How Could This Happen in the Home of the Magna Carta?

Julian Assange’s case is often compared with Dreyfus; but historically it’s far more important.

By John Pilger and cross-posted from Consortium News.

The worst moment was one of a number of ‘worst’ moments. I have sat in many courtrooms and seen judges abuse their positions, This judge, Vanessa Baraitser—actually she isn’t a judge at all; she’s a magistrate—shocked all of us who were there.

Her face was a progression of sneers and imperious indifference; she addressed Julian with an arrogance that reminded me of a magistrate presiding over apartheid South Africa’s Race Classification Board. When Julian struggled to speak, he couldn’t get words out, even stumbling over his name and date of birth.

When he spoke truth and when his barrister spoke, Baraister contrived boredom; when the prosecuting barrister spoke, she was attentive. She had nothing to do; it was demonstrably preordained. In the table in front of us were a handful of American officials, whose directions to the prosecutor were carried by his junior; back and forth this young woman went, delivering instructions.

The judge watched this outrage without a comment. It reminded me of a newsreel of a show trial in Stalin’s Moscow; the difference was that Soviet show trials were broadcast. Here, the state broadcaster, the BBC, blacked it out, as did the other mainstream channels.

Having ignored Julian’s barrister’s factual description of how the CIA had run a Spanish security firm that spied on him in the Ecuadorean embassy, she didn’t yawn, but her disinterest was as expressive. She then denied Julian’s lawyers any more time to prepare their case – even though their client was prevented in prison from receiving legal documents and other tools with which to defend himself.

Her knee in the groin was to announce that the next court hearing would be at remote Woolwich, which adjoins Belmarsh prison and has few seats for the public. This will ensure isolation and as close to a secret trial as it’s possible to get. Did this happen in the home of the Magna Carta? Yes, but who knew?

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