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The shocking story of the legal persecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the dangerous implications for the whistleblowers of the future.
In July 2010, Wikileaks published Cablegate, one of the biggest leaks in the history of the US military, including evidence for war crimes and torture. In the aftermath Julian Assange, the founder and spokesman of Wikileaks, found himself at the center of a media storm, accused of hacking and later sexual assault. He spent the next seven years in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, fearful that he would be extradited to Sweden to face the accusations of assault and then sent to US. In 2019, Assange was handed over to the British police and, on the same day, the U.S. demanded his extradition. They threatened him with up to 175 years in prison for alleged espionage and computer fraud.
At this point, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, started his investigation into how the US and UK governments were working together to ensure a conviction. His findings are explosive, revealing that Assange has faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, collusion and manipulated evidence. He has been the victim of constant surveillance, defamation and threats. Melzer also gathered together consolidated medical evidence that proves that Assange has suffered prolonged psychological torture.
Melzer’s compelling investigation puts the UK and US state into the dock, showing how, through secrecy, impunity and, crucially, public indifference, unchecked power reveals a deeply undemocratic system. Furthermore, the Assange case sets a dangerous precedent: once telling the truth becomes a crime, censorship and tyranny will inevitably follow.
The Trial of Julian Assange is told in three parts: the first explores Nils Melzer’s own story about how he became involved in the case and why Assange’s case falls under his mandate as the Special Rapporteur on Torture. The second section returns to 2010 when Wikileaks released the largest leak in the history of the U.S. military, exposing war crimes and corruption, and Nils makes the case that Swedish authorities manipulated charges against Assange to force his extradition to the US and publicly discredit him. In the third section, the author returns to 2019 and picks up the case as Ecuador kicks Assange out of the embassy and lays out the case as it currently stands, as well as the stakes involved for other potential whistleblowers trying to serve the public interest.
About the Author
Nils Melzer, born in 1970, is a Swiss academic, author and advocate in international law, human rights and security policy. In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed him the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“This is a landmark book, the first by a senior international official to call out the criminality of Western governments, and their craven media echoes, in the persecution of Julian Assange. Mark the word, persecution, says Nils Melzer, as well as ‘our’ responsibility for the ravages inflicted on an heroic man for telling forbidden truths and on democracy itself.”
“This extraordinary and very disturbing book details how 4 national governments (and a lot of journalists) conspired to put Julian Assange away—at whatever cost to justice it might entail. Nils Melzer surgically takes apart the so-called evidence in the case against Assange, shows how legal process was consistently used to incriminate him and yet always denied when it might have led to his acquittal. This international vendetta continues to this day, and Assange—still untried for any crime whatsoever—remains a prisoner in Belmarsh. This is surely one of the most flagrant and shameful miscarriages of justice of our times.”
“This is a harrowing account of a corruption of justice that crosses not only borders, but the United Nations itself. Melzer’s work is an urgent corrective to a false history—and an act of public service.”
“Politically motivated and unjustified, the prosecution of Julian Assange by a mature democracy threatens and undermines press freedom, the rule of law, and the prohibition of torture. By painstakingly and rigorously documenting the facts, Nilz Melzer reveals the full disturbing account of how the human rights of Julian Assange have been violated over years. It’s a story that must be told and from which we all must learn.”
—Agnes Callamard, Secretary-General, Amnesty International, former UN Rapporteur on Torture
“A stunning account on how official secrecy, corruption and impunity suffocate the truth and poison the rule of law. The present-day prosecution of Julian Assange aims to complete what Richard Nixon tried and failed to do in the Pentagon Papers case fifty years ago: rescind the foundation of our republic, the First Amendment protection of freedom of the press. As Melzer argues compellingly, nothing less than our continued status as a democracy is at stake in the need to block Assange’s extradition, drop the unconstitutional charges against him, or if necessary, win his acquittal. It is the legal scandal of the century.”
—Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower, the Pentagon Papers
“It is as if all the Anglo-American frustrations over the disasters of Iraq, Trump and a teetering Washington political system have become concentrated in official hatred of one man: Julian Assange. This dissident faces a 175 year sentence but the soldiers who shot dead innocent Iraqi civilians- the war crime he exposed and is facing extradition for- are escaping even an investigation. The ferocious cruelty summoned for pursuit of Assange is anatomised here by Nils Melzer who implies a question that should chill us: Assange now, who next?”
—Bob Carr, former Australian foreign minister and longest serving Premier of New South Wales
“A powerful investigation into the heart of darkness of our legal and political systems. Once you read this breath-taking book by Nils Melzer, you will know why Julian Assange is being tortured so terribly and why he should be celebrated as a true hero of the 21st century.”
—Srecko Horvat, author of Poetry From the Future
“The most compelling case yet made for Assange’s defence and a swingeing indictment of politicians, security services and judicial authorities … [Melzer] marshal[s] a wealth of detail and legal evidence to make his case.”
—Mary Dejevsky, Independent
“The most methodical and detailed recounting of the long persecution by the United States and the British government of Assange.”
—Chris Hedges, New Age
“Enlightening … The material Melzer has gathered over his two-year investigation is riveting, and his motivation is clear.”
—Andrew Hankinson, Spectator
“A remarkable book by a remarkable man … The research, knowledge and considered thought Melzer has given to Assange’s case is powerful and unanswerable.”
“Nils Melzer has given us an invaluable record of the whole judicial witch-hunt. His evolution from sceptic to truth-seeker is particularly admirable.”
—Peter Whittaker, New Internationalist