A total of 18 charges against Assange, with reportedly more to come, are all about wanting truth-telling journalism the way it should be on vital domestic and geopolitical issues silenced.
Trump regime hardliners want information about US wrongdoing suppressed. They want the official narrative alone to be reported.
Establishment media are complicit by sticking to it, operating as press agents for wealth, power and privilege—especially when the US goes to war, plans one, or wages it by other means against nations on its target list for regime change like Iran and Venezuela.
Speech, media, and academic freedoms in the US and West are threatened by Trump regime actions against Assange, what totalitarian rule is all about.
Reportedly on June 6, the Trump regime’s Justice Department formally requested Assange’s extradition from the UK to the US.
Today, his first extradition hearing will be held in a London court, a likely protracted battle against it to follow.
His lawyers vowed to contest handing him over to US authorities on trumped up charges and virtual certainty of being judged guilty by accusation in rubber-stamp judicial proceedings.
What’s at stake goes way beyond his fate. It’s whether truth-telling journalism can be criminalized in the US and West.
It’s whether fundamental US constitutional rights are enforced or rendered null and void, especially First Amendment ones, all others threatened if lost.
Assange attorney Jen Robinson said his legal team will be “contesting and fighting” extradition to the US. If unsuccessful in UK courts, his case will likely be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights and/or European Court of Justice, the highest EU court.
If extradited to the US, he’s doomed. He’ll likely face torture and abuse, mistreatment similar to what Chelsea Manning endured for nearly seven years, more of the same ongoing for invoking her constitutional rights to stay silent.
According to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, Trump’s Justice Department will present its so-called evidence against Assange during his extradition hearing in London, the first of more sessions to come for weeks or months.
Hrafnsson called his case a “watershed moment…in the attack on journalism.” Charges against Assange are politically motivated.
The US/UK extradition treaty prohibits handing over individuals in Britain to Washington for political offenses.
It states that “(a)n offense shall be an extraditable offense if the conduct on which the offense is based is punishable under the laws in both States…”
“Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”
Extraditable nonpolitical offenses in the treaty include the following:
(a) an offense for which both Parties have the obligation pursuant to a multilateral international agreement to extradite the person sought or to submit the case to their competent authorities for decision as to prosecution;
(b) a murder or other violent crime against the person of a Head of State of one of the Parties, or of a member of the Head of State’s family;
(c) murder, manslaughter, malicious wounding, or inflicting grievous bodily harm;
(d) an offense involving kidnaping, abduction, or any form of unlawful detention, including the taking of a hostage;
(e) placing or using, or threatening the placement or use of, an explosive, incendiary, or destructive device or firearm capable of endangering life, of causing grievous bodily harm, or of causing substantial property damage;
(f) possession of an explosive, incendiary, or destructive device capable of endangering life, of causing grievous bodily harm, or of causing substantial property damage;
(g) an attempt or a conspiracy to commit, participation in the commission of, aiding or abetting, counseling or procuring the commission of, or being an accessory before or after the fact to any of the foregoing offenses.”
“[E]xtradition shall not be granted [for] politically motivated reasons [or] for offenses under military law that are not offenses under ordinary criminal law.”
None of the above offenses apply to Assange. In UK extradition cases, “the Requesting State (must provide) assurance that the death penalty will not be imposed or, if imposed, will not be carried out.”
Until US Justice Department officials present their charges against Assange during his extradition hearing, it remains unclear if they’ll exclude politically motivated ones prohibited by the US/UK extradition treaty.
Clearly the case against him is entirely politically charged. No evidence suggests “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion,” espionage, or other wrongdoing occurred.
WikiLeaks publishes material from reliable sources it believes to be credible, how journalism is supposed to work—a vital public service, not a criminal offense.
Assange is a prisoner of conscience. UK authorities arrested and detained him solely for extradition to the US. DOJ spokeswoman Nicole Oxman acknowledged it, saying “I can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America.”
His persecution has a long way to go. If UK courts grant the extradition request and his case goes to the European Court of Human Rights and/or European Court of Justice, will either or both judicial bodies overrule it on grounds of charges prohibited by the US/UK extradition treaty?
If not, he’ll likely be imprisoned in the US until he perishes behind bars—for truth-telling journalism about US high crimes of war, against humanity, and other wrongdoing.
Given his greatly deteriorated physical and emotional health, is Britain slowly killing him in confinement at London’s high-security Belmarsh prison?
According to a prison source, he lost “dangerous amounts of weight. (He’s) unwell generally but has recently been struggling to eat which has made it worse. He looked near to collapse, gaunt and frail so they have got him in (the prison’s medical ward) as a precaution.”
“And his state of mind is not great, either.” He’s too frail to give testimony by video link from Belmarsh.
If mistreatment behind bars continues in Britain or if extradited to the US, he may perish in confinement—for the “crime” of truth-telling journalism the way it’s supposed to be.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.