John McGhee is a passionate campaigner for the freedom of Julian Assange. He published this account on Facebook on January 15th
It was with great joy and appreciation that I was allowed to enter the courtroom at Marylebone Magistrates Court Of Outright Lawlessness, London, for the latest instalment of the Julian Assange show. It came as a great surprise to me to have been allowed to take my place in the queue inside the building, outside the courtroom, with all the other Julian devotees, journalists, spies, infil-traitors and voyeurs, because of my outburst at the hearing on Dec 19th when I likened the process to a pantomime and the performance of Mrs Baraitser to that of an ugly sister. It was my birthday and I was receiving my cosmic gift. Or so I thought, until two security personnel beckoned me from my hallowed position near the front of the queue to a more private spot away from the madding crowd in order to deliver a proclamation from the ugly sister herself. She is aware of my presence (perhaps someone outside had filmed me and sent it “throuth the usual channels” to central intelligence) but I will however, by the grace of a higher power, be allowed into the hearing if I promise to behave myself! Suddenly my heart softens towards Mrs Baraitser. Such was the contrast between this act of kindness and her “normal” vindictive court room behaviour that I was momentarily blinded by the dazzling light of her humanity. Not quite a St Paul experience on the road to Damascus but up there in the heady realms of higher consciousness. Twas indeed a great start to the proceedings and my innate naivety seized the initiative and I entered the courtroom almost confident that a wonderful surprise was waiting in the form of Julian’s unconditional liberation on the grounds of deteriorating health.
Well, there was certainly a surprise. A double whammy surprise that both enthralled and disappointed! Enthralled because Julian looked like his old self, handsome and visually charismatic, bright and alert and taking part in the proceedings. He was clearly frustrated and unhappy but the improvement in his appearance was quite breathtaking and it warmed many broken hearts. He acknowledged the forty odd people in the public gallery with a discreet nod of recognition and despite my concentrated effort to remain focused on the whole event, if there was any recognition at all from Julian towards the Wikileaks representatives or any other person at all in the courtroom, I somehow managed to miss it. The downside was that the argument for his release on health grounds just took a major broadside. He didn’t look medicated, tortured or mistreated and so his lawyers who have never objected to his continued detainment on those grounds may have blown yet another opportunity to make some progress in this floundering case.
But before the glorious arrival of a revitalised Julian, An opportunity to spend 10 or 15 minutes observing the scene in the courtroom. A more spacious and somehow more dignified space in Court Room 1, granted by God knows who, God knows when, to accommodate the expected large crowd of interested citizens and journalists. My wandering gaze eventually settled on the vision of a young blondish woman, seated towards the back of the main court room, her back to the public gallery, absent mindedly twiddling her hair with the fingers of her left hand while occupied with something on the screen of her laptop. I was fascinated. It was clear that this was obsessive behaviour of repeated twisting and untwisting of strands of hair. An adolescent bad habit. A nervous tick! A 15 year old girl day dreaming while pretending to do her homework? In a court of law? And then she turns her head in reaction to some movement near the door and I recognise lawyer and would be super model Jennifer Robinson. Have I slipped inadvertently onto the set of a surreal version of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here? Assange and Robinson in one unholy performance. What an honour!
And so to the proceedings. In many ways this was a replay of earlier hearings. Magistrate Baraitser was cold and inflexible as usual. Lawyer Gareth Peirce repeats the supplications that have always taken up most of the allotted time in the hearings I have attended, that she needs to see her client in order to prepare his defence. He is innocent and she has to go through the incredibly complex process of proving it because in New England people are now by nature guilty and must be proven innocent in order to escape the evil of global institutionalised corruption. And her client is living proof of this not so subtle change to British law. She makes childish supplications and the judge says no! As if it’s completely normal! The lawyer sighs. I glance at Julian. He shows no sign of emotion but he must surely be dying inside. It is enough to make a grown man cry. It’s a very bad joke! A debacle! Pitiful. And then another surprise. We are going to take a break and reconvene later in the afternoon.
In the corridor, a woman I just met on leaving the courtroom looks at me with desperate incomprehension on her face. She is shaking her head in disbelief. What she has witnessed makes no sense at all. The whole sordid affair is perfectly impossible! It is unbearable and the pressure of her distress squeezes tears into her eyes that roll down her cheeks as she starts to cry. The naked emotion triggers a reaction in me and then we are both crying. Tears flow, eyes meet, the man hides his face behind his hands and time passes. Not much time! Not even a minute! I regain control of my emotions and I notice that the two members of Wikileaks who left the room just after us are, just a few metres away, sharing a private joke. Interesting juxtapostion!
The second half was a formality. Mrs Baraitser was substituted by a man. The Wikileaks people were conspicuous by their absence. Likewise Miss Robinson. Julian spoke several times with Mrs Peirce and also acknowledged his fans in the public gallery once again. What I understood or misunderstood is that the hearing was moved from Jan 14th to Jan 13th and a decision was taken to have Julian present so that he and his lawyer could spend some time getting to know each other before February’s planned public crucifixion at the Belmarsh Torture Facility . Unfortunately there was a very slight problem, completely unexpected you understand, which transformed this golden opportunity into yet another debacle of despair and disappointment. Apparently, a great many people arrested the previous night (God only knows why and God only knows where) who were waiting in the cells to see a judge before being released were given precedence over the victim of the greatest injustice in modern history and so all available consultation rooms were full. That’s a shame. What bad luck again. One thing you can say about Julian’s legal team they are certainly consistent. So Julian and the lawyer didn’t get the time they needed together after all. Never mind there is always next time. This story could go on forever! No hurry!
Interesting post script. I spent some time inside the building talking with other supporters and was one of the last to leave. Not a soul in front of the building but shouts coming from around the corner at the vehicle entrance where the van carrying Julian arrives and from where it leaves. I see the van is surrounded by supporters and cameramen. It cannot move! For five minutes I watch this surreal scene. Normally, one successful photo between half a dozen cameramen signifies a successful day but today they are having a field day. Every photo of Julian diminishing the price of the one before. And the van remains motionless. And the shouts of love and encouragement fill the air. The automatic rolling shutter door closes behind the van and it is then that I realise that there is something missing from this scene. There is not a policeman or security guard in sight. The demonstrators and the cameramen are free to do as they please. They number not more than twenty. The van driver is not in a hurry to get home to his wife and kids. Julian looks good. Let them take all the photos they like. Another gift from the black magician that runs the country. Make Nils Melzer and the Doctors for Assange look like liars and fools. My God! You couldn’t make it up!
The whole world is rotten beyond salvation. I have no illusions about the future. It’s not a question of if but when! My life goal is that Julian Assange tastes freedom once more before it all goes down the drain. Free Julian Assange.