Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Court Grants Assange Freedom As U.S. Ramps Up Claims

International Court orders safe passage for Assange

By Andrew Kreig

A major international human rights body has ordered the United Kingdom to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for safe passage out of the kingdom — just when it seemed likely that the UK and other Western powers were on the verge seizing Assange on old charges and possibly major new ones.

Assange (Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP)
Ruling on a petition brought by Ecuador, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced on July 12 a so-far little-reported ruling that political asylum in a nation's foreign embassy — as Ecuador has granted Assange in London for six years — carries also a right of safe passage out of a country, as in Assange's situation. The Costa Rican-based court is a unit of the Organization of American States (OAS) that adjudicates cases, such as referrals from the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

The court ruled that its jurisdiction extends globally when the rights of its members are involved. Under that authority, it ordered the United Kingdom to release Assange for safe passage to Ecuador.

The court's press release stated that the court ruling, issued on May 30 and kept confidential, was delivered to the parties on July 12. The announcement said that the court has not yet received a response from the UK on the decision.

Whatever the UK response, the ruling by the five judges is likely to become controversial because so many major Western nations have such deep hostility towards Assange, whose organization operates in a gray zone between hackers and conventional media.

Years ago, Assange released via WikiLeaks vast quantities of secret foreign and military documents that showed apparent torture, other war crimes and deceitful practices by Western nations.

A new factor is the U.S. Justice Department's July 13 indictment of 12 Russian GRU intelligence officers.

The government alleges that the Russians illegally used massive amounts of stolen political documents from such entities as the Democratic National Committee to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Republicans. The conspiracy was said to include an international group — unnamed and uncharged — that is widely reported to be WikiLeaks.

Since 2010, our Justice Integrity Project has reported extensively on sexual misconduct claims made by two women that year against Assange. The claims (including that he engaged in unprotected sexual relations) have not led to any formal charges against Assange by Sweden in the nearly eight years since his visit there.

Assange and one of his accusers Anna Ardin

But Sweden's aggressive investigation has led to court battles that have kept Assange confined for six years as a political refugee in a small room in Ecuador's London embassy while he was widely smeared in the popular press as a suspected sex criminal.

Yet that "case" against Assange was dubious and tainted by Sweden's oppressive, secretive non-jury court procedures. Even so, one of the complainants, identified most frequently in the press merely as "SW," completely disappeared in 2010 soon after inviting Assange to sleep with her, as we have previously reported in accounts excerpted below.

A team of Swedish computer sleuths reported several years ago that "SW" and a number of her "friends" have disappeared from view, suggesting that either they were very frightened of a man long departed from Sweden or that they had been part of a secret operation.

This summer Assange has risked losing even his safe harbor of a room in Ecuador's embassy because of the recent change in Ecuador's government to new conservative leaders displeased by new WikiLeaks disclosures. Ecuador has cut off Assange's Internet and other communications, partly as a reaction to pressure from the United States. The New York Post reported on July 14 that Assange could soon be evicted from London embassy,

WikiLeaks, which launched its first server in 2006 and claims to possess 10 million documents, specializes in release of secret documents received from anonymous sources. Its stated goal? To increase accountability for governments and other major players. In early 2016, a presidential campaign year, WikiLeaks ramped up release of American political documents that hurt Democrats especially.

Background: Sweden Framed Assange On Sex Charges As UK Cooperated

In late 2010, our project received a tip that U.S. intelligence officials had close relationships with Swedish political and court officials relevant to the Assange investigation.

We found that Swedish officials had been undertaking irregular procedures in investigating Assange and that most in the mainstream media in Sweden, the rest of Europe and in the United States were content to rely upon official statements and in effect go along with a remarkable abuse of multiple nations' legal systems.

An appendix below summarizes previous reporting on this this findings and credits such leading investigators as Swedish medical school professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli, founder of the watchdog group Swedish Doctors for Human Rights and the magazine The Indicter, as well as independent columnists Naomi Wolf and Celia Farber.

For now, however, it's enough to report that the OAS court has called for Assange's freedom. Assange, a native of Australia, has claimed in court papers that he believes the United States has obtained a secret indictment against him in a Virginia federal court on spy charges for his long-ago activities.

New Suspicions About 2016 Election

An entirely new legal dimension became apparent on July 13 with the announcement by U.S. Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein (shown below) of the indictment of the 12 Russian GRU military intelligence officers.

Rod Rosenstein (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The organization is part of Russia's military and is more akin to the NSA in the United States than to the CIA or Russia's SVD, which is the successor to the KGB.

In practical terms, the indictment links the alleged wrongdoing to Russia's power structure, not to isolated hackers as Trump and his defenders sometimes claim.

Russian GRU (Main intelligence Directorate)
U.S. authorities accused the Russians of conspiring with unnamed others to influence the 2016 presidential election with documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other Democratic Party bodies. 

The new indictment follows a previous one in February naming 13 Russian defendants, mostly fairly low-level figures working in social media.

The newer indictment (whose 29-pages are shown here) alleged that GRU officers used a go-between named "Guccifer 2.0" to distribute documents to, among others, an unamed congressional candidate and an international body. Analysts have concluded that Wikileaks was the international body.

This conclusion is based on extensive albeit disputed reporting since the campaign showing how Wikileaks and Assange touted disclosures embarassing to Democrats during the 2016 campaign. The front-running Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign had been Secretary of State until early 2013 during the period when Western nations began hyping sexual misconduct claims against Assange, whose disclosures were making him and his organization seem heroic to some and disloyal to others.

The Justice Department indictment on July 13 alleged stolen documents were laundered through anti-Clinton allies and released to the larger public to show favoritism by Democratic officials during the primary season to the front-running Democrat Clinton, thereby hurting her main rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont (shown below with Clinton in a graphic illustrating their campaign).

Releases causing disputes at the 2016 Democratic National Convention came when the party was seeking unity between the supporters of Clinton and Sanders. Continued revelations inevitably helped the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The controversy continues to fester in some quarters, including because of a de facto alliance between some Trump defenders on the right and Clinton opponents from the left. Some of the latter remain strong opponents of Clinton's hawkish foreign policies.

These Clinton opponents claim, much like many Trump suporters, that the Russian influence invstigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a Republican former FBI director, has been hoked up in order to continue a militaristic U.S. and NATO foreign policy.

Robert Mueller

Those claims and counter-claims are beyond the scope of today's report, which is intended to provide more simply the news of IACHR's decision, which the major media have almost entirely overlooked so far.

The decision, which does not mention the U.S. indictment of Russians, came during a flood of news on Friday the 13th.

Among developments aside from the above-noted Justice Department indictments: President Trump created many controversies during his European trip last week. He is preparing also for a one-on-one summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for July 16 in Finland just after the World Cup finale in Russia Sunday.

The news includes Trump's unprecedented public sneers at NATO and major U.S. allies, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as widespread suspicions that he and Putin cannot be trusted given current circumstances to meet privately in Finland with no witnesses except possibly their translators.

What's Next?

Looking ahead, two important mysteries are likely to be resolved fairly soon.

First is whether the UK will comply with the international court's finding, which is made (at least formally) on behalf of the 35 OAS members (portrayed in the seal below). The member states include all Western Hemisphere nations, including the United States, which was not represented on the judicial panel and is not a signatory to the court's convention.

A press release on the court's decision quoted its decision this way:

    If the UK continues to ignore the court’s decision by insisting that local police will arrest Assange for a breach of bail conditions if he leaves the embassy, this means that the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador.

    While London has yet to respond to the Court’s ruling, it is imperative that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly.

Second, the public can be expected to see in coming weeks (if not sooner) whether U.S. authorities will identify and indeed prosecute those alleged by the indictment to have cooperated with Russian military intelligence and hackers.

Defenders of Trump and Russia have been claiming since the indictment on July 13 that it named only Russians because prosecutors do not dare test their claims in court against Americans.

The contrary view from defenders of the Mueller investigation, including this editor, is the indictments of Russians appear to be just one inetrim step on a path that will lead to a trial for many others, possibly including Assange.

Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig, Esq.
Andrew Kreig is Justice Integrity Project Executive Director and co-founder with over two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC. An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies. He has been a consultant and volunteer leader in advising several non-profit groups fostering cutting-edge applications within the communications industries.
As president and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its worldwide advocacy that helped create the broadband wireless industry. Previously, he was WCAI vice president and general counsel, an associate at Latham & Watkins, law clerk to a federal judge, author of the book Spiked about the newspaper business and a longtime reporter for the Hartford Courant.

Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World from the mid-1990s and currently, he holds law degrees from the University of Chicago School of Law and from Yale Law School. Reared in New York City, his undergraduate degree in history is from Cornell University, where he was a student newspaper editor, rowing team member, and Golden Gloves boxer.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig.



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