Assange Chris Hedges Original

Chris Hedges: The Marriage of Julian Assange

I was in London as a guest of Julian Assange and Stella Moris for their wedding, but even on that day the authorities continued their relentless campaign of cruelty against Julian.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, and Stella Moris on their way into HM Prison Belmarsh for the wedding.

LONDON — I am standing at the gates of HM Prison Belmarsh, a high security penitentiary  in southeast London, with Craig Murray, British Ambassador to Uzbekistan until he was fired for exposing CIA black sites and torture centers in that country. Inside the prison, Julian Assange and Stella Moris are being married.  Craig and I were on the list of the six guests invited to the wedding, but prison authorities, in an example of the institutional sadism that characterizes all prisons, denied us entry. Craig, who was to have been one of two witnesses, was informed that he could not enter because he would “endanger the security of the prison.”

Craig came down from Edinburgh by train. I flew over from New York. We would at least be at the entrance of the prison with 150 Assange supporters. Craig, dressed in full Scottish regalia  —and a kilt he admitted to expanding every few years to accommodate his broadening girth —  made a fashion statement and perhaps a point about Scottish independence.- He was outdone by Stella, who wore a flowing ice lilac A-line bridal gown, corset with plastic stays so she could pass through the four metal detectors, and veil designed and donated by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler.

“It’s a part of the ongoing mental torture that even on his happiest day they will at the last moment strike off guests on his guest list just to mess him about, just to try and make things as unpleasant as they can possibly make them,” Craig laments. “We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a piece of the unnecessary cruelty with which he has been kept from the start. Why on earth is he even in a maximum security prison built to house terrorists? I’m quite amused by the explanation that I endanger the security of the prison. I feel quite flattered by this. I couldn’t understand it all until today when, of course, it occurred to me that I look incredibly sexy in my kilt and they thought a prison riot might ensue.”

The day is bittersweet. Julian may never be able to live with his wife and family. Yet it is an affirmation of love and commitment and hope carried out in a small side room with folding chairs and a laminate table.The prison authorities denied Julian and Stella use of the chapel. The ceremony was witnessed by six family members, including Julian and Stella’s two young sons, one of whom fell asleep and the other of whom was preoccupied with a paper plane and tried to turn on one of the alarms. Two guards were stationed in the room. 

There was no reception. There was no cake.  The prison denied Julian and Stella’s request for a photographer. A guard took a few pictures, but prison authorities told Julian and Stella they could not be posted on social media or shared with the public. They were allowed to kiss. This prompted the older boy, Gabriel, to say, the family told me, “Oh, that’s a sloppy one.” Afterwards, the Catholic chaplain, who had the foresight to bring a white tablecloth and candles, gave them his blessing. Julian and Stella were given half an hour together in a crowded visitors hall. And then Julian, prisoner A 9379AY, was escorted back to his cell to the applause of the prisoners on his tier.

“It was an act of defiance,” Stella tells me later of the wedding.  “You can tell by how much they fear it.”

The campaign to dehumanize Julian, who honored his Scottish roots wearing a purple and beige kilt, along with a purple tie and waistcoat, also donated and designed by Westwood  and Kronthaler, extends to his wedding day. No doubt one of the reasons Craig, whose coverage of the court proceedings for Julian have been dogged and brilliant, and I were not at the wedding is because the prison authorities did not want us to write about the wedding, which they should have known we would do whether we were in the prison or not.

“They have viciousness,” Craig says. “They have the ability to employ the violence of the state. They have arbitrary power they can use to take cruel and nasty decisions for the sake of it, just to show that they can, but we, on our side, have peace and love and truth. Those values, at the end of the day, are far more important.”

Craig Murray, left, and Chris Hedges outside the Belmarsh high security prison. [Photo courtesy of Chris Hedges]

 Julian is targeted because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including images seen  in the Collateral Murder video — of gunning down two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians.

He is targeted because he made public the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints.  

He is targeted because he exposed the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7,  exposing that the CIA is able to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.

He is targeted because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians, the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 to and 89, at Guantánamo. 

He is targeted because he showed us that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

He is targeted because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime. He is targeted because he released documents that revealed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians. 

He is targeted because he made public the $657,000 paid to Hillary Clinton by Goldman Sachs to give talks and her private assurances to corporate leaders that she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform. He is targeted because he revealed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party.  

For these truths alone he is guilty.

The Biden administration is determined to extradite Julian and charge him with 17 counts of the Espionage Act, which would send him to prison for 170 years. I sat through some of the court proceedings in London. It was a judicial farce, especially since the Spanish security firm UC Global at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Julian had taken refuge for seven years, recorded all of Julian’s conversations with his attorneys and turned them over to the CIA. That fact alone should invalidate the trial. But there is also the bald fact that Julian never committed a crime. 

Julian is not a US citizen. WikiLeaks is not a US-based publication. And yet he is charged, under the US Espionage Act, with treason. It is judicial pantomime, a show trial where the rule of law is sabotaged by barristers in horsehair wigs and grand inquisitors such as Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who handles high profile terrorism and national security cases.  Kromberg has open contempt for Muslims, Islam and anyone who defies the state. He has denounced what he calls “the Islamization of the American justice system.”  

Kromberg oversaw the nine year persecution of the Palestinian activist and academic Dr. Sami Al-Arian and at one point refused his request to postpone a court date during the religious holiday of Ramadan. “They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can’t do is eat before sunset,” Kromberg said in a 2006 conversation, according to an affidavit filed by one of Arian’s attorneys, Jack Fernandez.  Kromberg criticized Daniel Hale, the former Air Force analyst who was sentenced to 45 months in prison for leaking information about the indiscriminate killings of civilians by drones, saying Hale had not contributed to public debate but had “endanger[ed] the people doing the fight.” He ordered Chelsea Manning jailed after she refused to testify in front of a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.  Manning attempted to commit suicide in March 2020 while being held in a Virginia jail.

The perversion of the law for all of us who follow Julian’s case is chilling. It presages the rise of a global corporate totalitarianism, one where the law is a tool not of justice but oppression.

The US successfully won an appeal of a lower British court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange because his psychological fragility makes him a suicide risk and the conditions under which he would be held in the American prison system awaiting trial are inhumane.

Julian appealed in an effort to reinstate the original ruling. His appeal was denied. Home Secretary Priti Patel will rule soon on whether he will be extradited. If she decides to extradite Julian, he can go back to the lower court to appeal the points on which he initially lost, including his argument that the case violates the right to freedom of expression, and that the Anglo-US extradition treaty prohibits extradition for political offenses. If the High Court rules in his favor, the US can appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.  This legal dance will probably take a year. If the High Court rejects Julian’s appeal he could be extradited within weeks.

 Julian has been observed pacing his cell obsessively, punching himself in the face, banging his head against the wall, repeatedly calling the Samaritan hotline because he was thinking about committing suicide “hundreds of times a day” and hallucinating. A razor was found under his socks. He told Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, who brought in UN doctors to examine Julian, that if he was extradited he would not survive. He suffered a stroke during his trial last October. He is on antidepressants, anti-stroke medication and the antipsychotic Quetiapine. He is gaunt, his posture is poor and his color ashen. He has spent months in the prison’s medical wing. Julian, as Melzer concluded in his UN report, is being methodically and systematically tortured. The goal of the US and UK governments is to turn Julian’s psychological and perhaps physical obliteration into a chilling warning to anyone who might also attempt to shine a light on the inner workings of power. 

I like and admire Julian. He is intellectually curious, incredibly courageous, funny and, at least when I was with him in the Ecuadorian Embassy, charmingly boyish. He could have easily used his precocious computer skills to make a very comfortable life for himself working for high finance or national security agencies. He chose instead to use those skills for  the public, in the service of truth. He provided the most important body of information of our generation about the war crimes, lies, corruption and cynicism that defines the ruling elites. This information ripped back the veil on the centers of power around the globe, sparking movements and popular protests from Tunisia to Haiti.

If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information, under the Espionage Act. The inner workings of power will be shrouded in darkness, with very ominous consequences for press freedom and democracy. 

“Disintegration Policy.” [Illustration by Mr. Fish]

It is night. I am in Stella’s house with the wedding party, her mother, her brother, Julian’s father and Julian’s brother, as well as Julian and Stella’s two young boys.

“He has been disappeared,” Stella says softly.  “The only pictures that have emerged of him since 2019 have been illegally taken in the courtroom, everything else has been court illustrations and pictures from the prison van from 2019.”

“Walking out was really jarring,” she adds.

Stella and Julian spent years trying to get married. They first asked the Ecuadorian Ambassador to marry them, but Julian was not an Ecuadorian citizen. Once Julian was granted Ecuadorian citizenship the new government in Quito had become hostile. Stella and Julian began to lobby the prison for the right to marry in 2020, but the prison authorities did not respond to their requests until they threatened a lawsuit. 

Stella brings down her satin wedding dress with its three-quarter sleeves and her veil to let us examine it. On the inside flap of the dress Vivienne Westwood has written this: “To me, Vivienne, Julian is a pure soul and a freedom fighter. All my love to the family, Julian, Stella, Max and Gabriel. May the holy life force bless your marriage.” The veil has embroidered into it words chosen by Julian. Free Enduring Love. Ardent. Boundless. Joyous. Resilient. Incandescent. Wild. Valiant. Resolute. Tender. Stubborn. Tumultuous. Patient. Yearning. Fearless. Eternal.

“For their love to have grown and flourished in these dire circumstances of ceaseless persecution and psychological torture,” John Shipton, Julian’s father tells me. “Love transcends the circumstances.”

He turns towards his two young grandchildren. 

“You can see it produced two lovely, joyful children,” he says.

It is late. Stella cuts her wedding cake on the wooden kitchen table. The top tier is lemon.  The bottom is raspberry. We eat silently. 

Pray for Julian. Pray for Stella. Pray for their children. Pray for us all.


NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS : There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestr​​ing budget, and I will not waiver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

Thank you,

Chris


Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.  Author Link

Copyright 2022 Chris Hedges

30 comments

      1. You’re right, it’s a very affecting and disturbing piece. Marriage is supposed to be the climax of the archetypal structure of comedy signifying social re-integration and fruitful renewal; whereas, Hedges is witnessing a tragedy, social morbidity. The couple are heroically showing “an affirming flame” along with the attendants and all of us supporters; but, finally it only intensifies the circumambient darkness, … only a god can save us now.

  1. “They have viciousness. They have the ability to employ the violence of the state. They have arbitrary power they can use to take cruel decisions for the sake of it, just to show that they can.” —Craig Murray
    These “values” are imposed on the US domestic population by denying them healthcare, education, and establishing a punitive, viscous judicial system that convicts 95% of the 5% of felony indictments that actually go to trial and then imposing decades long prison sentences for minor offences. Our foreign policy is imposing crippling economic sanctions and the threat of genocide on countries who wish to be sovereign and independent. “We the People” are powerless. This is the de facto US Constitution of our Presidents and our 535 elected officials. It began with the rigged nomination of Harry Truman in 1945 who immediately dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, invented the CIA, and ordered the US military to fight in Korea’s civil war without congressional authorization, incinerating 20% of Korea’s population. It was Truman all along.

  2. There WAS a cake & champagne at the gathering outside the prison. A friend was there and Chris Hedges shook hands with him. The wedding was delayed because the gathering hadn’t checked Covid requirements, so had to have LTFs. That’s normal procedure, not a police state. No idea about number of people admitted to the prison for the wedding. Friend tells me the police behaved appropriately for a prison next door to a magistrate’s court. (He’s been part of campaigns & court cases since before many of this campaign were born.)

    The campaign has lost ground. They did NOT support other people threatened with extradition to the USA. This meant they lost out on high profile, influential support from other campaigns. Constantly ignore the news cycle and whine when other people get interviewed, because they understand the needs of journalists & deadlines. By personalising it to Assange, they weaken the case. Extradition has been going on for decades from UK to USA, especially to Ireland.

  3. Sending my best wishes on the occasion!! Will any of we the people have a future????

  4. These are all lovely sentiments except for 2 small bits left out. The parts about Assange being a rapist. With at least 2 women, his former supporters no less, claiming he sexually assaulted them which is why he ended up in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place the upstanding human being that he is. And that small part where thanks to Russian security state hacker provided Clinton emails, he massively contributed to the undermining of US democratic process and helping to elect Donal Trump as president. But other than that that he seems like a nice guy.

    As to your going on about his wife and children. Color my cynical, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a person facing an inevitable prison sentence would create a “family” to obtain sympathy from a judge and jury. Biotech fraudster Elizabeth Holmes is another recent notable example of this ploy. Feigning health issues is another. Harvey Weinstein using a walker to the courtroom is a classic. So is pretending to be suicidal. I fully expect Assange to next resort to the most common of judgment sympathy inducing tropes soon and publically declare his sudden discovery of his passion for all things Jesus and Bible.

    1. Dear Claire Rossman – Your statement about Julian Assange being a rapist demonstrates your lack of awareness as to the facts, and your willingness to swallow the narrative that has been shared for years by the powers that be and mainstream media in an attempt to villainize Mr. Assange who is, unquestionably one of the most important truth-tellers of any generation. I encourage you to watch this video of Lisa Lonfstaff (Women Against Rape UK) who continues to be an outspoken advocate for Julian, a detractor of the rape narrative, and someone who shares that the Wikileaks documents detailing the incredible crimes against women in so many US led wars is unparalleled: https://womenagainstrape.net/lisa-longstaff-speaking-at-freethetruth-in-defence-of-julian-assange The author of the article you are criticizing, Chris Hedges, is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Hedges. If you want to check, the credentials of Craig Murray who was also denied attendance at the wedding, they are impeccable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Murray. John Pilger is another exceptionally astute advocate for Julian: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Pilger, as are the credentials of tens of thousands of parliamentarians, journalists, doctors, human rights advocates and individuals around the world who support Julian and are advocating for this extradition witch hunt to end and for him to be free. If you really want to learn the truth about what has happened to Julian, I also encourage you to read the recently released book by Nils Melzer, the UN Rappateur on Torture, who entered into his investigation as a skeptic and who tears apart the scandalous narrative surrounding the persecution of Julian: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/697240/the-trial-of-julian-assange-by-nils-melzer/9781839766220 As for any leaks leading to Ms Clinton’s loss, I would suggest that you examine those emails which evidence that it was the behaviour of Ms Clinton and those around her that was unconscionable. I also encourage you to read widely on the website: https://dontextraditeassange.com/ As Aldous Huxley stated so succinctly so many years ago: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

      1. How many other victims of sexual assault do you choose to disbelieve and dismiss Charlotte?

        The two accusing Assange were not strangers but former committed koolaid drinkers like you. If your “truth teller” had nothing to hide he could have simply faced them in court. The Swedish extradition excuse was a tactic of a coward fleeing justice. How many other inexcusable behaviors, including criminal, do you overlook by people you misguidedly admire?

        Please don’t speak about “facts” you know nothing about. But then again from your dismissive anti Clinton sentiment you sound happy that Trump won, so there are very low expectation levels associated with your comprehension of reality or your demonstrable conscience.

    2. Only morons think the USA has democratic election processes. You can’t undermine something that doesn’t exist. It also doesn’t matter who hacked some politician’s emails. That doesn’t change the validity of the content of the emails. The public has every right to know what crimes their elected and unelected officials are committing regardless of how the information is obtained or by who is obtaining it. It also doesn’t matter who wins US elections because they’re all rigged and all the major candidates are controlled. It’s also sad you’re comparing a political prisoner to wealthy and powerful people who committed real crimes with real victims.

  5. Chris, thank-you for that moving, written portrait of Julian’s wedding.

    As a result, I wrote the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, the following letter, small gesture though it is:
    (sent to Public.Enquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk as her office requested)

    I ask you and the British gov’t to strongly consider denying the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. Britain has a long history with democracy and social justice, and condemning Julian for exposing the war crimes of the US, when he is an Australian citizen, will help move us closer to the world of Orwell’s 1984, and show the world how subservient the UK has become to the United States.

    Julian and Wikileaks’ activities have shown the workings of power, and he has been punished harshly for that. A gov’t that concentrates its power, in terms of surveillance and policing, will find it moving closer to the regimes of the old Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, two powers that the UK fought hard against for its freedom. Eventually, problems like vast economic inequality, a rampant military industrial complex, or intractable problems like climate change will cause the collapse of any regime unable to question its reality, which is the role investigative journalism is meant to achieve.

    I hope you and Britain do not fall on the wrong side of history.

  6. Sociopaths are appallingly defective types not uncommonly concentrated in prison staff and military. But to find the humane institution of Law, the dispensation of enlightened justice, degraded in highest degree signifies, as was said of an earlier parallel instance, “only a God can save us now”.

  7. Very sad for Julian,
    America and Britain are good at hiding the truth. And the tabloids also. And honest people are stignified. As traitors, in the news, not the presenters fault. War crimes happened in the Gulf. And Putin is no different, it is the can calling the kettle black.

  8. Stella doesn’t have to brag about making Jullian a honest man, as obviously that is at the core of his reality as the world knows full well.

  9. You claim Hillary and Obama organized the Honduras coup but Obama claimed to the press when it happened that the coup was illegal.

  10. Thank you so much Chris Hedges! You are so profound! FREE JUIAN ASSANGE!

  11. As the fundamental world class antagonism sharpens, western bourgeois liberalism drifts into open fascism. Biden’s post NATO-panic-meeting speech in Poland was a parody of even his worst. The”speech” was literally a vomit of words like “liberty freedom democracy decency values”, entirely removed from context and objective reality. it was Grotesque. The western corporate bureaus of approved state publicity called it “fiery”.

  12. Meanwhile, the biggest sycophants this side of the moon, Australian politicians, do nothing.
    Sick LOWLIVES they are.

  13. The amazing Assange family has offered , and Chris Hedges conveyed to us, via his eyewitness dispatch sturdily forged by a reporter’s white-hot anger & quenched in his deep friendship, their own practical wedding gift of a preemptive way to understand what will have happened should the unthinkable occur in the coming days… and the same ‘system pigs’ sketched here in their official regalia of hideous cruelty and relentless ignorance, resolutely force march us all into the finality of a nuclear conflagration , whereupon there will be no subsequent opportunity to explain, occasion for reflection, or even any appetite to look back in astonishment.

    -Thanks, J. Joslin ( Union electrical worker @ Detroit near Canada )

  14. Chris, thanks for your diary of the day,
    I had the pleasure of chatting to you and Craig, I am very sad and disillusioned by what travesty of the rule of law Western Society has become.
    but I admire those who keep fighting.

  15. Thank you, Chris, for including us in this very moving episode in the life of Julian Assange. Whatever happens to Julian and the rest of us – and it doesn’t look good for humanity – it is so crucial
    that there are those speaking the truth about what’s happening
    right now, inspiring us to stand and act on the side of what’s best in this great human experiment.
    ,

  16. Amazing love and respect to engage with those totally United in the light with truth, love and healing for our divine freedoms, liberties and rights, Scares me when I’m does thatand know we support peace, people and planet globally forever. To know that 99% of the people on Earth are opposed to war, in this horrendous conflict of the ages and know there surely are fates worse than death so abundantly obvious. I am so grateful to be able to connect with you here and know my true human family whenever you are. Thank you Chris Hedges and Mr. Scheer! I be dreaming and scheming of life beyond war until I die and planning on meeting up with you when we go dancing over the Rainbow 🌈 Bridge from Mother Earth to Father Sky!

  17. The cruelties inflicted on Julian Assange in the British prison system remind me of the stories of Soviet prisons in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book Gulag Archipelago.

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