Hello, this is John Robles, you’re listening to an interview with Michael Ratner, Julian Assange’s lawyer in the U.S. and the President Emeritus for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about Julian and about the award you received for him?
Ratner: I saw that you wrote a very good piece on the award.
Robles : Oh?! Thank you!
Ratner: “Assange Receives Yoko-Lennon Courage Award for the Arts” I thought that was really important.
I think: two things, I visited Julian about ten days ago in London. I spent a couple of days at the Ecuadorian Embassy and Julian is doing quite well in there.
He is going to sit it out till we can figure out how to get him out of there without putting him in jeopardy of going into some underground prison cell in the United States.
He’s working. WikiLeaks is continuing to function. There are websites still with WikiLeaks that continue to publish documents.
So, he is quite strong. And of course because he is a computer person, you know he is with his computer and he has friends and visitors, and he can speak, etc. So, he is doing well in my view.
How long he can do well for…? You know, I don’t want this to go on forever, we’ve got to get him out of there at some point.
And hopefully something like Yoko Ono who gave Julian the Courage Award this year will help on that because she recognized that Julian Assange despite all the quote “detractors” who are like “fair weather people”, you know, when he is popular: they go with him, and now that he is not so popular: they don’t, she stood up for him and it is really courageous.
She gave him the Yoko Ono-Lennon Courage Award at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 150 people came. And it is awarded by Yoko every year to people of extraordinary courage whose work has changed the world.
And she believes that WikiLeaks has played a crucial role in changing the world and doing specifically what she thinks ought to be done which is to say government is paid for and should be run by the people of the United States in the United States.
We have a right to that material and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks gave us access to that material. And she gave him the Courage Award and it was accepted on his behalf by myself but also even more importantly by Baltasar Garzon.
BaltasarGarzon, who deserves his own Courage Award, was a Spanish Judge, who indicted Augusto Pinochet for torture, war crimes in Chili from his period in the 70s and the 80s, very heroic man! He eventually lost his job in Spain, merely for political reasons, because he wanted to open up and examine the 130,000 graves of the disappeared in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.
They were disappeared from the Republic side, (the good side), in Spain that was fighting against Franco and the fascists. And when he did that, the right wing,still is very powerful in the judiciary in Spain, and they got rid of Baltasar Garzon.
To his credit, he’s now one of Julian’s lawyers. In fact he’s the main coordinating lawyer for the world. I’m the lawyer in the United States. Baltasar Garzon is the lawyer really working on how we’re going to get Julian Assange out of that Embassy.
Robles : I see, there isn’t too much that we hear from Ecuador and the Ecuadorian people, and in Julian’s speech he thanked the Ecuadorian people for their support and the price they’re paying. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on the Ecuadorian side, if you know anything?
Ratner: Well, it’s very interesting. I mean, I think actually, I mean Julian is in Ecuador, because President Correa really supported what Julian did, even though some of the cables pointed a finger of corruption at some of the police in Ecuador, but President Correa, of Ecuador, still supported him.
I’m sure, you know, that on Russian TV, RT rather, Julian did a long interview with President Correa that was very important, it’s very funny and very interesting. And after that Julian decided that maybe Ecuador is a good place, and Ecuador did decide that Julian Assange is a hero, a truth teller and that he ought to get a political asylum, because he’s being prosecuted.
Now the night he got the award; the Yoko Ono-Lennon Courage Award, at the museum of modern art a few days ago, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador came in from Ecuador. They felt that it was that important, and he gave really the longest talk of the evening.
Baltasar Garzon and I read Julian’s little talk, which you quoted in your article, and then the longer talk was given by the Foreign Minister of Ecuador. And he was really talking about how Ecuador did what it felt was right in this case, that Julian was a truth teller.
And it’s really courageous of Ecuador, think about it. Ecuador is this small little 9-million-person country, all kinds of trade agreements with the United States, and yet it stood up to the United States! So there was a lot of courage there that night, I mean Julian, Bartasan Garzon, Yoko and obviously Ecuador.
My feeling is that Julian has a lot of support in Ecuador, there’re groups that go out in his support and hopefully we’ll one day get him to Ecuador where he can really live freely and safely.
Robles: I wrote about Julian’s… apparently, he’s going to run for Senate in Australia. Would that affect his asylum with Ecuador, or…? Can he run for office like that?
Ratner: He can definitely run for office and I think at this point he plans to. And there’s a very good chance of winning and, of course, it will put everybody in a very uncomfortable position: everybody being the British and maybe the Australians, who have not given the support they should.
Whether that would entitle him to walk out of that Embassy and go take his seat in the Australian Parliament is not 100% clear at all.
It does seem, though, that because it’s a British Commonwealth Country, Australia is, that there might be a certain recognition they have to give to their legislators and might have to let him out. That would be our argument, but the British have been pretty hard-nosed, but I think Julian Assange has a good chance of getting to be a Senator, from Australia.
Robles: There’re fears that if he goes to Australia, they’d ship him to the United States too.
Ratner: That’s not wrong. It’s a good question. We don’t have an answer to that yet. Hopefully, if he became a Senator from there, he’d have some kind of immunity from being extradited to the United States. But it’s true, the Australians are like the lapdogs for the United States. So they do what the United States tells, basically, I mean the British do as well.
It is a problem. Julian, he’s 41 years old, right now he has the United States after him and he will probably have them after him for a very long time. To be honest it’s extremely upsetting for all of us, because this is a man, who I consider, as do millions of millions of others, to be a world hero and a truth teller and a whistle blower, and that he should be subjected to this kind of treatment, when the people who engaged in torture and war crimes are still running my country, well it’spretty outrageous!
Robles: And they’re walking free and nothing is going to happen to them apparently.
Ratner: That’s correct. We saw that with John Brennan becoming the head of the CIA, who was very aware of the waterboarding and the torture that took place when he was third in command at the CIA. He is in charge of the drones, the drone policy that’s killing people all over the world. Yet, he’s going to be the head of our CIA! And he was given a real pas by this intelligence committee that examined him a few days ago.
Robles: Regarding extra-judicial assassinations and droning and everything, I’m sure you’ve read that White Paper from the Department of Justice? Are you familiar with that?
Ratner: Yeah, of course.
Robles: What’s your opinion on that? I read through it and it seems that they’re basically trying to justify, in any way they can, what amounts to, just murder, anywhere in the world.
Ratner: It’s basically a murder paper. It’s one thing to drone or bomb in an act of war, when you’re in a war-zone, when you’re fighting an actual war in Afghanistan, yeah, you can kill people from the other side. But here’s what they’re doing, they’re killing people all over the world; killing them in Yemen, killing them in Somalia, under their argument they made in the so-called White Paper: they could kill them in the United Kingdom, they could kill U.S. citizens here in the United States, by drone.
And the excuse, (there is a lot wrong with that paper),but the major point to me was: there is a doctrine that says it’s “Self-Defense” if someone is about to push a button, and launch an atomic bomb on your country, you have a right to get rid of that person, whether you try it by arrest first, but you get rid of them.
But what they did in this paper is that they went way beyond that. The concept is one called imminent. If it’s imminent, if a person is going to hit that button, and they said they were going to use broader definition of “imminence”, they no longer have to be actually planning an attack on the United States, they simply have to be a member of al-Qaeda or “associated forces”, whatever that means. And they have to have some bad activities in their past. Really it’s a worldwide murder scheme!
It’s no different from what Pinochet did in Chili in 70s when he would murder his opponents all over South America, in Operation Condor. It’s different only in the sense that the U.S. is more powerful and has a means now to murder hundreds, if not thousands of people, and we think that they’ve murdered over 3,000 or 4,000.
They said at a hearing on this, Brennan was testifying, that they only have hit civilians in single numbers, single digits. We know that’s wrong. They have probably killed a thousand civilians, killed 200 children. So right now you might call the United States CIA: “Murder Inc.”.
Robles: I see, about Julian, can you tell us anything that’s going to be coming up soon? What’s your prediction?
Ratner: I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of movement until we see what happens at the end of the Bradley Manning case. Bradley Manning is one of the alleged sources. And I suspect that when that case gets resolved, maybe we’ll be able to try and resolve Julian’s case in some way. So, I think he’s going to be in that embassy for certainly, the next foreseeable future, which is the next few months for sure.