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Julian Assange is finally free !

category international | rights, freedoms and repression | news report author Tuesday June 25, 2024 21:11author by indy Report this post to the editors

Julian Assange is finally free and it is reason to celebrate as his condition had deteriorated badly over the past few years and at times it looks like the vindicative British and USA governments would lead to his death with the distinct possibility that if he had been extradited to the US he would have faced a sentence of 175 years in prison.

The change of circumstances came about because the Biden administration did a plea deal with him but this is not because Biden & co are anything but war criminals but because he did not want Assange's extradition hanging over the pending election where Biden's popularity is already dismally low.

So on Mon 24th June he was able to leave the high-security British prison of Belmarsh in the UK after 5 years in addition to the 7 years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Julian Assange free walks to a plane for immediature departure from UK
Julian Assange free walks to a plane for immediature departure from UK

Here is a press statement from the Wikileaks twitter account

JULIAN ASSANGE IS FREE

Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of 24 June, after having spent 1901 days there. He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.

This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations. This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalised. We will provide more information as soon as possible.

After more than five years in a 2x3 metre cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars.

WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people's right to know.

As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom.

Julian's freedom is our freedom.

[More details to follow]

Last edited 12:58 AM · Jun 25, 2024 15.9M Views
https://x.com/wikileaks/status/1805390138945528183


Here is a press release from the International Federation for Human Rights

25 June 2024. Five years, two months, and two weeks of detention in punitive isolation conditions, following seven years spent secluded in the Ecuadorian embassy. The judicial, diplomatic, and political saga that began in 2010, when Julian Assange, through Wikileaks, published thousands of documents on U.S. military activities, is coming to an end.

"FIDH has mobilised for Julian Assange because beyond his case, it is a matter of human rights, fundamental freedoms, freedom of expression, and the right to inform," said Maryse Artiguelong, Vice-President of FIDH. "What was at stake is the intimidation of whistleblowers and journalists worldwide. States must protect them rather than persecute them."

Plaider coupable, une stratégie qui ne préjuge d’aucune culpabilité

To secure his release, Julian Assange’s legal team negotiated a "guilty plea" arrangement with the U.S. justice system. Assange thus acknowledges guilt on one charge out of the 17 he faced, in exchange for dropping the remaining charges and serving a limited sentence of 62 months, which has already been served on the English soil. This is a standard arrangement in some jurisdictions, notably the American jurisdiction.

"The guilty plea procedure is a double-edged sword," says Alexis Deswaef, international lawyer and Vice-President of FIDH. "It allows a State to avoid losing face while guaranteeing the release of the accused. However, let us be very clear: it in no way prejudges the actual guilt of Julian Assange, whose release we welcome. It is likely that, like other rights defenders, this procedure will be used against him in the future, we are under no illusions."

FIDH has followed Assange’s case and lent its support on numerous occasions, in particular before the European Commission, the European Parliament and more recently, in February 2024, in London on the occasion of his hearing before the High Court to decide whether or not to allow him to appeal against his extradition to the United States. Lawyer Alexis Deswaef spoke in public and to the media on this occasion.

Alexis Deswaef continues, "This case illustrates the whole problem of impunity: the American soldiers and those who gave the orders that we saw commit war crimes in Iraq have never been questioned, while Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, the whistleblowers who have been deprived of their freedom, have lost many years of their lives, not to mention their physical and mental health. On the one hand, there is an obvious moral problem, and on the other, there is a challenge to the rule of law in our democracies, which allows serious violations committed by the armed forces to go unpunished".

FIDH denounces the use of the Espionage Act, a US law dating from 1917, to prosecute Julian Assange. It remains in force and could be used against other rights defenders in the future


For more information on the background to the permission to appeal, here is a press release from https://freeassange.org/2024/05/20/julian-assange-granted-permission-to-appeal/ from May 20th 2024

Julian Assange granted permission to appeal

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May 20, 2024 – The UK High Court has granted Julian Assange permission to appeal his extradition order, specifically on the grounds that the United States has failed to properly assure the British courts that Assange would get adequate freedom of expression protections if he were extradited.

The appeal permission is narrow but provides the first real chance for the substantive issue of whether the First Amendment would protect Assange can be aired in court. The parties have been given until May 24 to submit a proposed outline for how such an appeal hearing would be argued.

Beginning early this morning, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Royal Court of Justice, along with free press groups, journalist unions, and other public figures in attendance.Live stream from outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Edward Fitzgerald KC opened the proceedings for the defense by announcing that the defense accepts the U.S. assurance regarding the death penalty, because it is unequivocal and would be binding on U.S. courts — the U.S. simply stated clearly that Assange would not be charged with a death penalty offense.

As to the assurance regarding Julian Assange’s right to assert protections guaranteed under the First Amendment, Fitzgerald maintained it offers no guarantee whatsoever. The assurance given “does not promise that the applicant can rely on the First Amendment. Merely that he can raise and seek to rely on it.”

Furthermore, Fitzgerald argued,

“The court has made a finding on the basis of Mr Kromberg’s statement that ‘concerning any First Amendment challenge, the United States could argue that foreign nationals are not entitled to protection under the First Amendment, at least as it concerns national defense information’”

“The court’s express finding was that ‘If such an argument were to succeed, it would (at least arguably) cause the applicant prejudice on the grounds of his non-US citizenship (and hence, on the grounds of his nationality)’”

There is a wide range of cases in which U.S. prosecutors have given clear, express, and unequivocal assurances when they want to. “We have nothing of that sort here,” Fitzgerald said. “All we have is ‘he may raise and seek to rely on’.” He went on to cite specific promises common to assurances.

“The U.S. states that the so-called assurance is adequate because the judges will take ‘solemn notice’ of it. But the U.S. accepts that the assurance ‘cannot bind the court’ ‘Taking solemn notice’ of an assurance that was expressly stated not to bind the courts cannot operate as a guarantee that the court will apply U.S. law in a way that permits the Applicant to rely on the First Amendment, despite his foreign citizenship.”

Mark Summers KC continued for the defense, warning the court that the U.S. will try to raise that nationality and citizenship are different, a new argument that they should have raised beforehand, and in court, which they did not.

As anticipated by Summers, James Lewis KC for the prosecution argued that the assurance regarding Julian Assange’s First Amendment rights is that Julian will not be discriminated against based on his nationality, but instead on his citizenship. He argued, for the first time, that this is an important distinction.

He claimed that “the applicability of the Applicant’s First Amendment argument requires inter alia the components of (1) conduct on foreign (outside the United States of America) soil; (2) non-US citizenship; and (3) national defense information.”

“Its restriction in scope [of the assurance] is not by reason of his [Julian’s] nationality, but by virtue of the fact that he is a foreigner, carrying out actions on foreign soil,” Lewis argued.

As to the ‘scope’ of the protection, Lewis maintained that “this court has already observed that the counts are of a different nature”, which implies that the First Amendment protections can be selectively applied, depending on the count in question.

He tried to substantiate this argument by saying that Chelsea Manning had no First Amendment protection, so therefore anyone complicit with her would not have First Amendment protection either.

After Lewis concluded, the lawyer for the UK Home Secretary, Ben Watson, addressed the court briefly, only to convey that Home Secretary, who has the final say on extraditions, accepts the diplomatic assurances provided by the United States and says the court should do the same.

Summers returned to address Lewis’s arguments regarding nationality vs citizenship. “Nationality is wider,” he said. “You can be a national without being a citizen, you cannot be a citizen without nationality.”

“In addition to being a non-US citizen Mr Assange is a non-US national as well. Whatever the distinction may be, and we don’t accept that there is any… it has no bearing whatsoever”

“The exclusionary rule has a number of limbs to it… Mr Lewis said in terms he will be excluded because he is a foreigner, carrying out acts on foreign soil concerning national security… Well, he is being excluded in part because he is a foreigner [as opposed to if he were a US citizen]”

Concerning the question of scope, Summers concluded that it’s not arguable that it is allowed to violate people’s rights under certain conditions. The protection is an absolute. If Assange would be discriminated against at trial, the extradition must be barred.

The proceedings were completed with the address from Fitzgerald, who stressed once more the wording of the assurance: “He will be permitted to raise and seek to rely on it.” This is not the same as granting Mr Assange the right to raise First Amendment arguments, Fitzgerald concluded.

The proceedings adjourned for 20 minutes, after which the judges returned with a ruling.

The High Court ruled that it is unsatisfied with U.S. assurances and granted Julian Assange leave to appeal on grounds 4 (violation of free speech rights) and 5 (prejudiced at trial due to nationality). The other ground (related to the death penalty) has been rejected.

The lawyers will have until 2pm on May 24 to file an agreed case outline.

Free press organizations around the world welcomed the High Court’s decision, stressing once more the prosecution’s disastrous implications for press freedom and calling on the U.S. government to finally end it.

Related Link: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/freedom-of-expression/julian-assange-is-free

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author by indypublication date Mon Jul 01, 2024 22:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Interesting video by former Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis on Julian Assange's release

https://www.youtube.com/live/1rHHvIkTOSs

In it he rightly points out that the present Australia prime minister did not do a tap to help release Julian Assange and also reminds people of the case of Australian David McBride who was jailed in a high security prison after becoming the whistle blower of the war crimes carried out by Australian soldiers whilst they were in Afghanistan

Here is a story on Aljazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/14/australian-war-crimes-whistleblower-david-mcbride-jailed-for-six-years

Caption: Video Id: 1rHHvIkTOSs Type: Youtube Video
Yanis Varoufakis on Julian Assange's release


 
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