Happy Birthday Manning

On the occasion of Chelsea Manning’s birthday, about 25 Assange supporters gathered in front of the London office of The Guardian newspaper last Thursday afternoon to press for better reporting and the withdrawal of an unsubstantiated claim. Just over 24 hours later, a Editorial in the Guardian appeared calling for the release of Julian Assange. At the same time, voices calling for Abe’s pardon of Assange by Donald Trump are growing louder, similar to the suspension of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence by outgoing Barack Obama.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is due to announce her award in the extradition proceedings against Julian Assange on 4 January. Then we will see to what extent the judge was guided by the witnesses heard in September, or whether other influences prevailed, because it was not only my impression that Assange’s extradition to the United States by the rule of law should actually be impossible. The English lawyer Alexander Mercouris also came to this conclusion in his article on “The Surreal US case against Assange”.

Finally, the Guardian seems to have embraced this view, albeit at a softening point. Friday’s editorial makes no mention of the previous day’s demo or a central statement of those. This was that the Guardian should correct his article published two years ago about three alleged visits by Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort to Assange at the embassy. Journalist Luke Harding wrote at the time that Assange had been visited by Manafort and “Russians” in 2013, 2015 and 2016, but there are no photos of one of the most guarded places on earth, nor is Manafort’s name in the guestbook of the Ecuadorian embassy.

Even then, really investigative media published reports that made the Guardian article seem extremely implausible and fabricated. At the end of September this year, the NDR relented by reporting that the Guardian explicitly knew two years ago that the Manafort visits to Assange were not documented. To date, there is no rebuttal.

The relationship between the Guardian and some of its staff, as well as former editor Alan Rusbridger, and Julian Assange has been marked by initial collaboration in the wake of the sensational Wikileaks publications, which arguably gave the Guardian and other newspapers high circulation, to ignorance, lack of support, and overt dismantling, as in the case of the Manafort rumors. Luke Harding published a password in a book about Wikileaks that led to the publication of dishonest documents. This was the case with US prosecutors Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The four-week trial of Assange, which is likely to go down in British legal history as a dark chapter, received little attention from the Guardian, which is only a walk from the court.

I wonder what Friday’s editorial in the Guardian means, because the Guardian should have taken that position years ago. Now it seems like a little too little, a little too late. Nevertheless, we must welcome this change, because unfortunately the Guardian is still a much-read publication, despite or perhaps because of very uncritical reporting. One can hope that the judge will decide against Assange’s extradition and that the Guardian now wants to stand as a supporter of press freedom. I hope that the article is serious and that further opinions will follow.

Another path that has now been taken by Assange supporters, including Pamela Anderson, and his fiancée Stella Moris, is the call for pardons by outgoing US President Donald Trump. His attitude to Assange and Wikileaks is as nebulous and erratic as most of his actions. In a 2010 interview, he called for the death penalty for Assange for his “disgraceful” behavior. During the 2016 campaign, Trump mentioned Wikileaks more than a hundred times, often with the phrase “I love Wikileaks.”

At the time, Trump liked the Wikileaks releases of emails that cast Hillary Clinton in a very bad light. This is also the point that the liberal establishment in the US is still following Wikileaks and Assange. That these publications cost Mrs Clinton the election victory. All I can say is that if Clinton and her entourage hadn’t written these outrageous emails, they couldn’t have been made public. After Assange’s arrest in April 2019, Trump said he knew nothing about Wikileaks.

Der Tenor unter den Unterstützern am Donnerstag war, dass es eigentlich nicht der richtige Weg ist, wenn ein Nicht-Verurteilter, der von seiner Unschuld überzeugt ist, um Begnadigung bittet, denn dies könnten einige auch als eine Art Eingeständnis von Schuld missverstehen. Verständlich ist dieser Weg schon, denn mittlerweile sieht es nicht gut aus für den gesundheitlich angeschlagenen Assange. Er ist seit dem 7. Dezember 2010, als er sich in einer Londoner Polizeiwache im Zusammenhang mit den fragwürdigen und mittlerweile sang- und klanglos fallengelassenen Anschuldigungen aus Schweden stellte, seiner Freiheit beraubt.

Since the lockdown in March, his detention has been even more like isolation. His lawyers and family do not have proper access to him. He could not be visited by his fiancée and two young sons from March to August. Sometimes you get the feeling that the competent authorities want to get rid of Assange through illness and death. This story is an absolute scandal and that the Federal Government and its spokesmen are hiding behind the statement that the United Kingdom is a state governed by the rule of law is not exactly a sign of courage or the will to find the truth.

Donald Trump, too, probably has little room for manoeuvre, because he too must take into account the military-industrial complex with all its modern facets. So the hope may rest with Judge Baraitser and/or the next instances. Both sides have announced that they will appeal the verdict. Joe Biden, whom the Guardian hopes for, is too close to the Clintons to seriously pin his hopes on him. An elegant way out would perhaps be if Baraitser refused to extradite Assange and the US quietly refrained from going through the courts.

Very unlikely, but you will be able to dream at Christmas time. It would be a redemption for the man Assange and his family and a sign of hope for freedom of the press in these times of (self-)censorship and the inflationary use of the term “misinformation”.

The Assange supporters will certainly not give up and will continue their actions even in these difficult times for meetings of all kinds. And I will continue to accompany you as best I can with my reporting.