Update – #JournalistsSpeakUpForAssange

SPOTLIGHT, 18 Jan 2021

Serena, Nicky, Blaž and Tareq | International Journalists Speak Up for Julian Assange – TRANSCEND Media Service

9 Jan 2021 – No doubt you have all closely followed the events surrounding Julian Assange’s court proceedings this week. For those of you who may have not yet had the chance, we wanted to provide you with a brief summary, analysis and some resources.

First, as you’ll be aware, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the remarkable decision to refuse Julian’s extradition to the United States on Monday. This is, of course, very good news which few people had expected. At the same time, the ruling was in no way comforting for investigative journalism.

Baraitser sided with prosecutors on behalf of the US government on practically every point of law and, seemingly to rub salt in the wound, adopted unfounded allegations from past smears on Assange in her ruling to state that his conduct went beyond that of an ordinary journalist. (For example: CNN’s ‘How Assange turned an embassy into a command post for election meddling’)

Although Baraitser was not required to make a judgement on whether Assange was guilty of the 18 US charges, she openly categorised his actions as “theft”. His (unsuccessful) actions to try and protect his source Chelsea Manning were labelled “hacking”.

Furthermore, while Assange’s extradition was denied on the grounds it would be oppressive to his deteriorating mental health, creating a substantial risk of suicide if delivered into the hands of the US mass incarceration system, future journalists who publish national security information but do not have a documented history of mental health issues are left wide open to similar targetting.

For those of you who wish to examine Baraitser’s ruling in more detail, you’ll find the full 132-page verdict here.

As expected, the US almost immediately indicated to the court it would be filing an application for appeal. They now have just shy of one week to do so.

The landmark ruling was then followed by an application to grant Assange bail in a further hearing on Wednesday – you will have no doubt also heard that this was rejected. While the court’s finding that Assange remains a flight risk given his actions to avoid US extradition in the past was not overwhelmingly surprising, the ruling remains to be harsh and illogical given the earlier verdict – especially given it was accepted that H.M.P. Belmarsh where Assange is detained is a leading factor in his mental deterioration.

It also flies in the face of all previous precedents. As Edward Fitzgerald QC told the court when making the bail application on Assange’s behalf: “Every canon of English law over the centuries is that once there’s been a ruling that someone’s entitled to discharge … that would be a reason for them to at least attain conditional liberty.”

This was, of course, not the case here and lawyers for Assange have already indicated they intend to challenge Baraitser’s bail decision at the UK High Court within a matter of days. Given the long history of isolation and deprivation that Assange has already endured, we are hopeful her ruling will be overturned promptly. Not doing so would be punishment by process.

Either way, we must all continue to closely scrutinise this case and place pressure where we can. Our own investigations are continuing and we hope to have a further update on this front for you shortly.

Finally, for those of you who wish to do some further reading, here are some additional stories that came out in the past week you might have missed:

International journalists’ statement in defence of Julian Assange: https://speak-up-for-assange.org/

Signatory list: https://speak-up-for-assange.org/signatures/

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/SpeakUpForAssange/

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Jan 2021.

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