nazi britain’s hanging judge

Judge refuses to grant Wikileaks founder’s partner anonymity in extradition case
Lizzie Dearden, Independent, Apr 7 2020

A judge has refused to grant legal anonymity to Julian Assange’s partner after hearing claims that Pindostan had tried to obtain their children’s DNA. Representatives of the Wikileaks founder submitted evidence to Westminster Magistrates’ Court claiming that Pindo agencies the CIA had expressed interest in testing nappies discarded when Assange’s partner and children visited him at the Ecuadorian embassy. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser found that, even if the allegation were true, there was no reason to believe that Pindo agencies the CIA meant to harm his young family. She referred to the claim while rejecting the bid to anonymise Assange’s partner, who the court heard wishes to live “quietly” with her young children away from publicity. Following a submission by the PA to the court, Judge Baraitser ruled that the woman’s right to a private family life was outweighed by the need for open justice. But the judge delayed making the woman’s identity public until 4pm on Apr 14, pending a possible judicial review at the High Court. Assange was previously denied bail amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus in British jails, and the application had been supported by the unnamed woman. The 48-year-old is being held on remand at HMP Belmarsh, in south-east London, ahead of an extradition hearing on May 18. During the virtual hearing, the judge also rejected a bid to delay the hearing because of the coronavirus crisis. Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said there were “insuperable” difficulties preparing his case because of the pandemic, and requested an adjournment until September. He told the court that he had not been able to see Assange in jail and could see “no viable” way his client could be present in court to hear witnesses. On Assange’s mental state, he told the judge:

There are difficulties of the pandemic with the defendant himself. You are aware that he has well documented problems of clinical depression. His treatment is on hold during the lockdown and he has been unable to see his family. In those circumstances, in his vulnerable condition, to force him to enter a full evidential hearing in May, we respectfully submit it would be unjust. We respectfully submit it would be oppressive. This is an exceptional circumstance. This is not a case where second best will do, where we should just try to muddle through. The difficulties are insuperable in the current crisis.

Ruling against him, Judge Baraitser said:

The extradition hearing is still five weeks away. I cannot assume the courts will not be operating normally by then. Assange is in custody and there is some urgency of this case being heard to its conclusion. If there is a need for a third and final hearing after the hearing on May 18, it will be held in July.

Assange is fighting extradition to Pindostan, where he would face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011. He has been held in custody since being arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London almost exactly a year ago. He sought asylum there in 2012 while wanted under a European Arrest Warrant for interview in a Swedish rape investigation which has since been dropped.

Assange’s life in grave danger as first COVID-19 death confirmed in Belmarsh prison: Wikileaks editor-in-chief
RT.com, Apr 7 2020

Conditions in Belmarsh prison, where Julian Assange is held, might be worse than London is willing to admit, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT, adding that Covid-19 could swiftly tear through the facility. A prison environment is “like a Petri dish” for a virus, Hrafnsson explained, particularly such a highly infectious one as the novel coronavirus, which has already struck more than 1 million people around the world. The max security Belmarsh prison, where the WikiLeaks founder is being kept pending extradition to Pindostan, has just reported its first death from the disease. According to Hrafnsson, there are other worrying signs too. He said:

We have prison guards going in and out. A third of them at least are not showing up to work, either because they have the virus or because they are in isolation.

He also said he was sure the number of inmates who contracted COVID-19 in Belmarsh is “undoubtedly higher than reported,” since prison authorities have simply not conducted enough tests on the population to “know what is going on exactly.” The situation is particularly alarming for Assange, who was in a rather poor state of health even before the outbreak of the deadly disease, Hrafnsson added. He said:

Assange is in very bad shape. He is a very vulnerable individual, especially to a virus like COVID-19. He has an underlying lung condition and would be considered at great risk even if living normally in society. He is in a situation when his life is in danger every day and every hour.

The Wikileaks editor-in-chief said that British authorities are neglecting their duties outright by leaving Assange as well as other prisoners behind bars, given the current circumstances. Hrafnsson also slammed a British judge’s decision to carry on with Assange’s extradition hearing amid the ongoing pandemic as though nothing has been happening. The Wikileaks founder is unable to take part in any court sessions now, as he has to be moved through the infected prison each time he is about to do so, even via a video link. His lawyers also have lost all contact with him for about three weeks at this point, since they cannot visit him in prison and cannot talk to him by video chat either, the Wikileaks editor-in-chief said. On Tuesday, Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it was her intention to hear the bulk of the evidence on May 18, even though the process will likely stretch further to June. Hrafnsson denounced such approach as “just scandalous.” Assange has already spent almost a year behind bars after Ecuador revoked his asylum and allowed British authorities to drag him out of its embassy in London and arrest him. The Wikileaks founder is wanted by Pindostan on charges of conspiring to hack government computers and breaking espionage laws, and could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted. Meanwhile, various activists, boxtops & public figures, including a UN rapporteur on torture, and scores of doctors have repeatedly pointed to Assange’s deteriorating health, warning that he is at serious risk of dying behind bars in the UK.

Vindictive court rulings prove British state wants Assange dead
Thomas Scripps, WSWS, Apr 8 2020

In a London court hearing yesterday, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser declared that the extradition show-trial of Julian Assange will proceed in May, despite the fact that Britain is under a national lockdown and that the coronavirus pandemic is rapidly spreading through the country’s prison system. Baraitser’s ruling was the second in a fortnight that places Assange’s life and safety in jeopardy and underscores the travesty of justice being perpetrated against him. On Mar 25, she rejected an application for bail made by Assange’s legal team which detailed the “very real” and potentially “fatal” threat posed to his health by the coronavirus pandemic. Assange is currently held on remand in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. He faces extradition to Pindostan, where he would be convicted of bogus Espionage Charges and imprisoned for life for exposing war crimes and human rights abuses by successive Pindo governments. It was exactly a decade ago that WikiLeaks published the Collateral Murder video. Its images of the indiscriminate murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and two journalists by Pindo occupation forces were viewed with horror by millions around the world. Ever since, Pindostan & its vassals, including Britain and Australia, have hounded Assange. They are determined to silence him forever as part of their turn to authoritarian rule and the imposition of new military provocations and mass austerity demanded by a criminal financial oligarchy. Assange’s health has been systematically destroyed by a decade of arbitrary detention. Last May, UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer found that Assange displayed medically verifiable symptoms of psychological torture resulting from his decade-long persecution. The WikiLeaks founder has a chronic lung condition that renders him especially vulnerable to respiratory illness, along with a host of other medical issues. Since last November, the Doctors for Assange group, comprised of over 200 medical professionals around the world, has warned that Assange may die behind bars because he has been denied adequate medical care. Their calls for him to be transferred to a university teaching hospital have been dismissed by the British authorities. In an open letter last month, Doctors for Assange wrote:

Julian Assange’s life and health are at heightened risk due to his arbitrary detention during this global pandemic. That threat will only grow as the coronavirus spreads.

Speaking for the group, Dr Stephen Frost told WSWS:

Mr Assange must be assumed by doctors to be severely immunocompromised and therefore at greatly increased risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus in any prison, but especially in a prison such as Belmarsh. Every extra day Mr Assange is incarcerated in Belmarsh prison constitutes an increased threat to his life.

Countless human rights organisations have warned that the UK’s prisons are “breeding grounds” for coronavirus. Were Assange to remain in prison, argued defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC two weeks ago, he would be “seriously endangered in circumstances from which he cannot escape.” Judge Baraitser ruled that the “global pandemic does not provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release.” She had “no reason not to trust” the government’s advice on protecting prisoners from the virus “as both evidence-based and reliable and appropriate.” When the ruling was given, 19 prisoners across 12 different prisons had already tested positive for the virus and 4,300 prison staff were self-isolating, including one hundred at Belmarsh. By the time she presided over Assange’s hearing yesterday, 107 prisoners were known to be infected across 38 different prisons, meaning the virus is confirmed as present in at least a third of prisons in England and Wales. Another 1,300 prisoners were self-isolating. Of the top three prisons for reported cases, two were in London—Wandsworth with 11 and Thameside, situated immediately next door to Belmarsh, with 7. Nine prisoners were reported to have died after becoming infected, including one inmate at Belmarsh. Revealing plans to release several thousand low-risk prisoners late last week, the UK government made the astonishing announcement that because Assange was “not serving a custodial sentence” he would not be considered eligible. Only one conclusion can be drawn: the WikiLeaks founder is being kept in prison with the deliberate intention of exposing him to a deadly disease.

At yesterday’s hearing, Assange’s lawyers requested that the next phase of extradition proceedings, scheduled to begin on May 18, be postponed. They detailed the Orwellian situation facing their client under conditions of a national lockdown. Fitzgerald explained that Assange’s already minimal contact with his legal team has been restricted even further. His lawyers “are not able to have any reasonable communication with him at present.” They are unable to visit him at all in prison or to meet with him via video and have only been able to hold a few telephone calls with their client. Assange’s defence is therefore now largely being carried out by post, which is insecure and takes weeks to be received. There is no chance of the extradition hearing being carried out fairly while the epidemic and lockdown restrictions continue, with Assange, witnesses, legal teams, the press and public unable to attend in person. In any case, Fitzgerald continued, Assange is too ill to participate safely in the proceedings, even virtually. In order to access the video link in Belmarsh, he must move across the prison, queue with others and use shared facilities—all potential opportunities for contracting the coronavirus. Given Assange’s state of health, said Fitzgerald, it would be unjust to make him appear in court in this way. Baraitser was unmoved, saying she intended to keep to the date of May 18 and hear as much evidence as possible that month, with witnesses participating via video link if necessary. Not only does the British government refuse to accept the coronavirus pandemic as grounds for bail, they will not let it disrupt the schedule of their show trial. If they don’t succeed in ensuring that Assange dies in prison, no concern for the pretence of fair legal proceedings will prevent them from railroading Assange to a Pindo prison as planned, in what amounts to an extraordinary rendition. In events which outstrip the imagination of Franz Kafka, the whole extradition hearing may be heard in absentia, not only of the accused but of his lawyers and witnesses!

Underscoring the utterly vindictive character of the campaign against Assange, Judge Baraitser also insisted on lifting reporting restrictions barring his partner and children being publicly named. The WikiLeaks founder has sought to maintain their anonymity to ensure their safety. Baraitser cruelly claimed there was “no evidence” that Assange’s partner would be subject to harassment if her name was revealed or that any Pindo agency wished her or her children harm. She had the gall to claim that her decision was motivated by the “strong public interest” in the “accurate reporting” of the case. As she knows full well, Assange has been slandered and his case wilfully distorted by the corporate media for a decade. Releasing his partner’s name is intended to add fuel to the fire. These acts of naked criminality are carried out under conditions in which the world’s attention is focussed on the coronavirus pandemic and the criminal responses of the world’s governments. But the effects of the virus cannot be allowed to cover for the escalation of the vicious assault on the most significant journalist of the 21st century. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored that the public’s access to true and accurate information is a life and death question. In every country working people are being confronted by governments and corporations which have systematically lied about the implications of a public health emergency which began last December—assisted by a corrupt and pliant media. Assange founded WikiLeaks to uphold the public’s right to know. He pursued this commitment courageously, earning the enmity of imperialist governments and their political and media lackeys around the world. It is time to repay the debt. Saturday marks 12 months since Assange was illegally expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he was a political refugee, and brutally arrested by the British police. The events of the past year have unquestionably demonstrated that the purpose of the entire operation against the WikiLeaks founder has been nothing less than his physical and psychological destruction. The alarm must be sounded: Assange’s life is in imminent danger. His fate depends on the construction of a mass movement of the international working class for his immediate and unconditional release. Join this fight today!

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