UPDATE 10. April 2020: Julian Assange's fiancée and mother of his two sons, the lawyer Morris, speaks out.
Barbaric British Decisions
By Dr. Binoy Kampmark - 29. March 2020
“To expose another human being to serious illness, and to the threat of losing their life, is grotesque and quite unnecessary. This is not justice, it is a barbaric decision.”- Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, March 26, 2020
Social distancing is not a word that seems to have reached certain parts of the British legal system. Granted, it is an odd one, best refashioned as an anti-social act for the sake of preservation. Marooned in some state of legal obliviousness, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser (image below) had little time for the bail application made by counsel for Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks publisher had again rubbed the judicial person the wrong way. Her memory was not unfazed: Assange had absconded in 2012 and had blotted his copy book. He would not be permitted to it again.
Not that the application was unsound. The central ground was the safety of the publisher, whose health has been assailed by seven years of confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, followed by his incarceration at the high security facility at Belmarsh. Prisons, featuring high concentrations of people, have become fertile grounds for spreading COVID-19. The March 17 report by Richard Coker, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, cautioned on how the transmission of the virus in “congregate settings” typified by “poor sanitation, poor ventilation, and overcrowding” could lead to overwhelming “a population, particularly a population with co-morbidities or that is elderly.” Coker was unequivocal in recommending that unnecessary detention regimes should be eased. “This should be done before the virus has chance to enter a detention centre.”
Representatives of the UK penal system have shown varying degrees of concern. There have even been calls for early release or means by which prison is avoided as a form of punishment altogether. The UK Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene executively to reduce numbers. The head of the Prison Governors Association Andrea Albutt has warned about the dangers posed by current detention arrangements. “We’ve lots of prisoners, two people in a cell built for one”, citing Swansea as an example where 80 percent of prisoners were doubled up. “We have that all across the country.” Far better, she suggested, to reduce the population. Such a measure “helps stabilise prisons”, “calm prisoners”, and reduce the staff to prisoner ratio. “If we have less prisoners doubled [up in cells], it will be easier to isolate those who’ve been confirmed as having the virus or have the symptoms so we can delay the spread.”
Those standing by current UK prison guidelines remain defiantly confident that enough is being done. The Ministry of Justice is convinced that “robust contingency plans” have been put in place prioritising “the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors.” Procedures dealing with managing “the outbreak of infectious diseases and prisons” were already in place, and were being used to identify COVID-19 cases. Sanitising facilities such as hand washing “are available to prisoners, staff and visitors and we have worked closely with suppliers to ensure the supply of soap and cleaning materials.”
The ministry remains unclear on how the principle of social distancing, one seemingly anathema to the penal system, has been applied. For her part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, considers such measures in crowded, unhygienic facilities “practically impossible”. Undeterred by such observations, the MOJ merely refers to a temporary suspension of “the usual regime”, meaning that “prisoners can no longer take part in usual recreational activities such as using the gym, going to worship or visiting the library.” Nor can prisoners receive visits. Such measures are bound to cause ripples of dissatisfaction.
Not much of this impressed the judicial consciousness. Assange’s legal team were valiant in their efforts to state the obvious. These were proceedings taking place on the third day of the country’s coronavirus lockdown. Edward Fitzgerald QC, sporting a facemask, insisted that, “These [medical] experts consider that he is particularly at risk of developing coronavirus and, if he does, that it develops into very severe complications for him… If he does develop critical symptoms it would be very doubtful that Belmarsh would be able to cope with his condition.” Prisons were “epidemiological pumps”, fertile grounds for the transmission of disease, and Assange’s continued detention posed endangering circumstances “from which he cannot escape.”
Baraitser remained unconvinced. She was satisfied that there were no instances of COVID-19 at Belmarsh, a very cavalier assessment given that a hundred staff personnel were in self-isolation. She was more moved by the submission from Clair Dobbin, representing the US government, that Assange posed a high risk of absconding. Granting bail to him posed “insurmountable hurdles”. Fitzgerald’s response, to no avail, was to focus the matter on Assange’s survival, not absconsion.
Judge Baraitser has shown a certain meanness through these case management and extradition proceedings. In the Wednesday hearing at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, things had not improved. “As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not as of itself provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release.” These were words uttered on the same day that 19 prisoners in 10 prisons in the UK had tested positive for COVID-19.
The ruling angered Doctors for Assange, comprising a list of some 200 physicians scattered across the globe. “Despite our prior unequivocal statement that Mr Assange is at increased risk of serious illness and death were he to contract coronavirus and the evidence of medical experts,” their March 27 statement reads, “Baraitser dismissed the risk, citing UK guidelines for prisons in responding to the global pandemic.” The group cited Baraister’s own solemn words deferring to the wisdom of the UK prison authorities. “I have no reason not to trust this advice as both evidence-based and reliable and appropriate.”
The medical practitioners took firm issue with the steadfast refusal of the judge to accept the medical side of the equation. Not only was he at “increased risk of contracting and dying from the novel disease coronavirus (COVID-19)”, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, he was also more vulnerable because of the torments of psychological torture and a “history of medical neglect … fragile health, and chronic lung disease.”
The pattern of rejection and denial has been a consistent feature in Baraitser’s rulings regarding Assange’s case. When his legal team sought to liberate their client from the glass case in court for reasons of advice and consultation, the judge refused. She even refused to accept the reasoning of the prosecutor James Lewis QC, who suggested that letting Assange sit with his legal team was an uncomplicated matter. Her reasoning: To let Assange leave his glassed perch would be, effectively, an application for bail and mean he had escaped the court’s custody. True to form on Wednesday, Assange, present via videolink, had his connection terminated after an hour. This prevented him from hearing the defence summation and the concluding remarks of the judge. The despoiling of justice, even in the face of a pandemic, remains an unwavering aspect of Assange’s fate.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email:
The original source of this article Copyright © Dr. Binoy Kampmark, Global Research, 2020
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Julian Assange’s fiancée speaks out for the first time
Julian Assange’s fiancée (and children) revealed for the first time
•Apr 11, 2020
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fathered two children with lawyer Stella Morris in Ecuador’s UK embassy
- Lawyer Stella Morris said she and Assange have been in a relationship since 2015 and have two children
- Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in London since he left the Ecuadorean embassy a year ago
By Agence France-Presse / DM / ET -
Julian Assange is reportedly the father of two boys – aged two and one – born to South African-born lawyer Stella Morris. Photo: WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fathered two children with one of his lawyers while holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London for much of the past decade, a report on Sunday said.
The 48-year-old Australian is allegedly the dad of two boys – aged two and one – born to South African-born lawyer Stella Morris, The Mail on Sunday reported.
The family spent time in Sweden meaning she was a fluent Swedish speaker, able to help defend Assange against the allegations, which were rescinded last year
The newspaper published the report alongside photographs of Assange with the toddlers and an interview with Morris who said they “fell in love” and were planning to marry.
The couple have been engaged since 2017, according to the paper, which said it learned about the revelations in court papers seen last week.
Assange is being held in London’s high security Belmarsh prison as he fights an extradition request by the United States to stand trial there on espionage charges.
The embassy of Ecuador in London. File photo: AFP
The Mail on Sunday said Morris chose to reveal their relationship and the existence of their sons because “she fears Assange’s life is at serious risk if he remains in Belmarsh”, due to the spread of coronavirus.
Morris wants the one-time hacker released under British government plans to allow some prisoners temporary release, amid fears Covid-19 could sweep through jails.
But Assange last month failed in a bail bid based on his risk of catching the virus, with a British judge saying there were “no grounds” for his release.
Assange’s lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
WikiLeaks responded to the report on Twitter.
“Julian Assange’s newly revealed partner, mother of their 2 young children, urges UK government to bail him and other vulnerable prisoners as #coronavirus sweeps prisons,” it said.
The whistle-blowing organisation posted its own video interview with Morris soon after, in which she detailed her purported five-year relationship with Assange.
Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He ensconced himself in the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012 after skipping bail to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden, but was finally dragged out last year.
He reportedly conceived the first child with Morris in 2016, according to The Mail on Sunday.
The couple had begun a relationship the previous year while the lawyer visited him to work on his legal situation, it said.
Belmarsh prison, where Julian Assange is being held. Photo: AFP
Assange watched the birth of both children in London hospitals via live video-link and met the elder boy, named Gabriel, after he was smuggled into the embassy, the paper added.
Both boys are said to be British citizens and have reportedly visited their father in prison.
Morris told The Mail on Sunday: “I love Julian deeply and I am looking forward to marrying him.
“Julian has been fiercely protective of me and has done his best to shield me from the nightmares of his life.”
She said she had lived “quietly and privately”, raising Gabriel and his brother Max, while “longing for the day we could be together as a family”.
Morris added: “Now I have to speak out because I can see that his life is on the brink.”
Julian Assange was 'handcuffed 11 times and stripped naked'
WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers complain of interference after first day of extradition hearing
By Ben Quinn - 25. February 2020
Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part.
Their appeal to the judge overseeing the trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London was also supported by legal counsel for the US government, who said it was essential the WikiLeaks founder be given a fair trial.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for Assange, said the case files, which the prisoner was reading in court on Monday, were confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night and that he was put in five cells.
The judge, Vanessa Baraitser, replied that she did not have the legal power to comment or rule on Assange’s conditions but encouraged the defence team to formally raise the matter with the prison.
The details emerged on the second day of Assange’s extradition hearing, during which his legal team denied that he had “knowingly placed lives at risk” by publishing unredacted US government files.
The court was told Wikileaks had entered into a collaboration with the Guardian, El País, the New York Times and other media outlets to make redactions to 250,000 leaked cables in 2010 and published them.
Mark Summers, QC, claimed the unredacted files had been published because a password to this material had appeared in a Guardian book on the affair. “The gates got opened not by Assange or WikiLeaks but by another member of that partnership,” he said.
The Guardian denied the claim.
“The Guardian has made clear it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange. However, it is entirely wrong to say the Guardian’s 2011 Wikileaks book led to the publication of unredacted US government files,” a spokesman said.
“The book contained a password which the authors had been told by Julian Assange was temporary and would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours. The book also contained no details about the whereabouts of the files. No concerns were expressed by Assange or Wikileaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. Wikileaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.”
The Guardian’s former investigations editor David Leigh, who wrote the book with Luke Harding, said: “It’s a complete invention that I had anything to do with Julian Assange’s own publication decisions. His cause is not helped by people making things up.”
Assange, 48, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Australian, who could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty, is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.
As well as rejecting allegations that Assange had put the lives of US sources in danger, much of the hearing was taken up with defence counter arguments to the US case that he helped the former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to “crack” a scrambled password stored on US Department of Defense computers in order to continue sending leaked material to Wikileaks.
“You can accurately describe this chapter of the case as lies, lies and more lies,” Summers told the court at the outset of the day.
Manning already had access to the information and did not need to decode the scrambled password, or “hash value”. Nor could she have done so, as is alleged, in order to gain someone else’s password, because access to the system was recorded on the basis of IP addresses, Summers says.
As for the US contention that Assange had “solicited” leaks from Manning, a whistleblower who served more than six years of a 35-year military prison sentence before it was commuted by Barack Obama, Summers drew on Manning’s insistence that she was moved by her conscience.
James Lewis QC responded for the US government by accusing the defence of consistently misrepresenting the US indictment of Assange, adding: “What he [Summers] is trying to do is consistently put up a straw man and then knock it down.”
For example, on the question of cracking the password hash, he emphasised that the US was making a “general allegation” that doing so would make it “more difficult” for the authorities to identify the source of the leaks.
Lewis rejected claims made on Monday by the defence that the US had deliberately “ratcheted up” the charges against Assange in response to the fact that Swedish authorities announced in May 2019 their intention to reopen the investigation of Assange for alleged sexual offences and issue a European arrest warrant.
“The inference that charging Mr Assange with publishing the names of sources was simply ratcheting up the charges is defeated by the objective facts that the [US] grand jury found and indicted him on,” he said.
“It just does not follow we will ratchet up the charges in case there might be a competition. We have a clear unequivocal and legal basis for charging him and that is the end of it.”
The hearing continues.