Patrick Maynard connects U.S. and U.K. influence to the indifference of the West’s top anti-corruption NGO toward the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder.
By Patrick Maynard
On a cool July day, the Berlin neighborhood where Transparency International’s global headquarters is situated feels a thousand miles away from London’s Belmarsh Prison. But it is not just the pleasant setting a few blocks from the Spree River that makes the influential nongovernmental organization seem so detached from the maximum security penitentiary’s most famous inmate, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Transparency International has been vocal in defending jailed opposition activists in states such as Zimbabwe, Russiaand Venezuela. But when it comes to Assange – far-and-away the world’s most prominent imprisoned transparency activist – the NGO has not said a word since a week after his arrest in April 2019.
When Transparency International did mention Assange’s arrest, it came in the form of a mealy-mouthed blog post that referred to the WikiLeaks founder as “polarizing” and failed to condemn his persecution.
Transparency International happens to be funded by the U.K. government which is currently jailing Assange, and by the U.S. State Department, which is headed by Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director, who presided over a black operations campaign to destroy WikiLeaks.
Much has changed since Transparency International last issued a statement about Assange. A UN special rapporteur found evidence that Assange may have been tortured. The judge on the case was switched after significant conflicts of interest were discovered.
Assange’s bail-jumping penalty of 50 weeks was also exhausted in April, meaning that for many weeks, the British have been holding him purely as a favor for their American allies, without Assange being formally charged with a British crime. And, perhaps most relevant to the case, 36 members of the European Parliament have recently called for Assange to be released from Belmarsh on press freedom and humanitarian grounds.
Unlike Transparency International, several other large NGOs have been vocal about the case within the last year. Those groups include Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Courage Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. A total of 40 rights groups recently signed an open letter urging Assange’s release.
The Most Prominent Jailed Transparency Activist
Julian Assange first became well-known when WikiLeaks published a series of document troves that embarrassed the United States and its allies. Several stashes of military information exposed possible war crimes on the part of U.S. soldiers, while a collection of State Department cables from 1966 through 2010 showed American diplomatic officials being manipulated to act on behalf of U.S. companies abroad.
Shortly after those releases, Assange was investigated over a possible sexual assault in Sweden. Assange and his team worried that the investigation might be a pretext to detain and extradite him into U.S. hands, so they offered to have him testify via video link from Britain. Swedish authorities refused. Assange jumped his British bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he lived for nearly seven years. The sexual assault investigation was later dropped.
By 2018, the Ecuadorian government had apparently had enough of being ostracized on Assange’s behalf. The government of President Lenin Moreno went into talks in the summer of 2018 as a prelude to Assange’s extraction from the embassy and detention, which happened in April 2019. A federal grand jury in the U.S. returned an 18-count superseding indictment charging Assange with computer intrusion and with breaking the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.
A key part of the U.S. government’s case is the idea that, by publishing leaked information, WikiLeaks damaged the safety abroad of people friendly to the American cause. Asked by The Grayzone by email if the Justice Department would be willing to name a single person who had been killed or injured as a result of WikiLeaks material, the DOJ declined to comment.
US & UK Support & Corporate Influence
There was an initial groundswell of solidarity from abroad after Assange’s arrest, with publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post commenting on how the Espionage Act charges threatened press freedom. A few major international human rights NGOs spoke out as well.
That support has been uneven over the last 15 months or so, however. After the initial burst of coverage, the hearings faded into the background, with few mainstream American or British media organizations reporting on Judge Lady Emma Arbuthnot’s ties to U.K. intelligence and defense interests while she presided over pre-extradition hearings.
Asked whether Transparency International had made any statements about the judge’s seeming conflicts, Transparency spokesman Paul Bell told The Grayzone that the international secretariat “hasn’t made any statements in relation to Lady Emma Arbuthnot.”