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King John of England accepts Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. (Image by (Flickr)) DetailsDMCA
The British court system continues to mock the Magna Carta. Bowing vassal-like to U.S. pressure it persists with Star Chamber proceedings against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange until he is either extradited to the U.S. or winds up dead.
The judicial pantomime underway in London, under the guise of an extradition hearing, would make the English nobles who wrested precious civil rights from King John eight centuries ago sob in anger and shame. But nary a whimper is heard from the heirs to those rights. One searches in vain for English nobles today.
Yet the process stumbles along, as awkward as it is inexorable, toward extradition and life in prison for Assange, if he lasts that long.
The banal barristers bashing Assange now seem to harbor hope that, unlike the case of Henry VIII and Thomas More, the swords of royal knights will be unneeded to "deliver the Crown from this troublesome priest" or publisher. Those barristers may be spared the embarrassment of losing what residual self-respect they may still claim. In short, they may not need to bow and scrape much longer to surrender Assange to life in a U.S. prison. He may die first.
For the UK and U.S. barristers and their puppeteers in Washington, salivating to seize the Australian publisher, a deus ex machina has descended backstage. It is called Covid-19 and London's Belmarsh prison is accurately described as a petri dish for such disease. We already know of one prisoner death there from the virus. God knows how many more there already are or will be.
In refusing to allow nonviolent prisoner Julian Assange to leave that crowded prison (with his immuno -- compromised condition, weakened lungs, and clinical depression), presiding Judge Vanessa Baraitser leaves an open door to deliver Kings Boris and Donald this "troublesome" publisher by "natural" means. The swords of royal knights are not needed for this kind of faux-judicial, royal screw. And, happily for Lady Baraitser, she may not have to keep washing blood off her hands as Lady Macbeth was compelled to do.
Meanwhile, as all await Assange's demise one way or the other, his lawyers have had no contact with him for three weeks. They cannot visit him in prison; nor can they even talk to him by video chat, according to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnnson.
Empire Drives Home an Old Lesson
However Assange is eventually dispatched dead or alive from Star Chamber and prison, the Empire remains hell-bent on demonstrating that it will give no quarter to those endangering it by WikiLeaks-type disclosures.
The lesson is now abundantly clear to all "troublesome" publishers tempted to follow Assange's example of publishing documentary truth (a function of what used to be called journalism). They will be cut down whether by "natural" means, or by endless faux-judicial proceedings resulting in lengthy imprisonment, financial ruin, or both.
On Tuesday Judge Baraitser announced that the Assange extradition hearing will resume on May 18, as previously scheduled and that it may drag on into July, Covid-19 notwithstanding. The big question is whether Assange, if he is kept confined in Belmarsh prison, will live that long. Meanwhile, thousands of other nonviolent prisoners are being released from other UK prisons in a humane step to reduce the chances of infection.
As I think of my good friend Julian, what comes to mind are the desperate words of Willy Loman's wife Linda in "Death of a Salesman":
"He's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)