One for the books

Julian Assange has always been something of a polarising figure. Many see him as a champion of journalistic ideals, many others as either a threat to their state or even as a “seedy, egomaniac”. The latter views seem to be influenced by the rape allegations put forward against Assange that later dramatically collapsed upon themselves. In fact, they are just one part of a longstanding enmity toward Assange on the part of its author. As I said, he is capable of rubbing some people very much the wrong way.

Among these, perhaps, is Donald Trump, by no means a fan of the press and now in ultimate control of the prosecution being carried out against Assange for collaborating with Chelsea Manning in the leaking of US secrets. After seven years hiding from the charges in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, Assange was finally arrested in April 2019. After almost a year languishing in abysmal conditions in Belmarsh prison, Assange is now finally getting his proper day(s) in court. 

Earlier this year, in February, he had the first stage of the extradition hearings which this week entered a new round. It has appeared from the outset though that the proceedings are intended to go only one way. The presiding judge, Vanessa Baraitser gives every benefit to the prosecution while making the defence jump through a series of wildly moving hoops and she herself has apparently displayed a pattern of bringing prewritten final determinations, rendering defence arguments utterly pointless.

These revelations, and many more, come from Craig Murray, former UK diplomat who outlined the first stage of the extradition case over four very detailed days. Now that proceedings have restarted, Mr. Murray has provided similar vital service in giving a precise breakdown of a legal case that will have incredible impact on journalistic freedom. His coverage of the past three days of events reveal courtroom drama with a rare level of tension and are probably the single best source for developments in the case. And, if one thing is certain, it is that this case will develop further, for good or ill.

Julian Assange’s fate remains unknown, but then so is that of Mr. Murray himself who faces charges related to his earlier coverage of the trial of Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party. Mr. Salmond was found not guilty of a slew of charges of sexual impropriety which now seem to have been fabricated purely as part of a political agenda as too, we might infer, are those faced by Mr. Murray. The trials of both Salmond and Assange have given the world a glimpse into how the British establishment can employ the legal system as a tool to suppress both political independence and the actions of government watchdogs. let us hope that a future trial involving Mr. Murray will not also show it being used to suppress freedom of speech.

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