12/ 17/ 2011
The Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), representing Julian Assange, publisher of the Wikileaks media organization has appealed a military court decision yesterday that denied guaranteed access by Assange and Wikileaks’ counsel to the proceedings against Private Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade.
The Center argued that reserved access was essential to monitor these controversial hearings and protect their clients’ substantial interests in the conduct and content of the proceedings.
The Assange and WikiLeaks legal team at Ft. Meade consists of Center for Constitutional Rights cooperating counsel Amy Jacobsen, who has the highest level of Top Secret security clearance and thus would have an entitlement to observe even closed portions of the hearing, and
Assange’s Australian attorney, Jennifer Robinson, who traveled from London to monitor the proceedings on behalf of WikiLeaks.
“The proceedings against Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade are more restrictive than those at Guantanamo,” said CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy. “As counsel for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, we have a compelling interest in monitoring the hearing given both that Manning stands accused of providing evidence of war crimes to our clients, and that the proceedings are clearly closely linked to a grand jury in Virginia reported to be issuing subpoenas for information on our clients. It’s outrageous that we are being denied guaranteed access, yet utterly consistent with the way the government has conducted itself throughout Manning’s prosecution.”
Private Manning has suffered serious human rights violations in detention, including prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation, and other torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment reminiscent of the worst abuses at Guantánamo Bay. Throughout all of his detention, the U.S. government has refused to allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture to adequately assess Private Manning’s treatment and conditions.
WikiLeaks seeks to support all individuals who are being persecuted because of allegations that they have provided materials to WikiLeaks.
Mr. Assange said yesterday: “Private Bradley Manning is alleged to have submitted footage of war crimes to WikiLeaks. If it is the case that he is indeed the source of this or other WikiLeaks materials, Manning has singlehandedly changed hundreds of thousands of people’s lives for the better, contributing to the ending of dictatorships and exposing torture and wrongdoing all over the world. His treatment during the 570 days he has been held in custody amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment and is cause for international outrage. WikiLeaks always takes an interest in the prosecution of those alleged to be our sources. It has been widely reported that the grand jury in Virginia has subpoenaed Twitter and Google for information relating to WikiLeaks. The presence of our legal representative to monitor and observe Private Manning’s hearing is an essential part of our vigilance and care for those alleged to be WikiLeaks sources.”
Mr. Assange has a particular personal interest in these proceedings because it appears that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have been issuing subpoenas to supporters of WikiLeaks in order to investigate matters that, based on prior official statements, will likely be addressed in Private Manning’s proceedings. It has been reported that these subpoenas are the result of a grand jury process that has, as is the norm in the United States, taken place entirely in secret without any involvement permitted by defense counsel, in a district that has the highest concentration of military and government jurors in the nation. The names of Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks, and Private Manning reportedly appear on many of the production orders coming out of this grand jury process that have been served in relation to WikiLeaks’ supporters on companies such as Google and Twitter.
Conspiracy to commit espionage is amongst the potential indictments is being considering by the grand jury. U.S. investigation into WikiLeaks has been “unprecedented both in its scale and nature” and the investigation into Mr. Assange has been “vigorous” according to the Australian embassy in Washington.
Official correspondence demonstrates that the U.S. Ambassador to Australia has stated that “Australia will have to consider its own extradition obligations” in respect to Mr. Assange. Mr. Assange and his lawyers therefore are concerned about the threat of an extradition request from the U.S. on matters raised in Private Manning’s proceedings.