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Open Letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Act now to end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange!

This article can be printed on two sides of an A4 sheet from this file (but, please be warned, it costs a lot more to print it as colour rather than as black and white).

Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,

I am writing to you concerning the imprisonment, psychological and physical torture, in Britain, of an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, who has committed no crime. So far Julian Assange has endured more than eight and a half years of this, and if the United States' government has its way, this will continue for the rest of his life.

On 11 April 2019, shortly after Julian Assange was taken from the London Ecuadorian Embassy and placed under arrest, Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a statement:

"I am confident, as the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly confirmed in July 2018, that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom." [1]

If you, Prime Minister, or Marise Payne, have been able to closely follow the legal proceedings to which Julian Assange has been subjected for over one year now, in Woolwich Crown Court, you will be aware of the following:

  • For breaching bail on 19 June 2012 to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy, which he is entitled to do under Article 14 of United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 [2], he was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment, [3] the absolute maximum sentence for this offence;

  • On 13 September 2019, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser further extended Julian Assange's imprisonment when she ruled that Julian Assange would not be released on 22 September because of the United States prosecution's extradition request, the case for which, it had evidently not been able to fully prepare in the seven and a half years that Julian Assange had been imprisoned for at that point in time;

  • On every day of the hearing, even before Judge Vanessa Baraitser had listened to any of the testimony or cross-examination, she came into court with her judgement for that day pre-written! [4]

  • From the first day of the trial (25 February 2020) Julian Assange was brought in handcuffed, and "confined at the back of the court behind a bulletproof glass screen … from which it is very difficult for him to see and hear the proceedings." [5]

  • Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser "refused repeated and persistent requests from the defence for Assange to be allowed to sit with his lawyers." [6]

  • Reporting on these preceedings, on 22 October 2019, Craig Murray, who, until then, had been skeptical of claims that Julian Assange was being tortured, declared himself, "badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight." [7]

  • Craig Murray continued, "But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. … his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought." [8]

  • On 21 February 2020, during that single day, "Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. In addition to this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in [that day's] proceedings." [9] Julian Assange was subject to this sort of treatment for the duration of the trial.

  • "For months, he was denied [physical] exercise and held in solitary confinement [for 23 hours a day] … At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind [on 25 February 2020 when he was arrested inside the Ecuadorian Embassy]. He was denied the legal documents with which to prepare his case, and access to the prison library and the use of a basic laptop." [10] [11]

How is this 'due process'? How could this be procedurally fair to Julian Assange?

What I have written above describes only a fraction of the abuse and torture to which Julian Assange has been subjected, just since the court hearings began on 25 February last year. This follows seven years asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, whence he fled from injustice and in fear for his life. The constraints of asylum have been described as 'arbitrary confinement' by Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, after he visited Julian Assange in prison. [12]

In the last two decades alone, the United States, in a rampage of war-crimes leveraged on flagrant lies, has destroyed economies and caused the death of many hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and elsewhere, apparently with impunity. In contrast, Julian Assange, who revealed many of these crimes to the world, and who himself has no history of violence, has been kept in solitary, stripped of his health, his clothing, his belongings, friends and family, and justice.

This is not 'due process' and certainly not procedurally fair. Unless this situation is rectified, Julian Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen, faces the prospect of being extradited to the United States, where he will face, in secret, a trial in the eastern district of Virginia, before a jury most likely to be made up from employees and the families of the U.S. intelligence agencies based in that area - in other words a rigged trial, hidden from public view.

Under such unfair trial conditions a guilty verdict is the expectation. Julian Assange stands to be sentenced for up to 175 years imprisonment in solitary confinement in the United States - a fate which he considers to be worse than the death penalty.

Like the many Australians who are well informed about Julian Assange, I consider this treatment of him by the British government an outrage. I would expect your government to act immediately to end this outrage:

If your government truly:

  • cares for the welfare of each and every one of its citizens;
  • believes in human rights;
  • believes in the right to free speech;
  • believes in the right of journalists to investigate matters of public concern and
  • upholds the rule of law (Australian law, British law, International law and United States' law, including their constitutional right to free speech)

then I would expect of you the following:

To contact British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, advise him that an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, has been illegally imprisoned in Belmarsh prison and request that Julian Assange be released immediately, and assisted to return to Australia or to go to any place he chooses.

To communicate to Boris Johnson that if Mr Assange's detention were to continue, Australia would be raising the matter at the United Nations and, if neccessary, at the International Criminal Court.

Yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon

Footnotes

[1] Although this statement can be found on Senator Marise Payne's web page through the link I have given above and on Facebook, I could not find this statement on what is currently Page 19 of the "Latest News" section of your web page, which currently contains news items dated from until 15 April 2019.

The above media statement continued: "We have made 19 offers of consular assistance to Mr Assange since 2019 that have gone unanswered. We will continue to offer consular support." As I have not seen the messages containing the offers of support that Senator Marise Payne said she made to Julian Assange, I cannot comment. I will endeavour to contact Julian Assange's support team for their response.

[2] "Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees" (1951) United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10

[3] The 50 weeks imprisonment to which Julian Assange was sentenced on Wednesday 1 May 2019 would have lasted until Wednesday 15 April 2020 (if the day on which Julian Assange was sentenced is included). Both the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the BBC also reported on 1 May 2019 that Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment (see WikiLeaks' Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks' jail over bail breach at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-01/julian-assange-sentenced-in-london-over-bail-breach-wikileaks/11064356 and Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder jailed over bail breach at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48118908). See Sunday 22 September 2019, the day Julian Assange was supposed to be released, according to other cited reports is 'only' 24 weeks and 4 days from Wednesday 1 May 2019 - still an outrageous and wholly unjustifiable sentence. I have not been able to find an explanation for this apparent discrepency.

[4] "Beyond Words" (8/4/2020) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/04/beyond-words/

[5] "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 1" (25/2/20) at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-1/

[6] Ibid.

[7] "Assange in Court" (22/10/2019) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/10/assange-in-court/

[8] Ibid.

[9] "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2" (26/2/20) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-2/

[10] "Eyewitness to the Trial and Agony of Julian Assange" (2/10/2020) by John Pilger at http://johnpilger.com/articles/eyewitness-to-the-trial-and-agony-of-julian-assange

[11] "Assange in Court" (22/10/2019) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/10/assange-in-court/

[12] "State Responsibility for the Torture of Julian Assange" (16/12/2019) speech by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, at the German Bundestag in Berlin, 27 November 2019 (English translation) at https://medium.com/@njmelzer/state-responsibility-for-the-torture-of-julian-assange-40935ea5d7c3

Comments

In Sydney at 5pm today at Martin Place from 5PM until 6PM there will be a protest for Julian Assange and, in Melbourne from 6:30pm until 8:30pm, there will be the weekly Melbourne for Wikileaks (@melbourne4wiki) vigil for Julian Assange outside Flinders Street Station.

This Friday (today) at 6:30pm Melbourne for Wikileaks (@Melbourne4Wiki) will be holding its weekly vigil for Julian Assange.

Please come along in order to help make fellow Melburnians aware of how this Australian hero has been illegally imprisoned and tortured for revealing to the world the truth behind the many instances, in recent years, of US meddling in other countries at the cost of many hundred of thousands of lives.

We especially need you to help us hold up our large (5mx1.7m) banner which has been praised overseas.

In the Interview below from an October 2019 edition of RT's Going Underground, John Pilger describes to host Afshin Rattansi the refusal of magistrate Vanessa Barraitser to allow Julian Assange any of the rights which the British judicial system is supposed to allow an accused person, whilst confining him to solitary confinement 23 hours a day. John Pilger's testimony here is chilling.

Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who as shown in the above article, stated on 11 April, 5 months prior to this interview:

"I am confident … that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom."

… should be made to watch this interview.