Julian Assange lives to fight another day it seems with the highest court in the UK, the Supreme Court, agreeing on Friday (Australian time) to hear an appeal against a decision allowing Sweden to have Mr Assange extradited.
While this is welcome news for Mr Assange and his supporters it needs to remembered that regardless of the outcome of this appeal, we should all hold significant concerns for his safety. The US political, security and military establishment loathes Mr Assange and it will do whatever it takes to get its collective hands on the leader of an organisation which has caused profound embarrassment to the key superpower in the world today.
The US has taken a number of public steps, and who knows how many back channel manoeuvres, to suggest that it is planning a full scale prosecution of Assange in which the rule of law will be given short shrift, just as it has been at Guantanamo Bay.
While the grand jury process is secret, we have learnt about secret subpoenas to social media companies, non-US citizens and Google to obtain private information and the harassment of WikiLeaks associates, Jacob Appelbaum and David House amongst others.
Bartering in conspiracy theories is rarely wise; but on the face of this evidence, it is difficult to believe that the Obama Administration is not doing everything in its power to manufacture a charge against Assange and to ensure he lands on American soil so it can place him on trial.
The home of the brave and the land of the free does not have a good record when it comes to the treatment of its enemies. It routinely renders and tortures its enemies in secret prisons around the world or keeps them in inhumane conditions in the pocket of lawlessness that is Guantanamo Bay. Ironically, we have greater insight into this process because of what WikiLeaks has revealed and the subsequent analysis by journalists of this material.
The likely shabby treatment of an Australian citizen at the hands of the US is not something the Australian Government ought let lie. We ought surely to have learnt from the appalling treatment of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, two Gitmo prisoners, that when Australia does not stand by its citizens when they are subjected to cruelty overseas we diminish ourselves as a nation.
Thus the Australian Government needs to step up to the task now. The Gillard Government can be in no doubt that the US will do its best to try to get Assange in front of an American court at some point. If our relationship is in any way as friendly and respectful as our leaders like to make out, we should be able to have a reasonable conversation about how someone like Assange will be treated.
The Gillard Government needs to recognise that the US is less of a friend and more of a bully on the matter of WikiLeaks. The US has held Bradley Manning, the man accused of leaking material to WikiLeaks in detention since May 2010 and for a significant portion of those 19 months in solitary confinement. Worse still, for the majority of time Manning has been detained he has had no knowledge of the charge against him. Such actions are plainly inappropriate and offend basic notions of decency. The rule of law is a foundational principle of a liberal democracy, not something to aim for or apply selectively; it should not be undermined because the powers that be find the actions of an individual profoundly embarrassing.
That the US will, if it can get away with it, treat Assange as shabbily as it has Manning is as obvious as it is that night follows day and it is for this reason the Gillard Government needs to assume, for the purposes of ensuring that its citizen is not subjected to torture and a kangaroo court, the position of a toe-to-toe combatant with the US rather than that of a supplicant on bended knee.
Of course it does not need to come to this. If Mr Assange were any other Australian citizen he would, once the Swedish process is completed (and assuming the sometimes wobbly Swedes don't allow the Americans to capture Assange), be welcomed home and allowed to go about his life.
Australians need to remember what it is Assange has done for our world. WikiLeaks has contributed immensely to our understanding of how our democracy works and has armed us with the knowledge and arguments to demand greater transparency from governments. We should not be bullied into silence when a supposed ally tries to persecute a WikiLeaks journalist for precisely this reason.
Greg Barns is National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance and together with a number of other prominent individuals, is a signatory to an open letter to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd published today about the plight of Julian Assange.-
The Liers Machine : alias TURE SJOLANDER 19 Dec 2011 11:31:30am
The people shall to stop our elected criminal international gang in Sweden, UK, USA and Austalia who have and is still taking the law in their own hands, right now.
I have an extensive experience of the Swedish and the Australian extremely dirty game in regards to the Assange affair.
A collective mass action by The People in each nation are urgently motivated.
It is an emergency!!!
This whole matter is a huge crime performed by our leaders.