Dec 192019

Canadian Press (CP) Report on first step in the extradition hearings against Julian Assange, appears below.

A few comments first.

The case has the potential to become a broader argument about the extraterritorial reach of the US. 

Citizens in the FVEY “developed” countries are equally in the extraterritorial reach  of the US, along with nations in Latin America and elsewhere on the planet.


International publications originally collaborated with Assange in the publication of material from the Iraq war logs – – New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais. Newspapers in his native Australia published extensively from the leaked documents. Disclosure embarrassed the US government.

In its reporting of Assange, the New York Times has been assiduous in its defence of journalistic inquiry.  For example:

2019-05-23 ‘Frightening’: Charges Against Julian Assange Alarm Press Advocates, from NY Times

Another NYT headline, same day (I didn’t post it): Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues 

WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues. . . .

. . .  he (Assange) has become the target for a case that could open the door to criminalizing activities that are crucial to American investigative journalists who write about national security matters.

. . .   Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like the Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

The Obama administration considered and then balked at seeking Assange’s extradition, after concluding it would be perilous to charge him under the Espionage Act.  This act does not make a distinction between journalists and non-journalists.

Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, quoted Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists who observed:

Under this rubric anyone anywhere in the world who publishes information that the US government deems to be classified could be prosecuted for espionage.


CLARIFICATION, coverage in Canada:

The CP coverage is repeated in papers across Canada.  Assange is described as having been “holed up” in the Ecuadorian Embassy.  he was granted asylum by former President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who has remained steadfast in his support of Assange, speaking out again in the last few days.


  • Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. authorities, asked for the case to be delayed until April, saying the lawyer earmarked for the case would not be available for the extended hearing.

“My impression was the (U.S.) government was anxious for this case to remain on track and not to be derailed,” said Baraister (Judge), who said the next hearing would take place on Jan. 23 and the timetable would go ahead as planned.

(CP:  The full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin Feb. 24)

– – – – –

Lawyer in UK Court:
US charges against WikiLeaks’ Assange are ‘political’

By Canadian Press

Dec 19, 2019

LONDON — Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a London court (London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court) Thursday that he should not be extradited to the United States to face spying charges because the offences he is accused of are political in nature.

U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a government computer and leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Assange’s attorney, Edward Fitzgerald, said the 48-year-old Australian is protected by a 2007 extradition treaty between Britain and the U.S.

“We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offence and that these offences as framed, and indeed in substance, are political offences,” Fitzgerald said at a court hearing.

Assange spent almost seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid a rape investigation in Sweden. He was arrested by British police in April after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status and jailed for jumping bail when he sought shelter inside the embassy in 2012.

Assange remains in custody at London’s Belmarsh Prison while he fights extradition. Fitzgerald said Assange’s defence team would call up to 21 witnesses at the full extradition hearing next year.

He said the evidence being submitted would cover the case of Manning, medical evidence, Assange’s prison conditions and ongoing Spanish legal proceedings relating to the alleged “bugging of the conversations with his lawyers in the Ecuadorian Embassy.”

Fitzgerald reiterated complaints that Assange’s lawyers were having “great problems” seeing him in prison.

Last month more than 60 doctors wrote to the British government expressing concerns about Assange’s health and his fitness to stand trial.

Assange appeared at Thursday’s case management hearing by video link from prison. He spoke to confirm his name and date of birth, then sat with his head bowed, occasionally closing his eyes during the 45-minute proceedings.

The full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin Feb. 24 and could take four weeks.

Swedish authorities dropped the rape probe last month, citing the many years that have elapsed since the accusation was made over nine years ago.

The Associated Press


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