Assange decision welcome but sullied by legal chicanery

January 6, 2021
Photo: Steve O'Brien

On the grounds that any rationale to refuse extradition is a relief, a public interested in justice by whatever means will be grateful for Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling on January 5 that Julian Assange might take his own life if placed in an American jail and hence the refusal to extradite.

The rest of the judge’s rationale is an exercise in legal chicanery: one highly privileged person sitting alone may know the rules of law and how to mount legal arguments, but they appear to be blind and deaf to notions of justice.

Judge Baraitser’s finding that the United States government was not politically motivated against Assange flies in the face of US anger at WikiLeaks revelations and a denial of Assange’s significant achievements in informing the public about US forces’ murder and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A brief digression might enable this British judge to learn what is involved in politics. She is a political operator, albeit within the boundaries of her interpretation of laws.

As the astute Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska said in Children of our Age: “All day long, all through the night, all affairs, yours, ours, theirs are political affairs. It’s in your genes, your political past and cast so whatever you say reverberates and you are talking politics.”

A denial that the prosecution of Assange was politically motivated is the convenient British fig leaf picked to conceal US fascination with revenge.

For years, a grand jury sat in secret in Virginia in the US, trying to concoct charges against Assange. Then the US and British governments colluded with a right-wing regime in Ecuador to drag him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and transfer him to a top security prison.

Even the concoction of 18 charges — more legal chicanery — from the seldom-used 1917 US Espionage Act was a political construction, preceded by prominent US politicians saying that Assange should be assassinated.

Revenge was the motivation, British justice the convenient cover.

Australian governments’ cowardice — too scared to offend the US by defending an Australian citizen — is another element in the political drama called “stifle and punish Julian Assange”.

If the judge was blind to the politics of this case, she must surely have noticed the US Department of Justice’s immediate decision to appeal. It wants revenge. It cannot tolerate truths about states’ abusive power. It loves punishment. How on earth did it ever come up with the idea of anyone spending 175 years in prison?

Instead of appealing the decision not to extradite Assange, it is long overdue that the bully boys in international politics — and the US are not the only ones — ate a little piece of humble pie and decided “enough is enough we have been pursuing injustice for too long, it is time we resolved to abide by international law and respect the ideals and language of non-violence”.

Assange has shown stamina and courage in revealing truths about abusive power.

It is sad that other journalists have spent time messing around with their narrow interpretations of who, or what, is a journalist when they could have been defending Assange plus the principles of freedom of speech.

We don’t need mainstream journalistic chicanery added to the performance witnessed in that British court.

Thank you Julian Assange. May you and all the members of your family walk free.

[Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney and the founder and director of the Sydney Peace Foundation. This article was first published at Pearls and Irritations.]

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