Sunday, 22 July 2018

URGENT!! Glenn Greenwald: Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK

#Unity4J Emergency Public Meeting and Unveiling of Non-Violent Digital Action Plan



International media are reporting that WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief may imminently be handed by Ecuador to UK authorities. (Ref: https://disobedientmedia.com/2018/07/... over-of-julian-assange-to-the-uk-may-be-imminent/) If such an event occurs, it presents an immediate threat to Assange’s human rights, asylum rights, liberty and to press freedoms.

It would also be in direct contravention to the rulings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of human rights, both of which have found in his favour.

The #Unity4J movement in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is holding an emergency public meeting to unveil a plan for mass non-violent action to demand freedom for the journalist and publisher. High profile supporters of Julian Assange will be in attendance and unveil the new strategy. 
 

#Unity4J originated from an unplanned but timely response to injustice when Julian Assange’s internet access and visitation rights were abruptly taken away and swiftly grew into high-profile monthly online vigils endorsed by Chris Hedges, George Galloway, Ray McGovern, Bill Binney and Daniel Ellsberg among many other noteworthy figures. It is with that same sense of urgency and duty to take a public stand against oppression that we are organising this Saturday to resist the escalated violations of Julian's basic rights. 
 

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love." -Julian Assange

Spread the word.

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK. What Comes Next?
Glenn Greenwald

21 July, 2018

ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities.

Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia.
Presidential decree signed on July 17 by Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, outlining his trip to London and Madrid

A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.


The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno – who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the UK, Spain and the U.S. – will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks.

The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.

The only known criminal proceeding Assange currently faces is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” – basically a minor bail violation charge that arose when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than complying with bail conditions by returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden.

That charge carries a prison term of three months and a fine, though it is possible that the time Assange has already spent in prison in the UK could be counted against that sentence. In 2010, Assange was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison, kept in isolation, for 10 days until he was released on bail; he was then under house arrest for 550 days at the home of a supporter.

Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, told the Intercept that he would argue that all of that prison time already served should count toward (and thus completely fulfill) any prison term imposed on the “failure to surrender” charge, though British prosecutors would almost certainly contest that claim. Assange would also argue that he had a reasonable, valid basis for seeking asylum rather than submitting to UK authorities: namely, well-grounded fear that he would be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution for the act of publishing documents.

Beyond that minor charge, British prosecutors could argue that Assange’s evading of legal process in the UK was so protracted, intentional and malicious that it rose beyond mere “failure to surrender” to “contempt of court,” which carries a prison term of up to two years. Just on those charges alone, then, Assange faces a high risk of detention for another year or even longer in a British prison.

Currently, that is the only known criminal proceeding Assange faces. In May, 2017, Swedish prosecutors announced they were closing their investigation into the sexual assault allegations due to the futility of proceeding in light of Assange’s asylum and the time that has elapsed.

THE FAR MORE IMPORTANT question that will determine Assange’s future is what the U.S. Government intends to do. The Obama administration was eager to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, but ultimately concluded that there was no way to do so without either also prosecuting newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian which published the same documents, or create precedents that would enable the criminal prosecution of media outlets in the future.

Indeed, it is technically a crime under U.S. law for anyone – including a media outlet – to publish certain types of classified information. Under U.S. law, for instance, it was a felony for the Washington Post’s David Ignatius to report on the contents of telephone calls, intercepted by the NSA, between then National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, even though such reporting was clearly in the public interest since it proved Flynn lied when he denied such contacts.

That the Washington Post and Ignatius – and not merely their sources – violated U.S. criminal law by revealing the contents of intercepted communications with a Russian official is made clear by the text of 18 § 798 of the U.S. Code, which provides (emphasis added):
Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates … or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes … any classified information … obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”


But the U.S. Justice Department has never wanted to indict and prosecute anyone for the crime of publishing such material, contenting themselves instead to prosecuting the government sources who leak it. Their reluctance has been due to two reasons: first, media outlets would argue that any attempts to criminalize the mere publication of classified or stolen documents is barred by the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment, a proposition the DOJ has never wanted to test; second, no DOJ has wanted as part of its legacy the creation of a precedent that allows the U.S. Government to criminally prosecute journalists and media outlets for reporting classified documents.

But the Trump administration has made clear that they have no such concerns. Quite the contrary: last April, Trump’s then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now his Secretary of State, delivered a deranged, rambling, highly threatening broadside against WikiLeaks. Without citing any evidence, Pompeo decreed that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” and thus declared: “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”

The long-time right-wing Congressman, now one of Trump’s most loyal and favored cabinet officials, also explicitly rejected any First Amendment concerns about prosecuting Assange, arguing that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice . . . they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”

Pompeo then issued this bold threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”


Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has similarly vowed not only to continue and expand the Obama DOJ’s crackdown on sources, but also to consider the prosecution of media outlets that publish classified information. It would be incredibly shrewd for Sessions to lay the foundation for doing so by prosecuting Assange first, safe in the knowledge that journalists themselves – consumed with hatred for Assange due to personal reasons, professional jealousies, and anger over the role they believed he played in 2016 in helping Hillary Clinton lose – would unite behind the Trump DOJ and in support of its efforts to imprison Assange.

During the Obama years, it was a mainstream view among media outlets that prosecuting Assange would be a serious danger to press freedoms. Even the Washington Post Editorial Page, which vehemently condemned WikiLeaks, warned in 2010 that any such prosecution would “criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk” all media outlets. When Pompeo and Sessions last year issued their threats to prosecute Assange, former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller insisted that no such prosecution could ever succeed:

For years, the Obama DOJ searched for evidence that Assange actively assisted Chelsea Manning or other sources in the hacking or stealing of documents – in order to prosecute them for more than merely publishing documents – and found no such evidence. But even that theory – that a publisher of classified documents can be prosecuted for assisting a source – would be a severe threat to press freedom, since journalists frequently work in some form of collaboration with sources who remove or disclose classified information. And nobody has ever presented evidence that WikiLeaks conspired with whomever hacked the DNC and Podesta email inboxes to effectuate that hacking.

But there seems little question that, as Sessions surely knows, large numbers of U.S. journalists – along with many, perhaps most, Democrats – would actually support the Trump DOJ in prosecuting Assange for publishing documents. After all, the DNC sued WikiLeaks in April for publishing documents – a serious, obvious threat to press freedom – and few objected.

And it was Democratic Senators such as Dianne Feinstein who, during the Obama years, were urging the prosecution of WikiLeaks, with the support of numerous GOP Senators. There is no doubt that, after 2016, support among both journalists and Democrats for imprisoning Assange for publishing documents would be higher than ever.

IF THE U.S. DID INDICT Assange for alleged crimes relating to the publication of documents, or if they have already obtained a sealed indictment, and then uses that indictment to request that the U.K. extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial, that alone would ensure that Assange remains in prison in the U.K. for years to come.
Assange would, of course, resist any such extradition on the ground that publishing documents is not a cognizable crime and that the U.S is seeking his extradition for political charges that, by treaty, cannot serve as the basis for extradition. But it would take at least a year, and probably closer to three years, for U.K. courts to decide these extradition questions. And while all of that lingers, Assange would almost certainly be in prison, given that it is inconceivable that a British judge would release Assange on bail given what happened the last time he was released.


All of this means that it is highly likely that Assange – under his best-case scenario – faces at least another year in prison, and will end up having spent a decade in prison despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime. He has essentially been punished – imprisoned – by process.


And while it is often argued that Assange has only himself to blame, it is beyond doubt, given the Grand Jury convened by the Obama DOJ and now the threats of Pompeo and Sessions, that the fear that led Assange to seek asylum in the first place – being extradited to the U.S. and politically persecuted for political crimes – was well-grounded.

Assange, his lawyers and his supporters always said that he would immediately board a plane to Stockholm if he were guaranteed that doing so would not be used to extradite him to the U.S., and for years offered to be questioned by Swedish investigators inside the embassy in London, something Swedish prosecutors only did years later. Citing those facts, a United Nations panel ruled in 2016 that the actions of the U.K. government constituted “arbitrary detention” and a violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights.

But if, as seems quite likely, the Trump administration finally announces that it intends to prosecute Assange for publishing classified U.S. Government documents, we will be faced with the bizarre spectacle of U.S. journalists – who have spent the last two years melodramatically expressing grave concern over press freedom due to insulting tweets from Donald Trump about Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd or his mean treatment of Jim Acosta – possibly cheering for a precedent that would be the gravest press freedom threat in decades.

That precedent would be one that could easily be used to put them in a prison cell alongside Assange for the new “crime” of publishing any documents that the U.S. Government has decreed should not be published. When it comes to press freedom threats, such an indictment would not be in the same universe as name-calling tweets by Trump directed at various TV personalities.

When it came to denouncing due process denials and the use of torture at Guantanamo, it was not difficult for journalists to set aside their personal dislike for Al Qaeda sympathizers to denounce the dangers of those human rights and legal abuses. When it comes to free speech assaults, journalists are able to set aside their personal contempt for a person’s opinions to oppose the precedent that the government can punish people for expressing noxious ideas.

It should not be this difficult for journalists to set aside their personal emotions about Assange to recognize the profound dangers – not just to press freedoms but to themselves – if the U.S. Government succeeds in keeping Assange imprisoned for years to come, all due to its attempts to prosecute him for publishing classified or stolen documents. That seems the highly likely scenario once Ecuador hands over Assange to the U.K.


Greenwald: Ecuador President Will Handover Assange to British During London Visit


21 July, 2018

After 6 six years of arbitrary detention in the basement of the Ecuadorian Embassy in Belgravia, London, the world’s longest slow-motion chase may be reaching its climatic conclusion.

It appears that Ecuador has caved into US pressure on the issue. When they first gave asylum to Assange in 2012, his stock was high among the international liberal intelligensia, and so then President Rafael Correa was able to use this as a public relations brace against western pressure on the issue. Unfortunately, the 2016 US Election changed all that, as Assange and Wikileaks were blamed for hurting Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. Instead Assange is now shunned by the Liberal Left and embraced by supporters of Trump and Russia – two reasons why the current Ecuadorian government appear ready to wash their hands of Assange’s cause.

Another sign that the US forces are pushing events is last week’s announcement that an Ecuadorian court ordered the arrest of Assange’s main ally former President  Correa – leaving Assange more isolated than ever.

According to reports, events could accelerate as soon as this Monday morning.
RT International reported today…
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is either about to strike or has already struck an agreement with British authorities on withdrawing the asylum protection of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald reports.

Moreno is visiting the UK as part of his European trip between July 22 and 28. His visit is not said to be an official one, so he is not expected to meet with any high-ranking UK officials and would instead participate in the Global Disability Summit on July 24, which is co-hosted by the UK government.

However, the Ecuadorian leader is also expected to use his trip to the British Isles to “finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange,” according to the Intercept’s co-editor, Glenn Greenwald, who is best known for a series of reports detailing the US surveillance programs based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Greenwald also supported and defended Wikileaks, as well as the whistleblowers who provided materials for the website, for many years.

Moreno is “close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized,” the agreement, Greenwald writes, citing an unnamed “source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office.”Under this agreement, the WikiLeaks founder could be ejected from the Ecuadorian Embassy and handed over to the UK authorities “as early as this week,”Greenwald says.

Earlier, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources, that Ecuador is ready to hand Assange over to the UK in “coming weeks or even days.” According to Greenwald, such a development could lead to Assange being sent to jail for at least one more year “under his best-case scenario,” which would mean that he would have spent nearly a decade imprisoned “despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime.”

As Sweden dropped its sexual assault investigation against Assange back in May 2017, the only criminal proceeding he is now facing in the UK is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender.” It goes back to Assange obtaining asylum from Ecuador and finding refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy instead of complying with bail conditions in the UK.

Such an offense carries a prison term of three months, Greenwald says, warning, however, that the UK authorities could potentially elevate charges against Assange to “contempt of court,” which carries a prison term of up to two years. Besides, UK authorities are unlikely to provide a guarantee that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited to the US, which is apparently bent on imprisoning him for releasing classified documents.

Publication of classified materials is technically a crime for anyone in the US, but US Department of Justice officials have been reluctant to prosecute anyone on such charges so far, due to concerns that such a case could lead to them being accused of violating press freedom rights and, thus, the First Amendment.

Any journalist who cheers when the Sessions DOJ indicts WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing docs - as they have vowed to do - should just never again pretend to believe in press freedom. Same for those who supported the DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks for *publishing* documents.



However, the Trump administration has seemingly made clear that they have no such concerns. While he was still in charge of the CIA, Mike Pompeo once said that while WikiLeaks, “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice . . . they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
21st Century Wire says…

And there you have it. While this long chapter finally closes, a whole new international legal drama is now set to unfold – and with so much at stake and so many players and factions involved – it may take a further 5 years to resolve.
The reality is that the US may face some serious legal challenges when attempting to extradite and ultimately prosecute Assange in the US. While Swedish charges have been dropped, the law is not on Washington’s side if they are hoping to bring the Wikileaks founder in under the heading “espionage”. While 

it makes for good political rhetoric in the US, Assange is technically a publisher and Wikileaks is a media outlet – and no amount of spin in Washington can change that. Eventually, a court will have to rule on this crucial distinction. With this in mind, a strong case can be made in the British legal system that his situation has become politicized, including numerous belligerent statements made already by leading US political figures, including a statement madeby current President Trump) and therefore he would in no way be given a fair trial in the United States. On this point, Assange could retain some of the best human rights barristers, and will have a substantial legal fund to fight his case, in which case he may ride out a short sentence on remand in the UK, but still be somewhat cornered by US efforts to either apprehend him or restrict his movement afterwards.

In addition to this, if eventually pushed into the hands of Washington’s legal system, Assange may still possess some serious leverage. Aside from knowledge of any potentially embarrassing undisclosed Snowden leaks, Julian Assange may also have intimate knowledge of the DNC Leaks (or DNC ‘hack’ at his detractors commonly refer to it). The viability of the US establishment’s entire Russiagate narrative hinges on on how the DNC narrative is perceived by the wider public, and the US establishment would like very much for any new information which might alter their current narrative of “Russian hacking” – to remain out of the public discourse. This piece of information alone, and whether or not it airs publicly – could potentially be enough for Assange to bargain his way to freedom if caught on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even if he’s turned over this week, this story is far from over.

*WATCH THIS SPACE*

Ray McGovern Interviewed by Suzie Dawson in #Unity4J-2.0 Vigil
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