Gabriel Shipton is a Film Producer & advocate for his brother Julian Assange; Stella Moris is a lawyer & wife to Julian Assange. In this interview, we discuss the unprecedented State assault on Assange’s freedom, the effects on his mental & physical well-being, & the threat to journalism.
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On March 15th 2006, US forces dropped from helicopters onto the roof of a house in a village north of Baghdad. The mission was reportedly to intercept a member of al-Qaeda who was visiting the dwelling. The US troops gathered 11 family members in one room, handcuffed them, and shot them all in the head. This included 5 children under 6, one of whom was a 6-month-old baby. US soldiers then called in an airstrike to destroy evidence of their crimes.
Iraqi police reported the details of the incident at the time, but the US military refuted these claims, stating a fire-fight with insurgents caused the deaths, and that “[US forces] take every precaution to keep civilians out of harm’s way.” Their investigations ended, effectively neutering any other external examination of their conduct.
This was until 2010 when WikiLeaks released a series of classified US documents on the Afghan War, Iraq War, and cables between the US State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world. One such cable was from a March 2006 investigation of the above incident by the UN, which corroborated the Iraqi police’s accusations that a horrific war crime had been committed.
WikiLeaks releases in 2010 highlighted hundreds of other unreported civilian deaths at the hands of the US military in both the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, including military coverup of the torture (using drills and acid) and execution of Iraqi detainees by Iraqi authorities.
Julian Assange is the only person linked to these incidents who has been punished. In August it will be 10 years since he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. During that time the CIA had planned to kidnap and execute him. Then, 3 years ago Assange was arrested in the embassy and taken to the UK’s highest security prison, Belmarsh, where he’s still kept. All because he published source material, a journalistic practice acting as a bedrock of democracy.
US authorities have indicted Assange, an Australian citizen residing in the UK, using their 1917 espionage act; this has never previously been used against a journalist. The US is seeking to extradite Assange using a 2003 UK-US treaty, which was hurriedly brought into law without oversight as a response to the war on terror. The rights of individuals in the UK are limited by this treaty. To compound issues further, Assange will not benefit from US constitutional rights.
The full weight of the US and UK states is being used against Assange. His physical and mental condition is deteriorating. Assange’s treatment is being used as a warning to others. Whatever your preconceived ideas are about this case, the implications are chilling: the US is seeking to make journalism a crime, and those they accuse suffer.