Persecution of Assange is an assault on people’s right to know the truth | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 28, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:51 AM, February 28, 2020

Persecution of Assange is an assault on people’s right to know the truth

John Pilger has been a war correspondent, author and documentary filmmaker who has won British journalism’s highest award twice. For his documentary films, he has won an American Television Academy Award, an Emmy, and a British Academy Award given by the British Academy of Television Arts. He has received the United Nations Association Peace Prize and Gold Medal. His 1979 documentary, Cambodia Year Zero, is ranked by the British Film Institute as one of the 10 most important documentaries of the 20th century. He is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Heroes, A Secret Country, The New Rulers of the World, and Hidden Agendas. In an exclusive (online) interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Pilger talks about the ongoing extradition hearings of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange from the UK to the US for publishing secret government materials documenting war crimes.

In an interview last month, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said: "I speak fluent Swedish and was thus able to read all of the original documents [of the alleged rape case in Sweden involving Assange]. I could hardly believe my eyes: According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never even taken place at all. And not only that: The woman's testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape." How did the world's biggest media organisations miss this all these years, and incorrectly report that Assange had been "charged" with rape, when in fact he never was?

This is an important statement by Nils Melzer. I, too, have seen many of the documents in the Swedish case, which leave little doubt the whole affair has been, and always was, an invention. As Melzer says, there was never any rape, and the chief prosecutor in Stockholm, Eva Finne, said there was never a crime and dismissed it. Only when a powerful politician with close connections to a government that had allowed foreigners to be "rendered" to the US by the CIA, stepped in, did everything change.

Assange was smeared in the Swedish press and then hunted in the UK, even though he had left Sweden with the permission of the prosecutor. In other words, he was set up—or as the Americans say, he was framed. Had he not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he, too, would have been "rendered" to the US. In Britain as in the US, the media smear campaign against Assange was remarkable—in the Guardian and New York Times especially, which had published WikiLeaks revelations about Iraq and Afghanistan, then turned on him as their governments reacted.

Assange faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act in the US. What are the implications of this?

First, the very notion that the US can indict and demand the extradition of a foreign journalist is absurd. It means sovereignty has no value and that we are "all Americans". And under the extradition treaty between Britain and the US, no one can be extradited if the alleged offence is in any way political, which it patently is. The British courts should have thrown this out right at the start, but they have colluded, tragically.

What are the implications for Assange? If he is extradited, he will be subjected to a US prison regime called Special Administration Measures, which means he will be dropped into a dungeon and allowed no contact with the rest of humanity. Doctors have said he will find a way to suicide. And all this is the consequence of a publisher and journalist doing his job: he revealed corruption and war crimes and performed a great public service. Watch the video, "Collateral Murder", which WikiLeaks released and which shows a US Apache gunship murdering civilians in Baghdad, including newsmen, and you are watching the truth about lawless, rapacious power.

Assange's extradition hearing from the UK to the US began on February 24. What are the most significant revelations to have come out during the hearings so far?

The most significant revelation is that the US, in defiance of its own Constitution, now regards merely "obtaining" a government document as a high crime. The other revelations include dramatic evidence that Assange is being violently intimidated in Belmarsh prison, which is connected to the court, his most basic human rights swept aside. We should all be very clear: the persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on freedom of speech, freedom of publication, freedom to dissent and the right of all peoples to be told the truth by their governments.

Assange's lawyers claimed that US President Donald Trump had offered to pardon Assange if he would agree to say that Russia was not the source of the Democratic Party emails that WikiLeaks published. Once the deal fell through, the Trump administration tried to extort Assange with a political prosecution. What do you make of this?

It's hard to know what to believe of anything to do with Trump. The point is that Russia was not the source; I know that for a fact. The rest is media speculation.

In your opinion, should Julian Assange be extradited to the US?

Of course not. 

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