On Contact: Slow-motion execution of Julian Assange
On the show, Chris Hedges discusses the torture of Julian Assange with his father, John Shipton.
Julian Assange committed the empire’s greatest sin – he exposed it as a criminal enterprise. He documented its lies, callous disregard for human life, rampant corruption, and innumerable war crimes. Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Labour, Trump or Biden – it does not matter. The goons who oversee the empire sing from the same satanic songbook. Empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds.
Assange is in precarious physical and psychological health, and suffered a stroke during court video proceedings on October 27. That he has been condemned to death should not come as a surprise. The 10 years he has been detained – seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and nearly three in high-security Belmarsh Prison – were accompanied by a lack of sunlight and exercise, as well as unrelenting threats, pressure, anxiety and stress. “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry,” his fiancee Stella Moris said of the stroke.
His steady physical and psychological deterioration has led to hallucinations and depression. He takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. He has been observed pacing his cell until he collapses, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall. He has spent weeks in the medical wing of Belmarsh. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by The Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.” The executioners have not yet completed their grim work. Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian independence movement, the only successful slave revolt in human history, was physically destroyed in the same manner. He was locked by the French in an unheated and cramped prison cell and left to die of exhaustion, malnutrition, apoplexy, pneumonia, and probably tuberculosis. Unless we mobilize to halt this judicial execution, this will be Assange’s fate as well.
YouTube channel: On Contact
Follow us on Facebook: Facebook.com/OnContactRT
Chris Hedges: Welcome to On Contact. Today, we speak about the torture of Julian Assange with his father, John Shipton.
John Shipton: It’s some 13 years ago that these releases were made worldwide. That takes--and that was the Iraq War, the Afghan war files, a branch in Oman Bay, principally, okay? Those revelations take a while to move into the--into the public and into the culture of understanding. Over 10 years they moved in and people of the United States in particular invented for themselves an expression, “Endless Wars.” That expression didn’t come from the top down. It wasn’t rainmaking. It arose from the bottom up as the revelations moved into the culture and created an understanding, the wars ended, the Iraq war ended, the Afghan war ended and Guantanamo Bay assist a suppurating sore on the administration of justice in the United States is on the verge of being closed.
CH: Julian Assange committed empire’s greatest sin. He exposed it as a criminal enterprise. He documented its lies, callous disregard for human life, rampant corruption and innumerable war crimes. Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Labor, Trump or Biden, it does not matter. The goons who oversee the empire sing from the same Satanic songbook. Empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds. That Assange, who is in precarious physical and psychological health and who suffered a stroke during court video proceedings on October 27th, has been condemned to death should not come as a surprise. The ten years he has been detained, seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and nearly three in the high security Belmarsh Prison, were accompanied with a lack of sunlight, and exercise, and unrelenting threats, pressure, anxiety and stress. “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry.” His fiance Stella Moris said of the stroke. His steady physical and psychological deterioration has led to hallucinations and depression. He takes antidepressant medication and an antipsychotic drug. He has been observed pacing his cell until he collapses, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall. He has spent weeks in the medical wing of Belmarsh. Prison authorities found half of a razor blade hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called a suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because of the thoughts about killing himself hundreds of times a day. The executioners have not yet completed their grim work. Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian independence movement, the only successful slave revolt in human history, was physically destroyed in the same manner, locked by the French in an unheated and cramped prison cell and left to die of exhaustion, malnutrition, apoplexy, pneumonia, and probably tuberculosis. And unless we mobilize to halt this judicial execution, it will be Assange’s fate as well. Joining me to discuss the slow motion execution of Julian Assange is his father, John Shipton. So John, before we began, I mentioned Nils Melzer very fine book, The Trial of Julian Assange, where he just lays out in excruciating detail, all of the legal abnormalities that have been used along with the character assassination, everything that’s been done against your son since 2010, the release of the Iraqi war logs. I just--at the end of the book, Melzer writes this and I want you to comment. “As long as Assange remains isolated in prison, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom will be in a hurry to bring the extradition proceeding to a conclusion. The longer every procedural step can be spun out, the more Assange’s health and stability will deteriorate, and the stronger the deterrent effect on other journalists and whistleblowers will be. As the authorities know very well, it is only a matter of time before Assange’s resilience breaks. If he should die in prison, or if his mental health should deteriorate to the point where he can be stripped of his legal capacity and locked away in a closed psychiatric institution for the rest of his life, then the case could be closed without fear of the judicial precedent of January 4th, 2021 being overturned by a panel of conscientious judges at the higher British courts, the European Court of Human Rights or ultimately the US Supreme Court.” I just want you to speak, I believe with along with Nils Melzer as I believe you do, that this is the real goal behind Julian’s long detention and I wondered if you could address that.
JS: Hi, Chris. Thank you for having me on. Yes. It brings to mind Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech where he says that it happened but it didn’t happen. So, with Julian, it’s always been thought not by me, by the way, but it’s always been thought that the United Kingdom is proxy for these intentions of the United States that in fact is wrong. The actual torture is committed by the institutions, the crime prosecuting service, the foreign and colonial office, and the judiciary. It’s actually committed by those people. Those people who come to work, sign another instrument of torture on Julian Assange, and then go home and have a glass of wine. It’s appalling. If I could expand a little further, Julian’s and WikiLeaks’ work expose for us a range of murders, corruption, criminality, enormous depth and conviction by the United States and its NATO allies. A mirror--a mirror to that is the treatment, the hideous mirror, is a treat--the treatment of Julian Assange over these 13 years. That’s an exact mirror of no qualitative difference, only quantitative difference to the exposures that WikiLeaks and Julian, Chelsea Manning did, and treatment as it’s unfolded and verified in Nils Melzer’s book and verified by the steady decline of Julian Assange and the increasing intensity of the small being, smearing the most--the most savage malice, the most vicious hatred, the most unscrupulous slander, calumny and lie that has surrounded Julian like a tornado these 13 years.
CH: Well, that’s part of the process of isolation because it really is about isolation. Things became particularly severe in the Ecuadorian Embassy at the end with the new election of Lenin Moreno, who danced to the tune, Washington played, revoked Julian’s Ecuadorean citizenship, his right to asylum, but in the weeks before and you may have been in the embassy then, mounted a campaign to essentially try and drive him out, one of the details that I wasn’t aware of until I read Nils Melzer--Nils Melzer’s book was that they even took away his shaving kit in the weeks before because they want and when--and when he’s taken out, he’s bearded and, kind of, looks disheveled, and that was done intentionally along with all of these charges, which turned out to be false, not surprisingly feces on the wall and all this kind of stuff. And then, of course, once in Belmarsh, he’s completely isolated. So he’s isolated personally in terms of the conditions under which he’s incarcerated, but these--this character assassination which began almost immediately after the release of the Iraqi war logs isolates him within the social sphere.
JS: Yes. I guess, you know, people actually sit down and work out these procedures and then, well, like, Sir Alan Duncan who organized these procedures, wrote an autobiography and included a chapter boasting of how he had organized the torture of Julian Assange. Actually, boasting and boasting of his success in suborning of these people, suborning the conventions of asylum. Actually, breaking laws, he boasts of it as a success and then goes to the Buckingham Palace gift shop, you can’t believe it, goes to the Buckingham Palace gift shop, buys a nice gift plate, his words, a nice gift plate and flies over to Ecuador to give it to president, you know, as a gift of appreciation from the United Kingdom and from Sir Alan. So, these are people, I mean, such an insult to the president of Ecuador and he doesn’t, of course, even see that as an insult. And such an arrogant expression of victory over somebody who has no means of fighting back and is only published what all the other publishers did. That’s all. So, this--the New York Times or the Washington boasted along The Guardian Weekly, Josh Beagle, they all pay--they all published exactly the same thing and yet the viciousness of the United Kingdom and its agents, it’s, you know, insignificant people really who climbed upon corpses in order to be significant. It’s nauseating to see.
CH: Were you surprised that these press organizations that did publish this material, then very swiftly turned on Julian?
JS: Not if--not really. I mean disappointed, yes, but not surprised. Over the last 20 years, the United Kingdom has seemed fit to have anxieties over its unity. And those anxieties are manifested in the restriction of publication and that the pursuit of independence movements. For example, the recent incarceration over the--of Craig Murray is another illustration. So I’m not at all surprised that they wish to expel and ruin any voice which is contrary or actually truthful to the--to the narrative that they wish to expound, not surprised at all that the Australian government and the English judiciary cannot find a way out of bringing disgrace upon itself, shocks me. But, you know, if I could just further illustrate, there’s a hundred Brazilian parliamentarians supporting Julian Assange. In Greece, out of 300, there’s 90 supporting Julian Assange. In France, there’s 40 deputies supporting Julian. The same in Spain, the same in Italy, in Norway, nine deputies of parliamentarian support Julian Assange. Even in Stockholm, in Sweden as to in the Assange group. I can go on, in Australia, there’s 30, in New Zealand, in the United Kingdom. So this disgrace and repugnance of this treatment of Julian that spread right around the world and the only way out for these people is to repair the situation, otherwise, that would be eternally disgraced with this heinous treatment of a simple, elegant, talented publisher.
CH: Great. When we come back, we will continue our discussion about the slow motion execution of Julian Assange with his father, John Shipton.
CH: Welcome back to On Contact. We continue our discussion about the slow motion execution of Julian Assange with his father, John Shipton. So to the extent that you can speak about it, can you just lay out that kind of pressure, how it began to take its toll on Julian, what you saw, and I’ve got to feel that as a father, it must be awful to deal with that feeling of helplessness that watching your son subjected to this and not being able to intervene as a parent.
JS: Oh, well, in that--in that sense, you know, anger is an energy, and the malice--savage malice, the most savage of malice. It’s a deluge gives--and it makes me angry and gives me energy to, you know, to continue this. And as a parent, you know, you just--you don’t count those costs, if I may say so. You know, you don’t simply don’t count those costs at all. For--I can’t really--the detail of the incessant increasing in intensity application of smears and unscrupulous slander, calumny of judges, or I’ll just give you an example. In the hearing in September, Julian and his lawyers asked that, you know, could Julian sit out of the glass box which is up the back of the court. It’s especially built for terrorists. Could Julian sit with his lawyers so they can be--the judge says no. So the circumstances are that Julian has to get on his knees in this glass box and whisper through a slot. The barrister on the other side has to stand on her tiptoes and put an ear to the slot through to get instruction or give Julian information. The situation’s reverse Julian put his ear to the glass. I mean this farce continues for three weeks and nobody is--nobody thinks to bring it to a halt. They think this is normal practice in the treatment of people. It’s appalling, absolutely appalling. Not--it adds a little bit more to this mountain of heinous behavior that the magistrate Judge Baraitser after the hearing, some months after the hearing gets a promotion, for what? What is the promotion for? You’re promoted for treating people in a most appalling fashion. This is just--I mean it’s beyond shocking. I have loss for words now.
CH: Well, after the Chelsea Manning was found, then Bradley Manning was found guilty, that Judge immediately got a promotion, as well. They did the dirty work of the state. Just in terms of anger, Augustine said that, “Hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage, anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they don’t remain the way they are.” Anger, of course, being very different from hatred. Let’s talk a little bit about to the extent that you can, what this slow motion torture, slow motion execution, whatever you want to call it, what it’s done to Julian?
JS: Oh, well, you know, it’s invidious and just uncomfortable for me to go over the piecemeal changes in Julian’s physicality and his psychology in general terms, you know, his physical being has deteriorated. His--it’s very, very hard to keep healthy in jail. It’s just--and it’s really quite difficult when you have a ceaseless deluge of work of cunning crown prosecuting servers, alterations of the procedure, of no attention to due process, but at the same time got in saying in public that Julian will receive due process. So all of those things amount to an erosion, an abrasive erosion of substance. The same quote, you know, that you--that I--that you just made applies to Julian as well. The anger, it causes you to have courage and to fight also what gives courage is the worldwide support that Julian receives from ordinary people. And this is the raft, or this is the Himalaya which holds us up, that the ordinary people worldwide see this. An act to supporters, they make donations, they attended rallies. There’s 29 cities in Germany that have vigils once a fourth night. For two years people have gathered in Sydney once a week. Two years they’ve gathered in Barcelona for once a week. Two years they’ve gathered in Brussels for once a week. I can go on and on. In London, there’s a protest weekly at the--at the Piccadilly Square. So it’s not--this is a phenomenon, this treatment of Julian is corrosion of public standing of the judiciary, the Crown Prosecuting Service, the Australian government. This corrosion of standing has not gone unnoticed worldwide. The other day I was in Paris and bumped into ex-president of Brazil, Lula, who congratulated me and gave--embraced and said that he’s, “Call upon me for anything.” So an hour, Dilma Rousseff, the same, the list of notable people including yourself worldwide who put their shoulders to this, you and I did a speech in New York City not so long ago and we had Roger Waters there. Who Roger Waters was unhesitating in his complete conviction to alleviating this torture of Julian. It was very funny and strong. So, yeah, it rounds out that there’s a whole solar system of great planets circulating around the sun of Julian’s circumstances, torture, and arraignment, and the vindictive treatment, and this solar system will prevail.
CH: I want to talk about the use of humiliation. You mentioned the box, but he was also stripped searched in and out of court, which was, of course, is ridiculous because he was escorted in and out of a box. It’s, like, within that incarceration environment in Belmarsh there’s a constant use of mechanisms attempting to humiliate Julian, can you address that?
JS: Yes. The greatest example of that heinous behavior is that Julian is put in the medical wing. Now the medical wing is an isolation wing. So--and it’s a pod that has, as far as I know, a few cells in the pod, and they’re completely isolated. This is very, very distressing and it goes--they went on for some number of months. The other people in the--in the pod, in the isolation wing, are quite, you know, they’re all gone mad. They’re--or they have no legs or arms in one case. Another case, the man’s dying of cancer and screams all night. Now, to remove Julian that’s--from the--so committed to that, committed to that isolation to remove Julian from that, the prisoners put up a petition, you know, to have Julian moved into the over 50s wing of the jail. That petition failed, the prisoners submitted another petition. Again have failed, the prisoners submitted a third petition to the governor to move Julian out of that wing which succeeded. That’s the circumstance. The men in the prison have more responsibility and more humanity than those charged with actually delivering humane services to the prisoners. It’s shattering. These little turnkeys that come to work and think of another method to distance themselves from the actuality of their impositions upon living people and then go home and have a glass of wine. This is the circumstance that needs reform immediately.
CH: Little Eichmanns. I think those prisoners who petitioned Julian, I know they--because when Julian left the medical wing, they again put him in isolation and the prisoners petition to let him into the general population, realize what you, I, and millions of people around the world realized and that is that he spoke for us. He didn’t speak for the powerful. He showed us the dark heart of the ruling global elite, and we may not have that kind of power. But there is that kind of solidarity.
JS: Well, this is a good point that you’ve made, and have a brief look at it if we can. So it’s some 13 years ago that these releases were made worldwide. That takes--and that was the Iraq War, the Afghan war files, a branch in Oman Bay, principally, okay? Those revelations take a while to move into the--into the public and into the culture of understanding. Over 10 years they moved in and people of the United States in particular invented for themselves an expression, “Endless Wars.” That expression didn’t come from the top down. It wasn’t rainmaking. It arose from the bottom up as the revelations moved into the culture and created an understanding, the wars ended, the Iraq war ended, the Afghan war ended and Guantanamo Bay assist a suppurating sore on the administration of justice in the United States is on the verge of being closed. That are those that--those are the benefits, ended two wars and is bringing to a close one of the most awful episodes in the United States Administration of Justice, that is the gifts of Julian, of Chelsea, and of WikiLeaks to the people of the United States and the people of Australia and the United Kingdom.
CH: Great. That was John Shipton, father of WikiLeaks publisher, editor and founder, Julian Assange.