Julian Assange. Photo: Espen Moe via Flickr Julian Assange. Photo: Espen Moe via Flickr

The political question of the justice of extraditing Julian Assange has been lost to the Tories’ internal squabbling, argues Sean Ledwith

Senior Tories are falling over each other in a desperate bid to score points in the party’s leadership race and to suck up to their imperial puppet masters in Washington. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has found himself in the middle of this grubby political beauty contest. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has cynically used the Assange case in an attempt to bolster his faltering hopes in the Tory leadership race. Last week Javid cravenly accepted Washington’s request that the Wikileaks founder be extradited to the US.

Not invited

Javid is clearly hoping that being seen to be tough on one of the world’s best known critics of the Anglo-American alliance will go down well in the ranks of the Tory Party. The Home Secretary probably also hopes the move will restore his credibility with the Trump administration after he was conspicuously disinvited to the President’s banquet with the Queen at Windsor Castle earlier this month!

Assange now faces an eight-month wait in Belmarsh prison, awaiting a full extradition hearing next spring. He is already serving a 50-week sentence after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April for a bail violation. Assange reminded the judge at his recent hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court that he faces up to 175 years in prison if the US state succeeds in extraditing him next year.

No justice

Washington plans to use WW1-era legislation to inflict the maximum penalty on Assange for his temerity in exposing their viciousness during the so-called War on Terror. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already condemned Assange before any trial takes place, ensuring that whatever might occur in the US next year would be a travesty of justice. In 2017 Pompeo stated:

“It is time to call out Wikileaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

With big beasts of the Trump administration like Pompeo publically labelling him as a Russian stooge, Assange has zero chance of a fair trial in the US and could even face the death penalty according to the terms of the 1917 Espionage Act.

Hunting Assange

Javid is not the only senior Tory who has tried to make political hay out of the Assange case. Last month Jeremy Hunt, another one of the soulless aspirants for Number 10, denounced UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer for visiting the Wikileaks founder in Belmarsh. Melzer has specific responsibility for investigating global allegations of torture and, following his trip inside the prison, delivered a damning verdict on the vindictive collaboration between the US and UK governments designed to nail Assange:

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.

In addition, Melzer went onto outline the physical and psychological harm being inflicted on Assange as a result of his incarceration:

“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years. Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

Hunt, as our latest poodle-like Foreign Secretary, clearly thought there would be some political points to be scored for defending his US masters and tried to claim that Assange was free to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy at any point during his over 2000 day long political asylum. Melzer’s response shot down Hunt’s fatuousness with a pointed analogy:

“Mr Assange was about as ‘free to leave’ as a someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool. As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.

The termination of Assange’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in April came after US had cynically offered the South American state a $4 billion loan as part of an economic aid package. The loan was not officially conditional on Assange’s arrest but only the most naïve observer would suggest the sequence of events was pure coincidence.

Real leadership

Thankfully, Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated he has more leadership qualities than all the Tory leadership candidates rolled into one. The Labour Leader has opposed the notion of permitting Assange’s extradition to the US:

“The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government. Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has also pointed out the inconsistency of the British position, contrasting Assange’s treatment with that of another well-known target of the US security state in 2012: Just as in the end we blocked the extradition of [computer hacker] Gary McKinnon, we should block the extradition of Assange.

Deep state vengeance

On the other side of the Atlantic, Chelsea Manning, Assange’s collaborator in exposing the horror of the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, has also been experiencing the relentless vengeance of the deep state for her whistleblowing activities. Last month Manning was sent back to jail for refusing to testify against Assange. The former US intelligence analyst told a judge in Virginia:  

“I would rather starve to death than change my opinions in that regard. I can – without any hesitation – state that nothing that will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for that matter. This experience so far only proves my long held belief that grand juries are simply outdated tools used by the federal government to harass and disrupt political opponents.

No extradition

Both Assange and Manning are being pursued by the deep states on either side of the Atlantic for their role at the beginning of this decade in bringing to light 90 000 military files on Afghanistan and 400 000 on Iraq that documented the brutality and disregard for civilian life at the heart of the Bush-Blair wars. Assange needs to answer for the rape allegations made against him  but to believe the US state (now headed by a self-confessed sexual predator) is motivated by a desire to apprehend the Wikileaks founder for that reason is naivety of the highest order. A mass campaign to demand the blocking of Assange’s extradition needs to take place to prevent him becoming an example of the power of both the British and American deep states’ ability to silence the voice of dissent.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

Tagged under: