In her ruling Baraitser concluded: “The defence has not established that Mr. Assange has been the target of a politically motivated prosecution”. In other words, her interpretation of ‘politically’ was not about Assange and his motivations but the US prosecution. That can easily be challenged, as observed in a May 2019 article in The Canary.
For example, CIA chief Mike Pompeo described WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”. There have also been numerous threats (including death threats) against Assange from the US, including by senior politicians:
- Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin demanded that Assange be hunted down “like an al-Qaeda or Taliban leader”.
- In 2010, former US vice-president Joe Biden referred to Assange as a “high-tech terrorist”.
- Former political operative and media pundit Bob Beckel suggested in 2011 that the US should assassinate Assange, saying: “A dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor… treasonous. And he has broken every law of the United States… And I’m not for the death penalty, so… there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch”.
And there’s this:
Another political bar
But there’s yet another ‘political’ dimension.
Last year 154 lawyers sent a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, the lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice Robert Buckland QC, the secretary of state for foreign affairs Dominic Raab, and home secretary Priti Patel, pointing out that:
Charges 1-17 [raised against Assange] are brought under the Espionage Act 1917, which, in name alone, reveals the political and antiquated nature of the charges.
The letter added:
The UK-US Extradition Treaty, which provides the very basis of the extradition request, specifically prohibits extradition for political offences in Art. 4(1).
there is broad international consensus that political offences should not be the basis of extradition.[ix] This is reflected in Art. 3 of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, Art. 3 ECHR, Art. 3(a) of the UN Model Treaty on Extradition, the Interpol Constitution and every bilateral treaty ratified by the US for over a century.
On 8 February, 24 rights organisations – including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch – appealed to the US acting attorney-general to end the prosecution of Assange, saying:
It is unfortunately the case that press freedom is under threat globally. Now more than ever, it is Pentagon Papers case memorably called a “cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press”—in the United States and abroad. With this end in mind, we respectfully urge you to forgo the appeal of Judge Baraitser’s ruling, and to dismiss the indictment of Mr. Assange.
Meanwhile, given Davis’ comments, a counter-claim by the defence to a higher court arguing that Baraitser has erred in law could see the prosecution case falter, if not collapse.