Category Archives: international

No happy 50th for Julian Assange

Saturday 3 July was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s 50th birthday, but he did not have much to celebrate. The attempt to extradite Assange to the United States was rejected in January, but bail was refused and he continues to be held in Belmarsh prison pending an appeal. It was the third birthday he has spent in the high-security prison in south east London.

To mark the day there was a giant picnic blanket in London’s Parliament Square stencilled with a Free Assange slogan. Julian’s partner and mother of their two children, Stella Moris, cut a birthday cake. She has asked the authorities in Belmarsh if the couple can get married, and hopes Assange will be granted permission to get married outside the prison. Stella Moris is a lawyer and a member of Assange’s legal team.

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Europe, a road crash that was decades in the making

‘I believe the Union is over-democratised.’ Herman van Rumpuy EU President from 2009 to 2014 (quoted by Perry Anderson in ‘The European Coup’ London Review of Books, 17 December 2020)

I was fourteen at the time when on 3 February 1960, Prime Minister and old Etonian Harold Macmillan made his wind of change speech to South Africa’s parliament during his African tour. That day he said: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact’. To many the speech is remembered as firing the starting gun to speed up the decolonisation of the British Empire in Africa, a rush for the exit you might say, whilst seeking to minimise Soviet influences on these emerging nations. But it was also an attack on South Africa’s system of apartheid which was only swept away some thirty years later. I did not realise at the time that this was the precursor to a long courtship with the then European Economic Community (EEC) which as we all know ended in an acrimonious divorce.

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As Julian Assange edges towards freedom investigative journalism takes a big hit.

It’s been a week of mixed fortunes for Julian Assange. On Monday many were taken aback by the ruling of district judge Vanessa Baraitser not to allow the US to extradite Julian to stand trial on criminal charges of conspiracy, hacking and violations of the 1917 Espionage Act. On closer reading it was clear that the judge had rejected all the defence arguments against extradition to protect free speech, that the extradition was politically motivated and he would not get a fair trial in the US. It was the appalling state of the US prison system that was the key factor and the ‘supermax’ prison ADX Colorado, where it is generally accepted Julian would have been sent, if sentenced by a US court. This taken with Julian’s mental health history led her to believe that he would be potentially in danger of taking his own life if so incarcerated.

Two days after her ruling against the US extradition came the setback when the same Vanessa Baraitser sitting at Westminster magistrates court rejected his application for bail, saying that Julian “…still has an incentive to abscond from these, as yet unresolved, proceedings. As a matter of fairness the US must be allowed to challenge my decision…”

Continue reading As Julian Assange edges towards freedom investigative journalism takes a big hit.