Reprinted from Counterpunch
United Nations panel rules Julian Assange was .arbitrarily detained.
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At what point do we cry foul when we witness the abuse of a political dissident, one who dares to take on mighty vested interests?
When his own state, the local legal system and the media all turn on him? When he is forced to seek sanctuary in a foreign embassy for many years, surrounded by state security forces threatening to arrest him if he leaves? When the world's highest arbiter on the matter of his confinement, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, supports his case? When the state, legal authorities and the media ignore the ruling and continue to demand his arrest?
If this were China or Russia, at some point along this trajectory most of us would have been forced to concede that this was a clear case of political persecution; that the best he could hope for was a show trial; and that the local media were failing in their role as watchdogs on power.
But this is not China or Russia. This is the UK, the dissident is Julian Assange and it suddenly seems that the world's leading experts on arbitrary detention have no clue what they are talking about.
Today the UN panel on arbitrary detention ruled that Assange, who has spent more than three years confined to a tiny room in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, is being arbitrarily detained and that he should be allowed to walk free.
The panel comprises leading experts in international human rights law from around the world who have been studying his case since 2014. It is probably safe to assume they know much more about the details of the case than most journalists.
Assange was convicted by the British corporate media, including its supposedly liberal outfits, from the moment allegations of sexual offences in Sweden surfaced six years ago. August media outlets like the BBC, which carefully presume innocence in prosecutions of those accused of everyday crimes, repeatedly made grossly erroneous claims about Assange, including that he had been charged with rape when no charges have yet been laid. Assange is being investigated.
Even now, when the UN panel is on his side, it seems the British media are not about to stop.
What has been so infuriating about the coverage of Assange's case is that supposedly critical journalists have simply peddled allegations and arguments advanced by the parties involved -- the UK, Sweden, and the United States -- without making even cursory efforts to check them.
Film-maker Alex Gibney, for example, spent many months putting together a cinema-released documentary on the Assange case that made such elementary mistakes that anyone who had spent even a little time watching the case unfold could pick apart basic flaws in Gibney's argument, as I did here.
Although the UN panel has backed Assange, as it has other prominent dissidents such as Aung Sang Suu Kyi in Burma and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, Britain's most esteemed liberal mainstream newspaper, the Guardian, has barely paused for breath in continuing to pursue its campaign against him.
An editorial today dismisses the UN ruling as a "publicity stunt." It ignores the weight of the UN panel's decision, and yet again makes claims and assertions about the case that are patently mistaken.
The core of its argument is this: Assange cannot have been arbitrarily detained because, by denying Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him, he has blocked them from advancing the case. In other words, his detention is self-inflicted.
The Guardian puts it this way:
"Since Mr Assange left Sweden in 2010 before he could be questioned and has resolutely refused to return, no such interview has taken place."
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