Veteran British journalist John Pilger has blasted the “atrocious” and “appalling” treatment of Julian Assange by a judge who decided this week to reject the whistleblower’s request to delay his upcoming US extradition hearing.
“To say it is surreal is not enough, it is simply appalling,” Pilger, who was present in the courtroom on Monday, told RT’s Going Underground. Pilger accused District Judge Vanessa Baraitser of using “disgraceful” and “dictatorial gestures” toward Assange and said she was clearly biased in favor of the attorney acting on behalf of the US government.
“Her bias was incandescent,” Pilger said, adding: “I’ve never seen anything like this. It belonged in a show trial in the 1950s… Moscow, Prague, you name it.”
The decision [by the judge] was made simply because the decision had been preordained – this is what the state wants, and this is what the state will get; regardless of anything to do with the court, regardless of any defense argument.
Assange’s lawyer had been seeking to delay US extradition proceedings scheduled to begin in February, arguing that more time was needed to compile evidence. Pilger and other advocates for Assange who have visited him at Belmarsh Prison have repeatedly said that the journalist has been denied access to the tools he needs to prepare his case, including a computer, access to certain documents and is prevented from calling his US lawyer.
Pilger said Assange’s lawyer pointed out that the extradition treaty between Britain and the US has a specific section that says a person cannot be extradited if the offenses are said to be political. In Assange’s case, he said, the charges are clearly political “under law,” explaining that they are based on the 1917 espionage act which was then used to chase down conscientious objectors.
Assange is charged with possession and dissemination of classified information and could face up to 175 years in prison for what is essentially the crime of exposing US war crimes.
Pilger also slammed the lack of prominent coverage the day’s events received in major British media, saying it was “deliberately excluded” and minimized. The journalist slammed the Guardian newspaper in particular.
[The Guardian] has played an appendage role to the state in undermining WikiLeaks and everything it represented.
Reports from Pilger and others inside the room suggest the WikiLeaks co-founder looked weak and weary, his months behind bars at a maximum security prison – much of that time in solitary confinement – having had a significant deteriorative impact on both his physical and mental health. He reportedly held back tears as he told the judge he could not “think properly.”
Pilger said his condition was the result of having “no access to proper exercise, no access to proper intellectual stimulus and no access to the people around him.” Even convicted criminals responsible for “terrible crimes” at Belmarsh still “have a human social life” which is denied to Assange, he said.
Labour MP Chris Williamson told RT that with Assange’s solitary confinement, Britain was in contravention with the UN ruling on torture. “We’ve known about the impact of solitary confinement for well over a hundred years and here we are in the 21st century in Britain, we are effectively submitting somebody who is in my opinion and international hero to this level of maltreatment.”
Pilger said that there was a “glimmer of hope” in the UK justice system when Assange’s case goes to the High Court – but there is “no hope” in the United States, which he said is a “false democracy” where justice “doesn’t exist.”