Eleven days from now, an Australian citizen will fight for his life in a London court as the United States government seeks his extradition. If this Australian is extradited and manages to escape execution, he will still face an effective death sentence in the US, confined in extreme isolation for 175 years.
This Australian will be trapped in a system that ensures political prisoners like him will be systematically broken, with no hope of a fair trial. The Eastern District Court of Virginia in the US, the espionage court, is a place where no national security defendant has ever succeeded. This Australian, who exposed American crimes, including international law violations at Guantanamo Bay, will be buried alive in the same oppressive system.
I don’t personally agree with all that Julian Assange has done, but if we’re to protect our democratic values, that must never be the point. At the very least, our government must demand that he receive a fair trial, as Julian Assange is not receiving a fair trial. This Australian has not been convicted of any crime, yet he is being held on remand in inhumane conditions at the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, reserved for the most violent offenders. For nearly six months, he’s been unable to see his family or speak to his lawyers.
It’s a pathetic form of progress that I learnt yesterday that he’s still not allowed to see his lawyers to prepare a defence, but he can now talk to them for more than ten minutes by phone.
After the court deadline, the prosecution filed over 100,000 pages of dense legal documents, yet he’s not allowed to access them all. He can view some of the documents on a laptop, except the keyboard is glued down and the USB port is glued shut and he only has some paper and pens to take notes as best he can. When in court, he’s not allowed to sit next to his lawyer or privately communicate with them.
He’s locked in a glass box. Even war criminals accused of genocide on trial at the International Criminal Court can sit down and communicate privately with their lawyers. They’re also housed in a unit, not a maximum-security prison with mass murderers. How ironic that this Australian, who exposed the United States’ war crimes, is treated worse than a war criminal.
The UK claims to be a rule of law country guaranteeing a fair trial, open justice and due process. What a joke! In a blatant breach of due process, once the US had his entire defence to the indictment, they issued a new indictment by press release, despite being out of time to submit anything new to the court—and this was allowed. The persecution and treatment of Julian Assange are unconscionable. This is inherently political and our government is too cowardly to defend him, to even demand that he gets a fair trial.
His treatment corrupts our alliance with the United States and makes a mockery of the United Kingdom’s justice system and international law. I and other MPs, from every party, standing up for Julian Assange are writing to the UK High Commissioner requesting an urgent meeting to relay our concerns and demand his extradition be blocked as he is not receiving a fair trial in the UK.
Julian Hill MP is the Federal Member for Bruce in the Australian Parliament (@JulianHillMP)