ON DAY three of the case against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, at the Old Bailey in central London, yesterday morning the court went straight in to the evidence of Clive Stafford Smith, a dual national British/American lawyer licensed to practice in the UK.
Assange has had a further 18 new charges brought against him and faces 175 years in jail if extradited to the US.
The court heard Clive Stafford Smith’s evidence in which he explained that he had founded Reprieve in 1999 originally to oppose the death penalty, but after 2001 it had branched out into torture, illicit detention and extraordinary rendition cases in relation to the ‘war on terror’.
Clive Stafford Smith testified that the publication by Wikileaks of the cables had been of great utility to litigation in Pakistan against illegal drone strikes. As his witness statement put it in paras 86/7:
‘86. One of my motivations for working on these cases was that the US drone campaign appeared to be horribly mismanaged and was resulting in paid informants giving false information about innocent people who were then killed in strikes.
‘For example, when I shared the podium with Imran Khan at a “jirga” with the victims of drone strikes, I said in my public remarks that the room probably contained one or two people in the pay of the CIA.
‘What I never guessed was that not only was this true but that the informant would later make a false statement about a teenager who attended the jirga such that he and his cousin were killed in a drone strike three days later.
‘We knew from the official press statement afterwards that the “intelligence” given to the US involved four “militants” in a car; we knew from his family just him and his cousin were going to pick up an aunt.
‘There is a somewhat consistent rule that can be seen at work here: it is, of course, much safer for any informant to make a statement about someone who is a “nobody”, than someone who is genuinely dangerous.’
Outside the Old Bailey a lively picket of Assange supporters kept up the chant of ‘Free Assange!’
At the demonstration Alison Mason told News Line: ‘We are back outside the Old Bailey still shocked by the previous two days treatment of journalists and of Julian Assange by the court.
‘It is shocking but perhaps not surprising, given the court is always unfair to him that yesterday Julian was silenced.
‘In effect he was told to be quiet or he would be removed and the hearing would continue in his absence “in absentia”.’
She added: ‘Capitalism is the problem because if it wasn’t for this system he would not be in the Old Bailey.’