We now know that the official request by US Senator Diane Feinstein to prosecute Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, for espionage was made as far back as December 2010. To see the original document, click here (Gillard and Co. would have been informed of this at the time). Here is a quote from it: “We believe that Mr. Assange’s conduct is espionage and that his actions fall under the elements of this section of law. Therefore, we urge that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act”.
Meanwhile, the chess pieces are falling into place: the Swedish Government continues to insist that Assange can only answer questions about the sex allegations in Sweden, from where he will be onward-extradited to the USA; the British Government can insist, but won’t, that as a condition of Assange’s extradition to Sweden there be no onward extradition; the Australian Government insists it is doing all it can to assist Assange, who has received death threats, but in reality is doing bugger all. (See video interview with Jennifer Robinson, above, who raises these issues much more eloquently.) Ultimately, everything points to America, which intends to make an example of Assange (and Bradley Manning) so that no one dare leak or publish leaked information again.
The US Government, however, is delusional if they believe they can stop dissent or prevent those who reveal truth from continuing to do so. If Assange is extradited to America, charged and then convicted, no matter how draconian the punishments, the human tendency to fight against authoritarian systems will prevail. But rather than adopt a largely defensive posture we – Wikileaks supporters, or otherwise; Assange supporters, or not; liberationists in general – must go on the attack via every means at our disposal, including expanding the Wikileaks operations and creating many similar initiatives.
There are also a number of legal moves that can be made, beyond the purely defensive (as outlined here and here) and should civil writs be served (in more than one country) then Christine Assange, the mother of Julian, may prove to be pivotal. The expanded Wikileaks legal team, under the direction of Sr. Garzon, could not be better placed if prosecution went ahead, so perhaps it’s time we got to know the people in this team a bit better.
Here, then, is a brief introduction to the members of what could be called the Wikileaks ‘A Team’. Each is renowned for his/her stand against injustice and their fight for human rights. Collectively, their integrity is unquestionable.
Note: to see a recent article by Michael Ratner (see profile below) on the US war against Wikileaks, click here.
Julian Burnside (Australia)
Julian Burnside represented the Maritime Union of Australia in the 1998 waterfront dispute and won the case. He represented Victoria’s chief civil liberties organisation against the Australian Government over the Tampa affair. He was a staunch critic of the Howard Government’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. He has organised free accommodation and legal representation for refugees in Australia. He won a major case re. the ‘Stolen Generation’ involving Aboriginal children forcibly taken from their parents by Government. In 2004 he was awarded the Human Rights Law Award and in 2007 he received the Australian Peace Prize from the Peace Organisation of Australia. His involvement with the Assange case is largely in relation to Australian Government matters.
Baltasar Garzon (International)
On 17 October 2008, Sr. Baltasar Garzón formally declared the acts of repression committed by the Franco regime to be crimes against humanity, and accounted them in more than one hundred thousand killings during and after the Spanish Civil War. Garzón came to international attention on 10 October 1998 when he issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet for the alleged deaths and torture of Spanish citizens. The Chilean Truth Commission (1990–91) report was the basis for the warrant, marking an unprecedented use of universal jurisdiction to attempt to try a former dictator for an international crime. Eventually it was turned down by British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who rejected (on spurious health grounds) Garzón’s request to have Pinochet extradited to Spain. Garzón also filed charges of genocide against Argentine military officers on the disappearance of Spanish citizens during Argentina’s 1976–1983 dictatorship. Eventually, Adolfo Scilingo and Miguel Angel Cavallo were prosecuted in separate cases (Scilingo was convicted and sentenced to over 1000 years incarceration for his crimes). Garzón issued indictments for five Guantanamo detainees, including Spaniard Abderrahman Ahmad and United Kingdom resident Jamil El Banna. Ahmad was extradited to Spain on 14 February 2004. El Banna was repatriated to the United Kingdom, and in 2007, Garzón then dropped the charges against him. Garzon was recently appointed to the Assange/Wikileaks legal team.
Thomas Olsson (Sweden)
Thomas Olsson has been engaged in a battle to quash eight murder convictions of Thomas Quick, who is a mental patient who was addicted to confessing crimes he had not committed. Quick has since been cleared of half of the murders (the remaining sentences are currently under appeal). Quick’s defence counsel during the murder trials was Claes Borgström, who is now disgraced because of his handling of the case. (Note: Borgstrom, who represents the two complainants, Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, against Julian Assange, has recently been reported to the Swedish Bar for misconduct.)
Gareth Peirce (Britain)
‘My job is to get you out and I’m going to get you out’: Gareth Pierce on first meeting with Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four in Long Lartin prison (she did get him out – and the others). Ms. Pierce was instrumental in ensuring the quashing of convictions of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. She was a legal representative in the infamous Persons Unknown trial, when six people, anarchists, were accused of conspiracy to bomb (she and her legal colleagues convinced the jury that the charges were a farce and the defendants who pleaded innocence were consequently freed). Peirce has also led high-profile cases involving members of the Muslim community who have been wrongly accused of terrorism and sent to Guantanamo Bay. Ms. Peirce often comes across as a timid, quiet and very private individual, though in truth she is indefatigable, tenacious and never, ever gives in. Even with the less high-profile cases… a well-known, 64 year-old anarchist, Albert Meltzer, was arrested (on a charge later thrown out by the court) and held overnight in a police cell… Gareth was concerned about Meltzer’s safety (he was overweight and had health problems) and rang the duty sergeant and told him in no uncertain terms that if anything untoward happened to Mr. Meltzer and he did not survive the night, she would hold him personally responsible… (As it was, Albert was released the next day after the police station had received hundreds of calls from concerned individuals from around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Gunther Grass, Sean MacBride and so on).
On Peirce: “Once she has taken up a case, which she comes to believe in, what is impressive about her is her certainty that an injustice has occurred. It’s never on the one hand, on the other. And she expresses that certainty in such convincing terms.” Ludovic Kennedy.
Michael Ratner (USA)
Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and a past president of the National Lawyers Guild. He represented Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, which decided that his clients had the right to test the legality of their detention. In 2006, he filed a complaint in Germany against US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials for the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Ratner sued the George W. Bush administration to try to stop the Gulf War, the Clinton administration to try to stop the strategic bombing during the Kosovo War, and won a case on behalf of victims of the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, for war crimes.
Jennifer Robinson (Australia and Britain)
From 2009, Jennifer Robinson worked for the UK legal firm, Finers Stephens Innocent and was appointed legal adviser to Julian Assange in October 2010. In 2011, she became the Legal Director for the Bertha Foundation in London, with the task of creating and developing a global human rights and public interest law program. Although officially she is no longer part of the Assange defence team she acts on his behalf from time to time, particularly in relation to Australian Government matters
Per E Samuelson (Sweden)
Mr. Samuelson represented Carl Lundström in the trial against the Pirate Bay 2. He also specialises in defending rape cases.
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