Category Archives: Sweden

Open Wounds: Sweden Drops the Olof Palme Case

It’s the sort of thing that ruffled the image of a composed and tranquil existence.  In some countries, doing away with political leaders is a periodic affair, deemed necessary to clean the stables.  But in Sweden, change is barely discernible, stability nigh guaranteed and institutions revered.  “It’s in the tradition of Sweden to put itself forth as a moral role model,” observes author Elisabeth Åsbrink.

Then came that thorny, troubling issue of Olof Palme. Palme minted a reputation berating the bullying actions of great powers and forging an internationalist platform for progressive politics.  He took issue with the crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring by the Warsaw Pact forces, apartheid in South Africa and US involvement in the Vietnam War.  As education minister in the Tage Erlander government, he marched alongside Sweden’s North Vietnamese ambassador in protest.  As Prime Minister, he gave an excoriating speech in 1972 likening the Christmas bombings of Hanoi with the destruction of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and the Nazi death camp at Treblinka.  In an address to parliament on November 7, 1973, he reflected on the overthrow of Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende.  “The overthrow of a government elected by the people in Chile has raised the question of whether, in general, it is possible to carry out profound changes in a poor and unfair society without having privileged groups resorting to violence.”

He mocked the nuclear deterrent and praised striving efforts of the Third World, the latter earning him praise from Cuba’s Fidel Castro.  On the domestic front, he remained a social democrat to an aggressive degree, bringing in universal day care, introducing legislation on workers’ rights, abortion and gender equality.

Such measures encouraged the haters, though many preferred operating in the shadows.  On February 28, 1986, Palme and his wife Lisbet left a movie theatre located in downtown Stockholm.  He had felt no need for a continued security presence.  He was subsequently gunned down in his wife’s company at 11.21 pm, shot in the back by a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum.  The scene of death saw witnesses aplenty – 23 in all – who could attest to seeing a man fire the shots and flee the scene via Tunnelgata alleyway.  What followed was the interviewing, by police, of 90,000 people.  Of that improbably large sample, 134 confessions for the murder were noted.

The list was subsequently trimmed to include, amongst others, Kurdish separatists.  At the time, the rattled Stockholm police chief Hans Holmér ordered the raid of Stampen, a jazz club that led to the arrest of several Kurds.  All were released for lack of evidence.  In the late 1990s, a captured former commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey, one Semdin Sakik, claimed ignorance about “the details of the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme” but insisted with unconvincing confidence that “this murder was committed by the PKK.”  PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was supposedly peeved by the expulsion of eight members of the group from Sweden. “The operation to kill Palme was given the codename ‘wedding’ and the assassination command was given by Abdullah Öcalan [with the words] ‘Send him to his wedding’.” (The alleged assassins seemed to have had a sense of marital humour about them.)  In 1999, Turkish prosecutors took up this angle in the trial of Öcalan, who disabused notions that he was involved.  But instead of clearing matters up, another tentative hypothesis was offered: that Palme had been slain by a hastily assembled splinter group, PKK Rejin.  Back in Stockholm, sighs were registered.

The smorgasbord of suspects proved heavy and almost ludicrously well spread.  Allegations of South African involvement were also, at stages, proffered.  (To this can be added claimed Iraqi participation; the role of Chilean neo-fascist Roberto Thieme; the US Central Intelligence Agency and the German Red Army Faction.)  The Deep Search papers, prepared by General Tai Minnaar, designated Palme “enemy of the state”, and contained a list of individuals said to be involved in the decision making, planting and execution of the operation.  In January 2003, Agneta Blidberg, deputy director of the prosecuting service in Stockholm admitted to receiving the South Africn documents and instituting “certain steps and interrogations”.  She refused to put any “value” on them, though a general sense that they were forgeries remained.  In South Africa, weighty figures such as Chris Thirion, former head of South Africa’s Military Intelligence (MI), thought otherwise.  The Deep Search papers had a smell that refused to go away. Former General Tienie Groenewald, head of South Africa’s National Intelligence Interpretation Branch when Palme was killed, was also convinced, going so far as to supply the Swedish aid worker Göran Björkdahl with names in Johannesburg during an October 1, 2015 meeting.

The initial field of suspects, filtered of all exoticism and danger, left the police with the petty criminal and derelict Christer Pettersson, continuously referred to in press notes as “an alcoholic and drug addict”.  He was jailed for the killing and sentenced to life imprisonment on July 27, 1989.  Crucial to the case was testimony from Lisbet Palme, who claimed she saw Pettersson gazing with glacial interest at her dying husband after the shooting.  On appeal, he was acquitted.  In the 1990s, prosecutors revisited the case that refused to go cold, keen to get back at Pettersson.

Palme’s case has continuously radiated with wild discussion and expansive theories, often with bewildering stretch.  As Gunnar Pettersson wrote with continuing relevance in 1989, “Practically everything that is known is open to interpretation – particularly as regards the motive, since so many individuals and groups can be said to have had one.”

The more these ideas persisted, the greater the suspicion about the competence of Sweden’s investigative authorities, allied to the troubling idea that right-wing elements in the Norrmalm District of the Stockholm Metropolitan Police and the Swedish Security Police (Säpo) were at work.  (The fact that some thirty police were in the vicinity of the murder at the time is striking.)  Ministers of Justice, public prosecutors and police investigators duly resigned.

Over the years, one man seemed to linger closer to home, the depressive “Skandia Man”, graphic designer and eventual suicide Stig Engström.  He was at the scene at the time, even claiming to have made an effort to “resuscitate” Palme; he worked at Skandia Insurance, in proximity to the crime scene.  Interest was revived in 2018 with the investigative prodding of journalist Thomas Pettersson.  Engström’s ex-wife, was unswayed.  “He was too much of a coward.  He wouldn’t harm a fly.”

As seems to be a tendency in high profile cases, the Swedish prosecutors do take their time.  And time does get away.  Engström had moved up the list of favourite suspects but his death in 2000 made the continuation of proceedings more than just futile.  “Since he has died,” concluded chief prosecutor Krister Petersson, “I cannot indict him.”  But it was Engström who had “acted how we believe the murderer would have acted.”  He had weapons training, been in the army, was a member of a shooting club, hated Palme and his views.  Such evidence remained painfully circumstantial.  While the prosecutors claimed they could muster enough to move it to trial, it was not necessarily sufficient to obtain a conviction.  Obstacles remained: the inability to link, forensically, the murder with any weapon.

The conclusion to this investigation seemed egregiously dismissive, a slander on Palme’s life.  Even Palme’s son Marten, in concluding that the prosecutors had drawn the right conclusion in closing the case, could claim some disappointment “that they didn’t have more conclusive evidence, like DNA or a weapon that they could trace to the crime.”  If failure to identify Palme’s killer remained Swedish society’s great “open wound”, as current Prime Minister Stefan Löfven described it, it is one that has been left tantalisingly unclosed.

Can Racism not Beget Racism?

Paul Craig Roberts, a former official in the Ronald Reagan government, has his own popular website and his articles are frequently published at the progressive Information Clearing House. I like much of what Paul Craig Roberts has to say, but liking some of the positions staked out by a person does not necessitate that a person agree with all that another person states. One can accept what seems reasonable, logical, and moral and reject that which is illogical or immoral. This is a sine qua non of a critical and morally centered thinker.

Sometimes the sources and positions recommended by someone, even high-profile personalities, call for a public rebuke. This is the case with the email sent out by Roberts today (5 April 2020) that he captioned: “The Criminal Anti-Swede Government of Sweden Brought the Joys of Diversity to the Swedish People.”

A url takes us from Roberts’ site to the site of the Gatestone Institute. The title of the article is “F***ing Swede” by Judith Bergman. An overview of the writings by Bergman reveals her to be far-Right and anti-the Other.

In her article, she writes of a new type of crime in Sweden: förnedringsrån, which combines the Swedish words for “humiliation” and “robbery.” It speaks to an outbreak of name-calling, forcing victims to strip, urinating on victims, forcing victims to kiss the feet of their tormentors, etc: in one word, humiliation. And a large chunk of the förnedringsrån, according to Bergman, is committed by non-Swedes. To support this, Bergman cites a 2017 report by the Swedish media network Expressen on the 49 criminal networks in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.

The report showed the networks consisted of between 500 and 700 gang members: 40.6% of the gang members that Expressen surveyed were foreign-born; 82.2% had two parents who were foreign-born. Their main country of origin was Iraq, followed by Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria and Turkey.

Bergman also cites a 2007 book — Exit Folkhemssverige (Exit the Swedish Welfare State) — by four academics (Ingrid Björkman, Jan Elfverson, Jonathan Friedman, and Åke Wedin) who wrote:

80 – 90% of robbers have an immigrant background. The majority are 15 – 17 years…The victims are Swedish children and young people, primarily ‘Swedish guys from rich men’s schools’, as one robber put it…. The robberies usually follow a certain pattern: A group of immigrant boys approach a selected victim and convey a clear threat with their actions. A common scenario is that one of the robbers holds a knife pressed against the victim, while the others rob him of mobile phone, bank card, money. The victim… is frightened and dare not [do anything] but give up the requested items… If he doesn’t give up, he’ll be beaten, often very brutally. Humiliation of the victim is not infrequently included in the picture. If it is a boy, it is about breaking his self-esteem. He is forced to cry, give up his shoes, even undress naked, kneel and plead for his life, etc. For the girl victims, sexual humiliation applies. They get their clothes ripped off, the robbers grab them and call them “whores”.

Unequivocally, the criminal acts described in Bergman’s article are heinous and must be condemned. However, also heinous is the attempt by Bergman and, seemingly, Paul Craig Roberts to scapegoat people of other ethicities for crimes without any consideration for why people of these ethnicities came to be found in Sweden, and without asking why they committed these inexcusable crimes.

Do crimes occur in a vacuum? Should one not try and understand the etiology of the crimes? If one understands the causes, then it is theoretically possible to deal with the causes so as to eliminate the precipitating factors of the crimes.

All the countries cited in the Expressen report (Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, and Turkey) are countries where western nations have militarily inserted themselves. Let’s leave Turkey out of this for the moment because it is a NATO member and a host of western military.1 Sweden has been militarily involved in all these aforementioned countries, as well as in other countries. Restricting ourselves to just the 21st century, Sweden has been militarily involved in the debellation of Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

When a country becomes militarily involved in a country that is not attacking it, especially when the casus belli that is demonstrably illegal, how should citizens of the attacked country regard the attacking nation? Illegal or not, it is morally questionable whatever reasons are proffered to explain such militarism.2 Thus when violence causes an efflux of refugees that seek asylum in the attacking country, how should the refugees feel about being in a country that contributed to creating the fear-evoking conditions that led them to leave their homeland?

Nonetheless, whatever the antecedents are, this does not excuse or exculpate the alleged actions of the miscreants detailed in the Bergman article. But it provides an elucidation. If Swedes are participating in foreign adverturism, what might that indicate about racist attitudes held by some Swedes?

Leila Ali Elmi is a Somali-born, raised in Sweden, hijab-wearing Swedish MP who has pointed to a structural racism embedded in Swedish society. Elmi is engaged in fighting rising support for the far right.

Returning to Bergman’s article: before emailing an article to one’s email list, doesn’t it behoove the emailer to ascertain the media source of the article?

A brief sampling of fare at Gatestone Institute led me to conclude that it is a right-wing, anti-China, Islamophobic website. Even Wikipedia states: “Gatestone Institute is a far-right think tank known for publishing anti-Muslim articles.” Researching a little deeper revealed that the notorious warmonger John Bolton was Gatestone Institute’s chairman from 2013 to March 2018. Wikipedia adds, “The [Gatestone Institute] organization has attracted attention for publishing false articles and being a source of viral falsehoods.”

It seems extreme caution is warranted for information emanating from Gatestone Institute.

Open-minded skepticism guards us from too readily accepting the word of whoever or whatever3 the source is. We all have the capacity for fallibility. Whenever one advocates a perspective or takes a position that upon further reflection strikes one as incorrect, then right-minded thinking demands that one adjust one’s perspective or shift one’s position accordingly.

If racism is to be understood and combatted, it must not be analyzed in isolation. Racism must be considered not just from the perspective of the victim but also of the perpetrator. After all, it may well be that it was the racism of the victim that filliped the racism of the perpetrator. Racism may often be a vicious, self-perpetuating victim-cum-perpetrator circle.

Pointing fingers at an ethnicity is myopic and strongly suggests an unrecognized, latent if not overt racist tendency. Therefore, an all-encompassing lens is needed to understand and defeat the scourge of racism.

We must deplore acts borne of racism, deplore the milieu that gives rise to racism, and deplore the very mindset of racism. Racism must be unambiguously held to be anathema.

After all, we are all human beings.

  1. But the fact that the average Turkish person is recognizably different than the prototypical blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede makes for easy identification as the Other.
  2. E.g., the Swedish Communist media, Proletären, said Sweden played a “dirty role” in Syria.
  3. And behind every what is always at least one who.

The Swedish Alternative: Coronavirus as a Grand Gamble

As draconian lockdowns, punitive regimes and surveillance become the norm of the coronavirus world, Sweden has treaded more softly in the field.  This is certainly in contrast to its Scandinavian cousins, Denmark and Norway.  The rudiments of a life uninterrupted generally remain in place. Cafes, restaurants and shops, for the most part, remain open and stocked.  As do gyms and cinemas.  Vibrant after-ski parties persist, much to the bemused horror of those across the border.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, embracing the principle of voluntariness over coercion, has issued warnings to citizens to keep travel down to a minimum, avoiding anything non-essential.  The traditional age group – those over 70 – have been told to mind their movements and stay at home.  In the prime minister’s words during a televised speech, “Us adults need to be exactly that: adults.  Not spread panic or rumours.  No one is alone in this crisis, but each person carries a heavy responsibility.”

Despite all of this, Sweden’s authorities show that they do have a foot on the brake, albeit one applied with slow motion caution.  Gatherings used to be limited to 500 – that confidently embraced number has now been reduced to 50, a measure that will be policed.  Bars can only provide table service.  Colleges and universities have moved to a virtual format in line with recommendations issued on March 18.

But the Public Health Agency exerts a powerful influence, insisting that a lockdown is simply unwarranted.  Local sports tournaments and matches required no cancellations – exercise and sports were healthy initiatives.  Organisers of events and seminars were responsible for conducting a risk assessment and providing information “about good hand hygiene, and access to hand washing facilities for all participants.”

The focus, rather, is on individual initiative, minimising instances of transmission while herd immunity builds up, or a vaccine is found.  If over 70, avoid using public transport, shopping in supermarkets, visiting areas of congregation.  “Instead, ask friends, family or neighbours to do your shopping etc.” Work from home, if you can.  “This is to decrease the speed of transmission and the number of people needing hospital care.”

Central to such recommendations is a modelling game.  As with all such games, risks abound.  The go-easy approach has certainly caused little alarm in the country; if anything, it has given the Social Democrats a hearty boost.  The wisdom of authorities is generally taken for granted, suggesting the customary, even awesome power of the Swedish civil service.  The eggheads remain in charge.

The Swedish example shows a differing approach to measurement, which invariably involves looking at a crystal ball of sorts.  Paul Franks and Peter Nilsson, both epidemiologists based at Lund University, suggest that the government is gambling on simulations made by the public health authorities on “surge requirements”. “From these simulations, it is clear that the Swedish government anticipates far few hospitalisations per 100,000 of the population than predicted in other countries, including Norway, Denmark and the UK.”

The observations by Franks and Nilsson are filled with characteristic scientific caution.  Which modelling do you go for?  Using British variants suggests a higher death toll for Sweden, though the authorities seem to be holding to the point that most infected people will have no symptoms, leaving one in five requiring a stint in hospital.  And Britain is not Sweden.

We are left with the treacherous nature of public health modelling.  COVID-19 prediction models, for instance, tend to rely on the examples in China and Italy, furthering upon data gathered from previous Ebola outbreaks, SARS and MERS.  This brings the old question of demography into play, and the need to gather evidence of community transmission (so far, material on this is sketchy in Sweden).  An inescapable fact is that Sweden has one major metropolitan area, so any accurate modelling would require material specific to that.  Ways of interaction between generations would also have to be considered.  In Sweden, less intergenerational conduct would lessen the risk to the elderly.  More than half of Sweden’s households consist of one person, another telling factor.

The data does not tend to focus on hospital admissions and fatalities, a point stressed by Franks and Nilsson.  “This latter can be used to be a ‘poor man’s estimate’ of community transmission, providing approximately how many fatalities occur among those infected.”  The accuracy of this is somewhat compromised by the two-week period between diagnosis and the mortality, a “very blunt instrument” indeed.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases in Sweden have not been negligible.  From the first recorded case on February 4, 2020, the total, as of March 30, 2020, stands at 4,028.  Deaths come in at 146, though a disproportionate number come from a Somali community located in less commodious quarters with extended families.

Despite the highest death toll of the Nordic countries, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell is supremely confident that the “strategy” has worked well, with Sweden showing a relatively flat curve of infection relative to Italy and Spain.  “We want to slow down the epidemic until Sweden experiences a sort of peak, and if the peak is not too dramatic we can continue.”

A large number of citizens, bearing their heavy responsibility, have chosen to avoid public transport – Storstockholms Lokaltrafik claims a fall of 50 percent in the number of commuters.  Schools might be open, but many parents are keeping their children at home.  Remote and work-from-home options have been embraced by companies with gusto.

The warning calls, while not shrill, are in evidence.  An epidemiological battle is taking shape, though it remains one dominated by parrying disagreements of expertise.  Britain’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has much praise for the approach, having made similar suggestions to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the “herd immunity” phase of discussions.  In contrast, a petition featuring over 2,000 doctors, scientists and academics, which boast among its numbers the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Prof Carl-Henrik Heldin, has called for more aggressive measures.  “It is risky to leave it to people to decide what to do without any restrictions,” opines a paternalistic Joacim Rocklöv, an epidemiologist based at Umeå University.  “As can be seen from other countries this is a serious disease, and Sweden is no different than other countries.”

Virologist Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, based at the Karolinska Institute, has not held back in her views, claiming with some punchiness that the government has committed all the big no-nos in responding to a pandemic.  “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose.”  In so doing, Sweden had been placed on the path to catastrophe.  To avoid a lockdown, a mass-testing approach as adopted by South Korea would have to be adopted.  Time will tell which one stacks up.

German TV Exposes the Lies that Entrapped Julian Assange

A major German TV network has aired an interview with the UN rapporteur on torture that reveals the invention of the Swedish “rape” case against Julian Assange.

Truth has broken through for those confused about how a publisher ended up in a maximum security prison in London with a one-way extradition ticket to court in the U.S. and the rest of his life behind bars.

One of the main German TV channels (ZDF) ran two prime-time segments on Wednesday night exposing authorities in Sweden for having “made up” the story about Julian Assange being a rapist.

Until last night most Germans, as well as other consumers of “major media” in Europe, had no idea of the trickery that enmeshed Assange in a spider-web almost certainly designed by the U.S. and woven by accomplices in vassal states like Sweden, Britain and, eventually, Ecuador.

ZDF punctured that web by interviewing UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. One ZDF “Heute Sendung” segment (in German) is especially telling from minute 13:00 to 15:30 . The second is ZDF “Heute Journal” (minute 25:49 to 30:19.)

Both ZDF programs show Melzer being interviewed, with minimal interruption or commentary, letting his findings speak for themselves about how allegations against Assange were “made up” and manipulated to hold him captive.

The particularly scurrilous allegation that led many, including initially Melzer, to believe Assange was a rapist — a tried and tested smear technique of covert action — was especially effective.  The Swedes never formally charged him with rape — or with any crime, for that matter.  ZDF exhibited some of the documents Melzer uncovered that show the sexual allegations were just as “invented” as the evidence for WMD before the attack on Iraq.

Melzer had previously admitted to having been so misled by media portrayals of Assange that he was initially reluctant to investigate Assange’s case.  Here is what Melzer wrote last year in an op-ed marking the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, June 26. No major media would print or post it. Medium.com posted it under the title “Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange.”

Excerpts:

But surely, I found myself pleading, Assange must be a selfish narcissist, skateboarding through the Ecuadorian Embassy and smearing feces on the walls? Well, all I heard from Embassy staff is that the inevitable inconveniences of his accommodation at their offices were handled with mutual respect and consideration.

This changed only after the election of President Moreno, when they were suddenly instructed to find smears against Assange and, when they didn’t, they were soon replaced. The President even took it upon himself to bless the world with his gossip, and to personally strip Assange of his asylum and citizenship without any due process of law.

In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. (Emphasis added.)

Melzer ended his op-ed with this somber warning:

… This is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny. (Emphasis added.)

Melzer’s indefatigable efforts to expose what Assange has gone through, including “psychological torture,” met with some modest success in the days before the German ZDF aired their stories. Embedded in the linked article is by far the best interview of Melzer on Assange.

Opposition to extraditing Assange to the U.S. is becoming more widespread. Another straw in an Assange-favorable wind came last week when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for Assange’s immediate release, ending years of silence by such European institutions.

It remains, nonetheless, an uphill struggle to prompt the British to think back 800 years to the courage of the nobles who wrested the Magna Carta from King John.

Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange

On November 27 this year, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, delivered an address to the German Bundestag outlining his approach to understanding the mental health of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. These comprised two parts, the initial stage covering his diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy, the second dealing with his formal detention in the United Kingdom at the hands of the UK legal and judicial system. The conclusion was a recapitulation of previous findings: that Assange has been subjected to a prolonged, state-sponsored effort in torture, nothing less than a targeting of his being.

Melzer’s address is an expansive portrait of incremental inter-state torment that led to Assange’s confinement “in a highly controlled environment within the Ecuadorean embassy for more than six years.” There was the eventually justified fear that he would be sought by the United States in extradition proceedings. The Swedish authorities threw in their muddled lot between 2010 and 2019, attempting to nab Assange for rape claims despite “not being able to produce enough evidence for an indictment, and which now, after almost a decade, has been silently closed for the third time based on precisely that recognition.”

Then came the British contribution, consisting of encouragement to the Swedes by the Crown Prosecution Service that the investigation should not be closed, inspiring them not to get “cold feet”. (The cold feet eventually came.) The Ecuadorean contribution completed the four-piece set, with the coming to power of a pro-Washington Lenín Moreno. Embassy personnel in London were encouraged to make conditions that less pleasant; surveillance operations were conducted on Assange’s guests and meetings.

Melzer, along with a medical team, attended to Assange on May 9, 2019 in Belmarsh, finding a man with “all the symptoms that are typical of persons having been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time.” There was little doubt, in Melzer’s mind, that symptoms “already measurable physically, neurologically and cognitively”, had been shown.

These calls went unheeded. Melzer, in early November, accused the UK authorities of showing “outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity.” Despite warnings issued by the rapporteur, “the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.” Melzer’s prognosis was bleak. “Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”

This point has been restated by Dr. Stephen Frost, a chief figure of the dedicated outfit calling itself Doctors for Assange. “We repeat that it is impossible to assess adequately let alone treat Mr Assange in Belmarsh prison and that he must as a matter of urgency be moved to a university teaching hospital. When will the UK government listen to us?”

The medical degrading of Assange has assumed ever greater importance, suggesting unwavering state complicity. On November 22, over 65 notable medical doctors sent the UK Home Secretary a note based on Melzer’s November 1 findings and Assange’s state at the October 21 case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. “It is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).”

In a second open letter to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice dated December 4, the Doctors for Assange collective warned that the UK’s “refusal to take the required measures to protect Mr Assange’s rights, health and dignity appears [to] be reckless at best and deliberate at worst and, in both cases, unlawfully and unnecessarily exposes Mr Assange to potentially irreversible risks.”

The same grounds were reiterated in a December 16 letter to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, with a curt reminder that she had “an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.” In the event that Payne took no action on the matter, “people would want to know what you […] did to prevent his death.”

In the addendum to the open letter, further to reiterating the precarious state of Assange’s health and medical status as a torture victim, the doctors elaborate on the circular cruelty facing the publisher. An individual deemed “a victim of psychological torture cannot be adequately medically treated while continuing to be held under the very conditions constituting psychological torture, as is currently the case for Julian Assange.” Appropriate medical treatment was hardly possible through a prison hospital ward.

A lesson in understanding mental torture is also proffered. “Contrary to popular misconception, the injuries caused by psychological torture are real and extremely serious. The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress.”

At Assange’s case management hearing on December 19, restrictions on medical opinion were again implemented; psychiatrist Marco Chiesa and psychologist David Morgan were prevented from attending. Both had been signatories to the spray of open letters. According to Morgan, he had hoped to “provide some observations about Julian Assange’s health, psychologically, and with my colleagues, physically.” Instead, it transpired that access was denied, according to psychologist Lissa Johnson, “despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.”

Cold-shouldering expert opinion can be counted as one of the weapons of the state in punishing whistleblowers and publishers. The State has always made it a bureaucratic imperative to sift the undesirable evidence from the apologetic message. Accepting Assange’s condition would be tantamount to admission on the part of UK authorities, urged on by the United States, that intolerable, potentially martyring treatment, has been meted out to a publisher.

Abuses Show Assange Case was Never About Law

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind always knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are is not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten on with developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone, and the original investigative work of Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.

* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, although she never questioned Assange. He spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case, but was then told by prosecutors he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that suspicions against him were not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.

* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.

* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.

* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.

* Ny finally relented on Assange being interviewed in November 2016, with a Swedish prosecutor sent to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, Assange’s Swedish lawyer was barred from being present. Ny was due to be questioned about the interview by a Stockholm judge in May 2017 but closed the investigation against Assange the very same day.

* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request – pursued by Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi – shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.

* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.

* Despite his interview with a Swedish prosecutor taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subseqently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.

* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.

* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper  that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet – apart from Stefania Maurizi – has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.

The Murdering of Julia Assange

Julian Assange is being slowly murdered by “Her Majesty’s Prison Service” at Belmarsh prison in the south-east of London. The prison is notorious for holding people who have never been charged with a crime indefinitely. It is also called the British version of Guantanamo, and, typically used to detain so-called terrorists, thus called by the British police and secret service and aped by the British MSM and establishment. Terrorists that become terrorists by continuous and repeated accusations, by media propaganda, but not necessarily by fact. Remember, if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the truth in the minds of the braindead listeners. It’s indoctrination of the public to demonize somebody or a group of people, or a country, who could become dangerous for the empire’s vicious and criminal endeavors. That’s what they are doing with Julian Assange. Exactly the same principal is applied, though on a different scale, against President Putin and against Russia and China. And it seems to work in a brainwashed-to-the-core, western society, ran by their spineless European US-vassalic leadership.

Yes, what is happening to Julian Assange could happen to any journalist who reveals the inconvenient truth about the empire and its minions’ criminal machinations, any journalist – or non-journalist, whistleblower, for that matter – anyone who dares standing up to the AngloZionist atrocities may end up in Guantanamo or Belmarsh which is considered a Type A prison for adult men, meaning, a “serious” prison, where “dangerous” detainees are held for as long as Her Majesty’s Prison Service considers necessary, and prisoners’ treatments are held secret and include torture.

Julian Assange’s case goes even farther than breaking all the rules of “democratic” free speech. The way he is treated is a serious infraction on Human Rights. The US and British governments intend to silence and punish a champion of free speech, torturing him for the world to see, and especially as a deterrent for would-be whistleblowers and other free-speech advocates.

Julian Assange has been condemned to a ‘temporary’ prison sentence of 50 weeks for jumping bail, when he sought and was granted refuge in 2012 in the Ecuadorian Embassy. And why did he jump bail? Because he was about to be extradited to neofascist Sweden, who acting in the name of Washington, accused him with phony rape and sexual misconduct charges, from where he would have most likely been extradited to the US where he might have faced a kangaroo court and a fake trial with a possible death sentence, or indefinite incarceration at Guantanamo.

That’s why he jumped bail and why he escaped to the Ecuadorian Embassy, because western injustice was already then played out with false propaganda, for everyone, but the blind and indoctrinated, to see. Rafael Correa, then President of Ecuador, saw the truth behind it all and granted Julian asylum, and later gave him Ecuadorian citizenship – which in 2018 was revoked by Correa’s traitor and fascist successor, US-implant, Lenin Moreno, who, as a reward, it is said, got an IMF loan of US$ 4.2 billion to help the government carry out its neoliberal economic reform program, meaning undoing much of the social programs of improving economic equality for the Ecuadorian population, implemented during the Correa presidency.

Well, how sick can that be?  Unfortunately, acting pathologically or even psychopathically in today’s world is fully accepted. It’s the new normal. This means we are living in an almost-terminally ill, corrupt and utterly brainwashed society – to be precise, western society. “Almost-terminally” means that there is only dim hope of healing for the utter lack of conscientiousness of western society. Hope of western people’s awakening is fading, as it is sliding ever deeper into a bottomless abyss.

Julian Assange was first accused by Washington of fake charges of computer hacking and conspiring to defraud the United States. In fact, what this is all about is the 2010 publication by Wikileaks of the infamous video that circulated the world a million times, depicting the purposeful, malicious ‘collateral killing’ of harmless civilians by the crew of a US Army helicopter – and of other data of atrocious acts of the US military revealed by Chelsea Manning, and published by Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning has been and is herself serving prison sentences.

Despite the fact that this little video has been seen around the world probably by more than a billion people, nobody went on the barricades – on an endless mass-demonstration – to stop the rogue-state and killing machine United States of America from committing its daily and deadly crimes. Nobody. And the killing goes on. And Washington is doing its utmost to silence every future revealing of their atrocities, by silencing Julian Assange, and intimidating any potential future truth-revealer.

They have now 50 weeks, while he is hidden away in a British Guantanamo-like prison, to slowly kill him on behalf of and as a little favor to Washington, so he doesn’t have to be extradited and the US is spared being exposed to the kangaroo trial that Julian would otherwise receive. If he dies a “natural” death in a British prison, Trump may wash his bloody hands in innocence, and those in Congress who want to send a CIA squadron to murder Assange – I kid you not they are not ashamed to openly say so – will also be able to whitewash their criminal and bloody minds. Nobody will ever know what really happened behind Her Majesty’s prison walls.  There will be some flareups in the media – and then all quiets down. As usual. The Wikileaks founder will be gone and all potential whistleblowers and truth-seeking journalists will be on their guard. Objective achieved.

In the meantime and to reach that objective, Julian is most likely being tortured, possibly physically and psychologically. Julian Assange has suffered “prolonged exposure to psychological torture”, the UN’s torture expert, Nils Melzer, said in a BBC interview, and urged Britain not to extradite Assange to Washington. According to retired USAF lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, he may have been doped with psychotropic drugs, like 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, known as BZ that produces hallucinations, mental confusion and memory loss. This may have been the reason, why he was unable to speak clearly, and to participate in a Swedish Court hearing and had to be transferred to the hospital wing of Her Majesty’s Belmarsh prison. One of the few pictures that emerged at the time of his transfer to the hospital was one of a zombie.

Let’s just hope that I‘m totally wrong with this scenario – and that people’s pressure (at this point it would be a miracle) will pry Julian loose from the lethal fangs of the empire and its minions.

The Western world keeps looking on. Worse, they even support Her Majesty’s Prison Service, to which Julian Assange is subjected. They largely applauded the brutal British arrest of Julian Assange, when the police dragged him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy into a van and off to preventive custody, and hours later he was convicted to 50 weeks on a phony charge for jumping bail.

What can be said – is not better said than by Paul Craig Roberts, “If the world stands for the US / UK / Swedish judicial murder of an innocent man, the world does not deserve to exist another second.” Amen.

Findings of Torture: The UN Rapporteur and Julian Assange

Another crude and sad chapter, yet more evidence of a system’s vengeance against its challengers.  Julian Assange, like they dying Roman emperor Vespasian, may be transforming into a god of sorts, but the suffering of his mortal physical is finding its mark.  While some in the cynical, narcissistic press corps still find little to commend his case, the movement to highlight his fate, and the extra-territorial vengeance of the United States, grows.

Often reviled and dismissed as ineffectual if not irrelevant, the United Nations has offered Assange some measure of protection through its articulations and findings.  Ironically enough, powers happy to regard the UN as a mere bauble of international relations in not protecting human rights have dismissed it when action does take place.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for instance, found in 2016 that the publisher’s conditions of confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy amounted to arbitrary detention.  “The Working Group considered that Mr Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorean embassy.”

The Working Group took the long view: to suggest that he had a choice in leaving the embassy at any point was farfetched and myopic.  Specific reference to the shoddy Swedish prosecution effort against Assange (“lack of diligence… in its investigations”) was also made, as it compounded the element of arbitrariness.  Any request to question him in Sweden could hardly be seen as “benign”.  How right they were.

Notwithstanding that, a resounding sneer from the British authorities, a bevy of black letter lawyers, and newspapers followed.  “He is not being detained arbitrarily,” The Guardian editorialised with its usual fair-friend weathered disposition.  The Working Group’s finding, according to international law authority Philippe Sands, was “poorly reasoned and unpersuasive”. Assange best give up the ghost and face the music.

This week, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, came to a conclusion as unsurprising as it was necessary.  After visiting Assange at the maximum security facility at Belmarsh on May 9, the UN official found that the publisher had been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  This was all part of him becoming the cause célèbre of “a relentless campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation […] not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”  These governments had, be it through “an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst […] created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”

The fresh list of charges from US prosecutors – 17 additions to spice those centred on computer intrusion and conspiracy – alarmed Melzer.  “My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The cumulative and crushing effect of the charges – potentially 175 years imprisonment – astonished Melzer.  “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges are added in the future.”  To this can be added a nine-year period of systematic judicial abuse, arbitrary confinement, oppressive isolation, harassment, embassy surveillance by Ecuador and the “deliberative collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”

While the conditions in Belmarsh do not currently make the grade of solitary confinement, they have been severe and inhospitable enough to cause concern.  Visits by Assange’s legal team are limited and sporadic; access to necessary case files and documents has been curbed, impairing chances of adequately preparing his legal defence.

Melzer also has a dig against the broader effort to attack journalism, with Assange as figurehead. “Since 2010, when WikiLeaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr Assange extradited to the United States by prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US constitution and international human rights law.”

Medical experts who accompanied Melzer on his visit also expressed opinions on Assange’s health, finding that his health had been “seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years.”  Physical ailments were found alongside the “symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, taking a dog-eared leaf out of the book of excuses used against the Working Group, dismissed Melzer’s findings.  Assange always had an unimpaired, free choice (that word again).  “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”

The BBC also noted the views of a justice ministry spokesperson, keen to disabuse sceptics that the British justice system might be suffering from judicial wear and tear.  The UK did not, it was asserted, participate in torture; its judges were independent and rights to appeal could be exercised.

The response to Hunt from the good professor was sharp: Assange “was about as ‘free to leave’ as a [sic] someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool.”  In his view, “UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”

Melzer’s words suffice as a damningly grim biography on the treatment levelled at Assange and the broader enterprise of publishing.  For two decades, having worked with “victims of war, violence and political persecution,” the rapporteur had “never seen a group of democratic States gang up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

Abuses show Assange Case was Never About Law

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind already knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten back to developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.

* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, during which time Assange was questioned and spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case. He was then told by prosecutors that he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that any offence they believed he had committed was not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.

* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.

* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.

* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.

* Ny finally relented on interviewing Assange in November 2016, coming to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, she barred Assange’s lawyer from being present. That was a gross irregularity that Ny was due to be questioned about in May 2017 by a Stockholm judge. Apparently rather than face those questions, Ny decided to close the investigation against Assange the very same day.

* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.

* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.

* Despite his interview with Ny taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subsequently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.

* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.

* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.