WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is set to start on Monday September 7 at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of London and could last three or four weeks. Assange has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of conspiring with a source to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for his reporting on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture at Guantanamo Bay.
These charges against Assange are a part of a war on journalism. This is the first time that the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to prosecute a journalist, in this case an Australian citizen publishing material from outside of the US.
The gruesome attack on the First Amendment became naked during the February phase of the UK hearing of the US request for Assange’s extradition. On the first day of what unfolded as a grotesque show trial, Assange was subjected to strip searches twice, handcuffed 11 times, and his legal material was confiscated by prison officers. In the courtroom he was held behind a glass pane in the presence of private security officers, away from his lawyers, contrary to the accepted international standard.
Abuse of process
The prosecution of Assange has always been politically motivated. Nils Meltzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, recognized the coordinated abuse of power by Western governments involved in this case. After visiting Assange in prison with his medical team in May 2019, he reported that the WikiLeaks founder showed clear symptoms of prolonged psychological torture.
From his house arrest and arbitrary detention inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to his incarceration in Belmarsh Prison, Assange has been treated with extreme cruelty at the hands of the state and his basic rights have been severely violated.
For years, while he was inside the embassy, Assange was deprived of medical care, denied access to fresh air and sunlight by the UK government’s refusal to honor his right of asylum – in violation of the rulings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. His activities were under constant surveillance by a Spanish security contractor,