Christine Assange – "The reason I support Wikileaks is not because Julian is my son, it is because I think Wikileaks is doing a good job, and it is what journalists should be doing."
Wikileaks' revelations have had more impact than 'simply' revealing the true state of affairs in national and world politics: they have also showed that puppet governments (at the hands of powerful private interests) would stop at nothing to discourage such revelations from happening again in the future. Unfortunately these governments do not intend to change their policy to one that is more respectful of the foundations of democracy; they rather prefer to go after Wikileaks and its supporters, starting with its editor Julian Assange and his family. One way of attacking Assange has been the widespread use of smear and disinformation, made easy by the de-facto control of the mainstream media by the establishment (political and corporate).
We publish here our interview with Julian Assange's mother, who is leading her own fight, a fight against that same smear based on making the facts of Wikileaks and her son's complex case widely known, both on the Internet and in the street.
Assange and Wikileaks' fight and its outcome are critical to the future of democracy: we urge you to (like says Christine) "get your facts", and then join the action.
Enjoy your reading,
– Interview by Mehdi
- First published on 12-03-2012
Can you tell us briefly about yourself Christine?
I am Julian’s mother, I’m 61 years old, I live in Queensland and I’m a freelance theatre worker. I make a living in a creative way and I enjoy painting and drawing. I also like swimming, and I live in a simple way. I don’t like computers much (laughs) but I’m getting a good education on the internet about the state of the world as I am currently helping Julian in his fight against extradition. I can’t tell you more about myself because I’m currently in hiding in a secret location for security reasons.
How was Julian when he was a child? Did anything suggest that he
felt such a strong commitment to justice and truth? No, not in that sense, except that he was sensitive and compassionate. He wasn’t a child that valued material things. He loved nature, he had a gentle rapport with animals, and he was kind to people. He always asked “why” and enjoyed discussing theories, and he was quite a reader.
Young Julian Assange with his dog Poss. Photo courtesy of Christine Assange.
Do you think illegal, anti-democratic and dangerous influence by corporate and political lobbies is taking place today at the Australian government level? I think it’s gotten a lot worse. It’s safe to say that our government is virtually owned by the US at the moment, especially the Prime Minister. It’s shown by the fact that in the Parliament only the Greens would stand up for Julian, even though the Australian public is very supportive of him and Wikileaks, and even though the top thinkers, lawyers, human rights activists, academics, intellectuals, editors have come out in public. And yet the Prime Minister is doing what the US wants, even though everybody else disagrees with it (Julian has an 87% support rate in Australia) – and this is because she may be working for the US and not for the Australian people.
There have been suspicions for a while about a secret indictment against Julian following a secret Grand Jury in the US but now, thanks to the Stratfor emails release, we have confirmation of the existence of that ‘anti-public-scrutiny’ indictment since early 2011, over a year ago… Yes, there obviously has been a Grand Jury. What concerns me is that this Grand Jury is made up of a jury in the area where there’s a high concentration of military contractors and their families, i.e. Alexandria, Virginia, and there’s four prosecutors, no judge and no defence team allowed, therefore it cannot by anybody’s standards in a democratic society be considered as a just jury. It’s a Star Chamber, a set-up, and any indictment coming from a Grand Jury that’s run that way should be considered invalid by any government, just like any subsequent extradition warrant by the US.
Also, in one Stratfor email an analyst said that the Swedish case against Julian has “absolutely nothing behind it other than prosecutors that are looking to make a name for themselves”. The Stratfor emails come as a confirmation of what we already knew, that is, that there’s no basis for a case in Sweden… What we also did know about Sweden was that one woman, SW, had complained that she was being railroaded, and she was very upset that Julian might be charged with rape and wouldn’t sign her statement. We also know that her initial statement says she was asleep, while the arrest warrant suggested she was half-asleep. In addition woman AA submitted a condom twelve days after she alleged Julian had deliberately torn the condom, but a forensic analysis showed that there was no trace of DNA, of woman AA or Julian.
So the emails merely confirm the suspicion we had that part of the case is about a prosecutor who has an agenda and who wants to make a name for herself. Another interesting fact in that regard: Woman AA and the police officer who interrogated woman SW, and the lawyer of AA and SW all belong to the same political party, the Swedish Democratic Party. They all stood for elections at the same time one month after the sex allegations against Julian were made on a plat-form of widening the definition of rape within a consensual fix. A Swedish judge, Brita Sundberg-Weitman [PDF], gave evidence at the UK hearing that prosecutor Marianne Ny, the lawyer for AA and SW and his business partner, and woman AA, had previously worked together to bring in sexual offense legislation which the judge described as radical feminism.
Since Julian was a high-profile person, it would appear he was being used by the prosecutor Marianne Ny to raise the issue and make a name for herself.
What has been the reaction of the Australian government and the political class since these revelations? Nothing. The Australian government said nothing after the release of the Stratfor emails confirming the indictment and the political nature of the case.
Long before the Stratfor emails, on 2 March 2011, there were diplomatic and legal briefings at the Australian Parliament by three lawyers, and one is a foreign affairs diplomat, giving the facts on Julian’s set-up in Sweden. The briefings of that meeting can be found at wlcentral.org/node/1418
Even after that meeting the government of Australia did nothing.
How is it that Stratfor, a private company, managed to get hold of the secret indictment, but not the Australian government, which at the same time boasts about its exceptional relations with the US government? There is nothing is those emails that showed any opposition to extraditing Julian. The e-mails confirm the recent freedom of information requests on the Department of Foreign Affairs by the Sydney Morning Herald that showed that the Australian government is not opposing extradition. Back in December 2010, the Australian media reported Julia Gillard saying that she would do anything she could to co-operate with the US government in regard to Julian, and there’s no indication that that’s not the case. The Australian government did nothing for Julian at all, except a little token consular assistance, which is virtually nothing. However they did bring in legislation in early 2011, dubbed “the Wikileaks Amendment” that enabled ASIO to spy on Wikileaks supporters in Australia for the US government.
The Prime Minister never apologized for criminalizing Julian in the global media.
She ignored the advice of her own federal police and of ASIO. She ignored the outcry from her own party MPs that Julian should be protected because he is a journalist and editor of a media organisation that is publishing around the globe. The Australian government didn’t offer protection to Julian or didn’t protest to the US government when some politicians and commentators called for his assassination and kidnapping, nor did it offer me or my family any protection after Stratfor emails stated that some people might be going after Julian’s family and take everything that we owned.
So I think you can’t read it otherwise: the Australian government, led by the Prime Minister, or at least sections of it, would appear completely complicit with the US government’s witch-hunt.
Bob Carr, who is now the new Australian Foreign Minister, has been very critical of the way Sweden handled and will handle Julian’s case. As an Australian citizen and mother of an Australian citizen who is unfairly treated abroad, what do you expect from Bob Carr in his new role of Foreign Minister? I would hope that he would stand by his belief in what he said one month ago, and manage the situation. He is a mature and experienced politician, unlike Julia Gillard. I would hope that he would negotiate with the US, and help them to see that cracking down on democracy and the free press is not the way to cope with the Wikileaks publications about the wrongdoings of their country and their embarrassment of it.
That would be the best outcome… He would put some sense into the Prime Minister; that Australia can resist the US extradition and still have this treaty with the US. I would hope that he would defend the idea that good friends don’t always follow what each other says, that they at times differ, and a good friend can tell the other friend that he’s about to go down the wrong path.
I hope that he will not be gagged by the Prime Minister, or threatened by the US, that he will have the courage to stand up for a Walkey Award-wining Australian journalist, for justice, freedom of the press, democracy, and the independence of Australia.
Bob Carr is well known for being a historian who is a specialist in American history and an admirer of American culture. What I would like him to do is to remind America that perhaps what used to set it above other countries is its constitutional and Fifth Amendment protection. Many people may not be aware of this but Julian is a great admirer of the US constitution for the same reason.
Many Americans support Julian and are very concerned about the way their government reacted to the Wikileaks revelations.
What is today's status of Julian's extradition case to Sweden? Any day now it is expected that the Supreme Court of the UK will decide whether or not to uphold Julian’s appeal. If it says his appeal is successful, then he wouldn’t have to go to Sweden; if the appeal is unsuccessful he will have one week to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights. If it accepts his appeal he will be able to stay in the UK for the duration of the appeal. If they refuse he will have ten days to go to Sweden, where he would be immediately put in jail in solitary confinement, in indefinite detention, incommunicado – allowed to talk to no one except his Swedish lawyer from time to time.
One concern I have is that the British Prime Minister David Cameron has been lobbying in order to stop extradition appeals to the European Court of Human Rights from the UK.
I also have a concern with the extradition treaty between the UK and the US, which is unbalanced, and comes under much criticism by the people of the UK. While a British court needs to show evidence before extraditing someone to the UK, before extraditing someone to the US. However, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US the evidence must be presented!
And the other concern I have is with the extradition of Julian from Sweden to the US. Most people think that if Julian goes to Sweden he will have some kind of protection under the normal European extradition treaties, because the UK would have to sign off on an onward extradition from Sweden to the US. But the US can get around this using the bilateral Swedish-US treaty. This treaty allows the US to extradite Julian (or anybody) under the temporary surrender regime, a tick-box notice with no safeguard of formal extradition. Sweden has never refused to extradite a person to the US. He could virtually be just be abducted overnight.
If the Supreme Court rejects the decision to extradite Julian, will he be able to fly to Australia? As far as I know, if that happens, technically speaking Julian should be able to come back to Australia… but then I am not aware of his plans as of today.
Sweden's "non-case" against Julian is an appalling example of abuse and fabrication out of thin air, and seems to be based only on smear by some government-backed or self-censored media outfits: no charges against Julian; no DNA on the condom presented as “new evidence” for reopening the case; alleged victims who are invisible/disappeared; but a lawyer – and politician – with a dirty past vocally attacking Julian; a case initially closed but then, unusually, reopened by a prosecutor [Marianne Ny] who clearly has a political agenda and who is, strangely enough, a colleague of the above-mentioned lawyer... This case should have provoked a public outcry in Sweden.
Did you get any support from scandalized Swedish citizens, activists, politicians? I’ve had support from Swedish citizens and journalists who have read outside the mainstream media and who are aware of the facts.
I believe that if the Swedish media would report the facts it would provoked a public outcry in Sweden.
One of the facts for example is that Thomas Bodström, one of the lawyers in the firm, when he was Justice Minister of Sweden in 2001-2002 he signed off on CIA rendition “torture” flights of innocent Egyptians, who were tortured and they had to be compensated later in 2003. There is another very important fact: Julian was not charged with anything by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny, she took out the European Arrest Warrant for questioning only despite the fact that Julian had offered himself for questioning in Sweden, and she turned down his offers, giving him permission to leave Sweden on the 15th of September 2010 to attend Wikileaks business. Julian offered to fly back to Sweden on the 10th of October 2010 but she rejected this offer. Since being under house arrest for the last fourteen months, through his lawyers Julian has offered to be interviewed under the normal protocol of mutual legal assistance. This has included offers to be interview by phone, video, Skype, or in person at Scotland Yard or the Swedish embassy in London. Marianne Ny has rejected all these offers. She had also lied to the media by stating that she could not interview him in the UK because of Swedish law, but that wasn’t true because Sweden is a signatory to the mutual legal assistance protocol.
I think one of the problems is that the political adviser of the Swedish Prime Minister is Karl Rove, who used to advise the Bush administration. He had to leave America in disgrace because he was involved in quite a few smear campaigns against opposition politicians and lawyers; very vicious smear campaigns. He’s also good friends with Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Foreign Minister. So what is believed is that Karl Rove is orchestrating a smear campaign against Julian through the Swedish media, on behalf of the US.
Did you get support from any Swedish politician? No, I haven’t been contacted personally by any Swedish politician.
Wikileaks’ revelations have always proved truthful: despite the huge number of documents released, its publishing record remains unscathed. Also, no victim has been reported after the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the Cablegate revelations – something confirmed even by the then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Besides putting revelations of general interest in the public sphere, this has caused nothing more than embarrassment for the US and other governments, the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies. And yet the US witch-hunt of Julian remains very much alive. Do you think it is a matter of revenge, or of setting an example, or both? I think it’s everything that they can possibly put into it… they’re already using Bradley Manning to set an example… in other words, if you’re a whistleblower you will be imprisoned, tortured and set-up during your trial, which is what they are doing at the moment… Obama now has the record of being the worst President for prosecuting whistleblowers; he has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the preceding presidents put together.
They are also making an example of Julian as a journalist. In other words, it’s a warning to other journalists: if you publish the real truth about war crimes, corruption, etc, then we will come after you and put forward legislation around you; we will intimidate the media and your government. Not one government has stated that the Wikileaks’ documents were not authentic. Because they cannot prove they are not authentic the only thing the governments can do is engage in character assassination, and Julian has become very much a target for this. Much of the negative comments about Julian in the media are nothing more than smear. The Stratfor emails reveal that all over the world some journalists are on the payroll of Stratfor, and it makes you wonder how many journalists who are currently smearing Julian are an unofficial payrolls. The US has also tried to shut down Wikileaks with an illegal banking blockade, while knowing very well that what Wikileaks does is not illegal.
In fact, the US Secretary of Treasury said that there is no reason to [financially] blacklist Wikileaks.
If this persecution of Wikileask and Julian were done in a third-world country, the first world would be up in arms and screaming about democratic rights.
What would you tell to people who are considering doing something for Julian but are still hesitant after the ‘negative publicity’ – a polite form of words for smear – they may have heard on some TV media and read in some newspapers? I think people should decide on facts, not opinions. The best way to make up your mind is to get the facts yourself. We can’t normally dive into the private lives of journalists, and one has to ask why Julian’s personal life is smeared so much in the media. Go to www.wlcentral.org/node/1418 for a clear narrative of the facts of the Swedish case written by a lawyer, a narrative which was presented to the Australian parliament last year. They should also go to justice4assange.com, which has got facts and also verifiable resources on the truth. And also wikileaks.org to look first-hand at Wikileaks’ publications, and get more details on the banking blockade. If you really want to know what’s going on, look beyond the mainstream media and explore the Internet.
Many believe the mainstream media are smearing Julian because they see Wikileaks as the competition, plus they are pressured by their governments.
People should get more of their information online, it’s much more true, because online journalists can say much more things than newspapers or TV journalists.
What can a citizen do to help Julian in his fight against those powerful, illegitimate and often criminal interests?
First of all, you have to get the facts because this is very much a media war and a war of character assassination; so, go on the three websites I mentioned and get the facts. Once you’ve got the facts, contact your local politician and say you want to come in for an interview. Write a letter with the facts; cite the right to a free press, the people’s right to know, and ask him to stand up for Wikileaks and stand up against the extradition of Julian. Your vote depends on it. Freedom is the most important thing you can leave your children.
If you can’t get an interview, send a letter or type an email to your MP.
You can also support Wikileaks by buying the merchandise and wearing it proudly.
You can talk to people, intervene on radio talk shows, organize mini-rallies, distribute flyers… Leave post comments on articles online which state false facts. Write emails to people, and to the media, because even the media are ill-informed, you can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper… You can start a Wikileaks support group (a support group could be as small as you and a good friend). You can organize a public meeting.
You can send money to Wikileaks to fight the blockade, and send money to Julian’s defence fund to help him face the legal costs.
You can print flyers and put them in people’s letter-boxes…
Would you like to add something?
The reaction of the US to the Wikileaks publications has been very repressive to civil rights in the world, and the US is doing more damage to its global credibility by its reaction to the Wikileaks publications than the Wikileaks revelations themselves.
The reason I support Wikileaks is not because Julian is my son, it is because I think Wikileaks is doing a good job, and it is what journalists should be doing.
Wikileaks allows people to know what their governments are doing in their name, with their money; that they are often sending your children to be killed in unjustifiable wars, knowing that money made in wars goes to Big Business and politicians.
People should know the content of at least one cable to understand the importance of Wikileaks… To illustrate my meaning, there is this cable that Wikileaks published about how the US used the devastation in Haiti to advance its own economic agenda.
For instance, it resisted a minimum wage increase to the Haitian industry and textile workers (who are some of the lowest paid in the Western hemisphere) because it was going to increase product cost. The cable reveals that after the earthquake the President was told he wouldn’t get any emergency help if he continued to try to get the wage increase.
Wikileaks also revealed that when Venezuela tried to come to Haiti’s aid and reduced the price of its oil by 40% and replacing it with an equivalent long term, low interest rate loan that would have allowed the reconstruction of hospitals and schools, US oil companies got in the way to stop that.
The US cable on Haiti also revealed the statement “THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!” sent from the US embassy in Haiti to the same US military contractors found to be exploiting reconstruction aid money after cyclone Katrina.
This is the sort of things that Wikileaks exposes, why Wikileaks is important, and why we should stand up for Wikileaks and its editor in chief Julian Assange.
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