Assange and the European Arrest Warrant

Bernard Porter

Yesterday, following the debate – or rather non-debate – on the European Arrest Warrant in the House of Commons, and the press commentary on it, I was surprised that the Julian Assange case wasn’t cited as one of the more contentious instances of the warrant’s use.

Assange’s extradition was granted on the say-so of a Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, without any charge being laid, and on the basis of flimsy evidence, much of which he was not allowed to see. This was after he had voluntarily submitted to examination by the Stockholm police, after which he was let go and allowed to go to Britain. Ny stepped in afterwards. Assange objected to returning to Sweden at that point because he feared he might then be re-extradited to the United States to be tried in connection with his WikiLeaks revelations. (I think that’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out.) He might also have feared certain features of the Swedish legal system which appear less than satisfactory to Anglo-Saxon eyes, and which many Swedish legalists are critical of too. In this case it seemed to me that the EAW, originally promoted as a way of protecting us from terrorism and organised crime was being abused, as ‘counter-terrorism’ measures often are.

I wrote a short comment mentioning this on Shami Chakrabarti’s excellent piece in yesterday’s Guardian, only to find it deleted by a moderator for not abiding by ‘community standards’. Probing further, I found that other mentions of Assange had also been deleted; and that because of my perseverance in trying to raise the issue three times, any comments I post are now ‘pre-moderated’. I find that puzzling (and upsetting: it seems to place me in the company of trolls). All the ‘Assange’ comments, including mine, were polite, non-racist, non-sexist, non-defamatory and relevant; though the moderator apparently thinks not. He explained in an email to me that ‘the Assange case is off topic in the context of the article in which you were commenting’. He also suspected my comments of being ‘obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like’ because I included links in them. All very odd.

More seriously, the controversy over the EAW is being presented primarily as a pro or anti-EU thing, which is why, as I understand it, Labour will be voting for it in the debate they have scheduled for next Wednesday. Certain parts of the EAW should be a source of worry to all liberals and libertarians, and opposition to them must not be hijacked by Ukip and Tory Europhobes. At the very least Theresa May should be able to provide solid assurances that the EAW will only be used in the future in the most serious, urgent and convincing cases. And maybe consider reviewing the English court’s judgment in Assange’s case, so permitting his liberation from his (no doubt pleasant enough) Ecuadorian prison.


  • 11 November 2014 at 10:14pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    The only quibble (not even that, but a "second thought") that I have with Porter's piece is the "pleasant prison" of Ecuador where Assange now resides (or lolls about). The truly unpleasant prison from which he cannot escape is his problematical (and megalomaniacal) mind, which was made very clear by Andrew O'Hagan's piece of dogged and unrewarding reporting about Assange in an LRB article last March. That last remark has no absolutely no bearing on his innocence or guilt in the Swedish matter, where the only thing that matters is the quality and probity of the evidence, about which I have no knowledge. I wouldn't wish Assange's ghoulish lifestyle and personal obsessions on anyone, either as punishment or reward. Ecuador is abundant in greenery and other natural wonders -- maybe Assange will take a break from being glued to the internet's ceaseless stream of information, go for a walk, and discover that there is actually a world to love or hate beyond the purview of Wikileaks.

    • 14 November 2014 at 4:02am
      ManFromAtlan says: @ Timothy Rogers
      And thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know much more about that world, or is that a bad thing?

  • 11 November 2014 at 10:18pm
    Bernard Porter says:
    Except that the part of Ecuador he is in, of course, is the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

  • 12 November 2014 at 8:53am
    philip proust says:
    Given that Chakrabarti's article is critical of the EAW - as are many of the comments - one can only conclude that The Guardian's antipathy to Assange is the cause of the censorship of Bernard Porter's 'short comment'. If this is the case, I am not sure why 'Assange and the European Arrest Warrant' does not focus at least in part on The Guardians' motives and the question of who would be pulling the censoring strings.

  • 12 November 2014 at 5:27pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    Well, my face is red, based on my ignorance of the fact that Assange is embassy-bound rather than equatorially roving. I guess I should follow his story more closely, but O'Hagan's article made me lose interest in the colorful (yet pale, I'll loan him some of my current blush if he asks) Australian -- his fate seems determined by his character, so it's not likely to be a pretty one. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    • 13 November 2014 at 6:52am
      Owen Petard says: @ Timothy Rogers
      Thank you, Mr. Porter, for a balanced analysis of Julian Assange’s situation in regard to the European Arrest Warrant. You are not the first person to be “pre-moderated” by the Guardian for commenting in defense of Assange.

      Andrew O’Hagan says he promised his publisher he would not give interviews or talk about the Assange project. He knew, he says, the biography would “walk the unstable border between fiction and non-fiction.”

      In his London Review of Books article "Ghosting," O’Hagan writes:
      “One day recently (Assange) asked me to come in to talk to him...I could see he was disturbed...
      ‘I’ve (heard)’re preparing a book,’ he said...
      I told him I’d made no plans to write a book...
      ‘Just tell me first if you’re going to,’ he said. ‘Come to me first.’

      "I said I would....I left that night (knowing)...I was now making him into a figment of my imagination...that was perhaps all he could ever really be for me.”

      O’Hagan told Assange he was not going to write a book. But he published his essay in the LRB, assuring himself of many more readers than if he had.
      Does O'Hagan's article walk the unstable border between fiction and non-fiction? To what extent is the character we read about a figment of Mr. O’Hagan’s imagination?

    • 13 November 2014 at 10:04am
      ChrisSquire says: @ Timothy Rogers
      The odd thing, to my mind, is not TR’s mistake but the failure of LRB’s subeditor to spot it: Assange’s self-incarceration in the embassy is no secret to anyone who reads a London newspaper.

      This tends to confirm my feeling that much of the LRB is published unsubbed nowadays. Come back Karl Miller!

  • 13 November 2014 at 3:34am
    tony lynch says:
    What is it with our ad hominen aestheticians of character? Why do they feel the need to sound off in this way? Why this need to impess themselves? And why the idea that it is of any interest to anyome else?

  • 13 November 2014 at 10:52am
    Alex K. says:
    Reading back your posts on the Assange affair, I was disappointed to find out that the Swedish criminal justice system was not much different in its setup from other Continental systems. That means the state is accorded far more power against the defendant than in legal systems of English ancestry. I was already aware of seemingly irreparable flaws in Italy's criminal justice but to Italy's credit, its parliament has tried introducing more safeguards for the accused, even if the judiciary has blocked most changes. One hopes that Swedish judges are more industrious than their Italian counterparts ("with a notable aversion to hard work" per Edward Luttwak) and less involved in the endless vendettas that shape public life in Italy, but the similarities in criminal procedure are troubling. To extradite from Britain to a jurisdiction with substantially weaker protection for the rights of the accused without as much as a hearing on the substance of the charges seems a horrible idea, liberty-wise.

  • 13 November 2014 at 3:54pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    In order to see which parts of O'Hagan's long essay are nonfiction and which parts fiction, one would have to read many other interviews of Assange, who, unless O'Hagan was lying about this, seemed to want an "authorized biography" (i.e., one assigning him final editorial rights, a commonplace condition of the celebrated). Assange wanted his story out there, and he wished to be seen in a certain way (perhaps as 'St. Julian, patron of free-information flow'), with restrictions on specific information about him. Standard stuff. I've no idea what an 'aesthetician of character' is, but do know that alynch often resorts to the ad hominem approach (as most of us do when it suits us). Considerations of things like the uses and abuses of the EAW and the Swedish judicial system are far more important that the fate of JA, though in this case his fate might highlight the deficiencies of both.

    • 13 November 2014 at 5:31pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Timothy Rogers
      Actually, no need to read many other interviews. An article published by Hazel Press called Ghosting Wikileaks ( hazelpress[dot]org/ghosting-wikileaks/4583092610 )does an excellent job of picking out which bits of O'Hagan's Ghosting are fiction, and which non-fiction. It's a bit long; a 5-parter, so I suppose you can pick and choose. To judge by what Hazel Press uncovers, the excerpt posted by Owen Petard above is indeed a confession.

    • 14 November 2014 at 12:11am
      Harry Stopes says: @ JJ Martin
      O'Hagan's line about the biography treading a border between fact and fiction is a reference to the endless evasions and inventions of Assange himself.

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:07am
      JJ Martin says: @ Harry Stopes
      Did you read the Hazel Press Ghosting WikiLeaks article? It details - and proves - a long list of factual errors in Andrew O'Hagan's story.

      You also need to check the masthead of the LRB for the Ghosting issue together with the mastheads of the two issues either side. Notice anything odd about the membership of the Editorial Board? Andrew O'Hagan resigned from and then reinstated himself to the Board for one LRB issue only. Some might say that was a mechanism whereby AOH could pay himself a very large amount of money for a hatchet job on Assange. Mr O'Hagan is not a reliable narrator and his assessment of Mr Assange should be viewed in that light.

    • 14 November 2014 at 2:40pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ JJ Martin
      I've read parts one and two of the five-part hazelpress piece, and while it has a good deal of information detrimental to O'Hagan's reputation as a fair-minded journalist, it is also cleverly tendentious in its presentation of the "facts". E.g., some of the quotes of O'Hagan are placed in a context of "this would go against Assange and his supporters -- IF you can believe that O'Hagan is actually reporting what happened or what Assange said." On the other hand the quotes of and by Assange and the Wikileaks folks are presented without such a hidden (and sometimes open) bias concerning their reliability (or accuracy). And, just as hard cases make bad law, the high emotional charge of anything having to do with Assange may lead prosecutors into misusing the EAW laws as written (as Porter notes). Anyway, O'Hagan's piece aimed for a character portrait of Assange (presumably of interest to many readers) rather than for a thorough examination of every last legal detail and moral interpretation of the big Wikileaks data dump about US policy in the Middle East. In that light much of the criticism of O'Hagan's piece is of the ilk "he should have written more about what I'm interested in and less about what he's interested in," a common critical response that makes little real sense.

    • 14 November 2014 at 3:19pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Timothy Rogers
      There's nothing tendentious about reporting that O'Hagan's Ghosting incorrectly stated that Assange had hacked into Nortel during the Arab Spring, when in fact the Nortel hack had happened in 1991 - especially as O'Hagan had got his facts about Nortel right in his own autobiography manuscript for Canongate. So O'Hagan can hardly claim ignorance or poor fact-checking for that one. And I don't think it's fair to call Hazel Press tendentious for their equally thorough dissection of O'Hagan's untruthful claims about Assange concerning the Guardian's leaking of the unredacted Cablegate file, or his allegation that Assange tried to sell Cablegate to Al-Jazeera. As Hazel Press says, O'Hagan had two years to research these matters - not difficult with the amount of material freely available to all on the internet - but he chose instead to put out wildly inaccurate claims through the LRB. The fact he resigned his Editorial Board position for that one issue of the publication in order to pay himself to do so, and then got himself reinstated to the Board by the very next issue, just adds to the disreputable odour surrounding the Ghosting article.

    • 14 November 2014 at 4:02pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Harry Stopes
      Oh, sorry Harry Stopes, I've just realised you're probably already familiar with the Hazel Press Ghosting Wikileaks article, given you've a bit of a starring role in it yourself! So, you were Andrew O'Hagan's personal research assistant, and an employee of Canongate, during his ghostwriting contract for the Assange autobiography? The Ghosting Wikileakks piece accuses you of passing the unfinished manuscript to Canongate before the autobiography's subject had a chance to vet it for security purposes and privacy protection of his family. Is that true? If so, you can hardly claim to be a disinterested and impartial voice in this discussion.

      As the project's researcher, can you clarify whether the factual errors in O'Hagan's Ghosting concerning Nortel, the Arab Spring, the Guardian's leak of the unredacted Cablegate, the 'sale' of Cablegate to Al-Jazeera, etc etc - set out in the Hazel Press article - are based on your own research work? It would be helpful to know to what extent O'Hagan utilised, or ignored, the previous research he had access to when writing Ghosting.

      Also, can you shed any more light on the discussions O'Hagan held in 2011 with Paul Greengrass about selling the film rights to the ghostwritten autobiography, referenced in the Hazel Press piece? Why did these negotiations break down? How much money was O'Hagan hoping to make by selling the book rights to Hollywood? Answers to these questions would be helpful to an analysis of Andrew O'Hagan's motivations behind that "piece of dogged and unrewarding reporting about Assange in an LRB article last March".

    • 14 November 2014 at 5:58pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ JJ Martin
      I was indeed Andrew O’Hagan’s researcher. I thought of saying so, but I figured you'd enjoy the thrill of the discovery. I'd never suggest that my role in the early part of the O'Hagan/Assange saga makes me disinterested, but I'd speculate that it makes me better informed about what went on with J's book than you and whoever wrote the Hazelpress piece.

      The contract J signed with Canongate (for an advance) specified a delivery date for a first draft. That's how book contracts work, as J's extremely experienced agent would have told him. It's why Canongate paid J that large advance.

      On the subject of 'security' (in a bizarre role-reversal, J evokes this concern with the enthusiasm, and the vagueness, of a GCHQ official), if he had wanted to exclude something from the manuscript he should have specified its exclusion. In all the countless conversations we had with J about the book once the draft was written, he never once raised a specific concern about security related to its actual content. (He did mention privacy, but then why sign a contract to write a personal autobiography?)

      I wasn't present when J et al hacked into the Egyptian mobile phone system (via a server based outside of Egypt); Andrew's report of the incident is his own. It's possible that J has hacked into Nortel more than once in his life, don't you think? The fact he did it in the 90s doesn't make an account of him doing it in 2011 any less true. Why, incidentally, are you keen for this not to have happened - it's one of the few points in 'Ghosting' when O'Hagan expresses great admiration for J. I remember him enthusing about it at the time.

      Nor was I present for the negotiation with Al-Jazeera, though I'm interested to know what evidence you think for have for implying such a negotiation didn't happen.

      In 2011 there were discussions between various parties about a possible film version of J's autobiography. For instance I remember J and another Wikileaks member of staff regaling Andrew and I with an account of a conversation they'd recently had with a Hollywood producer on the subject. J was hardly hesitant, at that stage, about the idea of a film. I've no idea what sums of money might have been involved, but the bulk of any fee would have gone to J as it had already been agreed he'd be the copyright holder of the book.

    • 14 November 2014 at 8:20pm
      Mary Blemkes says: @ Harry Stopes
      It is very simple: J did not hack into Egypt's "mobile phone system" because it was offline. There was nothing to hack into. It seems far more, possible, that J assisted Telecomix's efforts to set up new networks.

      O’Hagan often mentioned his love of "fiction" in relation to a writing factually. After endlessly re-scripting the prosaic into sensation, what else could he say?

      Another issue made complex in your JJ reply, regards security. Privacy is security. In our post-Snowden world, one would hope a researcher for a book concerning WikiLeaks would understand that.

      Also, if you want to know how successful J's preferred bio format would have been, read the reviews of 'When Google Met WikiLeaks.

    • 14 November 2014 at 8:33pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Harry Stopes
      Hello Harry!

      So, Assange, you agree, was the copyright holder of the book which means - it being an autobiography, and him being the subject of said autobiography - he ought to have had some say in its direction, content and structure, don't you think? Yet, in passing the unfinished manuscript to your employers Canongate (and it seems Assange was unaware you were their employee, is that right?) you ensured that the subject of a ghostwritten autobiography lost any ability to shape HIS OWN BOOK.

      By the way, as you are so knowledgeable about this type of book publishing - it being your chosen career path - can you tell me how often publishers such as Canongate refuse authors any leeway on deadlines if the author isn't happy with a first draft and wishes to re-structure their book/autobiography? I doubt most respectable publishers would want to get a reputation amongst authors for being so rigid as to force a writer to publish something they weren't happy to put their name to.

      Can you also confirm that Canongate's entire advance was paid straight into Mr Assange's lawyers' escrow account, and, having lost his dispute with them concerning their overcharging - a whopping £600,000 for a single Magistrates bail hearing! - he never saw a single penny out of the whole sorry saga?

    • 14 November 2014 at 9:10pm
      JJ Martin says: @ JJ Martin
      Sorry Harry, forgot to answer your questions.

      Nortel, a telecommunications company based in Canada, doesn't operate in Egypt or run Egypt's mobile phone network, that's why there would be absolutely no reason for Wikileaks to hack Nortel to help out the Arab Spring protesters.

      The evidence I have that negotiations between Wikileaks and Al-Jazeera to buy Cablegate didn't happen in January 2011, as Andrew O'Hagan says they did, is the fact that Al-Jazeera had already published all they wished from Cablegate as one of Wikileaks' 100 media partners in November and December of the previous year. For free. The January WikiLeaks/Al-Jazeera negotiations were for a television series, presumably along the same lines as that which ultimately got licensed to RT as Julian Assange's The World Tomorrow.

    • 14 November 2014 at 9:36pm
      susi2 says: @ Harry Stopes
      Did u or O`Hagan ever have any moral concerns about including the alleged Nortel hacking from 2011 considering that there is a confirmed and ongoing criminal investigation against WL in the US? It seems u two found that story amusing but did u EVER think or care that it may have legal consequences for the subject of your story?

    • 14 November 2014 at 9:43pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ JJ Martin
      This thread has led me into a state of confusion, based on my ignorance about how ghostwritten "autobiographies" work, or are supposed to work according to the conventions of publishers. If I, in my majestic old age, am approached by Fame Publishers, to come up with an autobiography, but state that I will have to do this through a ghostwriter, what happens next? Should the book be "The Life and Times of Timothy Rogers" or Ibid plus "As Told to J. Jones" (my hypothetical ghostwriter). What happens if Jones and I fall out about how the story is to be told? Who has the final say from the publisher's point of view -- the subject of the autobiography or the actual writer? Is this all negotiable and done on a case-by-case basis, or is there an accepted way of doing it. I don't even know who pays the ghostwriter -- the publisher or the subject, who might "subcontract" the writing job to the ghostwriter. What actually goes on in cases like Assange-O'Hagan? Is every contract different or is there a standard subject-ghostwriter contract with the publisher? Hiring a ghostwriter to do one's autobiography implies at least one of several things: (1) I'm too busy with other things, so I'll do it this way; (2) I'm incapable of writing clearly and effectively (which itself implies something about one's thinking as well as one's writing skills -- if you can't say it or write it clearly, how can you possibly think it clearly?); or (3)Well, I can say think it and say it clearly, but I'm not a professional writer, who might be able to "punch it up" in ways with which I have no skills. Or some other possibility. As I say, what's really going on with respect to the two "partners" in this specific (failed) enterprise?

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:03pm
      robert higgo says: @ JJ Martin
      So since J didn't want Canongate to publish I presume he just paid back the 600k and thus honoured his part of the deal, but Canongate wouldn't accept the 600k and insisted on publishing. Or have i missed something?

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:19pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Timothy Rogers
      I think you've hit the nail on the head there, Timothy. As Assange has written some very accomplished stuff since his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy - his review of The New Digital Age in the New York Times is a brilliant piece of writing, the introduction to Cypherpunks too, most recently When Google Met Wikileaks has been very well received - I suspect it was busyness rather than lack of skill behind the decision to have his autobiography ghostwritten. I think ghostwriters have professional ethical standards covering the points you raise. As a ghostwriter you write the book you've been hired to write as the subject would wish it written. You don't impose your own ego and "creative vision" on it. Assange wanted a manifesto-type book (much like When Google Met Wikileaks, which has been extremely successful); O'Hagan wanted to 'author' a classic, and perhaps sensationalist (see Ghosting), 'get inside every nook and cranny of their entire life history' BIOGRAPHY. I say that because, to judge from Ghosting, Andrew O'Hagan wasn't really much interested in reproducing Assange's viewpoint at all, just his table manners.

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:31pm
      JJ Martin says: @ robert higgo
      Yes, you have missed something. Assange never had any control over that advance, which was paid directly into an escrow account controlled by his lawyers. When he fell out with his lawyers over their overcharging him (why Jennifer Robinson left the firm and started work for Assange pro bono herself), they - the lawyers - snaffled the lot to cover their own £600,000 "fees". The fees were for Assange first court appearance in December 2010 before the magistrates court - a bail hearing, effectively - and its appeal two days later. They didn't represent him over the actual extradition hearing, nor the High Court or Supreme Court appeals. £600,000 for one hearing! No wonder Assange fell out with them. Wikileaks published a long account of the Cablegate debacle, including transcript of phone conversations between Assange and Canongate in which he (before he realised they'd totally double-crossed him) was giving Canongate advice and trying to help them to retrieve their advance from the law firm. But that's all he could do. He never got a sniff of Canongate's advance himself.

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:36pm
      robert higgo says: @ JJ Martin
      how do you mean they snaffled the lot? They stole it? It is his really? Has he reported this theft as you seem to imply it is, to the police? If not, why not? I'm sorry but this does not make sense to me at all. If the lawyers have no legal claim to the money, how come they have it?

    • 14 November 2014 at 10:55pm
      JJ Martin says: @ robert higgo
      The lawyers' "legal claim" to the £450,000 in the escrow account was their £600,000 bill because the escrow was set up to cover Assange's legal costs. Remember how Assange was quoted at the time "I don't want to write this book, but I have to cover my legal costs fighting this extradition"? I guess he hadn't received Stephens Finer's bill yet when he said that. Apparently, he tried to sue them for overcharging him but - suing lawyers, fat chance, eh? - he lost that one. I guess if the purpose of the escrow was legal costs and they said "here's our bill" it's a difficult thing to argue.

    • 15 November 2014 at 8:07am
      robert higgo says: @ robert higgo
      Well J J we aren't going to agree on this one. Why did Assange agree to the arrangement of the payment the way he did? Am I really to believe a lawyer can charge you as much as they like for one magistrate's hearing? There's too much to swallow here for me. He didn't stick to his deal with Canongate and they used their material to produce the book. Why should I regard the material as Assange's? He didn't write it, didn't research it. I don't think he should be extradited, but he hasn't behaved well over the book. And finally I think ad hominem sneering is uncalled for here.

  • 14 November 2014 at 11:00am
    Bernard Porter says:
    Assange’s character, of course, should have no bearing on the issue raised by my original post. Good laws exist to protect everyone, even those we may disapprove of. The EAW – or aspects of it - seems to me to be a bad law for this reason. I raised the Assange case partly because of my suspicion – though it isn’t voiced in my post – that the political establishment, of all main parties, might tolerate the EAW as a means of getting rid of troublesome folk like him. It half succeeded in his case. I really do hope that decent Labour and Lib-Dem MPs can look past their knee-jerk reactions to UKIP next Wednesday, and take this more serious issue on board.

  • 14 November 2014 at 3:54pm
    Bernard Porter says:
    Can I add parenthetically that I am still being blacklisted from the Guardian's websites. Since I posted this I've heard from others who have been subjected to similar treatment by the Guardian. It matters very little to me (or to anyone!), but it indicates a certain arrogance, that they won't admit to obvious mistakes. (I'm interpreting this AS a mistake, rather than as anything more sinister.) And it has rather undermined my doubtless naive image of my favourite paper, as dedicated to - indeed crusading for - openness, accountability and all the rest.

    God I miss the News Chronicle!

    • 14 November 2014 at 11:48pm
      philip proust says: @ Bernard Porter
      I for one am disturbed by the Guardian's censorship; however, I am also puzzled by Bernard Porter's suggestion that this 'blacklisting' is merely an unmotivated 'mistake', as if the suppression of his contributions is a random action.

      Assange has alienated a lot of powerful people - on the right and on the left - for quite disparate reasons; and Bernard Porter must have theories or good guesses about what is going on behind the scenes at the Guardian to produce this outcome.

  • 14 November 2014 at 5:47pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    Well, this is a fine kettle of fish. While Mr. Porter would like to receive a well-deserved apology from the venerable Guardian, J.J. Martin, it seems, would like a public apology to its readers from the editorial board of the not-so-venerable LRB due to their alleged collusion with O'Hagan in his article about Assange. Who will step up to the plate first? Neither, I suspect, because well-known journals and newspapers are very deft in the arts of evasion and self-defense when the occasion arises.

  • 15 November 2014 at 10:23am
    Bernard Porter says:
    When I posted my original innocent little comment to the Guardian's website, I had no idea it could open up such a can of worms. Maybe that’s why the Guardian shies away from any mention of Assange? Of course less reputable possible motives for that have occurred to me too - I’m as open to this kind of speculation as the next person. (I once wrote a book called Plots and Paranoia.) But I prefer to stick in writing to what I can be reasonably sure of. Whatever the reason, the Guardian’s blacklisting of me was wrong, foolish and illiberal. I hope someone there gets to read these comments, and feels a twinge of shame.

    What worries me more is the way these sorts of controversy surrounding Assange (the ‘sex’ accusations are another) may discourage the MPs who are going to matter on Wednesday from questioning the scope of the European Arrest Warrant. That is the substantive question here, and a vitally important one. It would be a pity if discussion of that were to sink into the mud of the row over O’Hagen’s role. The debate over it here I’ve found fascinating. But it mustn’t be allowed to distract from the immediate issue of principle.

    • 15 November 2014 at 1:22pm
      JJ Martin says: @ Bernard Porter
      You make a very important point, Bernard - that is, while the mainstream UK press has a whale of a time smearing, censoring and generally stoking controversy over Julian Assange, mention of his name or the iniquities of his extradition case in Parliament or by UK-based human rights organisations has been virtually taboo. Fair Trials, even, are very coy about it and usually try to use other EAW miscarriage-of-justice cases to make points that his case would bring so much more publicity to, if only they dared mention his name. Usually, Fair Trials will start a campaign, say, about pre-trial detention in Europe and issue a press release about the injustices of Sweden's regime, with not a peep about Julian Assange in it.

      I think the tide may be turning, though, since Hugo Swire's very pointed "invitation" to the Swedish prosecutor in FCO Question Time in the House of Commons a week or so ago that the "UK will do absolutely everything in our power to facilitate that. Indeed, we would actively welcome it"

    • 15 November 2014 at 1:44pm
      JJ Martin says: @ JJ Martin
      PS Just wanted to clarify something for Robert Higgo (the Reply button under his most recent comment seems to have disappeared):

      I agree ad hominens are uncalled for, and hope your comment wasn't directed at me - I don't recall using any myself (unless "suing lawyers, fat chance, eh?" counts as one) so perhaps it was directed at someone else? If I'm guilty, I apologise.

      But the point I wanted to clarify was that I think I may have misled you a bit. Thinking about it, I recall seeing Mark Stephens outside the Belmarsh court, so perhaps Stephens Finer were still representing Julian Assange up until the first extradition hearing before Justice Riddle. Even so, £600,000 is still massive overcharging. I can only assume that Assange agreed to have his autobiography advance paid direct into an escrow account set up to cover his legal costs because, at that stage, he had no idea that his lawyers would go on to present him with a bill like that. Naive of him, maybe, but not unbelievably naive. He's an Australian, remember, so what would he know about UK law firms? He would just trust the recommendation made to him by the media partners he was working with at the time (before he fell out with them so spectacularly, that is). Stephens Finer is a media specialist law firm, after all. As I said, Jennifer Robinson made it clear publicly that she had left the firm in protest at their overcharging of Assange.

    • 15 November 2014 at 2:02pm
      robert higgo says: @ JJ Martin
      As a foreigner I'd say I have no difficulty in disbelieving the notion that lawyers charge £600k for a Magistrate's hearing. I'm grateful for your additional memories on the involvement of the law firm.

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