Courage our network

News

Assange’s protection from US extradition “in jeopardy”

CNN reports that refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy may end “any day now”

Almost two months after Julian Assange’s ability to receive visitors and access to digital communications was severely curtailed by the Government of Ecuador, CNN reports that the situation has become “unusually bad”.

Without the protection of the Ecuadorian government, Assange is liable to be arrested in the UK on charges related to a bail violation. More seriously, this would also open the way to questioning and a likely extradition request from the United States, where a grand jury investigation has been looking into Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing US secrets since 2010.

Last week, the Guardian reported that the UK and Ecuador were engaged in negotiations to attempt to bring the impasse over Assange’s asylum status to an end, without a guarantee that Assange should be protected from the prospect of extradition for his publication activities. Such a settlement would appear to breach principles of international and Ecuadorian domestic law.

In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Assange’s detention to be arbitrary, that he “has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty,” and that he is “entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.”

Without internet access or visitation, Assange has been even further cut off from the outside world. At least four open letters from civil society advocates around the world have been sent to the Ecuadorian government, calling for an end to Assange’s isolating conditions.

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in late 2017, which means he should have certain constitutional rights. Article 79 of the Ecuadorian Constitution bans the extradition of citizens: “In no case shall extradition of an Ecuadorian be granted.” Article 41 bans asylees from being returned: “The State shall respect and guarantee the principle of non-return.”

There is no question that Julian Assange faces immense danger from the prospect of a US prosecution. These threats have been reiterated under Trump. Last year, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service”, saying that the US “can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” The Trump Administration has shown a willingness to continue the Obama Administration’s policy of using the 1917 Espionage Act against leakers of classified information, but indicting a publisher would be a serious step forward in the war on journalism, putting the freedom of the US press more broadly at risk.

DNC threatens press freedom in lawsuit against WikiLeaks, Assange over 2016 election

The Democratic National Committee has launched a wide-ranging lawsuit against Russia, WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, Donald Trump – everyone it blames for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election. “Russia,” the suit contends, “mounted a brazen attack on American Democracy” by hacking the DNC and publicizing information damaging to the Clinton campaign through WikiLeaks. The narrative will be familiar to anyone who has followed any coverage of the US presidential election. But the charges that the DNC decided to levy should worry anyone with an interest in US press freedom.

The lawsuit contends that merely by publishing the DNC’s communications, a journalistic act obviously protected by the First Amendment that major newspapers carry out routinely, WikiLeaks is guilty of “economic espionage,” and is liable for damages resulting from that publication.

As Glenn Greenwald and Trevor Timm note in The Intercept, “Some of the most important stories in contemporary journalism have come from media outlets obtaining and publishing materials that were taken without authorization or even in violation of the law.”

They write:

Media figures constantly sounded the alarm about threats to press freedom each time Donald Trump posts an insulting tweet about various media personalities. But the DNC’s lawsuit — just like the attempts of the Obama and Trump DOJs to criminalize and prosecute whistleblowing under the Espionage Act — is an actual grave threat to those press freedoms.

Similarly, Norman Solomon observes for TruthDig:

The most unprincipled part of the lawsuit has to do with its targeting of Assange and WikiLeaks. That aspect of the suit shows that the DNC is being run by people whose attitude toward a free press—ironically enough—has marked similarities to Donald Trump’s.

The threat this suit poses to American journalism is hard to overstate. As Greenwald and Timm write, “No media outlet can function, indeed journalism cannot function, if it becomes illegal to publish secret materials taken by a source without authorization or even illegally.”

See the full lawsuit here:

Loading ....
  /  

 

Fourth open letter to #ReconnectJulian published in Norway

Julian Assange has now been without internet access – his only connection to the world beyond his small room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – for two weeks. In that time, three open letters have been published, calling on Ecuador to reconnect his internet. Leading intellectuals and artists published the first, then a Spanish-language letter was published, and then ex-CIA and intelligence officers delivered a letter of their own. On Monday, Courage Trustee and fashion icon Vivienne Westwood released a video message, imploring Ecuador to continue protecting the WikiLeaks publisher.

Additionally, more than 55,000 supporters have signed a petition launched by Brian Eno and Yanis Varoufakis, hosted by DiEM25, who have released a video message from Slavoj Zizek.


Now a fourth open letter has been published in newspapers in Norway, in Norwegian and in Spanish, signed by dozens of leading artists, authors and academics. As Ecuador doesn’t have an embassy in Norway, the letter was mailed by post to the Ecuadorian government.

See photos of the letter, and the Spanish-language translation below:

¡El aislamiento de Julian Assange tiene que acabar ya!

Con la presente, los abajo firmantes ­–en su mayoría periodistas, escritores y académicos afiliados a instituciones noruegas– solicitamos al Gobierno de Ecuador que restituya a Julian Assange la libertad de expresión consagrada en el artículo 10 de la Convención Europea de Derechos Humanos.

Assange sufre hoy un aislamiento prácticamente total. Desde su detención en Londres, en diciembre de 2010, su existencia ha sido la de un cautivo. Por añadidura, según un comunicado del 28 de marzo del presente año, las autoridades ecuatorianas acaban de suspenderle a Assange la comunicación con el mundo exterior a través del Internet y por teléfono, amén de someterle a un régimen de control de visitas. El mismo comunicado prevé nuevas medidas en el caso de que las ya ejecutadas no tengan el efecto deseado.

Los abajo firmantes estamos profundamente preocupados por el agravamiento de las condiciones de Assange. Hace ya años que un panel de la ONU declaró que Assange es víctima de una detención arbitraria y pidió a las autoridades británicas, entre otras, que garantizaran su libertad de movimiento. En enero pasado tres médicos independientes concluyeron que la salud del cautivo corría riesgo y que necesitaba tratamiento médico, al cual no tiene acceso actualmente. Su aislamiento prolongado constituye una violación intolerable de los derechos del individuo decretados tanto por la jurisdicción nacional como por convenciones internacionales, del mismo modo que va en contra del sentido general de justicia. Las consecuencias para la salud mental del recluso son imposibles de pronosticar a largo plazo.

Julian Assange no ha sido acusado de ninguna ofensa criminal. Hace casi un año que el Gobierno de Suecia retiró los cargos que había presentado contra Assange.  A pesar de ello, las autoridades estadounidenses continúan empeñadas en lograr su extradición, e incluso han intensificado los esfuerzos para enjuiciarlo. ¿Para qué? De hecho, el “delito” de Assange es un importante trabajo periodístico: ha dado a conocer información sobre vigilancia ilegítima y otras infracciones por parte de las autoridades, información que el público tiene todo el derecho de conocer pero que le ha sido ocultada.

Ya en una fecha temprana, Assange había advertido sobre  confabulaciones, en amplia escala, entre compañías de datos multinacionales y círculos de poder político, las cuales han sido comprobadas por revelaciones recientes, v.g. de las maniobras fraudulentas de Cambridge Analytica y Facebook.

Durante el gobierno anterior, Ecuador mostró gran coraje e integridad moral al concederle asilo político a Assange en su embajada en Londres, a pesar de la presión masiva por parte de los Estados Unidos. Por ello, tanto más decepcionante resulta el argumento del nuevo gobierno para interrumpir la comunicación con el exterior: “el comportamiento de Assange, con sus mensajes a través de las redes sociales, pone en riesgo las buenas relaciones que el país mantiene con Reino Unido, estados de la Unión Europea, entre otras naciones”.

Se entiende que el comunicado oficial alude principalmente a las expresiones críticas de Assange a la expulsión de diplomáticos rusos de varios países europeos por el envenenamiento del exespía Serguéi Skripal, así como sus comentarios sobre la situación del expresidente catalán Carles Puigdemont. No obstante, tales expresiones están protegidas por la Convención Europea de Derechos Humanos. El intento ecuatoriano de silenciar a Assange es, por lo tanto, un claro ataque contra su libertad de expresión así como contra sus derechos humanos fundamentales.

Si Ecuador, la UE y Gran Bretaña continúan contribuyendo al escandaloso amordazamiento de Assange, en el futuro ya no podrán invocar su papel de defensores de la libertad frente a países como Turquía, China o Arabia Saudita. Por consiguiente, la libertad de expresión se verá severamente amenazada como uno de los valores cardinales del mundo occidental.

No podemos quedarnos tranquilos ante el aislamiento al que es sometido un renombrado activista de la libertad de expresión, denunciante y periodista. Por eso le rogamos encarecidamente al Gobierno ecuatoriano que levante el aislamiento y amordazamiento que está sufriendo Julian Assange. ¡Que se respeten los derechos humanos de Julian Assange y se le garantice su derecho a expresarse libremente!

Bergen, Noruega, 6 de abril de 2018

Firman:

Marie Amdam, artista

Charles I. Armstrong, catedrático, Universidad de Agder

Jon Askeland, profesor, Universidad de Bergen

Arne Borge, periodista y poeta

Pedro Carmona Álvarez, músico y escritor

Susanne Christensen, crítica y escritora

Torstein Dahle, representante del Ayuntamiento de Bergen

Alf van der Hagen, editor y escritor

Terje Dragseth, poeta

Marit Eikemo, escritora

Chris Erichsen, músico y escritor

Tomas Espedal, escritor

Freddy Fjellheim, escritor

Eline Lund Fjæren, escritora

Kjartan Fløgstad, escritor

Sigmund Grønmo, catedrático, Universidad de Bergen

Henning Hagerup, crítico y escritor

Tormod Haugland, escritor

Svein Haugsgjerd, psiquiatra (emérito),

Vigdis Hjort, escritora

Egon Holstad, periodista

Tone Hødnebø, poeta

Leif Høghaug, profesor y poeta

Kari Jegerstedt, profesora, Universidad de Bergen

Preben Jordal, crítico y traductor

Jan H. Landro, escritor y periodista

Sandra Lillebø, escritora y crítica

Audun Lindholm, editor y escritor

Ingunn Lunde, catedrática, Universidad de Bergen

Ingri Lønnebotn, escritora

Cecilie Løveid, escritora

Sofie Marhaug, representante del Ayuntamiento de Bergen

Bjarne Markussen, catedrático, Universidad de Agder

Magnus Michelsen, consultor municipal, Bergen

Ellen Mortensen, catedrática, Universidad de Bergen

Remi Nilsen, editor

Olaug Nilssen, escritora

Erlend Nødtvedt, escritor y bibliotecario, Bergen

Hans Jacob Ohldieck, profesor, Colegio Universitario del Sudeste de Noruega

Frode Helmich Pedersen, investigador, Universidad de Bergen

Ole A. Sandmo, asesor de comunicaciones, Premio Holberg

Kari Soriano Salkjelsvik, profesora, Universidad de Bergen

Gisle Selnes, catedrático, Universidad de Bergen

Per Selnes, doctor en medicina, Universidad de Oslo

Sven Storelv, catedrático (emérito), Universidad de Bergen

Morten Strøksnes, escritor y periodista

Espen Stueland, escritor y periodista

Ole Robert Sunde, escritor

Odd Wilhelm Surén, escritor

Håvard Syvertsen, escritor y traductor

Bjørn Tomren, músico

Vilde Tuv, artista

Even S. Underlid, profesor y escritor

Jan Bojer Vindheim, escritor y político

Eirik Vold, periodista

Matti Wiik, profesor, Universidad de Bergen

Bjørn Aagenæs, editor

Kjersti Aarstein, profesora, Universidad de Bergen

 

 

 

 

Confinement by proxy: the UK continues arbitrary confinement of journalist as threats from US prosecution escalate

The battle for Julian Assange’s freedom continues as Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot has ruled the WikiLeaks publisher’s confinement has been proportionate and in the public interest. The judge’s defensive and harsh ruling comes a day after it was revealed that Swedish prosecutors attempted to close their investigation into Assange in 2013, but British prosecutors dissuaded them from doing so. The ruling is consistent with UK behavior in this highly politicised case, as the court refused to recognise both Assange’s precarious health situation and the strong and binding ruling from the UN, declaring his confinement arbitrary, maintaining the UK’s silence on the imminent threat of a US prosecution linked to his journalistic activities.

The UK has long declined to confirm or deny the existence of an extradition request. Today’s ruling continues that tradition, with Arbuthnot’s rather inconsistent ruling that she would unwilling to treat these fears seriously without Julian Assange putting himself at risk of them being realised.

Assange’s lawyer Gareth Peirce said: “If you’re baffled by this [ruling], it’s because it’s a legally baffling situation.”

Judge Arbuthnot dismissed the idea that Sweden would have extradited to the United States as unlikely because doing so would have caused an “international crisis.” It is unfortunate she did not reflect on the US government’s willingness to provoke precisely that kind of situation in comparable cases. In 2013, shortly after President Obama said he wasn’t considering grounding planes to apprehend Edward Snowden, the US did exactly that, forcing a plane carrying the Bolivian president to land while it was flying over Austria, on a hunch that Edward Snowden might be on board. In 2014 it was reported that the CIA had a rendition plane flying over Europe, on hand to transport Snowden to the US.

Tomorrow: Judge set to rule whether continued arbitrary detention of WikiLeaks publisher can be “in the public interest”

At 2pm on Tuesday 13 February at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot is due to rule on whether Britain’s determination to arrest WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is really in the public interest. Assange risks arrest by UK police if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been living since seeking asylum there in 2012.

The arrest warrant is connected to Sweden’s 2010 investigation and was upheld in court last week despite the underlying Swedish investigation having been closed last year. In that hearing, Assange’s defence had argued that because Sweden dropped its investigation and European arrest warrants have been withdrawn, the UK warrant “lost its purpose and its function.”

In the past year, a series of Freedom of Information requests have led to the publication of emails that raise important questions about Britain’s role in the affair. Correspondence – records of which have been deleted on the UK side – appear to show officials encouraging their Swedish counterparts to artificially prolong their investigation.

When did Assange enter the embassy, and why is he there?

Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy on June 19, 2012 and applied for political asylum, seeking protection from US attempts to imprison him over his work as the publisher of WikiLeaks. He was granted political asylum two months later after the UK and Sweden refused to give an assurance they would not extradite him to the US over WikiLeaks publications. Ecuador more recently granted Assange with Ecuadorian nationality. The United States has had an ongoing, “multi-subject” investigation into WikiLeaks and Julian Assange over their work publishing classified documents since 2010.

What is happening on 13 February?

Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, is due to rule on whether the existing UK arrest warrant and a potential future charge of absconding under sections 6 and 7 of the 1976 Bail Act are proportionate and whether it would be in the public interest for the current situation to continue.

Why is this hearing important?

The current proceedings are important because of the focus they put on the actions of the United Kingdom in this affair. The UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has received an extradition request from the United States, but some of its actions seem difficult to explain on the basis of the closed Swedish investigation alone.

Recently published emails obtained under Freedom of Information legislation in the UK and Sweden show that Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service told Sweden to not interview Julian Assange in the UK in 2011 and 2012  (they eventually did so in 2016). The UK also told Sweden not to drop its extradition request when it moved to do so in 2013.

The UK remains in violation of a United Nations ruling from 2016 that Julian Assange is being subjected to Arbitrary Detention. The UK government refuses to release most of its internal communications relating to Assange saying that to do so would compromise the United Kingdom’s national security and diplomatic relations.

How is Julian Assange after having been in the embassy for five and a half years?

There have long been concerns about Julian Assange’s abilty to access adequate medical care. Doctors who have recently carried out a full examination have stated that Assange’s health is in an increasingly dangerous condition.

Why does Julian Assange fear prosecution from the United States?

A US grand jury investigation has been ongoing since May 2010 with the purpose of bringing a case against Assange over WikiLeaks publications. Efforts to extradite and charge Assange have expanded under the Trump administration to include WikiLeaks’ groundbreaking series on the CIA published last year. Assange faces up to life imprisonment for multiple charges including espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy, theft, and electronic espionage–a terrorism offence.

President Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo stated that Assange has “no First Amendment rights” and that the CIA is working to “take down” WikiLeaks. The US Senate intelligence committee has tabled legislation to declare WikiLeaks a “non-state intelligence service” and that the US government should “treat it accordingly.” Assange published two responses in the Washington Post.

 

 

 

 

UK judge declines to drop Assange arrest warrant

Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected Julian Assange’s request to drop the UK’s arrest warrant, continuing the abusive, arbitrary detention of the publisher in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The arrest warrant is connected to Sweden’s 2012 investigation into Julian Assange and is upheld despite that investigation having been closed last year. Assange’s defence argued that because Sweden dropped its investigation and European arrest warrants have been withdrawn, the UK warrant “lost its purpose and its function.”

Even if the UK had dropped its warrant, however, Assange’s security would remain in jeopardy. If he left the embassy, the UK could extradite him to the US, which continues to threaten prosecution. Last year, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that WikiLeaks’ journalism “ends now,” calling the organization a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” The US has had a grand jury investigation into Assange and WikiLeaks ongoing since 2010. The UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has received a US extradition warrant.

Judge Arbuthnot ruled on just one argument of Assange’s defence. Assange’s lawyers have argued separately that the proceedings are not in the public interest. The judge will rule on that argument on 13 February, at 2pm.

Assange has been in the embassy for five and a half years. Two doctors recently examined Assange and determined that “his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him, and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare.”

Last month, Ecuador announced that it had granted Assange Ecuadorian nationality. Courage Trustee Renata Avila said, “Ecuador’s decision … is a welcome step, but we’re still a long way from resolving this situation. In the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we’ve seen the US rhetoric against First Amendment activity, and the threats of prosecution, reach new, dangerous heights.”

In February 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Assange’s detention to be arbitrary, that he “has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty,” and that he was “entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.”  The United Kingdom challenged the determination and continues to illegally detain him.

Handy Infographic for Assange Case

In light of Julian Assange’s upcoming court ruling tomorrow in London at 2PM, UK time, we would like to provide you w/this infographic that can give some good facts about his case. Feel free to share using the hashtag #IamWikileaks and be sure to follow us via @couragefound on twitter and @courageWL

Sweden drops investigation into Julian Assange

The Swedish Prosecution Authority has announced, for the second and presumably final time, that its preliminary investigation into WikiLeaks founding editor Julian Assange is to be dropped. As the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made clear last year, this decision is long overdue.

Julian Assange’s asylum must be respected and WikiLeaks staff must be protected from political persecution.

The conclusion of the Swedish case does nothing to alter the major threats issued against WikiLeaks and its staff for their journalistic work, which are serious and ongoing. Just last month, CIA director Mike Pompeo declared that the publisher was a “hostile intelligence service”. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that Assange’s arrest was “a priority”, amidst reports charges were being prepared against WikiLeaks members.

The US Department of Justice has been running an unprecedented and wide-ranging investigation into WikiLeaks for its publishing and sourcing work since 2010. A threat to WikiLeaks’ work is a threat to all free journalism and we invite those who share these concerns to join Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Patti Smith and the hundreds of others who have signed our Open Letter:

https://www.iamwikileaks.org/openletter/

WikiLeaks is Courage’s newest beneficiary

Today, 28th of April, 2017, Courage announces publishing organisation WikiLeaks as its newest beneficiary. The announcement follows reports that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is now preparing charges against WikiLeaks members, in particular its founding editor Julian Assange.

The DOJ has been running an unprecedented and wide-ranging investigation into WikiLeaks for its publishing and sourcing work since 2010. It has involved paid informers, illegal interrogations in Europe and secret search warrants. Recently CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service”.

Offences cited through the investigation, and allegedly in the charges, include conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property. Recent reports cite Cablegate, the Iraq and Afghan War Logs and Vault 7 publications as well as WikiLeaks’ work in getting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum, as key to the investigation.

This is about more than one publisher. It is about press freedom more broadly and the steady erosion of the First Amendment in the United States. The Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than all presidents before combined, and ran the longest investigation into a publisher ever in the US with its WikiLeaks Grand Jury. It has continued to the point where Trump’s Department of Justice has stated that charging WikiLeaks Editor, Julian Assange, is now a “priority”.

Courage’s chief demand is for the US to close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and to drop any charges against any WikiLeaks staff. Courage’s campaign for WikiLeaks is launched on a new site, IamWikiLeaks.org, along with information on the continuing work of WikiLeaks and the actions taken against it. You can follow @CourageWL on Twitter for updates. Courage needs your help to fund WikiLeaks’ team of lawyers in multiple jurisdictions: https://iamwikileaks.org/donate

This is the first time Courage has taken on an organisation, as opposed to an individual, as a beneficiary. We are working to ensure the protection of all WikiLeaks staff, including Julian Assange, Joseph Farrell, Sarah Harrison and Kristinn Hrafnsson. Julian Assange continues to be arbitrarily detained.

Because she is now a beneficiary, Sarah Harrison will be stepping down from her role as Acting Director of Courage and the Trustees will take on high-level managing decisions.

Julian Assange is currently being arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has asylum due to the US threats against him.

Courage Trustee and journalist John Pilger said:

In standing up for WikiLeaks, we are defending courage — the courage of those who say ‘no’ to the perennial bullies seeking a divine power over human affairs. Founded and led by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks has provided people all over the world with an armory of truth about wars and politics and the aims of violent, unaccountable power. This is real journalism and a principle of freedom so fundamental that its defeat would mean the conquest of all of us.

Fellow Trustee and human rights lawyer Renata Avila said:

What we are defending here is larger than Wikileaks: we are defending the ability of journalists and citizens, regardless of their nationality, to hold accountable the most powerful government in the World by exposing its secrets, uncovering wrongdoing, and keeping us all informed. The fight for press freedom is more urgent than ever. Will your voice be silenced? Or will you join us to tell them, THIS ENDS NOW.

WikiLeaks members have several lawyers in many different countries and jurisdictions, and Courage needs your help to fund them: https://iamwikileaks.org/donate