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Court Rules Julian Assange Considers Himself "Above The Normal Rules Of Law"

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J.J. PatrickUnited Kingdom
Court Rules Julian Assange Considers Himself "Above The Normal Rules Of Law"
A London court has delivered a second damning judgment against wanted man Julian Assange, ruling: "he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law."

Westminster Magistrate's Court ruled on the second appeal in the space of 7 days on Julian Assange's appeal against an arrest warrant issued in the United Kingdom when he failed to answer bail and went into hiding in the Ecuadoran embassy some years ago.

The withering judgment in the February 13 proceedings, delivered by Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, concludes: "he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour. As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms."

"...he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice..."

"I have had to consider whether it is proportionate not to withdraw the warrant for his arrest. On the one hand he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice but on the other he has been unable to leave a small flat for a number of years and is suffering physically and mentally as a result...Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered Mr Summers’ arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years. Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so too," the ruling adds.

"Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years. Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so too."

Acting for Assange, who did not leave the embassy to face the court, Mark Summers QC advanced public interest arguments in five key areas.

The arguments were summarised in the ruling, which reads: "The first was that Mr Assange had reasonable grounds for taking the course he did because he feared being sent to the United States. The second was that the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr Assange’s situation in the Ecuadorian Embassy was disproportionate and unreasonable. Thirdly, at all stages Mr Assange had been willing to be interviewed by the Swedish prosecutor and if this had happened this would have brought the proceedings to an end at a very early stage. Fourthly, the last five and a half years might be thought adequate if not severe punishment for the actions which he took. Fifthly, I was reminded that the law had changed since Mr Assange’s request and he would no longer be extradited for an investigation."

Arbuthnot addressed each of the elements in detail.

On the grounds of Assange's long-claimed fear of extradition to the US, which has been pivotal to his public garnering of support, the court ruled: "I accept that Mr Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but, absent any evidence from Mr Assange on oath, I do not find that Mr Assange’s fears were reasonable.”

“I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States. If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States which would have affected international relationships and extradition proceedings between the states."

"I do not find that Mr Assange’s fears were reasonable. I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States. If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States which would have affected international relationships..."

On the second of Assange's grounds, relating to a reported UN finding he had been held in illegal detention - which has been his pinned tweet since October 2017 - the court dismissed the conclusions of a "working group" within the UN as unreliable.

"The group appears to have based its conclusions on some misunderstandings of what occurred after Mr Assange’s arrest. In trying to work out what weight I should give to the views of the Working Group, I have had to consider the beginning of the extradition process conducted at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in relation to Mr Assange."

"What I can say is that the Working Group was quite wrong when it implied that Mr Assange had been left outside the cloak of legal protection. Quite the opposite, he was represented at the first and second hearings, by leading counsel at the second and the bail package put together by his defence team led to his release on conditional bail," Arbuthnot added.

The damning tone of the judgement continued, saying: "It is true that he has restricted freedom in the Ecuadorian Embassy, but there is a distinction between being held in Wandsworth Prison and living in the Embassy. Firstly, he can leave the embassy whenever he wishes; secondly, he is free to receive, it would seem, an unlimited number of visitors and those visits are not supervised; thirdly, he can choose the food he eats, the time he sleeps and exercises. He can sit on the balcony (I accept probably observed by the police and his supporters) to take the air. He is not locked in at night. Importantly for a man who spends a great deal of time on his computer, he is free to use multi-media, whether his computer or a mobile telephone, in a way that prisoners are not allowed to do. I suspect if one were to ask one of the men incarcerated in Wandsworth Prison whether conditions in the Ecuadorian Embassy were akin to a remand in custody, the prisoner would dispute the Working Group’s assertion."

"For reasons which must be clear I give little weight to the views of the Working Group," the Chief Magistrate concluded.

"...there is a distinction between being held in Wandsworth Prison and living in the Embassy."

The third element of Assange's appeal related to his alleged willingness to comply with Swedish Prosecutors in relation to rape allegations, something which he has further relied upon in rallying public support.

Highlighting that the Ecuadorean Embassy has refused to permit an interview of Assange, the Chief Magistrate dismissed Assange's argument advanced by Summers, recording: "Mr Summers argues that the failing to surrender has had no effect on the proceedings and has not brought them to a grinding halt. I do not agree."

"If Mr Assange had gone back to Sweden when he should have done after he had exhausted the appeal processes in this country, the Swedish prosecutor would have questioned him, then either prosecuted him five years ago or discontinued the proceedings. The complainants would have had their complaints resolved one way or another. Mr Assange would have had the accusations resolved one way or another. The interview on his own terms does not comply with the court’s order that he be extradited to Sweden," Arbuthnot added.

"If Mr Assange had gone back to Sweden when he should have done after he had exhausted the appeal processes in this country, the Swedish prosecutor would have questioned him, then either prosecuted him five years ago or discontinued the proceedings...The interview on his own terms does not comply with the court’s order that he be extradited to Sweden."

On the fourth argument put forward for Assange, claiming his five year stay at the Embassy was "punishment enough", Arbuthnot was directly dismissive.

"Mr Sommers [sic] contends he [Assange] has been punished enough. I do not accept there is no sunlight; there are a number of photographs of him on a balcony connected to the premises he inhabits. Mr Assange’s health problems could be much worse," the Chuef Magistrate ruled.

Again, Assange has used the health argument to gain public sympathy.

"I do not accept there is no sunlight; there are a number of photographs of him on a balcony ..."

On the final point of appeal, in which Summers claimed the law had changed, the Chief Magistrate dismissed the argument on straight legal grounds.

Refferring to the Swedish Prosecutors statement on the rape case being filed due to Assange being outside of the reach of authorities, Arbuthnot ruled: "Having looked at the prosecutor’s record of her decision dated 19th May 2017, Mr Summers is arguably wrong."

"In the last paragraph of the decision Ms Ny states: “…In view of this, and that to continue with legal proceedings would require JA’s personal appearance in court, there is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.” On the face of it, the reason for stopping the investigation is Mr Assange’s absence from the court proceedings in Sweden and on that basis extradition may not be barred were the Swedish request still in place," the judgment said.

A persistent misconception of the Swedish charges being "dropped" has been pushed as a public narrative by Assange and his supporter's for some time, despite UK and Swedish factual records having been publicly available throughout.

"...the reason for stopping the investigation is Mr Assange’s absence from the court proceedings in Sweden..."

In summing up, Arbuthnot concluded at length, ruling: "I have found above that Mr Assange’s failure to surrender has impeded the course of justice and has led finally to the case being dropped as it cannot be continued unless he returned to Sweden. I find Mr Assange’s failure is a determined attempt to avoid the order of the court, an order which was considered by the Supreme Court in this jurisdiction.

"When considering the public interest I have regard to the consequences of his failure to appear, one of which is the drain on resources that policing Mr Assange’s choice has caused. I have regard too to the losses incurred by his sureties. I must look at the impact on public confidence in the criminal justice system if Mr Assange is allowed to avoid a warrant for his arrest by staying out of reach of the police for years in conditions which are nothing like a prison."

"The failure to surrender was deliberate and occurred after the defendant had been able to challenge the original order all the way to the Supreme Court."

"The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden."

"The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour. As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms."

"I have had to consider whether it is proportionate not to withdraw the warrant for his arrest. On the one hand he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice but on the other he has been unable to leave a small flat for a number of years and is suffering physically and mentally as a result. 62. Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered Mr Summers’ arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.

"Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so too."

"Mr Assange’s failure to surrender has impeded the course of justice and has led finally to the case being dropped as it cannot be continued unless he returned to Sweden. I find Mr Assange’s failure is a determined attempt to avoid the order of the court"

Assange released a statement on Twitter after the ruling, claiming the judge had gone "well outside what the parties presented in court," also alleging "this seems to have led to many factual errors in the judgment."

The tweet appears to be most broadly supported by suspected Russian disinformation accounts.

#Julian Assange, #Wikileaks, #Westminster Court, #Sweden, #Rape Charges, #Warrant, #Arrest, #Arbuthnot, #Russia, #Twitter, #Judgment

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