Assange Craig Murray Free Speech human rights International

Craig Murray: The Film About Julian Assange

Ithaka is a heart-rending film that offers an important rebuttal to more than a decade of propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the WikiLeaks publisher.

By Craig Murray / CraigMurray.co.uk

Away from the Tory Babel over who will be the top “world-leading” sociopath, I just spent two evenings in the company of decent people. John and Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s father and brother, were in Glasgow and Edinburgh for the screening of Ithaka, the documentary that follows the fight by Julian Assange’s family to have him freed. I was moderating the Q & A. 

The odd pub may also have been visited.

Ithaka is heart-rending, and it has an important message in rehumanizing Julian after over a decade of concerted (I use that word advisedly) propaganda aimed at dehumanizing him.

The sheer baseness of the extraordinary lies told by the mainstream media about his personal hygiene — leaving toilets unflushed and even smearing Embassy walls with excrement — is something straight out of Joseph Goebbels’ playbook. 

The cold calculation behind Assange’s treatment in his last months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, when he was denied access to wash and shave, in order to produce the apparent monster for the photos of his arrest, is a true example of evil unfolding. 

Two days before his expulsion I telephoned the embassy and spoke to the first secretary (a call I recorded). I explained that if, as we understood, Julian were no longer welcome, they only had to say so and he would leave voluntarily to the police station. Instead, we had that calculated piece of theater. 

Presentation aside, it also enabled them to retain all of Julian’s possessions, including all his legal papers covered by client-attorney privilege relating to his defence.

As we heard in the extradition hearing, all of those papers were taken to Quito and then given to the C.I.A. This was admitted by counsel for the U.S. government who claimed that “Chinese walls” — a direct quote — within the U.S. government prevented the C.I.A. from passing any of that information to the Justice Department, which is running the case.

If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. But the fact is that it is the U.S. government that is applying for extradition and the U.S. government has stolen the legal papers of the other party in the case. In any other case this would lead to the case being kicked out immediately. 

If you add that together with the fact that the extradition treaty specifically bars political extradition, that the U.S. government’s key witness is a convicted fraudster and pedophile who was paid for his evidence (which he has since denounced), and that no journalist in the U.S. has ever been charged with espionage before, you begin to start to understand the depth of state depravity that has kept Julian in the U.K.’s strongest security prison for four birthdays. 

Pompeo Calls on Patel

I found this curious. Mike Pompeo, former U.S. secretary of state, who oversaw the plot to kidnap or potentially assassinate Julian in the Ecuadorian embassy, called on U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel on June 30, just after she signed Julian’s extradition order and also just after Pompeo had been summoned by a Spanish court to give evidence on the plot.

That photo is more unusual than might be immediately realized. With a Democrat in the White House, it is extremely rare for a senior British cabinet minister, acting in an official capacity, openly to flaunt friendship with senior Republicans from the defeated administration and to hold official meetings with them. 

Pompeo is now a private citizen. He could quite naturally be meeting Patel as a friend in her home — but officially, at the Home Office? This is really not done, or if exceptionally needed, it is done quietly.

What did they discuss in the Home Office?

Here is something else downright peculiar. According to The Wall Street Journal, Priti Patel asked the U.S. government to give her public congratulations for agreeing the extradition of Julian Assange:

“After Ms. Patel’s ruling on June 17, for example, a U.K. official asked the U.S. Embassy in London if officials there or at the Justice Department could release a statement welcoming Ms. Patel’s ruling, adding that she would appreciate such a show of support, according to people familiar with the request.”

The Justice Department declined to issue such a statement.

There is a very strange smell surrounding this extradition.

The film Ithaka is not a dissection of the legal issues, nor an in-depth recounting of the Assange case. It rather focuses on the devastating effect of his cruel imprisonment on his family, both his wife and children, and on his father John Shipton.

John’s personal crusade to save his son is the main focus. The insight into the fundamentals of the case — that the man who did most to expose war crimes is the man locked up and tortured, not the people who committed the war crimes — mostly come from interviews with Professor Nils Melzer, then U.N. special rapporteur on torture.

Nils Melzer. (UN Photo)

Do go see the film — which has had excellent reviews from mainstream film critics. Chairing the Q&A sessions afterwards I have been struck by the number of tear-stained eyes when the lights go up and the audience mood shifts from sorrow to anger fairly quickly. It is a remarkable film.

Let me give my own insights. As a technical bit of film-making, it is edited down from what must have been thousands of hours of footage. During the various stages of extradition hearings, I was personally miked up every single day for the film for a total of over five weeks. Tens of hours of conversation between John and myself were recorded, not one second of which made it into the film. 

That is absolutely not a complaint, you see more than enough of me. It is merely an illustration of the remarkable editing down on this film. Over a thousand hours were left on the cutting room floor to get down to just two in the film.

That of course gives the director, Ben Lawrence, and his editor massive ability to shape the narrative by selection. Ben has chosen to illustrate the bleakness of Julian’s isolation by emphasising the loneliness of John and Stella’s quest. I am sure that is artistically valid and it presents a real truth – nobody can truly share the despair of the family, and in the long dark night of the soul they are alone. 

But I do wish to assure you that the families are surrounded and supported by a group of really loving and caring people, very much more involved than I am. They are not foregrounded in the film for reasons of narrative selection, but they exist and they know they have the eternal gratitude of Julian and his whole family and many of the rest of us. 

I would further add that John Shipton’s eclectic mind and deeply philosophical nature are brought out wonderfully, but his immense charm and also his great pleasure in social company perhaps do not come across on the screen. Ben has focused on the more angular bits of John’s nature. 

None of that in any way detracts from the experience of a superb film by Ben Lawrence, produced by Julian’s quieter but very talented brother Gabriel. Undoubtedly the public perception has already been turning in Julian’s favour. Don’t just go see the film: take somebody who might have their eyes opened to the truth.

Craig Murray
Craig Murray

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

13 comments

  1. If I have already posted about Assange on Sheer, pardon me. Hard to keep track of these things.

    I he done a mighty masterpiece of fiction, and one of nonfiction, about Assange. I have followed the Assange case for a long time.

    My theme remains the same. He is a self harming attention seeker. A martyrdom cult has built up around him which should be directing its energies more usefully, and this is developing into an entire industry.

    Yet this cult is the gift that goes on giving to the forces of darkness who love to have just this kind of scapegoat to keep their opposition diverted.

    Assange will be in jail until he dies or until there is a revolution. I suggest people start focusing on the latter.

    https://yaxls.wordpress.com/2021/10/31/the-assange-syndrome-2-0/

    https://yaxls.wordpress.com/2021/07/20/sacral-man-a-parable-for-whistleblowers/

    1. I agree and disagree. Yes, we need to focus on revolution. Absolutely.

      That said, while I was incarcerated, it encouraged me to be aware that people were trying to get me out. Glory has its good aspects, and one of them is the motivating force that popularity and appreciation of the risks a revolutionist and/or journalist takes. Remembering others who have taken that path, freedom fighters, and knowing that they are famous, are respected, is not my only motivator, nor the strongest, but it does play a part in encouraging me to fight and take more bold measures. Punishing people like Assange is actually a good thing. The anger it ignites is a bonfire, and the authorities are stymied at the wrong response. (they want fear)

      1. Even if there are Violent Uprisings in the United States (A la George Floyd) the United States is still not releasing Julian Assange or closing the Case. The United States will not be intimidated………….

    2. You have followed the case good but do you actually know the man, to make this judgement? Because making as assessment of man’s character from a distance is an extremely hard thing to do accurately and still only based on perception.

      1. Good point, Carlos. I suspect that those making such judgements and disparaging comments from a distance are often just repeating what they’ve been told elsewhere. That’s why it’s so important that the documented facts of the matter are told. They speak for themselves.

        For example, that Assange is being persecuted because he directly published information embarrassing to those in power, is only a logical conclusion derived from those facts. That having such information is vitally important to any functional democracy is also an easily-reached, logical conclusion. That Assange has already suffered greatly for providing that public service is another unavoidable fact.

        Those who attempt to soften or minimize public empathy towards Assange are therefore, merely enablers of the powerful, regardless of how they try to otherwise portray themselves.

  2. Thanks for this report and for all you’ve done in advocacy for humane and just principles – and in particular for Julian Assange.

    We are in difficult times, indeed. A new kind of totalitarianism is emerging, coincident with the desperation of the neocon-neoliberal cabal to maintain and expand Empire. The flood of state propaganda is one I’ve never witnessed in more than 5 decades of watching, and even self-described liberals and others marginally to the left of the increasingly reactionary center are all to happy to call for censorship. Many happily regurgitate (as in a comment here) at least pieces of the Empire’s narratives. Some of them malign Assange only because WikiLeaks’ publication of emails was embarrassing to the ‘Blue’ side of the duopoly- exposing its corruption and anti-democratic tendencies.

    So it’s with great appreciation that I say how important it is to have voices like yours, my friend.

  3. Craig Murray’s constancy as a supporter of Julian Assange is exemplary. I will see this film, I hope. It sounds wonderful. The persecution of Assange is one of the great crimes of this century, and we have Craig Murray to thank for witnessing it for us.

  4. A more apt word to describe the criminal acts perpetrated against Julian Assange [ and by proxy, therefore against all of humanity] would be the word Crucifixion, to comit such sadistic acts against a not only innocent, but benevolent human being really does parallel the biblical precedent set by Pilate. As then, where is society intervening en mass to defend this man? No person better, ever again claim to be striving to walk in harmony with “god”, or a Christian, a Muslim. a Jew, a Buddhist or any other profession of high morality, as here was your opportunity to defend the innocent, the weak, the defenseless, the persecuted, the bullied, the Martyr and you did nothing- we all have lost, our freedom, our rights, but also our innocence – we have Julians Blood on our hands.

  5. I can’t help but be angered for the pittance of comments issued forth here. I just don’t understand people’s complacency. Utter selfishness. Ability to not have a shred of empathy or time. One need only realize that Empire destroys all that gets in its way. Pompeo is a self aggrandizing CIA scumbag.

    He brags about his skull duggery like a child whose scrawled image is chosen for the giant wall of a million other kids creations. In other words, nothing special. He did this bragging to a bunch of malleable cadets at The Academy.

    His penchant for believing that we must facilitate end times
    all the while hypocritically torturing a man to death is a
    illustration of just how ridiculous he is.

    He is of the ilk
    that sees the rest of the brilliant world as sub par to ‘intellects’ such as his and his peers say Antony Blinken. His is an endlessly overblown self congratulation.

    He’ll bring about the annihilation of this world to satisfy his tethering to some obtuse reference in the bible.

    I can’t think of a bigger coward. As we the United Sadists of Amerikkka go down ever deeper under the water of debt and illegitimacy he is busy eradicating whole peoples he doesn’t even know.

    NO sense speaking to NATO.
    Everyone sees clearly who benefits from such a fiasco.
    Or why we never got Peace Accords but an ever changing
    straw boogie man to keep the blood crushing machine well
    oiled.

    Pompeo this walking ego sees himself as the next fn President. Just what we need. More Spooks running the show. His feigning over Zionist Apartheid Perpetuating Colonizers and Occupiers with The ultimate goal of eliminating through willful and psychotic Genocide
    of Palestinians is sickening and inhuman.

    And this man who exists to orchestrate upheaval and chaos sees himself as somehow divinely chosen? You can’t get anymore delusional can you ?

    I could go on but I guess what bothers me the most is the incredible way the public just eats up propaganda with a spoon. Being willfully ignorant only makes The Oligarchy in free fall more greedy and power hungry.

    I wonder as well how people refuse to put themselves in others places. To eschew caring and compassion. The cruelty and narcissism it takes to say callous unfeeling things instead of seeing Julian as a man who is being railroaded through a laughable exercise called ‘Court.’

    The man is being destroyed by an ongoing series of cuts to the body and the psyche. What sick person can see being tortured as ‘seeking attention?’

    Perhaps and I doubt it, if the person that wrote this crap would read Nil’s book they might actually see with clarity that people like them have fallen prey to the machinations of Washington, Auk, Britain, Sweden.

    Willing to suck up a narrative made up of whole cloth calculated to make Assange a political football that gets positioned all over the field never knowing where he might end up. All extra-judicially and with malice of intent. Why? Because they can.

    I’ve grown to love Julian. For his endless ability to
    stay cognitively viable and for his heart and bravery. Of course millions of others do as well. He is after all human.

    Tearing the veil off The ever more Evil Empire is not a fools errand but most certainly a deadly one. I see the world getting smaller and hotter every day.

    Finally all the karma that we have wrought upon others
    has come back on us with a vengeance. I have nothing but endless compassion for John, Gabriel and of course Stella and the kids.

    I do what I can financially, try to speak out if only wearing a ‘Free Assange’ shirt in public (army town.) Or even a simple sticker on my guitar case.

    I will myself to believe that there is still hope. I, by signing a plethora of petitions might be able to stop this inhuman and subhuman farce or burlesque as Chris Hedges writes.

    May Priti Patel never again have an ounce of peace. She deserves no less. Free Julian! Free Palestine! Free The world from Amerikkka’s
    chains!

    There is never a day that goes by that I am not thinking about Palestine and Julian.

    Peace+Love = Solidarity for humanity.
    I’m bipolar. If some of this goes off that’s
    just my disorder.

    Regardless.
    My intention is to vent and support those that
    are oppressed repressed suppressed which we will
    see the world writ large as being soon.

    We have made the world an Authoritarian Police State.
    And we support vile dicktators. Did I miss anything?
    And on and on it goes.

    1. Hi Bill, I appreciate what you wrote – it would not take that many of us if we organized – to free Assange and to bring the real guilty individuals before peoples courts, to stand trial and then to hang them – like they did at Nuremburg.

  6. They advertise the documentary but never tell us how to find and watch it.

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