activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: united kingdom

united states determined to prosecute wikileaks founder julian assange for political expression

In a Guardian article today, attorney Michael Ratner writes that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is correct to fear the worst with regard to his potential detention and prosecution by U.S. authorities. Ratner, who is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is Assange’s U.S. attorney. He cites three pieces of evidence to show that the U.S. is determined to prosecute Assange:

A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, empanelled to investigate violations of the Espionage Act – a statute that by its very nature targets speech – has subpoenaed Twitter feeds regarding Assange and WikiLeaks. An FBI agent, testifying at whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial, said that “founders, owners and managers” of WikiLeaks are being investigated. And then there is Assange’s 42,135-page FBI file – a compilation of curious heft if the government is “not interested” in investigating its subject.

Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19, to prevent his extradition to Sweden, and has been living there ever since. He’s not a Swedish citizen, does not reside in Sweden, and has not been charged with any crime. Indeed, a Swedish prosecutor initially dismissed the sexual assault allegations against him. Yet the prosecution later demanded that Assange be incarcerated for a police interrogation, even though police already interviewed him in August 2010.

Ecuador recently offered to allow Swedish officials to interview Assange at its embassy in London, in person or by video conference, but Ecuador’s foreign minister said in a statement released yesterday that Sweden declined. This affirms suspicions that the proceedings in Sweden are a means of subsequently extraditing Assange to the U.S., where he could be sentenced to death or life in prison.

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police officer acquitted of killing homeless newspaper salesman during 2009 g20 protests

As Ian Tomlinson walked away from police lines during a 2009 G20 protest in London, officer Simon Harwood struck him from behind with a baton and pushed him to the ground. Tomlinson collapsed fewer than three minutes later. A medical student, Lucy Apps, tried to save his life, but he died shortly afterward. He was 47 years old.

A pathologist named Freddy Patel said Tomlinson died from heart failure, but medical authorities have suspended Patel twice due to mistakes he made in other postmortem investigations. Three other pathologists said Tomlinson died from internal bleeding consistent with being shoved to the ground. Today, after four days of deliberations, a jury found Harwood not guilty of manslaughter. The jury was not told about Patel’s prior suspensions.

A previous jury, which examined the incident to determine the cause of death, concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Harwood unlawfully killed Tomlinson. (Neither jury would have had incontrovertible evidence of Harwood’s brutality had it not been captured on video by a New York resident in London for business.) Tomlinson’s family plans to initiate a civil case.

As police at demonstrations often run amok, endangering protesters and bystanders alike, activists repeatedly see how difficult it is to hold officers accountable. On a Friday afternoon eleven years ago tomorrow, for example, police shot and drove over anti-globalization protester Carlo Giuliani in Genoa, killing him. An Italian court dismissed the case against the officer who shot Giuliani in the head, however, finding the officer acted in self-defense because Giuliani was preparing to throw a fire extinguisher at a trapped police van.