Assange: Abandoned In Belmarsh By FVEY-0wn3d Australia

grarpamp grarpamp at
Mon Nov 22 02:11:07 PST 2021

New Files Detail Level Of Julian Assange's Prison Torment

Documents provided exclusively to The Grayzone detail Canberra’s
abandonment of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, and provide
shocking details of his prison suffering... Was the government of
Australia aware of the US Central Intelligence Agency plot to
assassinate Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and journalist
arrested and now imprisoned under unrelentingly bleak, harsh
conditions in the UK?

Why have the country’s elected leaders refused to publicly advocate
for one of its citizens, who has been held on dubious charges and
subjected to torture by a foreign power, according to UN Special
Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer? What does Canberra know about
Julian’s fate and when did it know it?

The Grayzone has obtained documents revealing that the Australian
government has since day one been well-aware of Julian’s cruel
treatment inside London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison, and has
done little to nothing about it. It has, in fact, turned a cold
shoulder to the jailed journalist despite hearing his testimony of
conditions “so bad that his mind was shutting down.”

Not only has Canberra failed to effectively challenge the US and UK
governments overseeing Assange’s imprisonment and prosecution; as
these documents expose in stark detail, it appears to have colluded
with them in the flagrant violation of an Australian citizen’s human
rights, while doing its best to obscure the reality of his situation
from the public.
On knowledge of CIA plot against Assange, Australia’s Department of
Foreign Affairs issues snide non-denial denial

In the wake of Yahoo News’ startling September revelations of CIA
plans to surveil, kidnap, and even kill WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange, which confirmed and built upon a May 2020 exposé by The
Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, officials in the NATO-oriented ‘Five Eyes’
global spying network struggled to get their stories straight. William
Evanina, Washington’s top counterintelligence officer until his
retirement in early 2021, told Yahoo the Five Eyes alliance was
“critical” to Langley’s dastardly plot, and “we were very confident”
that Julian’s potential escape from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
could be prevented, by hook or by crook.

When asked whether the US had ever briefed or consulted the government
of Julian’s native Australia on the operation, however, Australia’s
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) dodged the question.
For his part, Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister at the
time of these deadly deliberations, claimed, “the first I heard about
this was in today’s media.”

It is certainly possible that elected officials in Canberra were kept
in the dark about the CIA’s proposals. Australian Prime Minister Gough
Whitlam was unaware of the very existence of Five Eyes until 1973, 17
years after his country became a signatory to the network’s
underpinning UKUSA agreement, following police raids on the offices of
domestic spying agency the Australian Security Intelligence
Organization, due to its withholding of information from the

Whether or not Turnbull was aware of the operation, DFAT’s response
when a member of Julian’s family contacted the Department demanding
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne ask the Biden administration
to drop the charges against him, and seeking comment on the Yahoo
article, was disturbingly flippant. “Just because it’s written in a
newspaper doesn’t mean it’s true…the CIA has been accused of a lot of
things, including faking the Moon landing,” a DFAT official quipped in
a classic non-denial denial.

These crude remarks were recorded in a letter sent to Payne by John
Shipton, Julian’s father. The missive is just one of many documents
provided exclusively to Grayzone by Kellie Tranter, Julian’s legal
authority in Australia. For years, Tranter has filed freedom of
information requests with the Australian government in a campaign to
uncover its true position on Julian, and to what extent its intimate
alliance with Washington has limited its ability or willingness to
push for his freedom.

The documents acquired by Tranter expose Canberra as anything but an
advocate for Assange, the Australian citizen. Instead, throughout
Julian’s time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and imprisonment at Her
Majesty’s Pleasure in Belmarsh high security prison – “Britain’s
Gitmo” – the Australian government has been determinedly committed to
seeing, hearing, and speaking no evil in his regard, despite
possessing clear evidence of his dramatically waning physical and
mental health, and the torturous conditions of his confinement.
Assange informs Canberra of US violations of his rights: ‘This action
was illegal’

The records of a brief visit by Australian consulate officers to
Belmarsh on May 17th 2019, one month after Assange’s dramatic
expulsion from the Embassy, are especially illustrative of Canberra’s
attitude. Over the course of that meeting, Assange spoke in detail
about prison conditions and his 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement.

    “He remains in his cell most of the day, with 40 minutes allocated
each day for ‘associations’,” the Australian consular officials noted.
“He is allowed outside for 30 minutes each day, although he said at
times this does not happen,” for reasons unstated. Unable to eat at
all “for a long period,” he was now ingesting “small amounts”,
collecting meals from the kitchen and returning to his cell.

Permitted just two personal visits each month, plus legal
consultations, Assange mentioned his recent meeting with Nils Melzer
and two medical experts specialized in examining potential victims of
torture and other ill-treatment, and that he had so far been unable to
speak to his family. The WikiLeaks co-founder eschewed work programs
“which would afford him the opportunity to get out of his cell more
often,” according to the diplomats, on the grounds that he refused to
engage in “slave labour” and needed time to prepare his legal case.
Prisoners in British jails earn an average of $13 per week for hard,
thankless toil on behalf of big business, which in turn profits
immensely from their rank exploitation.

While mercifully prescribed antibiotics and codeine by prison doctors
for an infected root canal, which can be life-threatening in the event
the infection spreads, Assange was still waiting on reading glasses
and had yet to see an optometrist. The jailed journalist went on to
describe how one senior officer “has it in for me,” showing his
visitors a charge sheet indicating that a search of his cell uncovered
a razor blade, and he’d failed to tidy it after an inspection.

A third infraction of any sort “would result in exercise privileges
being withdrawn,” the document states. Possibly fearing reprisal,
Assange asked that officials not raise these matters with prison
authorities. Evidently, what might typically be considered an
unambiguous indication of suicidal intentions was instead logged as a
simple disciplinary matter.

Adding to his psychological toll, Assange reported that he had
undergone blood tests, and been advised he was HIV-positive, a
shocking diagnosis. However, subsequent examinations confirmed the
test result to be a false positive, forcing Assange to wonder if the
misdiagnosis was a mere error, or “something else.” It could well have
been a grotesquely sick mind game, perhaps alluding to the bogus
sexual assault allegations he had faced in Sweden, and intended to
drive him toward madness.

Assange also presented the Australian consular officials with a
recently-published UK Home Office deportation notice, informing him
then-Secretary of State Sajid Javid had determined under the 1971 UK
Immigration Act that his presence in the UK “was not conducive to the
public interest, and he would be removed from the UK without delay,”
with no chance of appealing the decision.

    “Mr. Assange expressed concern about surviving the current process
and fears he would die if taken to the US. He claimed the US was going
through his possessions that had remained at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
He said that this action was illegal,” the officers wrote. “He stated
that his possessions included two valuable artworks he planned to sell
to raise funds for his legal defence, the manuscripts of two books,
and legal papers. He expressed concern his legal material would be
used against him by the US.”

Assange was correct that sensitive documents were stolen by US
authorities. Immediately following his arrest, his attorney Gareth
Peirce contacted the Ecuadorian Embassy regarding this privileged
material, demanding it be handed over as a matter of urgency. When at
last his property was collected, all legal papers were missing save
for two volumes of Supreme Court files “and a number of pages of loose
correspondence,” making his extradition defense an even greater
challenge than it already was.

Over the course of Julian’s initial extradition hearings in early
2020, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
Gordon Kromberg implausibly pledged a “taint team” would excise
material from these files so it would not be used in any resultant
trial. Similarly feeble “assurances” of this ilk were offered during
the recent appeal proceedings.

Conversely, there has so far been no unconvincing public guarantee
against the abuse of any information illicitly obtained by UC Global,
a CIA contractor, from its extensive surveillance of the Embassy. The
Spanish private security firm went as far as bugging the building’s
female bathroom, where the WikiLeaks founder conducted discussions
with his lawyers, away from prying ears and eyes – or so he hoped.

Despite his situation, Julian somehow retained a vague shred of
optimism about the future in discussions with consular officials,
suggesting that the result of Australia’s federal election, which was
held the very next day, “may present a window for a new government to
do something supportive for his case,” asking that Marise Payne be
briefed on developments.

As it was, Scott Morrison’s Liberal National Coalition retained its
grip on power – and no alarm was publicly raised about anything
learned over the course of the consular visit. Indeed, remaining
tight-lipped on Julian’s suffering, no matter how horrendous, was to
be a matter of dedicated policy.
Australia’s DFAT denies any role in “progressively severe abuse” of Assange

On May 30th that year, WikiLeaks’ made the shock announcement that
Julian had been moved to Belmarsh’s medical ward, expressing “grave
concerns” about the state of his health. Almost immediately, DFAT’s
Global Watch Office fired off an internal email drawing attention to
the post.

The following day, ​​UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Nils Melzer proclaimed
“the collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”
The international legal veteran added that, “in 20 years of work with
victims of war, violence and political persecution,” he had “never
seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate,
demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with
so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

Next, Melzer fulminated against a “relentless and unrestrained
campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation” by the US,
UK, Sweden and Ecuador, which had subjected him to “persistent,
progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial
persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to
his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the

In response, Australia’s DFAT issued a statement rejecting any
suggestion Canberra was “complicit in psychological torture or has
shown a lack of consular support” in Assange’s regard, claiming to be
“a staunch defender of human rights and strong advocate for humane
treatment in the course of judicial processes,” and expressing
confidence that he was “being treated appropriately.”

Due to “privacy considerations” allegedly extended to all consular
clients, the Department declined to divulge any further details
related to his physical or mental state. It added that the Australian
High Commission in London “previously raised any health concerns
identified with Belmarsh prison authorities and these have been
addressed,” with further inquiries made following Julian’s move to the
health ward.

The documents provided to The Grayzone indicate Canberra did indeed
make repeated enquiries to Belmarsh by phone and mail in the wake of
Wikileaks’ announcement, all of which went unanswered for six straight
days. So why did Australia’s High Commissioner not intervene, and
demand immediate clarity on an issue of literal life-and-death

Whatever the reason for the Australian government’s foot-dragging, a
consular file dated August 8th that year records how Shipton wrote to
advise that Julian had been readmitted to Belmarsh’s sick bay, and a
lawyer was drafting a letter to Marise Payne, requesting DFAT “use its
diplomatic sources to seek an independent medical assessment (ie
outside the prison).” Then, 11 days later, Shipton mentioned that
Julian’s brother, Gabriel, had recently visited the prison and was
distressed by Assange’s “deteriorating condition,” leading him to
write letters to both Australian Governor General David Hurley and
Morrison raising his fears.

On October 21st, Assange appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing in
his extradition case. As was widely reported in the mainstream media,
he appeared frail and discombobulated, struggling to recall his own
name and date of birth when asked by the judge. When the presiding
justice enquired whether he even knew what was happening, Assange
responded, “not exactly,” indicating conditions in Belmarsh left him
unable to “think properly.”

“I don’t understand how this is equitable,” the imprisoned journalist
stated. “I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing.
It’s very difficult where I am.” Assange’s attorney, Mark Summers,
argued that his initial extradition hearing, scheduled for February
2020, should be delayed by three months due to the complexity of the
case – “the evidence…would test the limits of most lawyers,” he said,
and discussed the immense difficulty of communicating with his client
in the jail, given he lacked access to a computer.

The judge denied the request. As a result, Julian would be deprived of
“the most basic of access to the bare minimum needs for proper
representation” until just weeks prior to the hearing.
Assange attorney warns Australia’s DFAT of “impending crisis”

Three days later, Assange attorney Gareth Peirce wrote to the High
Commission, asserting that if consular representatives had attended
court, “they will have undoubtedly noted what was clear for everyone
present in court to observe” – that his client was “in shockingly poor
condition…struggling not only to cope but to articulate what he wishes
to articulate.”

Unbelievably, a DFAT report on the proceedings unearthed by Tranter
made no mention whatsoever of Julian’s disheveled appearance, or his
clearly frayed mental state. Peirce went on to argue that under the
circumstances, it was unsurprising Julian had not authorized prison
officials to provide the Australian government with information
regarding his medical treatment, which had been “been grossly and
unlawfully compromised over some time, including, disturbingly, even
whilst he has been in Belmarsh prison, false information on at least
one occasion having been provided to the press by very obviously
internal sources.”

“We hope that what we are able to say…will be accepted by you as
having been based on close observation, including by independent
professional clinicians..Every professional warning provided to the
prison, including by at least one independent doctor called in by
Belmarsh, has been ignored,” she wrote. “We would be pleased to meet
with you at any stage if by intervention in what is now an impending
crisis [emphasis added], you can contribute to its amelioration and
avoidance.” And so it was that consular officials visited Belmarsh
November 1st. In their exchange, Assange criticized false statements
made to the media by DFAT which suggested he had rejected offers of
their support.

Next, he revealed that a prison doctor was “concerned” about his
condition. In fact, Assange said his psychological state was “so bad
that his mind was shutting down,” almost permanent isolation making it
impossible for him “to think or to prepare his defence.”  He did not
even have a pen with which to write, was unable to do any research,
could not receive documents during legal visits, and all his mail was
read by prison officials before it was given to him.

The next month, Professor Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of
neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, prepared a report on
Julian’s psychiatric state based on meetings throughout his first six
months in Belmarsh, conversations with his parents, friends,
colleagues and Stella Morris, his partner and mother of his two

As was revealed in Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January ruling on the US
extradition request, Kopelman diagnosed Julian with a severe recurrent
depressive disorder, which was occasionally accompanied by psychotic
features such as hallucinations, and frequent suicidal thoughts. His
symptoms furthermore included loss of sleep and weight, impaired
concentration, a persistent feeling of being on the verge of tears,
and state of acute agitation in which he paced his cell until
exhausted, punching his head or banging it against the wall.

Assange commented to Kopelman that he believed his life was not worth
living, he thought about suicide “hundreds of times a day,” and had a
“constant desire” to self-harm or commit suicide, describing plans to
kill himself that the professor considered “highly plausible.”

Calls to The Samaritans, a UK charity helpline providing emotional
support to those in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk
of suicide, were “virtually” a nightly occurrence, and on occasions
when he had not been able to reach them, Assange had slashed his thigh
and abdomen to distract from his sense of isolation.

Kopelman concluded that, if Assange was held in solitary confinement
in the US for a prolonged period, his mental health would “deteriorate
substantially resulting in persistently severe clinical depression and
the severe exacerbation of his anxiety disorder, PTSD and suicidal
ideas,” not least because various “protective factors” available to
him in the UK would be absent Stateside.

“For example, he speaks to his partner by telephone nearly every day
and, before lockdown, was visited by her and his children, various
friends, his father, and other relatives…[Kopelman] considered there
to be an abundance of known risk factors indicating a very high risk
of suicide,” Baraitser recorded. “He stated, ‘I am as confident as a
psychiatrist ever can be that, if extradition to the US were to become
imminent, Mr. Assange will find a way of suiciding.’”

The professor’s reports were fundamental to the extradition order’s
rejection – a surprising outcome, given Baraitser previously approved
extradition in 96% of cases upon which she has ruled. Nonetheless, she
accepted every other argument and charge put forward by the Department
of Justice, in effect criminalizing a great many entirely legitimate
journalistic activities, and setting the chilling precedent that
citizens of any country can be extradited to the US for alleged
breaches of its national laws, therefore implying Washington’s legal
jurisdiction is global in scale.
Files on Australia’s DFAT discussions with US Secretary of State
redacted in full

In response to the ruling, Australia’s Shadow Attorney General Mark
Dreyfus issued a forceful statement, declaring the opposition Labor
party believed “this has dragged on for long enough,” particularly
given Julian’s “ill-health,” and demanding the Morrison administration
“do what it can to draw a line under this matter and encourage the US
government to bring this matter to a close.”

Conversely, DFAT published a characteristically laconic, soulless
note, stating merely that Australia was “not a party to the case and
will continue to respect the ongoing legal process,” and rehashing
previous false claims that Julian had rejected multiple offers of
consular assistance.

    My stomach churns reading this new report about the torture of
#Assange via @KitKlarenberg @TheGrayzoneNews using FOI @KellieTranter

    The CDC says HIV tests have a high rate of specificity ie there
are few false positives. (See )
    — Dr Deepa Govindarajan Driver (@deepa_driver) November 18, 2021

Canberra was simply silent when in June, the Icelandic publication
Stundin revealed in detail how a “superseding indictment” levelled
against Assange in September 2020, which charged that he and others at
WikiLeaks “recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer
intrusions,” was based largely on the admittedly false testimony of
fraudster, diagnosed sociopath and convicted pedophile Siggi
Thordarson, who had previously embezzled vast sums from WikiLeaks and
been recruited by the FBI to undermine its founder from within.

There is good reason to believe the Australian government knew the
indictment was coming. In July that year, Foreign Minister Payne met
with CIA director Mike Pompeo at an Australia–US Ministerial
Consultations convention, “the principal forum for bilateral
consultations” between the country and the US.

Tranter submitted freedom of information requests for details of that
rendezvous, but the documents she received in return were fully
redacted. As were files released to her relating to the Foreign
Minister’s summit with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May 2021.

It was almost certain that Assange was a subject of these meetings.
DFAT claims Payne “raised the situation” when she met Blinken again in
September, and the minister herself alleges she specifically discussed
Australia’s “expectations” regarding Assange’s treatment with UK
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab when he visited Canberra in February
2020. Tranter requested records related to this meeting too, but was
told none existed.

Upon Julian’s arrest, Prime Minister Morrison alleged he would receive
“the same treatment that any other Australian would get.”

“When Australians travel overseas and then find themselves in
difficulties with the law, they face the judicial systems of those
countries,” Morrison said. “It doesn’t matter what particular crime it
is that they’re alleged to have committed, that’s the way the system

However, an internal email dated April 5th 2019 secured by Tranter
from the Australian Attorney General’s office was shot through with
contempt for the Wikileaks co-founder. The note asserted, “FYI –
Assange might be evicted. Not sure if his lawyers will make any (not
very convincing) [emphasis added] arguments about Australia’s
responsibilities to him but thought it was worth flagging.”  As usual,
Australian officials said nothing in public about Assange’s imminent

Assange’s treatment, and the total lack of outrage over his
incarceration, prison conditions, blatant procedural abuses engaged in
by Washington in their relentless pursuit of him, and CIA plans to
kidnap and/or murder the WikiLeaks founder, diverges starkly from
Australia’s approach to Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British
academic jailed in Iran for 10 years on questionable charges of
espionage in September 2018.

Behind the scenes, Australian diplomats struggled for almost two years
to secure her release, eventually brokering a prisoner swap, under
which she was traded for three Iranian inmates in Thailand – two of
whom were convicted in connection with a 2012 bombing plot in Bangkok.
In a statement, Foreign Minister Payne expressed relief that
Moore-Gilbert was finally free as a result of “professional and
determined work,” noting Canberra had “consistently rejected” the
grounds on which she was detained.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has consistently reinforced
Washington’s position on Assange. In fact, officials have on occasion
gone even further than their US counterparts in publicly condemning
him and his actions.

In December 2010, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared
WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables meant Assange was “guilty
of illegality,” and that Federal Police were investigating, to offer
“advice about potential criminal conduct of the individual involved.”
To be fair to Canberra though, elected representatives there may
effectively have no choice in the matter.

According to investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, each Five Eyes
member theoretically has the right to veto a request for signals
intelligence collected on an individual, group or organization
collected by another. However, Campbells explained, “when you’re a
junior ally like Australia or New Zealand, you never refuse,” even in
situations when there are concerns about what ostensible allies may do
with that sensitive information.

The documents obtained by Tranter and provided to The Grayzone provide
an unobstructed view of the Australian junior ally’s betrayal of one
of its citizens to the imperial power that has hunted him for years.
As Julian Assange’s rights were violated at every turn, Canberra
appears to have been complicit.

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