JULIAN ASSANGE
THE STORY AS WRITTEN BY JAMES MANNING
 
WHAT HAPPENED?

IMAGE - WIKILEAKS

JULIAN ASSANGE

Julian Assange is an Editor and Journalist born in Queensland,

Australia. After founding the nonprofit organization WikiLeaks in

2006, he has continued to pave a new way of journalism by using

a Whistleblower system to retrieve information. This allows

anonymous people to submit news leaks and classified information

to the site which are then fact checked and published. So far it

has published over 10 million documents relating to corruption,

war crimes, etc. All of Wikileaks releases have never been

proven falsified or untrue, statistically meaning they have a

100% accuracy. 

 

Over the course of 2010, WikiLeaks published several leaks

submitted by US Army Intelligence Analyst, Chelsea Manning.

These included “Collateral Murder”, Afghanistan war logs, Iraq

war logs, and “Cablegate”. Most famously Collateral Murder exposed

videos of airstrikes in 2009 on the East side of Baghdad, containing

two Apache helicopters killing civilians and news reporters who

were believed to be terrorists. During the video, pilots can be heard

laughing and making jokes while engaging. The first strike killed nine

adults, two were journalists. The second strike targeted a van of passers-by 

with two children aiding the wounded. Killed were two adults and

seriously injuring the two children. The US government's initial statement

listed that all adults were insurgents and that they did not know how these

deaths took place.

 

These videos and documents were shared virally and created an

embarrassment for the US, as well as questioning the morality and

justification of the use of force by armed forces. The release of these

documents put WikiLeaks on the map as an organization, however

unsurprisingly causing a stir up among government agencies. 

As consequence Assange has been either in prison or asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy for the last 8 years awaiting possible extradition to the US from the UK government. Assange could face up to 175 years in jail for his "crimes".

Image to the left

Crowds gather at Piccadilly Circus

every Saturday to protest and inform

others about Assange's case. Speakers

often give talks and music is played

along with chants.

Chelsea Manning

 

Attention soon turned to Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange over the release of the documents. After releasing the documents to Wikileaks Chelsea also informed Adrian Lamo about her discoveries. Lamo then indirectly informed the US Criminal Information Command and Chelsea was arrested later that year. Later Lamo told Kevin Poulsen of Wired Magazine that he wouldn’t have informed the government “if lives weren't in danger”. One possible reasoning for this was that names were also leaked of people who cooperated with the US government, further down the line the Taliban also stated that they aimed to execute afghan nationals whose names were leaked. However due to the severity of other leaked documents it quickly became outweighed compared to importance of other documents and was somewhat overlooked. The hacking community stated Lamo a “snitch”, he later died in 2018 from suspected drug abuse. 

 

Chelsea was charged with 22 offences including “aiding the enemy” which could serve a life sentence. In 2013 she pleaded guilty to 10 offences and was later trialed for the remaining 12 that year, eventually she was found guilty of 17 offences but managed to avoid the possible life sentence of “Aiding the Enemy”. She was finally sentenced to 35 years for releasing the documents. However at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency he overturned the ruling making it 7 years including those served. In 2018 she was arrested again for almost a year for failing to testify before a Grand Jury over the investigation of Julian Assange, she was further fined $256,000. 

 

Julian Assange

 

 

The US’s involvement 

 

After the release of the files opinions of Assange were mixed. Joe Biden called him a terrorist, while the Australian PM Julia Gillard stated his activities were illegal. Support came non surprisingly from people not so closely linked to the larger states. These most noticeably included the Brazilian President Luis Inacia Lila Da Silva, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Jeremy Corbyn, and even American rapper M.I.A.

 

In 2010 the US began investigating Wikileaks, Assange, and others under the Espionage Act. In 2011 prosecutors claimed to have found chat logs linking Assange to Chelsea Manning, however Assange denied the allegations as Wikileaks has no way of knowing the identity of its sources. Furthermore, the chat logs were used in Manning’s case, she too denied the allegations stating that she acted alone. The investigations carried on into 2014 as the US also encouraged other allies to also open criminal investigations.

 

In January 2015 members of Wikileaks emails, were shared to the US from Google as part of the investigation. However, under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice was unable to indict Assange as they struggled to find evidence that his actions differed from those of a journalist. This was until Trump took power in 2017, when the investigation was turned up with the help of Mike Pompeo to charge Assange.

 

Sweden

 

When Assange visited Sweden in 2010 he was the subject of sexual assault allegations from two women. While the case was originally closed after questioning, it reopened later that year after a special prosecutor wanted to further investigate one count of unlawful coercion and one count of lesser degree rape. Assange denied the allegations and said he was happy to face questions in Britain.

 

However an international arrest warrant was issued for Assange, he gave himself up to UK police and attended his first extradition hearing but remained in custody. One month later at his second hearing, he was granted bail after his supporters paid the fee of £240,000. However, in 2011 a further hearing ruled that Assange should be extradited to Sweden, after the Swedish prosecutors said they could not question by a video link or in the Swedish embassy, The irony of 2020 with video links.

 

In 2013 the prosecutors wrote to the English Crown Prosecution Service advising that they attended to lift the detention order as the actions were not proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. It was only in 2015 that the case was expired due to the time frame expiring for the smaller charges but the lesser degree rape charge still stood. However, in 2017 the case was suspended as the Swedish Authorities could not expect the Ecuadorian Embassy to communicate reliably with Assange over the case.

Image to the left

Protesters stand outside the

Australian Embassy in London,

while police guard the building

and keep watch over the protests.

They hold placards of awards won

by Assange and sing chants to

attract attention.

The Embassy

 

On the 19th of June 2012 Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino, announced that Assange had applied for political Asylum. This move was not from the fear of his Swedish Allegations as he said these were only a pretext to discredit and distract him from his extradition to the United States. Instead, he felt let down and abandoned by the Australian government. After they said they would not to seek to involve themselves in any international exchanges about Assange's future. However, if imprisoned he could apply for an international prisoner transfer, Assange’s lawyers called this a “declaration of abandonment”.

 

Upon entering the Ecuadorian Embassy for his asylum Assange breached bail conditions and potentially faced arrest if he left. The UK government wrote to Patino stating that police were allowed to enter under UK law. In response, Patino labeled it as a “blatant disregard of the Vienna Convention” Instead police were stationed outside the embassy from June 2012 to October 2015 to arrest Assange for breaching bail. They were later stood down due to cost after a reported £12.6 million was spent on by police during this period. The police instead used “several overt and covert tactics to arrest him”.

 

On the 16th of August Assange was officially granted political asylum in the embassy due to the threat posed by the United States secret investigation. As Ecuador formally stated, "as a consequence of Assange's determined defense to freedom of expression and freedom of press… in any given moment, a situation may come where his life, safety or personal integrity will be in danger”. Assange was set up in a small room with a bed, telephone, sun lamp, computer, shower, treadmill, and kitchenette. He stayed here until the 11th of April 2019, seven years.

 

During his time spent in the embassy, Assange and Wikileaks continued the fight to reveal the truths of war crimes and mistreatments. Publishing most famously the Syria Files just one month after entering the embassy. In 2013 Assange and others also helped whistleblower Edward Snowden flee from US law enforcement. Edward Snowden was responsible for some of Wikileak's most famous leaks including the release of information on “Operation Speargun” a mass secret surveillance program run by New Zealand. He subsequently released thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists, they were then published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, this then sparked the US’s chase of Snowden. Wikileaks and Assange helped Snowden to escape on a jet belonging to Bolivian president Evo Morales heading to Latin America. However, this was only short-lived as the plane was forced to land in Austria by orders of the US. He then returned to Russia and was granted permanent residence by Russian authorities.

 

In 2015 Assange began dating his South African-born Lawyer, Stella Moris-Smith Robertson. They became engaged in 2017 and had two children, all taking place inside the embassy. The relationship was only revealed in 2020 because she feared for Assange’s life. 

 

In September 2016, Assange stated that he would agree to US prison in exchange for Obama granting Chelsea Manning clemency. Obama cut Manning’s sentence short freeing her four months thence. Although this did not meet Assange’s immediate demands Manning was released from prison in May. Two days after her release Assange appeared on the balcony of the embassy and told the crowd that despite no longer facing charges in Sweden he would remain inside the embassy for fear of US extradition.

 

During the 2016 presidential election, Wikileaks and Assange published emails of  Hilary Clinton. These became a large talking point in the US election. They also released multiple leaks exposing hostility and unfairness in the elections. As a result the Ecuadorian government temporarily cut Assange’s internet connection because of the leaks, due to its impact on the US election.

 

On the 16th of August 2017, Dana Rohrabacher a US Republican congressman visited Assange in the embassy offering a pardon for information of who gave Wikileaks the email leaks. Assange did not, furthermore Assange’s lawyers told court hearings in 2020 that Trump had requested the information. Something that both Trump and Rohrabacher deny knowing about.

 

In March 2018 Ecuador cut Assange’s internet connection again, in response to his posts denouncing the arrest of Catalonian separatist leader Carles Puigdemont. This put at risk Ecuador's relations with other European countries. In May 2018 the Guardian reported that over the five years of his stay at the embassy, Ecuador had spent at least £3.7 million protecting Assange. This included hiring a surveillance company to monitor Assange, his visitors, embassy staff, and the British Police. In July 2018, President Moreno said he wanted Assange out of the embassy as long as his life was not in danger. It was only in October that year that his communications were partially restored.

 

In an open letter that year the US wrote an open letter to President Moreno which said that the US’s progress towards economic co-operation, counter-narcotics assistance, and US aid missions to Ecuador relied on Assange being handed over to the US. This then prompted Ecuador to slowly push him out. Threatening to remove his protection, cutting off his access to the outside world by refusing visitors including journalists and human rights organizations, and installing signal jammers in the embassy to prevent internet connection. Assange sued the government of Ecuador for violating his rights, but this was overruled.

 

 

 

Embassy Surveillance 

 

On the 10th of April 2019, Wikileaks uncovered a surveillance operation against Assange including video, audio, copies of documents, and medical reports all taken from the embassy.

 

This information was supposedly taken by the same Spanish company (UC Global) hired to protect the embassy, and under the request of the CIA with information forwarded on to the US. This most noticeably contained audio and video of Assange’s private meetings with lawyers and colleagues available to the US by a live stream. The investigation was precipitated by a complaint from Assange, accusing UC Global of violating his privacy, client-attorney privileges, committing misappropriation, bribery, and money laundering.

 

UC Globals owner David Morales was subsequently arrested later that year under all charges including criminal possession of a weapon. However upon the request, of a Spanish judge to interview Assange (as he was a victim of the crimes). The UK denied the request, with Spanish judicial bodies believing that the UK was scared it could affect the process to extradite Assange. It was only later after much scrutiny that Britain agreed for a Spanish Judge to interview Assange.

 

 

Arrest

 

 

On the 2nd of April 2019, Ecuador's president Moreno told media that Assange had breached the terms of his Asylum after photos appeared on the internet linking Moreno to a corruption scandal. An allegation that Wikileaks denies acquiring and that it merely reported on a corruption investigation against Moreno. Due to the controversy, Assange was told he would be expelled from the embassy and given to UK police.

 

On the 11th of April 2019, police were invited to the embassy to arrest Assange, in connection with his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012 for his initial extradition to Sweden. With Moreno stating the reason was due to repeatedly violating international conventions regarding domestic interference, Moreno then referred to Assange as a “miserable hacker” and a “spoiled brat”. On the day of his arrest, he was charged with breaching the Bail Act of 1976 and was found guilty. Shortly after the Swedish case was reopened, over allegations of rape made in 2010.

 

Assange was then remanded to Belmarsh prison and sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment. However, Assange is still in Belmarsh prison today, awaiting an extradition hearing to be transported to the US. To face trial for most noticeably the release of files aided by Chelsea Manning adding up to 18 charges and 175 years max sentence. Upon his arrest, he has been placed in what some describe as “torture”. His mental health has been a topic over the treatment of his time in Belmarsh. Assange’s father John Shipton, said it was “extraordinary” that Assange was being held in one of the nation's most notorious prisons despite calls for his release from the United Nations.

 

In May, Nils Melzer, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment added “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law. The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now.”

 

The Court

Julian remained in Belmarsh for the entirety of his court hearings and on the 4th of January 2021, on the final day of the hearings, he was not extradited due to mental health concerns. While this is a step towards Julian's release it is also a step backwards for press freedom. As the judge agreed on all counts that Assange should be extradited if it wasn't for his mental health. However, Julian won't be released, due to the US's appeal against the decision Julian will remain in custody. His bail was also rejected on the concern he will flee, either to an embassy or abroad, although the UK is now the safest place for him as he can't be extradited. 

So back to the drawing board for the lawyers, as the legal process of the appeal will delay Julains release and possibly affect the outcome. 

Image to the left

While the trail of Assange's

extradition was held at the Old

Bailey. Supporters protested

outside the court everyday.

They would especially wait for

his prisoner transport vehicle to

leave, and create as much noise

as possible so that Assange could

hear his support.

 
MEET THE PROTEST 

Image above - Calvin

Calvin is the voice of protests, as a former whistleblower, he understands the seriousness of the case and the importance of free press and Assange's release, something which is evident from his demeanor.

W

Image above - Awards

Chip is pictured here outside the Australian Embassy, holding placards with information of awards won by Assange. Assange has won dozens of awards for his journalism including being a Nobel Peace Price nominee.

Image above - Gloria

Pictured here is Gloria, Gloria traveled from Germany to the UK to attend the court hearing protests while taking time off school. Aged 16 she was the youngest protester but her interests in global issues and support for Assange was clear to see and drove the protests in a strong positive direction.

Image above - Actors

Other than chants protesters also dress up, in this case as Donald Trump, other costumes include prisoners with chains and placards. Projections with slides are also displayed on the ground. Wikileaks has also invested in a driving advertisement van with information about Assange displayed.

Image above - Peter

Pictured here is Peter being arrested during a protest. During the lockdown, police have been stricter on gatherings and protests. This has led to many arrests and problems amongst Assange supporters. Due to the nature of the Assange case (freedom of speech and press), Covid regulations have only poured fuel on the fire for debate about the legitimacy of covid arrests on protesters, many wonder if it's the government's attempt to keep them quiet.

Image above - Lawyers

Every day of the court hearings, Assange's Lawyers and his father, John Shipton would come out to inform supporters of the hearings progress. By viewing the connection between Assange's legal team and supporters it was clear to see the release of Assange was largely a group effort.

 

Image above - Eric

Eric is one of the group's most committed members, with 92 years of experience behind him, his knowledge and mentality are second to none.

As seen in this picture, his calmness brings something much needed in the case of Assange.

 

Image above - Alison (behind the mask)

Alison traveled from Australia to the UK to join in support of the Assange case, she is one of the most fearless and centered people I know and pushes the protests to new levels of ambitiousness. Her voice is often heard at protests through the microphone, explaining the case and informing others of what is happening.

 

 
THE ANALYSIS 
WRITTEN BY JAMES MANNING

This article and project is still a work in progress. Please bear with me.

 

                                 James Manning Photography                                  

Jamesmanningphoto@gmail.com

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