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UK: Julian Assange’s trial: 2nd day

Extradition Hearing Against Julian Assange Begins Amid Protests And False Claims By US Government

Tuesday 25 February 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://popularresistance.org/extradition-hearing-against-julian-assange-begins-amid-protests-and-false-claims-by-us-government/

Extradition Hearing Against Julian Assange Begins Amid Protests And False Claims By US Government

By Kevin Zeese,
Popular Resistance

February 24, 2020

Above: A pedestrian passes pro-Assange graffiti outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In what has been described by many as the most important case for Freedom of the Press in the 21st Century, the extradition hearings against Julian Assange began on Monday, February 24, 2020.

Protesters were outside the Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London as the sound of protest was heard in the distance. The slogans “Free Julian Assange”, “Journalism is not a crime”, “Free press, Free Assange”, were repeated over and over again in the crowd. In court, Assange said he cannot hear or concentrate because of the noise outside the court. He said he was “very appreciative of the public support” but he was unable to hear properly. He said, “I’m very appreciative of the public support, I understand they must be disgusted.”

The protesters include approximately a dozen yellow vest protesters who traveled from Paris overnight. Jean-Baptiste Voltuan, 64, said: “I am a yellow vest here to support because he did the best for all the world, for his courage. “There are dozens of us. We took a night bus from Paris.” Yellow Vests, who’ve traveled to London from Paris to protest outside the courthouse, present a vest to John Shipton to give to his son Julian Assange.

Celebrities such as Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood have joined the wave of protests taking place since last Saturday, to protest spying charges against Assange.

“Assange is an innocent man, wrongly accused. The only reason he is on trial is for exposing information that is inconvenient for the United States government,” Roger Waters has told reporters.

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson addressed the media outside the courthouse. He asked why the court was discussing the alleged harm done by the releases on Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010 and not the war crimes that those documents revealed. “That is what we should be talking about in a courtroom in this country.

US prosecutors argued that Assange is not a journalist and that he risked the lives of US informants. These false arguments about people being harmed by Wikileaks’s reporting US war crimes have been discredited bu the statements of US government officials. Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, spoke with the press outside the courthouse during a break and denounced the prosecutors’ allegation, saying:

“The essential part of the argument of the prosectors’ case is that WikiLeaks publications endangered sources. This is simply not true. The Pentagon admitted, under oath, in Chelsea Manning’s trial that nobody had been hurt by the releases.

Robert Gates, ex-secretary of defense, in testimony before Congress said it’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, but no damage was done. I’ll note that the prosecutor didn’t give one example of a broken fingernail. He just said sources were endangered. Well it’s simply not true.”

Longtime Assange associate, Joseph Farrell, also spoke to the press saying these were the same falsehoods that were told in the Chelsea Manning trial:

The 48-year-old Assange has been indicted in the U.S. on 18 charges over the publication of US cables a decade ago and if found guilty could face a 175-year prison sentence. If extradited Assange is not expected to get a fair trial in the United States and prosecutors have already announced that he and his lawyers have no First Amendment rights in the US so they will not be allowed to speak about the case.

This week’s extradition hearing is the beginning of a multi-year process. After a week of opening arguments, the extradition case is due to break until May, when the two sides will lay out their evidence. The judge is not expected to rule until several months after that, with the losing side likely to appeal. If the courts approve extradition, the British government will have the final say.

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Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-51633303

UK: Julian Assange ’phoned White House to warn of risk to lives’

25.02.20 1 hour ago

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange tried to phone the White House to warn them unredacted files were about to be published online, a court has heard.

Mr Assange is fighting extradition to the US to face trial over the leaking of classified US military documents.

His lawyer dismissed claims he “knowingly” put lives at risk by publishing the names of informants.

He told Woolwich Crown Court that a book by the Guardian newspaper was to blame for the names being published.

Those suggestions have been rejected by the Guardian.

The claims came on the second day of the extradition hearing for Mr Assange, 48, who is accused of conspiring to hack into US military databases to acquire sensitive secret information, which was then published on the Wikileaks website.

Lawyers for Mr Assange claim the US charges are politically motivated.

How will the UK decide on Assange extradition?
Assange data breach ’put lives at risk’

Mark Summers QC, representing Mr Assange, told the hearing in London that Wikileaks had begun redacting a tranche of 250,000 leaked cables in November 2010, working with media partners around the world as well as the US government.

He said that in February 2011 the Guardian published a book about Wikileaks which contained a password to the unredacted documents.

He said it wasn’t until months later that it was discovered the password could be used to access the unredacted database, which was revealed by German news outlet Der Freitag on 25 August 2011.

On that day, Mr Assange called the White House and asked to speak to then secretary of state Hillary Clinton “as a matter of urgency” over fears the documents were about to be dumped online by third parties who had gained access, Mr Summers told the court. He was told to ring back in a few hours.

Mr Summers said Mr Assange had warned: “I don’t understand why you’re not seeing the urgency of this.”Unless we do something, then people’s lives are put at risk."
’No concerns expressed’

Responding to the claims made in court, a Guardian spokesman said it was “entirely wrong” that its 2011 Wikileaks book led to the publication of unredacted files.

He 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.”

He added that “no concerns were expressed” by Mr Assange or Wikileaks about security being compromised when the book was published.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Supporters for Julian Assange demonstrate outside the court for a second day

Prosecutors argued on Monday that Mr Assange knowingly put hundreds of sources around the world at risk of torture and death by publishing the unredacted documents containing names or other identifying details.

But Mr Summers told the court that the US extradition request “boldly and brazenly” misrepresented the facts.

He said the US government, which was involved in the redaction process, knows “what actually occurred” which was “far from being a reckless, unredacted release”.

In response, James Lewis QC, representing the US government, told the court that Mr Assange “didn’t have to publish the unredacted cables”.

“He decided to do so on a widely followed and easily searchable website, knowing that it was dangerous to do so,” he added.

Mr Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison since last September ahead of his extradition hearing.

He was originally jailed for 50 weeks in May 2019 for breaching his bail conditions after going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years.

He sought asylum at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation that he denied. That investigation was subsequently dropped.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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Source: https://www.9news.com.au/world/julian-assange-court-case-london/072d51bb-ebae-4082-9b61-d8c211405d46

Julian Assange extradition hearing: WikiLeaks redactions ’extreme’ court told

By AAP

4:40am Feb 26, 2020

Video here 0:58

Julian Assange extradition battle

WikiLeaks took “extreme measures” to redact sensitive names before releasing thousands of secret US military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Julian Assange’s extradition trial has heard.

The US wants to extradite Assange from the UK to face one charge of conspiring to commit computer intrusion and 17 of violating the Espionage Act and argue he knowingly endangered the lives of informants.
Lawyers for the US government say the WikiLeaks founder knowingly put lives of informants at risk with his organisation’s releases, and that sources disappeared afterwards.

Image: Australian Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has appeared in a UK court in London to fight an extradition request lodged by the US Government. (Supplied)

But Assange’s barrister Mark Summers said Assange’s organisation withheld the release of 20 per cent of the Afghan War Diary and fully redacted the Iraq War Diary in 2010 to protect the names within.
Der Speigel investigative journalist John Goetz described WikiLeaks’ redactions as “extreme” at the time, Summers told the hearing at London’s Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday.
“These were more extreme measures than I had ever previously observed as a journalist to secure the data and ensure they could not be accessed by anyone who was not a journalist,” Summers said, reading a statement from Goetz to the court.
WikiLeaks’ redactions also came after Assange had been told by his source, former US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, that the material had been “sanitised”.

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The barrister said Manning believed the material was “historical and non-sensitive” as it contained no sensitive names of people.
Summers also argued there had been an abuse of process because the US extradition request failed to accurately state the correct offence and sentence faced by Assange, and his alleged conduct.

Earlier, Summers has told the hearing that thousands of classified US diplomatic files obtained by WikiLeaks were only made public after the password to unlock the trove was published in a book.

In this May 19, 2017, file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures to supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been in self imposed exile since 2012.

Assange, 48, is facing a hearing to decide whether he should be extradited to the US to face 17 charges of violating the US Espionage Act and one of conspiring to commit computer intrusion (photo: 2017) (AP)

British journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding published the password in their book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy in 2011.
“Far from being a reckless, un-redacted release ... what actually occurred is that one of the media partners published a book in February 2011, the password to the un-redacted materials in a book, which then allowed the world to publish those un-redacted materials,” Summers said in court.
“The gates got opened, not by Mr Assange or WikiLeaks.”

Assange, 48, is facing a hearing to decide whether he should be extradited to the US to face 17 charges of violating the US Espionage Act and one of conspiring to commit computer intrusion.

The US government says the release of the files was reckless and that Assange knowingly put the lives of sources at risk
But Summers said WikiLeaks had initially been very cautious about releasing the files and reached out to newspapers including The Guardian, Der Speigel, Le Monde, El Pais and the New York Times.

He said they worked out a process of redaction together and the media partners had even run the redactions by representatives of the US government and the US State Department.
“The State Department initially had an active participation in the redaction process,” Summers said.
German outlet Der Freitag announced they also had the password, while websites Cryptome and PirateBay published it alongside the un-redacted files.

WikiLeaks repeatedly tried to warn the US State Department and the US embassy about a possibly impending leak, Summers said.
He said Assange phoned the State Department and urged them to step up their warnings to informants named in the material.
“I don’t understand why you can’t see this is an emergency, unless we do something, people’s lives will be put at risk,” Summers quoted Assange as saying in the call.
“The notion that Mr Assange knowingly put lives at risk by dumping un-redacted cables is knowingly inaccurate,” he said.

Summers also explained that US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who provided the documents to Assange, indicated the material was not captioned “no diss”, meaning “no dissolution”.
Manning indicated to Assange that the files were available to “a wide number of individuals” and there was no genuinely sensitive files in his releases to WikiLeaks.
Summers said Assange had never solicited Manning for diplomatic cables as they were not on WikiLeak’s “most wanted list”.

Julian Assange is having his case files confiscated and being “stripped naked” by prison guards amid his legal bid against extradition to the United States, a court has heard (EPA)
Earlier in proceedings the court has heard Assange is having case files confiscated and being “stripped naked” by prison guards.

Defence barrister Edward Fitzgerald told the Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday that the WikiLeaks founder has been handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and put in five separate holding cells.

Assange, 48, is facing 17 charges of violating the US Espionage Act and one of conspiring to commit computer intrusion over leaking and publishing thousands of classified US diplomatic and military files in 2010.
Mr Fitzgerald said the case files, which the Australian was busy reading in court on Monday, were confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night.
He asked the judge to consider Assange’s treatment, as it was harming his “right to a fair trial”.
“So as not to impinge on the defendant’s ability to participate on these proceedings,” he told the court.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that she did not have the legal power to comment or rule on Assange’s conditions, but encouraged the defence team to formally bring the matter up with the prison.
However, she said she would expect Assange to be treated in a way that protected his right to a fair trial.
“I think everyone in the court supports a fair hearing,” she said.
James Lewis QC said the prosecution said they didn’t want Assange to be held in a condition or experience treatment that jeopardised his right to a fair hearing.

Assange dressed in a grey suit, grey sweater and grey shirt, pursed his lips and squeezed his eyes shut.
He once gestured that he could not hear the proceedings.