Mira Terada: Hello. I’m glad to see you. Thank you very much for finding time for me. A couple of questions for you. The Court of England overturned the January decision of the Westminster Court, satisfying the demand of the American side to extradite Assange to the United States. The British court believed the United States, which claims that the accused will not be placed in a maximum-security prison either during the pre-trial proceedings or after sentencing. What do you think about how conscientiously the States will approach the fulfillment of their promises? What legal documents ensure their implementation?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: Well, it’s quite obvious that these so-called assurances are absolutely useless and not worth the paper they are written on. It is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations that have looked into it and actually in accordance with the previous examples where it’s been known to happen, that so-called assurances by the United States are not upheld. So they are worth nothing. And inherently actually, if you look at the assurances they come with a caveat. They say actually that the United States retains the right to change their opinion at any given time. I just want to point out that there is one organization that can demand, for example, that a prisoner is put into isolation and that is the CIA. The CIA can ask the prison department to put Julian Assange into indefinite isolation.

Now, if we look at the fact that since a few weeks ago, it was firmly established through investigative reporting that has not been refuted in any meaningful way that the CIA was a few years ago plotting to kidnap or even assassinate Julian Assange.

It goes without saying that it’s totally unacceptable that a country like the United Kingdom should put his life and his future in the hands of the CIA, or indeed, the American government, who has not a good track record in holding up such promises that they have given. So the entire thing is just a farce is a tragedy that this is happening on the United Nations Human Rights Day, that we get this decision. It doesn’t make any sense legally, and the entire case against Julian Assange doesn’t make any sense legally, and there is a reason for that. It is not a criminal proceeding. It is a vindictive political persecution. Nothing else.

M.T.: All attempts by Assange’s supporters to support him were suppressed. In your opinion, what is the situation with the restriction of freedom of speech?

K.H.: Well, there are restrictions on freedom of the press, and there are dangers that faces the journalist faces in the western world. It should not be overlooked.

It is just simply horrible, horrible that the two countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, who are actually on this very day. Giving out the message that they are the vanguard of press freedom should team up in this travesty of justice against Julian Assange, a certified journalist, for more than a decade. This is happening also on the day when two journalists, two other journalists, are receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. This is happening on the last day of the United States Democracy Summit, where the State Department of the US is trying to give out the message to the world that they are the defenders of democracy, which has this underlying base to press freedom. So we are seeing a very dangerous, manipulative game being played here, and the credibility of these two countries are very much at risk given that this attack on Julian Assange is happening as we speak.

M.T.: Why is there still no movement calling for Assange’s release? Are people unwilling or unable to support someone whom the US considers its enemy?

K.H.: I disagree with the fact that there is no movement to fight for his release and the dropping of the charges. On the contrary, every major human right free speech and press freedom organization in the world has declared that the Biden administration should drop the charges against Julian Assange and that he should go free. I think there are more than two dozen organizations that have teamed up together on that front. All journalistic organizations, the International Federation of Journalists, the United Kingdom National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, etc., etc. See this as what it is a very serious attack on the world press freedom. So, there is movement. There is also movement among parliamentarians in the West who have signed declaration urging the Biden administration to drop the charges. Those declaration we have seen in the German Bundestag, in other parliaments, in France and Greece and Spain and Italy, in the United Kingdom, in Australia, in Iceland, etc., etc. So, people are worried people are seeing this as a grave threat and a grave precedent if this goes forward. There needs to be a bigger mobilization and a pressure on the power holders. We still haven’t seen a single Western government urging the Biden administration to drop the charges. However, under Angela Merkel, her human rights commissioner showed grave concerns for what was happening. We then have, of course, the President of Mexico offering Julian Assange’s asylum. So, things are beginning to wake up, and it’s about time that the Biden administration in Washington wakes up as well and the people of the United States and sees this for what it is a very serious stain on the reputation on the Biden administration, which is continuing a legacy that was started by the Trump administration and his CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who later became secretary of state. There is no excuse anymore.

The case must end and the charges must be dropped against Julian. It is not just a question about one man’s life, although that is quite a reason enough to stop it. But the bigger picture is it is very grave. It is the most serious attack on press freedom in the western world in lots of times.

M.T.: As we know, Julian faces 18 criminal charges and faces up to 175 years in prison. What do you think the court will eventually decide on his case?

K.H.: It is just impossible to say, and what we know, of course, is that the Justice Department in the US decided to pursue the case in the court in the Western District of Virginia, where we know that a jury pool would be selected from individuals that most of them overall majority either have a direct connection with the administration, the Secret Service, etc. or have an indirect link there through family members, etc. So, there is a reason why that court is chosen. It’s called the spy court because everybody who has been indicted there on these or similar trumped up espionage charges has been convicted. And so, there is a very bleak chance on that front. He is facing 18 charges cumulatively on one hundred and seventy-five years in prison. Seventeen of those charges are simply for possessing and receiving, possessing and publishing information, which is journalism by definition. It is not espionage. It’s journalism. The remaining the remaining count is called hacking charge, which has been totally devastated because no hacking occurred. And even the key witness in the case supporting that hacking charge there are so-called hacking charges has now recanted his testimony or pointed out that what is maintained in that indictment has never happened in reality. So, this this entire case does not have a leg to stand on, and everyone who takes a good look at it sees what really is going on here, which is, as I say, a political persecution. Nothing else.
The crime that is now being discussed here is the crime of journalism.

M.T.: Assange informed the world about corruption among US government officials, espionage scandals and war crimes. Do you think the prosecution is pursuing personal motives by hunting him?

K.H.: There is no doubt in my mind that the motivation behind this political persecution is a vendetta. This is vindictive action in every nature of it. That is what we have been telling and saying for years and years. This is nothing but the revenge of the Empire for the exposé of uncomfortable truths about the reality of the United States. That is simply the fact of the matter.

M.T.: On January 4, 2021, a court in London refused extradition to the United States, citing the fact that clinical depression and autism, which Assange suffers from, could force him to commit suicide. Why didn’t the court take into account his mental health problems now?

K.H.: They are actually taking that into account in the High Court. And they are actually dismissing the arguments by the United States lawyer that the court was somehow misled in the magistrate court or that the professor who did the psychiatric evaluation, who is a distinguished member of his profession in the UK, did somehow come to the wrong conclusion. The High Court does not disagree with that estimate, and it did not agree with what the United States lawyers were maintaining. However, they simply are saying that they are trusting the United States government to deal with a situation to that he would get adequate treatment, that he would not be put in solitary confinement, et cetera, et cetera, the so-called assurances which we have dealt with. So that is contradictory and that is very serious in nature, as the European head of Amnesty International just maintain this afternoon. They are basically willing to risk his life. Under the circumstances, by allowing him to be extradited. That is totally unacceptable. You don’t gamble with people’s lives like that.