The following article was written by M. K. for Wikijustice Julian Assange.
Originally published in French, it was translated using Deepl into English.
The human rights organization Wikijustice Julian Assange filed its third request for the release of Julian Assange during the week of 6 January, along with the report of the association’s doctor who attended the hearing on 19 December 2019. These documents, submitted to the court by a British lawyer or human rights organization, could have led to the immediate release of Julian Assange the same day, not only because he is a political prisoner, but also, and this is a huge scandal, because he is being tortured in his current place of detention.
The document also points out the procedural flaws and irregularities committed by the Westminster Magistrate Court during the hearing Case 1902473293 – EIO/026/19 – British Home Office Executor of 20 December 2019 . On that day, before and during Julian Assange’s physical appearance, unauthorised persons once again found themselves in a consultation room of the court to discuss the “Assange case”. The hearing publicly announced as taking place in room 10 was secretly moved to another room, number 4, and the door was closed without any official closed-door sessions being announced. The door of this courtroom was locked and kept closed by the head of security of the private company Mitie, who attended the proceedings when he is not normally allowed to do so in a closed session. These violations of law are worrying, as no observer knows who the plaintiff is or what the purpose of this procedure is, which was announced by Julian Assange’s lawyers as a complaint made in Spain against the Spanish company UC Global accused of having spied on Julian Assange in the state-owned apartment of Ecuador at 3 Hans Crescent Street in London. The problem is that the European Investigation Order (European Arrest Warrant) can be used to interview victims and witnesses, but also to extradite suspects for questioning to European countries. It is therefore important for Wikijustice to clarify the situation of Julian Assange in this procedure when other individual rights of Julian Assange have again been violated: Andy Müller Maguhn, president of the Wau Holland Foundation, presented at the conference of the Chaos Computer Club in Leipzig on 28 December 2019 the private videos of Julian Assange, logically without his consent since these images belong to the legal procedure of the European Investigation Order 1902473293 – EIO/026/19. Thus Julian Assange’s right to privacy has apparently been violated by the head of a German institution with which Julian Assange has been working under contract since 2011 as head of the 04 “Wikileaks” project and since 2014 as manager of the Icelandic company Sunshine Press Production. How Andy Müller Maguhn was able to access these evidentiary images in criminal proceedings is highly problematic, as is the way in which he was able to exhibit them urbi et orbi. A key defense attorney for Julian Assange, master Baltasar Garzon, was also publicly shown by Andy Müller Maguhn in these excerpts from surveillance camera footage.
This situation, together with Julian Assange’s poor health, shocked many activists who exerted salutary political pressure through numerous letters to the Westminster Magistrate Court. As a result, on the morning of Friday 10 January, the Court decided to postpone the hearing to extend the pre-trial detention scheduled for 14 January to Monday 13 January and to physically bring Julian Assange to court. This last decision is a victory for which we all fought, all those who care about the law, justice and the life of Julian Assange in particular.
So a team from Wikijustice went to London on January 13 to attend the hearing. Getting to the courtroom was a physical and psychological ordeal, as usual, but it is worth noting that the court made significant progress in respecting the publicity of the proceedings: it facilitated the accreditation of journalists and scrupulously applied the “first come, first served” rule, meaning that activists present at the door of the court between 6 and 9 a.m. were able to enter the courtroom in order of arrival. Afterwards, they just had to wait for 3 hours standing in their places without moving until the first two cases were tried. At 11:00 am the court manager announced the start of Julian Assange’s hearing and about 20 journalists sat in the courtroom and 40 people took their seats in the stands of the public box. During this time about 40 demonstrators were standing in front of the court door trying to communicate by all means with Julian Assange when he was brought in by the private company Serco’s van.
As we entered the courtroom, we chose central seats hoping to communicate with Julian Assange through the eyes and through the heart since we are forbidden to speak. The associates of “Greekemmy” found themselves sitting together on the right side of the room, the other activists on the left side. Joseph Farell from “Wikileaks” entered the audience space as a journalist. John Shipton, Vaughan Smith, Kristinn Hrafnsson, John Pilger and Craig Murray were absent once again. Gareth Peirce was present with the young boy who on December 19 and 20 was travelling with Stella Morris and who introduced himself to us as an articling student of the lawyer. He will be seated in the back row of the room next to another woman and Jennifer Robinson who will be content with this day as an observer. We note as positive the absence of Clair Dobbin and any American “observer”. They do not have to be present in a proceeding that concerns only English domestic law. The prosecutor is a different person than usual and she will play a marginal role.
A little after 11 o’clock, but before the arrival of Judge, Julian Assange entered through the small door of the glass box on our left. It’s always unreal when he finally appears, when almost night and day we make so much effort to free him. The emotion we feel is always something like relief, disbelief, timid hope. But afterwards, the effect of watching the caged man as a spectacle becomes psychologically disturbing and we focus on what we can do, how to help him. We don’t have the impression that he’s better since December 19, the date of the hearing that the Wikijustice doctor attended and on the basis of which she was able to write the medical report for the association. Julian Assange may not have the stereotypical gestures of suffering that are so visible and so well described in the medical report on 13 January, but he limps when he enters the box and has to hold on to the doorway so as not to fall out. He sits in the middle of the box and not at the bottom, which is positive because he is closer to the public. However, while the court grants us these 5 surprise minutes between the moment of his entry and the arrival of the judge, Julian Assange can do nothing but sit, as if exhausted, and stare at the room in front of him. His gestures remain very slow, and when he stands up when the judge arrives, the sleeves of his jacket lift up I can see the black bracelet on his left wrist. It also appears that his too loose clothing, dark jacket and trousers, grey sweatshirt, hide the thinness of his silhouette. His hair is coiffed and his beard is trimmed, he wears glasses but they don’t always fit and to see he has to look over the frame. The impression that he is not in control of his own body remains. That said, his behaviour will change during the hearing. Prostrate at first, then as if galvanized by the presence of friends, he will try to participate in the debates, until he calls Gareth Peirce several times by banging on the glass of the box, forcing her to stand up and turn towards him to talk to him.
Besides, the atmosphere in the courtroom has changed. Although it remains tense, we feel that the court staff are not hostile to us, as if the activists’ faith in justice had restored this place to its primary role, that of dispensing justice. The guard standing with Julian Assange in the dock with the defendants looks at him softly. In the audience, people are crying. The management of the court is moved. Even Judge Vanessa Baraitser has informed our friend John that he will not be expelled from the courtroom despite his stunt of the previous month if he agrees to remain silent this time. I don’t know how to greet Julian without endangering my presence, when he looks at the audience, I cross his eyes and greet him by raising my hand to the level of my face. That’s when an activist in front of me raises her hand straight up to greet him, others raise their fist… The security guards don’t react. A murmur and a shiver run through us. Julian also greets us with a gesture on his face. The raising of the fist ceremony will be for the end. Yes, something has changed. We’re all invigorated.
We keep our eyes fixed on Julian Assange as Vanessa Baraitser enters the room, we only have to get up and as she begins the necessary ceremony of identification. At her request to mention his name, Julian Assange still has difficulty speaking. Forced to stand, he appears staggered. As for his date of birth, he has trouble getting started and thinks for a while before pronouncing the “71” of his year of birth. He shakes his head, sits down exhausted and remains for a long time motionless, a little tilted backwards. We can identify and understand the gestures better thanks to our doctor’s medical report. So I see that Julian Assange has the painful gesture of biting the inside of his mouth as he crosses his hands and brings them to his face as if he had a toothache. The medical report from Wikijustice talks about the symptoms of psychological torture and we are still visibly witnessing the after-effects of the mistreatment he is undergoing. We are trying to bring him positive energy and comfort through our eyes, that’s all we can do as Gareth Peirce begins her usual dialogue with Judge Baraitser on the organization of the defence case, requests for visits, the date of the next hearing, and so on,” she says.
As the lawyer’s monotone voice repeats negatively connoted words such as “absolutely no idea”, “very difficult”, “last opportunity”, Julian Assange comes to life as something is happening in the room. He looks at the journalists, then at the audience and turns to the lawyer, calls out to her with his hand, tells her something. She has to interrupt his monologue about his difficulties and turn to him. Unfortunately, we won’t hear Julian Assange’s voice, but we feel that he is struggling. We get the impression that Justice Baraitser is increasingly exasperated by the situation, while remaining cold and polite to the lawyer. There is something offbeat about the seriousness of Julian Assange’s situation and the debate about agendas and dates. There is also a power relationship between judge and lawyer that is played out elsewhere than in this room, which escapes us but which we feel is very different. The power of the institution may not be where we think it is.
The court surely wants to tell us, “Look, he’s fine, we’re not torturing him”. Of course we don’t know “who” is torturing him and Prison Director Belmarsh is very careful to specify in his letters that it is not him because under his responsibility Julian Assange could not be kept in complete isolation. But we have been seeing the effects since October 11. However, we also see on January 13, 2020 that Julian Assange wants to live: I see that he unfolds his long, thin hands, rubs his cheeks, and he looks at himself again, tries to act, calls Gareth Peirce, asks her for something that she sweeps away with a wave of her hand. He resigns himself, then stops resigning himself, comes back, she turns a deaf ear… He tries to say something again but it’s as if his voice doesn’t obey him anymore. Vanessa Baraitser pronounces the date of January 23rd, we see him squeeze into his seat.
The judge ends up asking him if he has understood. He stands up and for the first time he has the audacity to say clearly “no, can you repeat” even though we feel it is a struggle for him. Exasperated Baraitser announces that the session will resume at 2 p.m. to set the next date. She proposes to Gareth Peirce to ask for a physical appearance so that she can benefit from the famous 2 hours of work in the court consultation rooms that she says she has trouble getting. The judge adjourns the session and leaves before Julian Assange has left the box. While this situation also occurs for the first time, we passively resist the order of the security guards to evacuate the room. And for the first time we see Julian Assange squarely in assertive discussion with his lawyer. He’s standing there and we can see by his gestures that he’s still asking her to do something and while she’s waving helplessly, like “I can’t.” He has a gesture that could be understood as “it’s yours to do, not mine”, pointing at her with his index finger and then pointing at himself. We don’t hear the exchange but Julian Assange’s voice has much more energy and he comes out opening the back door of the stall himself, having greeted us with dignity.
We are so tired that we have to take a real break for lunch, having dropped off our documents, while wondering what is going on for Julian Assange in the bowels of the court building. When we come back, there are only two journalists left in the room, the people from “Wikileaks” are gone. Only the public stood up to greet Julian Assange’s arrival in a serious way. Entered a moment later, the judge didn’t see people get up, the mark of respect due to his rank was stolen from him. She is no longer Vanessa Baraitser but a woman. Julian Assange seems physically stronger than this morning but he has even more difficulty speaking, this morning’s fight must have exhausted him. The judge announces that he will appear on January 23rd, I understand that Julian Assange will be present. When the judge leaves, we don’t leave. The public passively resists and refuses to leave as long as Julian Assange is there. We look at him, we raise our hand, we raise our fist and we raise our fist to him before we go out holding his file. In the street, as the van exits the court, the activists shout, greet him through the window, one lies down on the hood of the van to delay the departure. Julian Assange hears our revolt. We finally witness a scene of struggle for the freedom of a political prisoner. Hope is allowed at last.