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John Pilger: support for Julian Assange

Posted by lahar9jhadav on December 8, 2010

Journalist John Pilger voices support for Julian Assange

pilger Journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger is one of many high profile figures to come out in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been refused bail in London on sexual assault charges…

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been remanded in custody by a British court over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

He appeared at the Westminster Magistrates Court overnight where he was supported by a number of high profile figures, including veteran investigative journalist John Pilger, who offered surety of $32,000 for Mr Assange.

"This case is about, number one, a person’s right to justice, when they’re innocent until proven guilty," Mr Pilger explains to Adam Spencer on 702 Breakfast when discussing his reasons for getting involved in the case.

Mr Pilger goes further, describing the case against Mr Assange as a ‘political stunt’, noting, "the chief prosecutor in Sweden abandoned this case, threw it away, saw no worth in it."

John Pilger spoke to Mr Assange soon after the hearing, when he was in police custody and explained he was taking the ruling in his stride…

"I don’t know how I would be, I would be full of trepidation, and I’m sure he was too, but he has quite a dry wit, he saw the black side of it."

Mr Pilger, on the other hand, is critical of the Australian government, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard over her stance.

"Gillard’s statement, saying that what Wikileaks was doing in disclosing these documents was illegal – it’s not illegal at all, under any laws in Australia.

"That’s the sort of thing that most Australians should be concerned about," he says.

John Pilger first came to know the Wikileaks founder after interviewing him for a documentary called The War You Don’t See.

He says Julian Assange has been encouraged by the support he’s received from himself and other high profile figures who signed an open letter in support of his actions.

"To be at the epicentre of something like this, requires a particular fortitude, it also requires people to understand the basic issues and give their support [and] those of us who do understand, I believe, are giving that."

John Pilger says he was struck by the commitment of Julian Assange when he first met him.

"I think he has quite a moral commitment to this, he believes there should be an ethical dimension, a moral dimension to world affairs, that’s his personal view… that came through clearly to me when I first met him."

___________________________

AUSTRALIAN-BORN human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has cut short his summer holiday in Sydney to represent WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he turns himself in to British police.

Mr Robertson and another specialist extradition lawyer from his Doughty Street Chambers are to act for Mr Assange who was expected to surrender to police late yesterday and appear in a magistrate’s court to argue for bail. A full hearing of the extradition case must be heard within 28 days.

But London legal sources warned that the European arrest warrant issued for Mr Assange over sexual assault claims in Sweden is difficult to ”avoid or challenge”. He and his lawyers plan to fight the extradition with every available resource. There is growing fear that this case could lead to a hand-over to US authorities in the wake of the release of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The Age believes that Mr Robertson, whose chambers are one of the few with a specialist in extradition proceedings with Scandinavian nations, has been in contact with Assange about his defence and met federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland about the case.

The imminent surrender of Mr Assange is unfolding as his whistleblower website continued to battle a seemingly global effort to block release of further information led by the US Attorney-General, Eric Holder. Mr Holder said he had authorised significant actions aimed at prosecuting the WikiLeaks founder but he refused to specify what these might be.

”The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,” he said.

Mr Assange, 39, is reported by The Guardian to be seeking supporters to put up surety and bail to stave off attempts to hold him. He has reportedly told friends he is increasingly convinced the US is behind Swedish prosecutors’ attempts to extradite him.

He has previously said that the original allegations were the product of ”personal issues” but he believes Sweden has behaved as ”a cipher” for the US.

He is wanted by Swedish detectives after two women claimed they were sexually assaulted by him when he visited the country last August. The Swedish supreme court upheld an order to detain him for questioning after he successfully appealed against two lower court rulings.

Mr Assange has also said he declined to return to Sweden to face prosecutors because he feared he would not receive a fair trial and that prosecutors had requested that he be held in solitary confinement and incommunicado.

But the constant need to be on the move is taking its toll and he has conceded he is becoming exhausted by the battle to keep defending the allegations in Sweden while running the carefully managed release of the US cables.

The site’s access to funds is also being slowly squeezed as financial institutions succumb to US and other diplomatic pressure. A Swiss bank said this week that it had shut down Mr Assange’s account because he had allegedly given ”false information” while the US-based PayPal has also frozen the WikiLeaks accounts, stimying the site’s ability to raise funds.

American political rhetoric and attacks against WikiLeaks are also escalating with the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin describing Mr Assange as ”an anti-American operative with blood on his hands”.

But in Australia yesterday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard backed away from her comment of late last week that the actions of Mr Assange and WikiLeaks were ”illegal”.

When asked what, under Australian law, was illegal about his actions, she was unable to nominate anything. ”The foundation stone of it is an illegal act,” Ms Gillard said. The ”foundation stone” was the initial theft of the cables – allegedly committed by a US army private – and not the publication by WikiLeaks.

”It would not happen, information would not be on WikiLeaks, if there had not been an illegal act undertaken,” Ms Gillard said.

The opposition’s legal affairs spokesman, George Brandis, later called Ms Gillard’s use of language clumsy. ”As far as I can see, he [Mr Assange] hasn’t broken any Australian law, nor does it appear he has broken any American laws,” he told Sky News.

SOURCE: THE AGE

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