristers has 'Covid-like symptoms' – and is now awaiting the results of a test. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has decided to adjourn the case until Monday. She will make further decisions about how the hearing may proceed when the result comes back.
Today’s witness, called by Julian’s team, was supposed to be lawyer and Chairman of US Reprieve Eric Lewis. He is expected to now appear on Monday.
Sept. 10, 2020
Day three of the hearing
There were two key witnesses at Wednesday's hearing: Peace Studies professor Paul Rogers and Trevor Timm from Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Professor Rogers, from the University of Bradford, told the court that Julian is being persecuted by Donald Trump and that his prosecution is politically motivated.
He said: “President Obama took this decision not to charge Assange and that would be one reason, probably a significant one, why Mr Trump would take a different view. Much of this case relies heavily on politics and the changing administrations within the US. An administration has come in which takes views on many subjects. This is an administration that really sees this from a political standpoint.”
Prof. Rogers explained how the Trump administration was unhappy that President Obama had commuted Chelsea Manning's 35-year sentence, after she served nearly seven years.
He explained that documents published by Wikileaks played a ‘significant’ role in exposing how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going ‘wrong’.
The Emeritus Professor said: “(It was) probably one of the most significant parts of the whole operation, putting into the public domain a very distressing aspect of the whole war. There’s now greater caution among western countries, particularly the US and UK, to go to war, particularly at an early stage. I think that's particularly down to WikiLeaks.”
Trevor Timm, co-founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation who donated $100,000 to Julian’s case, described the charges as 'a dire threat to press freedoms in the US'. He said that reporters who broke the Watergate scandal would have been charged with espionage under the rules the US is now imposing on Julian.
He said: “This would criminalise every single reporter who has received any document whether they asked for it or not from a source who potentially broke the law. The two most famous reporters in US history, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, could have been charged with persistently asking for information from FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt - or 'Deep Throat' as he was referred to - during the Watergate investigation.
“It's why virtually every newspaper in the US has vehemently condemned the trial as a clear and present danger to the US.”
He added: “This is the only time in history the US have used the Espionage Act against somebody who was not a government employee.”
Timm, a trained lawyer, also pointed out that although three charges relate to publication of documents, the remaining 14 charges under the Espionage Act make the mere fact of receiving, obtaining, or communicating classified information a criminal act. He said simply reading classified information in a newspaper could be read to constitute a crime.
Mr Timm said whether Wikileaks partner publications from 2010 distanced themselves from Wikileaks editorial decisions or not, all of those publications have roundly condemned Julian’s prosecution, and interpret it as a threat to their own journalistic activities.
He explained that one must differentiate between considering editorial decisions to be wrong and considering them to be criminal. While he did not agree with all Wikileaks editorial decisions, he does not always agree with those of the New York Times or The Guardian either.
Mr. Timm disputed the characterisation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charge, noting that even the US government does not claim that the purpose of the alleged 'password cracking' agreement was to obtain classified information, but rather, to protect Manning's identity as a journalistic source.
Sept. 8, 2020
Day two of the hearing
Julian’s hearing started this morning at 1030 because he had an opportunity first to speak to his lawyers. Yesterday was the first time he had seen them face to face for six months.
Today the court heard further evidence from Mark Feldstein , Professor of Journalism from the University of Maryland.
Prof. Feldstein said: “The government indictment paints journalistic activities in a very nefarious light. Soliciting information and gathering information is the standard operating procedure all journalists do, we teach it in journalism school.”
He also explained why charging Julian could lead to the arrest of other journalists.
Feldstein said the Obama administration wanted to charge Assange but decided against it because of the risk to press freedom – but the situation changed when Trump became President.
He continued: “According to the public account the Obama administration was very eager to file criminal charges against Assange and they conducted a very aggressive investigation, but the Justice department decided in 2013 they couldn't do that because of the precedent involved. There had never been a publisher charged and they were concerned under the 1st amendment that would be unconstitutional. There's no way to prosecute Assange without it applying to journalists.”
The other witness today was Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who campaigns against the death penalty and represented over 100 detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Stafford Smith said Wikileaks exposed ‘grave violations of law’ such as the use of US drones to kill targets in Pakistan.
He said that WikiLeaks helped him understand the charges his clients faced, which were often kept secret from him.
The founder of legal charity Reprieve added: “I was able to declassify the response to their assertion and prove that each of those allegations was total nonsense.”
The hearing continues tomorrow.
Sept. 7, 2020
The first day of the hearing
Thank you to anyone who followed the first day of Julian’s extradition hearing – and to those who came down to support him outside the court.
Before the hearing I went to 10 Downing Street to present a letter from Reporters Without Borders, calling for an end to Julian’s prosecution by the US and to the extradition proceedings. It has been signed by over 80,000 people
There was also a protest outside the Old Bailey which was attended by Dame Vivienne Westwood, Julian’s father John Shipton and journalist and film-maker John Pilger.
Before Julian arrived at the Old Bailey he was formally re-arrested on the new US indictment which the US only served a few weeks ago (the third version of their charges). All of the charges except one are under the Espionage Act, which has never previously been used against a journalist or publisher.
The two legal teams released their ‘skeleton’ arguments and we have now posted Julian’s defence on the home page of this site.
Julian is arguing that he is accused of a ‘political offence'.
His barrister Mark Summers QC said: “The exposure of detainee abuse in Guantanamo and of war crimes in Afghanistan and the Iraq war was self-evidently politically motivated and designed to induce a change in government policy.
“The alleged conduct was clearly intended to 'effect a change in government policy' and to have a political effect on a global level.
“President Trump and his administration then decided to make an example of Julian Assange. He was an obvious symbol of all that Trump condemned, having brought American war crimes to the attention of the world.
“The video of American soldiers shooting unarmed civilians from a helicopter, to the brutal torture of detainees in Iraq and the exposure of the true figures of civilian deaths resulting from the invasion of Iraq.
“Such revelations obviously put him in the sights of the aggressive 'America First' ideologues of the Trump Administration.
“They targeted him because of his exposure of American war crimes and because of the threat that his revelations and continuing work posed to their geo-political agenda.”
Julian is also fighting the extradition on the basis he would most likely receive a life sentence on conviction which would be 'inhuman and degrading’.
Mr Summers asked for an adjournment of the case to give more time to address the new charges which appeared at such short notice. He said the new charges, filed in the last few weeks, were 'essentially a fresh extradition request' which contain 'chapters that aren't even remotely criminal at all'. But the request was refused by district judge Vanessa Baraitser.
Towards the end of the day there was an appearance by Julian’s first witness, journalism professor Mark Feldstein, of the University of Maryland. We have posted his witness statement on the home page of this site.
Mark explained that leaks are commonplace because they ‘expose government deceit, corruption, illegality, abuse of power and they go back to George Washington's presidency.’
He added: “The first amendment protects free press and it is vital the press expose the inner workings of government because the citizenry has a right to know what is going on.”
We will continue to post updates on the hearing on this site as it continues. Thank you for your continued support for Julian and for your interest in this very important case.
Sept. 6, 2020
Julian's extradition hearing begins tomorrow
He has been confined to his cell for up to 24 hours a day, deprived of intellectual stimulation, and has had no personal contact with his lawyers for the last six months.
Two weeks ago, I was able to see him for the first time since lockdown with our sons Gabriel and Max. To the boys, Julian has become a voice on the telephone, not their father whom they can see and hug.
It is heart breaking to think that if Julian is extradited and put in a US super-max prison the boys will never get to know their father and he will never see them grow up.
It's not just Julian in the prison. It's the kids that are being deprived of their father. It's me that's being deprived.
That is what is at stake for us as a family. But there are also much bigger issues that we are fighting for. Julian’s case has huge repercussions for freedom of expression and freedom of the Press.
There have been so many abuses of the legal process throughout the case, including spurious new charges being introduced at the last minute even though the hearing began in February, and it should be thrown out for that reason alone.
But there are also fundamental legal reasons why the extradition should be blocked. This is a political act by the Trump government and Julian is accused of a political offence, which is outside the terms of the UK-US Extradition Treaty.
Julian's legal team will explain that the extradition should be thrown out because Julian is accused of a political offence, which is outside the terms of the UK-US Extradition Treaty. They will also show the numerous grave abuses of process have taken place during the case - and highlight the various statutory bars which apply to Julian being extradited.
Anyone who cares about freedom of expression and freedom of the Press should support Julian’s fight against extradition.
Thank you for your support in this important case. Please continue to share the details with anyone you think might be interested.
Sept. 3, 2020
Only four days to go…
As we draw closer to Julian’s extradition hearing on Monday, I would like to share the latest news with you.
If anyone would like to come down to the Old Bailey on Monday there will be a safe socially-distanced demonstration taking place outside the court from 9am. Everyone is very welcome to come and show their support for Julian.
There will be a stage set up near the entrance to the Old Bailey. Speakers will include Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, John Shipton, Julian’s father, and Dame Vivienne Westwood.
I was not able to speak to Julian at all for a few days, after seeing him in Belmarsh last week. But I am pleased to say we have been able to talk on the phone this week and that has been a great comfort.
Julian will not have seen the case in full before he arrives into the court room. The other side continues to submit documents after deadlines have past. Since legal documents have to be posted to Belmarsh prison as hard copies, they won't reach Julian in time before the hearing starts.
When he arrives in court on Monday morning it will be first time Julian will have seen his legal team in person in over six months. However, his lawyers are dealing with all the last-minute details of the case and making final preparations for Monday.
Thank you once again for your support in this very important case. More and more people are waking up to the realisation that this hearing has huge ramifications for other publishers and journalists.
Julian faces 175 years in prison in the United States for the ‘crime’ of journalism and exposing truths. If the UK court decides to extradite Julian, that sets a precedent for any publisher or journalist to be put on trial abroad if a country does not like something that has been written about them.
However, there are still many people who are not aware of the consequences this case will have on freedom of speech. Please continue to share details with your friends and contacts about the extradition hearing and of this fundraising appeal.
Aug. 28, 2020
Final legal preparations
Thank you to everyone who has donated so far to help pay for Julian’s legal fees in his fight against extradition to the United States. We have now raised nearly £75,000 which is an enormous help in this important case. It lifts Julian's spirits to know that so many people support him.
Julian faces up to 175 years in prison in the US under the Espionage Act for publishing Wikileaks revelations about war crimes and human rights abuses during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were reported by hundreds of media outlets including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, The Washington Post and El Pais. Julian has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize numerous times and the information acted as a catalyst for the Arab Spring.
Julian's extradition team are currently hard at work making the final preparations for the extradition hearing which is due to start on Monday September 7 at the Old Bailey in London.
Julian’s solicitor is Gareth Pierce, the human rights lawyer, who has worked on many high profile cases including overturning the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. She also represented the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.
In court, Julian is represented by two of the country's leading extradition specialists. Edward Fitzgerald QC from Doughty Street Chambers represented Lauri Love and Gary McKinnon when they were faced with extradition to the US. In addition to his extradition expertise, Mark Summers QC has represented victims of torture and rendition. Working alongside them is is barrister Florence Iveson, another expert in extradition cases.
Also representing Julian is barrister Jennifer Robinson from Doughty Street Chambers who has been part of his team since 2010. Jen’s work focuses a lot of free speech and civil liberties.
Heading up his international defence team is another leading human rights lawyer, Baltasar Garzon. He attempted to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from the UK to stand trial for torture. That set a legal precedent that former heads of state have no immunity from international crimes like torture.
Along with many other colleagues, they are drafting the final arguments, preparing the evidence and lining up witnesses. All of that will make up Julian’s defence in 10 days' time.
They will explain that the extradition should be thrown out because Julian is accused of a political offence, which is outside the terms of the UK-US Extradition Treaty. They will also show the numerous grave abuses of process have taken place during the case - and highlight the various statutory bars which apply to Julian being extradited.
They will argue that the extradition itself is an abuse of the UK extradition process. They will also argue the many reasons why extradition would not be compatible with Julian’s human rights.
Our case is strong and the democratic principles at stake could not be more important. However, the opponents have vast resources. Julian's lawyers have a mammoth task before them.
The legal process will no doubt drag on for a long time. For our family, this is just the first stage of an incredibly difficult journey that will be catastrophic if we fail to protect Julian from extradition.
The outcome of this case has huge repercussions for press freedom. It is the first time a publisher has been charged under the Espionage Act. It would be the first time any foreign journalist is prosecuted and extradited to the US for publishing truths they didn’t like. This is a political case and an attack on journalism. If Julian is extradited it means any journalist or publisher in the UK could face similar charges in the future.
Please continue to share details about the case and this fundraising appeal with anyone who you think might be interested. Inform friends and colleagues who are not as informed as you, and point them to authoritative statements by the United Nations, Press Freedom organisations like RSF and medical publications like The Lancet.
If you can afford it, please donate more than once. I will post updates as the case progresses. Thank you for supporting Julian.
Aug. 26, 2020
Thank you from Julian in Belmarsh
Thank you to every one of you who has donated to our appeal so far. Reading all of your comments has been incredibly touching and inspiring.
Yesterday I was able to take our two sons Gabriel and Max to visit Julian in Belmarsh Prison for the first time in almost six months.
Julian wanted me to thank you personally for all of the help you have provided in covering his legal fees to fight the extradition to the USA, where he faces 175 years in prison.
The visit to Belmarsh was difficult for everyone and very stressful. We had to wear masks and visors and were not allowed to touch during a 20-minute meeting. He looked a lot thinner than the last time I had seen him. He is also in a lot of pain with a frozen shoulder and a sprained ankle.
However, it was great that Julian was able to see his children. Gabriel showed him that he can now recite the alphabet and count.
The total legal costs of fighting the extradition have already exceeded £500,000 even though all of the lawyers involved are working for a fraction of their usual rates – with most working for free.
We initially set a cautious target of £25,000. However, thanks to your generosity and support, we had raised that figure within 24 hours. Yesterday, we also reached our next target of £50,000 with pledges from over 1000 people.
We have now set a new target of £75,000. Any amount you can donate, no matter how small, will go towards Julian’s legal fight against extradition.
Please share this appeal with anyone who might be able to help. We have less than two weeks until the US extradition hearing begins on September 7 at the Old Bailey Court in London.
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