Assange on Trial

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing web site, has created controversy like no other in recent times. Protests, demonstrations and court appearances all seek the truth. The rape allegation: a cover up or conspiracy? Caught in legal limbo-land, Assange is followed, by everyone: the police, the media, his celebrity friends and a dedicated band of supporters.

On 13th December 2010 it started with protests took place outside the Swedish embassy in London amidst rape allegations made by Swedish prosecutors against Julian Assange. Assange immediately turned himself over to the British police and was now in prison pending bail. His supporters claimed this was a political cover-up designed to discredit the WikiLeaks founder – in effect a kind of judicial retaliation for exposing US (and other) governmental secrets. The following day media celebrities such as Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger attended Westminster Crown Court in defence of Julian Assange’s bail hearing. A bail of £250,000 had to be raised against the possibility of his flight. All throughout the day there were tense scenes inside the courthouse as friends of the WikiLeaks founder scrambled across London to make up the necessary amount before the court closed. They failed to satisfy the judge in time and as result Assange remained in jail.

December 16th 2010 and the Julian Assange case moved to the Royal Courts of Justice for another hearing as crowds of journalists and protesters gathered outside. Statements from Assange’s mother Christine and others were made to the waiting press with Assange’s high profile QC Mark Stephens. Finally, moments before the court was due to shut Assange emerged free to a hail of media flash bulbs and questions. He had been released on bail although with restrictions. Ordered to observe a strict curfew he’d also have to wear a permanent electronic tagging device on his body.

In the new year, the question of Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden moved to Belmarsh Magistrates Court, set in the grounds of Belmarsh – scene of many historic prosecutions against IRA terrorists. The hearing took several days, with supporters and press braving the wind and the rain. In the end the judge threw out the arguments put forward by Assange’s legal team, and set the case aside for a further hearing. As Assange left there was a small scuffle between the police and his supporters, as Assange watched from his car, driven away into an uncertain future.

Scrutinised by both the world press and two governments, Julian Assange is yet to be formally charged with any crime. As such that means he is not formally on trial, but to all intents and purposes he might as well be.

Mark Esper
February 2011

Status: Syndicated through Polaris Images.
Featured In: La Journal De La Photographie.
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