U.K. Judge Rules American Prisons “Too Inhumane” to Extradite Imprisoned Journalist Assange

Julian Assange Can’t Be Extradited to US, UK Judge Rules

Julian Assange Can’t Be Extradited to US, UK Judge RulesPosted: 04 Jan 2021 05:09 AM PSTIn a historic ruling that some say could help protect press freedoms in the US, a British judge has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can’t be extradited to the US.The New York Times described the ruling as “…a major victory against the U.S. authorities who have accused him of conspiring to hack government computers and violating the Espionage Act with the release of confidential communications in 2010 and 2011.”Assange was dramatically arrested in April 2019 inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London following 7 years spent in hiding there as authorities pursued him on alleged sexual assault charges linked to his time in Sweden. While that investigation was dropped years ago (though Sweden formally reopened it following news that Assange was in custody before being dropped once again) it was revealed that his arrest in London was tied to an extradition request filed by the US. For years, prosecutors had been quietly pursuing their case against Assange.The charges were soon revealed: the 49-year-old Assange is facing 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing leaked military documents and cables. He was also charged with one count of violating the Computers Fraud and Abuse Act. All told, he could face 175 years in an American jail. Back in June, US prosecutors published an expanded indictment, which caused even more consternation for Assange’s defense team.Though, now that a British judge has ruled that he can’t be extradited, it’s possible that he may never actually return to the US to face the charges against him. Though the judge, Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said she had no problems with the US case against Assange, she ruled that extradition would pose a serious threat to Assange’s health. Though she said the case appeared to be brought in “good faith”, and that Assange’s actions went beyond simply encouraging a journalist, the judge ruled extradition could have a seriously negative impact on Assange’s health. For example, she found “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”Assange’s supporters and legal team have long warned about his deteriorating health in confinement, and photos of a sallow and decidedly unhealthy looking Assange have filtered out through the press. Back in 2019, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture and ill treatment declared that Assange’s confinement amounted to “psychological torture”. He is being held at Belmarsh, a high-security prison in London, where he has been awaiting the extradition ruling.A crowd of supporters gathered outside the court for Monday’s ruling cheered the news.Read the full 130-page indictment here.And here is the annex with expanded witness testimony.The legal battle over Assange is nearing its one-decade mark (if one starts counting on the day he first sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy). The cables and other embarrassing documents were leaked to Wikileaks and Assange by Chelsea Manning, who was convicted in 2013 in a military tribunal and sentenced to decades behind bars. She was imprisoned between 2010 and 2017, before her sentence was commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama.To be sure, today’s ruling isn’t the last word. The US authorities now have 15 days to appeal the ruling, which is expected. Ultimately, in her ruling, the judge rejected the defense’s argument, and validated the points made by the prosecution, so if an appeal is filed, the court will likely explore whether the health concerns (risk of suicide), truly are as pressing as Judge Baraitser believes.In a series of tweets on the ruling, Glenn Greenwald hailed the decision as “great news”, but pointed out that the judge still essentially validated the arguments being made by the US prosecutors. The judge instead ruled that the US prison system is too inhumane to justify extraditing anybody to face a potentially lengthy sentence in an American prison.Greenwald also confirmed that Assange’s legal team intends to apply for bail, which means Assange could finally be free (for the first time since 2012) shortly.The rejection by the UK court of the US Govt’s request to extradite Julian Assange to stand trial on espionage charges is obviously great news. But the judge endorsed most of the USG’s theories, but ultimately found the US prison system too inhumane to permit extradition.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021The US DOJ has already said it intends to appeal. The question — and I’m hearing different things on this — is whether the courts will keep Assange imprisoned while that appeal is pending. The court ordered him released, but it’s unclear if the DOJ appeal will keep him in jail.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021This wasn’t a victory for press freedom. Quite the contrary: the judge made clear she believed there are grounds to prosecute Assange in connection with the 2010 publication.It was, instead, an indictment of the insanely oppressive US prison system for security “threats.”— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021Ultimately, though, from a humanitarian *and* a political perspective, what matters most is that Assange be freed as soon as possible. The US Govt doesn’t care what prison he’s in, or why: they just want him silenced and in a cage.He should be freed immediately.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021The full ruling is at the link. Savor the last, sweet paragraph.https://t.co/edZcOywXUE pic.twitter.com/KlspkGZNEd— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021But an even bigger question now, with extradition seemingly off the table, will President Trump decide upon a last-minute pardon for Assange, as many of Assange’s supporters have pleaded with him to do.Republished from ZeroHedge.com with permissionThe post Julian Assange Can’t Be Extradited to US, UK Judge Rules appeared first on We Are Change.
Top US Official Says “Growing Body of Evidence” Shows COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese LabPosted: 03 Jan 2021 07:16 PM PSTThe most ‘credible’ theory about the origin of COVID-19 is that it escaped from a Chinese laboratory, according to US National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, who made the comment during a Zoom meeting with UK officials.“There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus,” said Pottinger, referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to the Daily Mail, which notes that ‘even China’s leaders openly admit their previous claims that the virus originated in a Wuhan market are false.’Pottinger was one of the first US officials to sound the alarm at the White House over the origins of the virus in January 2020, when he initially suspected that the outbreak originated in a Chinese lab – after which Pottinger ordered US intelligence agencies to search for evidence. Good thing he kept this theory to himself, or Twitter may have banned him.He also slammed the World Health Organization’s probe as a ruse – saying “MPs around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,” referring to the facade villages created in 18th Century Crimea to convince the visiting Russian Empress Catherine the Great that the region was doing well.Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory Party leader who attended the meeting, said Mr Pottinger’s comments represented a ‘stiffening’ of the US position on the theory that the virus came from a leak at the laboratory, amid reports that the Americans are talking to a whistleblower from the Wuhan institute.‘I was told the US have an ex-scientist from the laboratory in America at the moment,’ he said. ‘That was what I heard a few weeks ago.‘I was led to believe this is how they have been able to stiffen up their position on how this outbreak originated.’He added that Beijing’s refusal to allow journalists to visit the laboratory only served to increase suspicion that it was ‘ground zero’ for the pandemic. ‘The truth is there are people who have been in those labs who maintain that this is the case,’ he said.‘We don’t know what they have been doing in that laboratoryThey may well have been fiddling with bat coronaviruses and looking at them and they made a mistake. I’ve spoken to various people who believe that to be the case.’ –Daily Mail“Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story,” Pottinger told the call participants.Meanwhile, emails obtained via a public records request revealed that influential scientists have been hard at work crafting the ‘natural origin’ thesis, while suggesting a lab leak as a ‘fringe conspiracy theory.’ Via USRTK.org:*  *  *Influential scientists and many news outlets have described the evidence as “overwhelming” that the virus originated in wildlife, not from a lab. However, a year after the first reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, little is known how or where the virus originated. Understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, may be crucial to preventing the next pandemic.The emails of coronavirus expert Professor Ralph Baric – obtained through a public records request by U.S. Right to Know – show conversations between National Academy of Sciences (NAS) representatives, and experts in biosecurity and infectious diseases from U.S. universities and the EcoHealth Alliance.On Feb. 3, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to “convene meeting of experts… to assess what data, information and samples are needed to address the unknowns, in order to understand the evolutionary origins of 2019-nCoV, and more effectively respond to both the outbreak and any resulting misinformation.”Baric and other infectious disease experts were involved in drafting the response. The emails show the experts’ internal discussions and an early draft dated Feb. 4.The early draft described “initial views of the experts” that “the available genomic data are consistent with natural evolution and that there is currently no evidence that the virus was engineered to spread more quickly among humans.” This draft sentence posed a question, in parentheses:“[ask experts to add specifics re binding sites?]” It also included a footnote in parentheses: “[possibly add brief explanation that this does not preclude an unintentional release from a laboratory studying the evolution of related coronaviruses].”In one email, dated Feb. 4, infectious disease expert Trevor Bedford commented:“I wouldn’t mention binding sites here. If you start weighing evidence there’s a lot to consider for both scenarios.”By “both scenarios,” Bedford appears to refer to lab-origin and natural-origin scenarios.The question of binding sites is important to the debate about the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Distinctive binding sites on SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein confer “near-optimal” binding and entry of the virus into human cells, and make SARS-CoV-2 more contagious than SARS-CoV. Scientists have argued that SARS-CoV-2’s unique binding sites could have originated either as a result of natural spillover in the wild or deliberate laboratory recombination of an as-yet-undisclosed natural ancestor of SARS-CoV-2.The final letter published Feb. 6 did not mention binding sites or the possibility of a laboratory origin. It does make clear that more information is necessary to determine the origins of SARS-CoV-2. The letter states,“The experts informed us that additional genomic sequence data from geographically – and temporally – diverse viral samples are needed to determine the origin and evolution of the virus. Samples collected as early as possible in the outbreak in Wuhan and samples from wildlife would be particularly valuable.”The emails show some experts discussing the need for clear language to counter what one described as “crackpot theories” of lab origin. Kristian Andersen, lead author of an influential Nature Medicine paper asserting a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, said:the early draft was “great, but I do wonder if we need to be more firm on the question of engineering.”He continued,“If one of the main purposes of this document is to counter those fringe theories, I think it’s very important that we do so strongly and in plain language…”In his response, Baric aimed at conveying a scientific basis for SARS-CoV-2’s natural origin.“I do think we need to say that the closest relative to this virus (96%) was identified from bats circulating in a cave in Yunnan, China. This makes a strong statement for animal origin.”Meanwhile, 27 scientists issued a statement drafted by Daszak (who didn’t want to be identified as its author), in which they “strongly condemn[ed] conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” and reported that scientists from multiple countries “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” The letter included no scientific references to refute a lab-origin theory of the virus.One scientist, Linda Saif, asked via email whether it would be useful “to add just one or 2 statements in support of why nCOV is not a lab generated virus and is naturally occuring? Seems critical to scientifically refute such claims!”Daszak responded, “I think we should probably stick to a broad statement.”Growing calls to investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 have led to increased scrutiny of EcoHealth Alliance.The emails show how members of EcoHealth Alliance played an early role in framing questions about possible lab origin of SARS-CoV-2 as “crackpot theories that need to be addressed,” as Daszak told The Guardian.Republished from ZeroHedge.com with permissionThe post Top US Official Says “Growing Body of Evidence” Shows COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese Lab appeared first on We Are Change.
It’s Happening…Posted: 03 Jan 2021 03:52 PM PSTIn today’s video, we cover the clash between Republicans over certifying the election results and major breaking news related to China.The post It’s Happening… appeared first on We Are Change.

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