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Decision in Julian Assange Extradition Appeal Postponed: Sweden Created This Standoff, Says Assange Lawyer

10:34 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A decision in WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing is not expected for three weeks, as the court has reserved judgment whether he should be extradited to Sweden to be questioned for allegedly committing sex crimes. The postponement came as the hearing wrapped up after being in session for two days.

Assange’s appeal hearing challenged a lower court ruling, where a judge decided he should be extradited to Sweden. The process itself is part of the European arrest warrant (EAW) system, which is an “adopted framework” under the European Union that was developed to simplify and speed up extradition among member states. The allegations of sex crimes are part of the extradition process but not necessarily dependent or relevant to whether Assange is eventually extradited.

The Guardian, in its blow-by-blow documentation of hearing on its website, reports Clare Montgomery, appearing on behalf of Swedish authorities, argued “public prosecutors have long issued arrest warrants that were processed by UK courts as grounds for extradition” and it doesn’t matter if Assange is wanted for questioning and not for charges. Assange’s legal team, however, suggested there existed “more proportionate” ways to handle this situation than using the EAW system.

The judge said, “We are not concerned with whether this is a good case or a bad case but whether what is charged amounts to a crime.” Mark Summers, an attorney for Assange, said, “The prosecutor has never sought to explain why she has not engaged all other mechanisms [ie other than extradition] to progress this investigation … The reason there is a stand-off is entirely of Sweden’s making. What a waste of time.”

Yesterday, Assange’s legal team made claims that the European arrest warrant, which led to the hearing, contained “fundamental misstatements.” The team argued he had consensual sex with the two women who claim they were raped or sexually violated. And, the team argued Swedish authorities could use other means to investigate and pursue Assange that were not as “disproportionate.”

Assange had a new legal strategy and team for this hearing. Tom Hayden for The Nation wrote in June, “Until now, the Assange defense team has disparaged the Swedish assault charges and suggested that once in Swedish hands, the WikiLeaks founder might face extradition to the United States on conspiracy charges carrying a life sentence.” Gareth Peirce, a “renowned British human rights advocate who has defended Guantanamo detainees and Irish republicans in previous decades,” was brought on along with Ben Emmerson, “also a respected human rights attorney who has served as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism.”

Peirce told Hayden before the extradition appeal hearing:

The history of this case is as unfortunate as it is possible to imagine, in which encounters, undoubtedly believed by all parties at the time to be private, became inappropriately the subject of publicity and thereafter in consequence no doubt the more difficult to resolve. Each of the human beings involved deserves respect and consideration. It is hoped that whatever steps as are required to be taken in the future will be taken thoughtfully, with sensitivity and with such respect.

[*Note: Peirce has previously come out strongly against the United States on the issue of extradition. Read her article, which was published in the London Review of Books in May 2010.]

The change in legal team and strategy may explain why Assange did not give any speeches on either day of the appeal hearing.

Assange’s extradition case has called attention to irregularities and unjust aspects of the EAW system. A parliamentary committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, singled out the case of hacker Gary McKinnon, who has spent nine years fighting extradition to America, and urged that Britons not be sent overseas for offenses “committed wholly or mainly inside the UK” or for cases “without any evidence against them.”

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding spoke out in April and said, according to The Guardian, “crossborder pursuits of bicycle thieves, piglet rustlers and those accused of trivial offences was damaging the authority of the European arrest warrant (EAW).” The EU Commission planned legislation to address some of the problems that have stemmed from the process.

Duncan Campbell, for The Guardian, detailed in June how the EAW has been a “very blunt instrument.”

The EAW was first introduced at the beginning of 2004 as a way of expediting the extradition across European borders of wanted criminals and those who had fled countries rather than stand trial for serious offences. That was its intention, anyway, and it is fair to say that, on many occasions, it has been very helpful in the speedy capture of violent and dangerous people who have sought to avoid a country’s justice by hiding abroad…

… While there can be no argument on behalf of some of those who have had their collar felt in some foreign land, the warrant has been too readily used in cases that were very minor, flimsy or nonexistent. It is time to rework it, so that the warrant is only employed when there is a clear, credible case against an alleged offender and when a speedy trial and proper legal representation is assured.

On June 9th,  the European Parliament held a debate on the EAW system. Gerard Batten MEP detailed how the EAW was being used to oppress political dissidents, like Assange and said, “There are many irregularities in the case against him.”

He listed the irregularities: failure of prosecutor to interview witnesses that could clear Assange, allegations against Assange would not constitute “rape” in England, complainants’ lawyer has stated the ladies in question cannot tell if what happened constitutes “rape” because they are not lawyers, Assange was in Sweden for five weeks but was not questioned, etc. And, he went on to provide context for an argument that the EAW is being used to suppress the efforts of Assange and WikiLeaks and is feeding into US efforts to investigate and go after Assange for espionage.

Assange has not hid his fear that he might be extradited from Sweden to the United States. The legal team may not be describing this possibility in court or publicly to fuel support for Assange’s case, but it is widely known that Assange finds it possible he could end up in US custody.

In a chat with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in February explained why he thinks Sweden would extradite him to the US:

This is an interesting question that few people have looked at with any depth. Onwards extradition – to the United States – entirely a matter of politics. The Swedish Prime Minister has refused to block such an extradition, saying, falsely, that it is a matter entirely for the judiciary, while at the same time pathetically pandering with his other commentary on the case. Infact, he has the power, in the Swedish extradition relationship with the US, to disqualify my extradition. He refuses. According to what I have been told of the protocol between Sweden and the UK, and the US and the UK, the Home Secretary of the UK, simiarly has such power to politically veto such an extradition. The British government, thus far, has refused to do so. Now, while it is convention that an extradition from the UK or Sweden to the US would require the US to agree to not execute or torture me or other european based WikiLeaks staff, any such diplomatic guarentee would be meaningless. Sweden went through that formalism with its CIA assisted extraditions to Egypt, which were immediately ignored. In the US many senior politicians have called for our assassination or life imprisonment. There are three bills before Congress and the Senate to do such things as declare us a “transnational threat”, so all our staff can be treated like al-Quada – as “enemy combatants” and shipped off to Bagram or Guantanamo, etc. Nothing Sweden can politely ask for can stop this legislative risk.

Tom Hayden, in another article on Assange’s case, explained, “If American authorities eventually indict Assange and demand his extradition, the proceedings could raise a firestorm of protest. But any extradition from Sweden would have to be approved by both Stockholm and London—under extradition law, an individual may not be extradited on one charge from nation A to nation B, and then extradited to nation C on a different charge. The prosecutors will be faced with strong opposition from the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden.”

The postponement of a decision naturally invites speculation. Why couldn’t the court give an immediate decision? The public does not know the backroom conversations and power politics, which might be playing out. But, read Peirce’s article published in the London Review of Books and one can assume there are power politics involved in most extradition cases.

If Assange loses his appeal, he will have one more avenue for appeal and could take his case to the UK Supreme Court. The Swedish authorities, of course, could also end their pursuit of an extradition and use the other avenues the Assange legal team has outlined to give the women, who allege sex crimes, justice.

Julian Assange’s Real Crime: Making It Difficult for America to Wage Superpower

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH

Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don’t expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.

Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would “stop” WikiLeaks and make it “illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.” The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, “the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn’t been highly classified. It’s been secret, or marked “NOFORN,” but it’s not classified.” Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in “stopping” WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.

What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It’s guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it’s that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.

Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.

HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he’s saying that he is a journalist and he’s saying that he’s just providing information out there for the world’s citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?

LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America’s First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime–Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I’m not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]

In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act” in America’s history.

Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, “When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove–more than 250,000 secret State Department cables–he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, “As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.”

This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.

They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world’s citizens when prosecuting the “war on terror.” They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.

Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to “protect” America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists “ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.” But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald’s posts:

“In Feinstein’s WSJ op-ed, she claims “That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful,” citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that “there is ample statutory authority” for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:

‘…we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.’

Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange — but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this.”

It’s quite telling that they would fall back on the Espionage Act as the tool that could prevent Assange and WikiLeaks from causing more damage to America’s image in the world. The Espionage Act was signed into law by Glenn Beck’s least favorite president, Woodrow Wilson, shortly after America entered World War I. The act was intended to only apply during wartime, but, like many expansions of executive power in recent American history, the act continued to be applied to dissidents who were getting in the way of military recruiting or efforts to prosecute wars.

As Neal Rockwell points out on NYC Indymedia, “Its first major test case was with a Socialist named Charles Schenck, who received a six month sentence for passing out leaflets denouncing the draft, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. There have been a number of high profile Individuals prosecuted or threatened with this law over the years. In 1918, the famed Socialist organizer Eugene Debs was given a ten year sentence for delivering an anti-war speech on the grounds that it obstructed recruitment and the war effort. His sentence was later commuted by Warren Harding in 1921, and he was released after spending thirty two months in prison. The poet E E Cummings spent a few months in jail under the Act, for speaking openly about his lack of hatred for the Germans. The Post Office was also instrumental in using this law, in that it refused to deliver materials which were deemed to violated it, thus suppressing many radical newspapers.”

Julian Assange has brought out the true spirit of America. Visa and MasterCard refuse to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal refuses to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon censors the Wikileaks website. Tableau opts to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warns students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and not post links to the documents if they hope to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). And, the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense orders hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables.

The U.S.-led “war on WikiLeaks” has tacitly endorsed censorship of the Internet and taken steps that will move it further away from being an arena where all citizens of the world can act openly without fear of being met by unchecked political power. The crew of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that America is more interested in being a closed, conspiratorial, inefficient and totalitarian country instead of using the document dumps WikiLeaks have brought to the world to become more open and honest in government operations. And, those who have supported, aided or abetted WikiLeaks should be aware of how this all could steamroll into a situation where Americans are increasingly asked to take “loyalty oaths” in order to take jobs or use services on the Internet and face surveillance that will lead to persecution if found to be engaging in suspect political activity (indeed, a new round of witch hunts aimed at “disloyal” Americans is already being mounted by the FBI in this country).

Ask yourself: Will there be an agent at your door asking you, “Are you or are you not working in cooperation with Julian Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks?” And, if so, do we intend to stand up and mobilize and raise our voices high and defend our right to disseminate now-public information and utilize our First Amendment rights without threat of intimidation or criminalization?

Whether Julian Assange is guilty of rape or sexual molestation allegations is for the Swedish courts to decide. If he did in fact commit a crime, he will suffer the consequences. But, the charges increasingly appear to be part of a campaign of political persecution that is being endorsed and sponsored by a nation that wishes revenge on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for daring to challenge American superpower.