On Monday, the trial of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continued in London, where he is fighting extradition to the USA, where he faces life imprisonment. Or rather, he tries to defend himself, because the circumstances under which the trial is now carried on seem rather hostile to him and in the truest sense of the word obscure, because transparent reporting by the court is obviously difficult. In this respect, the behavior of the judge, or is confirmed to the judiciary the need for an organization like Wikileaks, which started almost a decade and a half ago, to disclose wrongdoing by governments and organizations. Fortunately, Julian Assange continues to have a number of dedicated supporters and there was some interest from the media at the start.
In February there were 18 places for early risers, which seemed little to us even then, and before the current trial at the Central Criminal Court “Old Bailey” it was said that because of the corona measures there were only four places for the public, in addition to the five places for members of Assange. This number was then reduced to two on Monday morning by the judge again without proper justification.
According to Kristinn Hrafnsson, he then sat in a separate courtroom in a visitors ' gallery, from which he could watch the journalists present as they watched the events on screens. The representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who was only admitted after the intervention of the left-wing member of Parliament Heike Hänsel and the MEP Martin Sonneborn, assured that this tribune was large enough to accommodate 9 or 10 people even at a Corona distance.
RSF, along with other NGOs and political observers, was supposed to have video access to the trial, which was also withdrawn by the judge shortly before the start of the trial. According to Christian Mihr, the managing director of RSF in Germany, his organisation was not informed of this measure by the court. As a justification, the judge stated that she feared that control of the proceedings could slip away and that authorised persons could make recordings of the proceedings. Why she didn’t think of it earlier and why there isn’t a bigger room somewhere in London where more observers can find access under these curious conditions remains her secret. Overall, of course, it is a mammoth task for a single Person to rummage through 100,000 pages of files.
She also stated that in February a photo of Julian Assange was taken from the visitors ' gallery, which was then distributed from the Hall via “social media”. But such actions probably exist as long as we humans exist, but it is still a pity.
Christian Mihr went on to describe that he had already attended many trials in countries that are considered problematic in the Western representation, but that he felt more welcome there than in the United Kingdom, where this trial did not even guarantee the appearance of Fairness and transparency. Not only does he seem stunned by the judge’s seemingly arbitrary actions.
In the morning, Assange was formally arrested again in order to incorporate the additional evidence presented by the US at the last minute into the trial. According to Wikileaks, these things had been known for almost 10 years. However, the lawyers and Assange have not yet had time to discuss these documents, which were presented on August 14, because they have only made two brief phone calls to the prison via the public telephone since then. During the lunch break on Monday, Assange and his lawyers had direct contact for the first time since the beginning of March. Again, the Covid measures seem to play right into the hands of the prosecution.
Because of this short time, the defense requested that this new charge not be admitted, but the judge refused because it was evidence. After the lunch break, the defense requested an adjournment of the trial in order to be able to prepare for these “new” points with her client, but the judge also refused this with the reference that it was now too late. Craig Murray remarked in the interview that the defence could only make its requests in turn. All in all, he tells of a judge who treated Assange and his lawyers condescendingly and unfriendly: “Mr. (defense attorney) Fitzgerald, do you have anything more substantial to say to me?”
On Tuesday, she threatened to bar Julian Assange from the trial when he interrupted a witness. It can be noted that, of course, it is not allowed to interrupt witnesses, but that the judge did this to herself when she insisted in February that he should sit in a glass case instead of sitting with his lawyers, where he could give them information in a whisper and not disturb. In February I heard myself how this question was discussed in detail in the courtroom, but the judge said at the time that if there was something to discuss between the defense and the client, then the trial could be interrupted at any time. At the time, she pushed aside the objection that such a procedure would noticeably prolong the proceedings. Rebecca Vincent, who was present in the chamber on Monday and Tuesday, describes the whole procedure as extremely cumbersome and punctuated by interruptions.
In addition, in connection with video interviews of witnesses that did not work at all or did not work properly, she noted that this gave the impression of possible incompetence. I, too, wonder whether there is a mixture of excessive demands, incompetence and intent at work here and thus the process should be held as far away from the public as possible. It is ironic that this procedure, with its intransparency and apparent arbitrariness, actually confirms the need for organisations like Wikileaks. The question remains, of course, how much of this impression will end up in the public domain, and whether this is enough to persuade those responsible to bring the proceedings to a lawful conclusion. When one sees how Julian Assange is treated, some doubts remain.
He himself seemed to be very absent on Monday and, according to the observers, he followed the process very little, but on Tuesday he was in better shape, as his above-mentioned objection shows. His fiancée Stella Moris also looks taken away by the continuing insecurity hovering over him and her family, and his father John Shipton is also concerned about his son.
All in all, watching remains an extremely unpleasant feeling and one wonders what one can still believe institutions and governments, also in relation to other topics such as the urgent Corona measures in all areas of life. Even the federal government has so far taken the view that this is an internal matter of Great Britain, although the UN and its representatives, such as Nils Melzer, have criticised the whole procedure in detail.
What remains for us at the moment is the right to go out on the streets and participate in one of the vigils and not just to observe this happening closely and act accordingly as far as our rights and duties as free citizens are concerned.