Judge Refuses to Allow WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Extradition to the US, Citing Suicide Risk

Longtime Julian Assange supporter Elsa Collins near the Old Bailey today, January 4, 2021, after District Judge Vanessa Baraitser unexpectedly prevented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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In a totally unexpected ruling in the Old Bailey this morning, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused to allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US to proceed, on the basis that, as court-watcher Kevin Gosztola described it in a tweet, she was “satisfied that procedures described by [the] US would not prevent Assange from finding a way to commit suicide in [a] US supermax prison.”

Gosztola added, powerfully, “The United States government’s mass incarceration system just lost them their case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.”

In an unjust world in which good news seems to be in ever dwindling supply, this is extraordinarily good news. The US has 14 days to appeal, but it is uncertain if they will do so, as the mental health and suicide risk argument is essentially unassailable, and has been used effectively before — in the cases of Gary McKinnon and Lauri Love, who both have Asperger’s Syndrome. Julian’s Asperger’s has, to my mind, rarely been adequately recognized before, until it was diagnosed by an expert witness in his extradition hearing in September, which now seems to have played a key role in preventing his extradition.

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Radio: I Discuss Hopes for Guantánamo’s Closure Under Joe Biden, and Julian Assange’s Extradition, with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

A composite image of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the day it opened, January 11, 2002, and WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

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Chris Cook, in Victoria, British Columbia, hosts a great weekly progressive radio show, Gorilla Radio, and I’m delighted to have been talking to him on a regular basis — mostly about Guantánamo — for many years now.

I spoke to Chris recently for an hour, and you can find the show on his website here, and also here as an MP3. A shorter version of the interview was included in the show that was broadcast on December 17, featuring journalist and author John Helmer in the first half (and the MP3 of that show is here).

I began by providing a brief history of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which will mark the shameful 19th anniversary of its opening in just three weeks’ time, and I stressed how, under Donald Trump, the prison has essentially been sealed shut for the last four years. Bearing that in mind, there is now hope that, at the very least, some of the remaining 40 prisoners will be freed, and there will progress towards the prison’s closure.

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Radio: My One-Hour Interview With Peter B. Collins About Closing Guantánamo, and Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing

Andy Worthington marking 6,900 days of the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and calling on President Elect Joe Biden to close it, on December 1, 2020, and a campaigner calling for an end to the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020.

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Last week I was honoured to be asked by the veteran talk radio host Peter B. Collins to take part in what is being billed as his ‘Last Interview’ series, as he retires from regular broadcasting after a 47-year career which began with him covering Watergate when he was just 19.

The show is available here, and here as an MP3 — and as this is my quarterly fundraising week, please be aware that I don’t receive any payment for my various TV and radio appearances, so if you can help with a donation, to enable me to keep writing about, campaigning about and talking about Guantánamo (and other human rights issues) across a variety of media, it will be very greatly appreciated!

Peter first interviewed me about Guantánamo — if I recall correctly, gazing back into the mists of time — back in 2009, and we have spoken many times since, as he largely moved from hosting talk radio shows into running his own subscriber-based podcasts.

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Radio: I Discuss The Future of Guantánamo Under Joe Biden with Andy Bungay and Colin Crilly in South London

A screenshot from Mixcloud of Andy Bungay’s show ‘The Chiminea’ on Riverside Radio in Battersea on November 22, 2020, also featuring Colin Crilly.

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On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in a remotely recorded radio show for Riverside Radio, a community station in Battersea, with Andy Bungay, who hosts ‘The Chiminea’, the 11pm to 2am slot on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and his colleague Colin Crilly.

Our interview starts about 27 minutes into the two-hour show, which is available on Mixcloud here, and Andy began by playing ‘This Time We Win’, a recently released eco-anthem by my band The Four Fathers, recorded with and featuring the great Charlie Hart on keyboards.

I then introduced myself, particularly mentioning my Guantánamo work, which I’ve been undertaking for the last 15 years, and my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’ We talked about the successful campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was held for 14 years without charge or trial, but was eventually released five years ago, on October 30, 2015, as I noted on Facebook, following up with a photo from a Parliamentary reception for Shaker, hosted by Jeremy Corbyn, which took place on November 17, 2015.

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Video: I Discuss the Guantánamo Files Released by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing with Action4Assange and Juan Passarelli

A screenshot of the Action4Assange show on October 17, 2020, featuring guests Andy Worthington and Juan Passarelli.

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On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in a wide-ranging discussion about my role as a witness in the hearings regarding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to the US, and the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released in 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

The show — for the campaigning organization Action4Assange — was hosted by Steve Poikonen and Kendra Christian, and my fellow guest was Juan Passarelli, the filmmaker whose recent, 38-minute film about Assange, The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange, I promoted in an article last week.

The show was streamed live, and recorded for YouTube. It starts around 12 and a half minutes in, and runs for nearly two hours, and you can check it out below.

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Radio: I Talk to Scott Horton About the Injustice of Julian Assange’s Extradition Case and the Importance of the Leaked Guantánamo Files

A supporter of Julian Assange outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020, the last day of his extradition hearing. The balloons were part of an initiative celebrating the 14th anniversary of the founding of WikiLeaks, on October 4.

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Last week, during the fourth and last week of hearings regarding the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, two statements I made in his defence (via the tireless Gareth Pierce and her colleagues) were read into the evidence at the Old Bailey in London. The two statements were subsequently made available by Antiwar.com — the first, from February, is here, and the second, made last week, is here. A decision on the extradition case is expected to be delivered by Judge Vanessa Baraitser on January 4, 2021.

It took a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing in court to get my statements accepted, and for some time efforts were made to get me to testify in person, and to be cross-examined by the prosecutor, but — perhaps mercifully — the latter course of action didn’t eventually transpire, as the prosecutor, James Lewis, had, throughout the hearings, maintained “very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating” expert witnesses, according to the human rights activist (and former Ambassador) Craig Murray, who attended the hearings for the whole month.

My statements related to my work with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011, in which I noted how much of the supposed evidence used to justify imprisonment at Guantanamo was, as I described it in my first statement, information extracted from “the Guantánamo prisoners’ fellow prisoners who had been subjected to torture or other forms of coercion either in Guantánamo or in secret prisons run by the CIA”, or information which was equally “unreliable because fellow prisoners had provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.”

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An Assessment of the Importance of the Classified Guantánamo Military Files Released by WikiLeaks and My Role in Analyzing Them

A screenshot of the front page of WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner.

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I’m currently waiting to be called as a witness in the notorious extradition case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently taking place in the Old Bailey, and, as a result, I haven’t been posting about the hearings, which began three weeks ago, and have one week left to run, since the hearings began, when I wrote an article entitled, The Ongoing and Unjustifiable Persecution of Julian Assange. For information about disagreements in court regarding my testimony, see this post by Craig Murray, and for detailed information about the events of the last three weeks, see his daily reports, and those of Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof. Gosztola has also produced this guide to all the journalists and organizations covering the hearings in the absence of dedicated daily coverage by any mainstream media.

My involvement with Assange’s extradition hearing came about because, nine and a half years ago, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo that had been leaked by US soldier Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. The release of the files followed the release, in 2010, of the “Collateral Murder” video, showing US helicopter pilots killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and laughing about it, extensive war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and over 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

Julian Assange is now fighting to prevent his unjustifiable extradition to the US, to face charges under the Espionage Act that would mean life in prison if he were to be convicted. And what’s profoundly alarming about this, as should not even need saying at all, is that Assange’s alleged crimes are not crimes at all.

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The Ongoing and Unjustifiable Persecution of Julian Assange

A van bearing the message ‘Don’t extradite Assange’, photographed today, September 9, 2020, in Waterloo (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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A hugely important struggle for press freedom is currently taking place in the Old Bailey in London, where, on Monday, three weeks of hearings began regarding the proposed extradition to the US of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. In 2010 and 2011, WikiLeaks published documents leaked by a serving member of the US military — Bradley, now Chelsea Manning — that exposed evidence of war crimes committed by the US and, in the case of my particular area of expertise, Guantánamo.

The Guantánamo revelations were contained in classified military files relating to almost all of the 779 men held at the prison by the uS military since it opened in January 2002, which, for the first time, explicitly revealed how profoundly unreliable the supposed evidence against the prisoners was, much of it having been made by prisoners who had made numerous false statements against their fellow prisoners. I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the release of the Guantánamo files, and my summary of the files’ significance can be found in the article I wrote when they were first published entitled, WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies.

I should add that I am one of the witnesses for the defence, and will be appearing in court sometime over the next few weeks to discuss the significance of the Guantánamo files. See this post by Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof listing those taking part, who include Professor Noam Chomsky, Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, journalists John Goetz, Jakob Augstein, Emily Dische-Becker and Sami Ben Garbia, lawyers Eric Lewis and Barry Pollack, and Dr. Sondra Crosby, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he lived for almost seven years after claiming asylum in 2012.

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Nine Years Ago, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks Released the Guantánamo Files, Which Should Have Led to the Prison’s Closure

The logo for Wikileaks’ release of the previously classified Guantánamo military files in 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

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Just over ten years ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning, stationed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, undertook the largest leak in US history of classified government documents. These documents included 482,832 Army reports from the Afghan and Iraq wars, 251,287 US diplomatic cables from around the world, and classified military files relating to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, as well as the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed US military personnel killing civilians from helicopters and laughing about it.

Manning leaked the files to WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, which published the documents in 2010 and 2011. The last releases were of the Guantánamo Files, on which I worked as media partner, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso.

WikiLeaks began publishing these files nine years ago today, on April 25, 2011, introduced by an article I had written about their significance, “WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners,” posted on my own website that same day as WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies.

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Judge Orders Chelsea Manning’s Release From Jail for Not Cooperating With WikiLeaks Grand Jury, But Won’t Waive $256,000 Fines

Chelsea Manning, after her release from prison in 2017, and before her re-imprisonment in 2019, for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury investigation into Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

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Good news from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where, on Thursday (March 12), District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered the immediate release from jail of whistleblower Chelsea Manning (formerly Pfc. Bradley Manning), who has been imprisoned since last March for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

While serving as an Army intelligence analyst in 2009, Manning was responsible for the largest leak of military and diplomatic documents in US history, and received a 35-year sentence — described by Charlie Savage in the New York Times as “the longest sentence by far in an American leak case” — in August 2013.

After her conviction, as Savage also explained, “she changed her name to Chelsea and announced that she wanted to undergo gender transition, but was housed in a male military prison and twice tried to commit suicide in 2016.” After these bleak experiences, it came as an extremely pleasant surprise when, just before leaving office in January 2017, President Obama commuted most of her sentence, as I explained in an article at the time, entitled, Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning’s 35-Year Sentence; Whistleblower Who Leaked Hugely Important Guantánamo Files Will Be Freed in May 2017, Not 2045.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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