The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now

By Craig Murray

Comment: The only conclusion I personally have come to is this “judge” has no judicial integrity.

I had the strong impression that Baraitser was minded to grant bail and wanted the decision to be fireproof. I have spoken to two others who were in court who formed the same impression. Indeed, in the past, she has more than once indicated that she will reject a bail application before one has been made. I can think of no reason why she would steer Fitzgerald so strongly to delay the application if there were not a very strong chance she would grant it. She gave him the advice and then adjourned the court for 45 minutes so Fitzgerald and Gareth Peirce could discuss it with Julian, and on return they took her advice. If she were simply going to refuse the bail application, there was no reason for her not to get it over with quickly there and then.

Fitzgerald briefly made the point that Assange now had very little incentive to abscond, as there had never been a successful appeal against a refusal to extradite on medical grounds. Indeed it is very difficult to see how an appeal can be successful. The magistrate is the sole determinant of fact in the case. She has heard the evidence, and her view of the facts of Assange’s medical condition and the facts of conditions in American supermax prisons cannot be overturned. Nor can any new evidence be introduced. The appeal has rather to find that, given the facts, Baraitser made an error in law, and it is difficult to see the argument.

I am not sure that at this stage the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA that Assange would not be kept in isolation or in a Supermax prison; that would be contrary to the affidavit from Assistant Secretary of State Kromberg and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence.

Not to mention that Baraitser heard other evidence that such assurances had been received in the case of Abu Hamza, but had been broken. Hamza is not only kept in total isolation, but as a man with no hands he is deprived of prosthetics that would enable him to brush his teeth, and he has no means of cutting his nails nor assistance to do so, and cannot effectively wipe himself in the toilet.

Not only is it hard to see the point of law on which the USA could launch an appeal, it is far from plain that they have a motive to do so. Baraitser agreed with all the substantive points of argument put forward by the US government. She stated that there was no bar on extradition from the UK for political offences; she agreed that publication of national security material did constitute an offence in the USA under the Espionage Act and would do so in the UK under the Official Secrets Act, with no public interest defence in either jurisdiction; she agreed that encouraging a source to leak classified information is a crime; she agreed Wikileaks’ publications had put lives at risk.

On all of these points she dismissed virtually without comment all the defence arguments and evidence. As a US Justice Department spokesman said yesterday:

“While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised. In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States.” That is a fair categorisation of what happened.

Appealing a verdict that is such a good result for the United States does not necessarily make sense for the Justice Department. Edward Fitzgerald explained to me yesterday that, if the USA appeals the decision on the health and prison condition grounds, it becomes open to the defence to counter-appeal on all the other grounds, which would be very desirable indeed given the stark implications of Baraitser’s ruling for media freedom. I have always believed that Baraitser would rule as she did on the substantial points, but I have always also believed that those extreme security state arguments would never survive the scrutiny of better judges in a higher court. Unlike the health ruling, the dispute over Baraitser’s judgement on all the other points does come down to classic errors in law which can successfully be argued on appeal.

If the USA does appeal the judgement, it is far more likely that not only will the health grounds be upheld, but also that Baraitser’s positions on extradition for political offences and freedom of the media will be overturned, than it is likely that the US will achieve extradition. They have fourteen days in which to lodge the appeal – now thirteen.

An appeal result is in short likely to be humiliating for the USA. It would be much wiser for the US to let sleeping dogs lie. But pride and the wound to the US sense of omnipotence and exceptionalism may drive them to an appeal which, for the reasons given above, I would actually welcome provided Julian is out on bail. Which I expect he shall be shortly.

More analysis of Baraitser’s judgment will follow.

This article was first read on http://www.globalresearch.ca

Science Is Conclusive: Masks and Respirators Do Not Prevent Transmission of Viruses

By Dr. Denis G. Rancourt

Comment: masks are a control device. Not wearing one has nothing to do with being selfish; people who publicly shame people for not wearing a mask should be ashamed at succumbing to the fear the “leaders” want society to live in. Doctors and surgeons who work in hospitals do not wear masks for hours at a time; those very few and vocal doctors that advocate masks (and distancing) for the general healthy public, I ask for scientific proof that a mask should be worn at all times by everyone (including and especially the healthy) and the health benefits.

Abstract

Masks and respirators do not work. There have been extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, and meta-analysis reviews of RCT studies, which all show that masks and respirators do not work to prevent respiratory influenza-like illnesses, or respiratory illnesses believed to be transmitted by droplets and aerosol particles.

Furthermore, the relevant known physics and biology, which I review, are such that masks and respirators should not work.

It would be a paradox if masks and respirators worked, given what we know about viral respiratory diseases: The main transmission path is long-residence-time aerosol particles (< 2.5 μm), which are too fine to be blocked, and the minimum-infective-dose is smaller than one aerosol particle.

The present paper about masks illustrates the degree to which governments, the mainstream media, and institutional propagandists can decide to operate in a science vacuum, or select only incomplete science that serves their interests. Such recklessness is also certainly the case with the current global lockdown of over 1 billion people, an unprecedented experiment in medical and political history.

Conclusion regarding masks that do not work

No RCT study with verified outcome shows a benefit for HCW or community members in households to wearing a mask or respirator. There is no such study. There are no exceptions. Likewiseno study exists that shows a benefit from a broad policy to wear masks in public (more on this below).

Furthermore, if there were any benefit to wearing a mask, because of the blocking power against droplets and aerosol particles, then there should be more benefit from wearing a respirator (N95) compared to a surgical mask, yet several large meta-analyses, and all the RCT, prove that there is no such relative benefit. Masks and respirators do not work.

Precautionary Principle turned on its head with masks

In light of the medical research, therefore, it is difficult to understand why public-health authorities are not consistently adamant about this established scientific result, since the distributed psychological, economic and environmental harm from a broad recommendation to wear masks is significant, not to mention the unknown potential harm from concentration and distribution of pathogens on and from used masks.

In this case, public authorities would be turning the precautionary principle on its head (see below).

Physics and Biology of Viral Respiratory Disease, and why masks do not work

In order to understand why masks cannot possibly work, we must review established knowledge about viral respiratory diseases, the mechanism of seasonal variation of excess deaths from pneumonia and influenza, the aerosol mechanism of infectious disease transmission, the physics and chemistry of aerosols, and the mechanism of the so-called minimum-infective-dose.

In addition to pandemics that can occur anytime, in the temperate latitudes there is an extra burden of respiratory-disease mortality that is seasonal, and which is caused by viruses. For example, see the review of influenza by Paules and Subbarao (2017). This has been known for a long time, and the seasonal pattern is exceedingly regular.

For example, see Figure 1 of Viboud (2010), which has “Weekly time series of the ratio of deaths from pneumonia and influenza to all deaths, based on the 122 cities surveillance in the US (blue line). The red line represents the expected baseline ratio in the absence of influenza activity,” here:

mortality rate chart

The seasonality of the phenomenon was largely not understood until a decade ago. Until recently, it was debated whether the pattern arose primarily because of seasonal change in virulence of the pathogens, or because of seasonal change in susceptibility of the host (such as from dry air causing tissue irritation, or diminished daylight causing vitamin deficiency or hormonal stress). For example, see Dowell (2001).

In a landmark study, Shaman et al. (2010) showed that the seasonal pattern of extra respiratory-disease mortality can be explained quantitatively on the sole basis of absolute humidity, and its direct controlling impact on transmission of airborne pathogens.

Lowen et al. (2007) demonstrated the phenomenon of humidity-dependent airborne-virus virulence in actual disease transmission between guinea pigs, and discussed potential underlying mechanisms for the measured controlling effect of humidity.

The underlying mechanism is that the pathogen-laden aerosol particles or droplets are neutralized within a half-life that monotonically and significantly decreases with increasing ambient humidity. This is based on the seminal work of Harper (1961). Harper experimentally showed that viral-pathogen-carrying droplets were inactivated within shorter and shorter times, as ambient humidity was increased.

Harper argued that the viruses themselves were made inoperative by the humidity (“viable decay”), however, he admitted that the effect could be from humidity-enhanced physical removal or sedimentation of the droplets (“physical loss”): “Aerosol viabilities reported in this paper are based on the ratio of virus titre to radioactive count in suspension and cloud samples, and can be criticized on the ground that test and tracer materials were not physically identical.”

The latter (“physical loss”) seems more plausible to me, since humidity would have a universal physical effect of causing particle / droplet growth and sedimentation, and all tested viral pathogens have essentially the same humidity-driven “decay”. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how a virion (of all virus types) in a droplet would be molecularly or structurally attacked or damaged by an increase in ambient humidity. A “virion” is the complete, infective form of a virus outside a host cell, with a core of RNA or DNA and a capsid. The actual mechanism of such humidity-driven intra-droplet “viable decay” of a virion has not been explained or studied.

In any case, the explanation and model of Shaman et al. (2010) is not dependant on the particular mechanism of the humidity-driven decay of virions in aerosol / droplets. Shaman’s quantitatively demonstrated model of seasonal regional viral epidemiology is valid for either mechanism (or combination of mechanisms), whether “viable decay” or “physical loss”.

The breakthrough achieved by Shaman et al. is not merely some academic point. Rather, it has profound health-policy implications, which have been entirely ignored or overlooked in the current coronavirus pandemic.

In particular, Shaman’s work necessarily implies that, rather than being a fixed number (dependent solely on the spatial-temporal structure of social interactions in a completely susceptible population, and on the viral strain), the epidemic’s basic reproduction number (R0) is highly or predominantly dependent on ambient absolute humidity.

For a definition of R0, see HealthKnowlege-UK (2020): R0 is “the average number of secondary infections produced by a typical case of an infection in a population where everyone is susceptible.” The average R0 for influenza is said to be 1.28 (1.19-1.37); see the comprehensive review by Biggerstaff et al. (2014).

In fact, Shaman et al. showed that R0 must be understood to seasonally vary between humid-summer values of just larger than “1” and dry-winter values typically as large as “4” (for example, see their Table 2). In other words, the seasonal infectious viral respiratory diseases that plague temperate latitudes every year go from being intrinsically mildly contagious to virulently contagious, due simply to the bio-physical mode of transmission controlled by atmospheric humidity, irrespective of any other consideration.

Therefore, all the epidemiological mathematical modelling of the benefits of mediating policies (such as social distancing), which assumes humidity-independent R0 values, has a large likelihood of being of little value, on this basis alone. For studies about modelling and regarding mediation effects on the effective reproduction number, see Coburn (2009) and Tracht (2010).

To put it simply, the “second wave” of an epidemic is not a consequence of human sin regarding mask wearing and hand shaking. Rather, the “second wave” is an inescapable consequence of an air-dryness-driven many-fold increase in disease contagiousness, in a population that has not yet attained immunity.

If my view of the mechanism is correct (i.e., “physical loss”), then Shaman’s work further necessarily implies that the dryness-driven high transmissibility (large R0) arises from small aerosol particles fluidly suspended in the air; as opposed to large droplets that are quickly gravitationally removed from the air.

Such small aerosol particles fluidly suspended in air, of biological origin, are of every variety and are everywhere, including down to virion-sizes (Despres, 2012).

It is not entirely unlikely that viruses can thereby be physically transported over inter-continental distances (e.g., Hammond, 1989).

More to the point, indoor airborne virus concentrations have been shown to exist (in day-care facilities, health centres, and onboard airplanes) primarily as aerosol particles of diameters smaller than 2.5 μm, such as in the work of Yang et al. (2011):Such small particles (< 2.5 μm) are part of air fluidity, are not subject to gravitational sedimentation, and would not be stopped by long-range inertial impact. This means that the slightest (even momentary) facial misfit of a mask or respirator renders the design filtration norm of the mask or respirator entirely irrelevant. In any case, the filtration material itself of N95 (average pore size ~0.3−0.5 μm) does not block virion penetration, not to mention surgical masks. For example, see Balazy et al. (2006).

Mask stoppage efficiency and host inhalation are only half of the equation, however, because the minimal infective dose (MID) must also be considered. For example, if a large number of pathogen-laden particles must be delivered to the lung within a certain time for the illness to take hold, then partial blocking by any mask or cloth can be enough to make a significant difference.

On the other hand, if the MID is amply surpassed by the virions carried in a single aerosol particle able to evade mask-capture, then the mask is of no practical utility, which is the case.

Yezli and Otter (2011), in their review of the MID, point out relevant features:

  • most respiratory viruses are as infective in humans as in tissue culture having optimal laboratory susceptibility
  • it is believed that a single virion can be enough to induce illness in the host
  • the 50%-probability MID (“TCID50”) has variably been found to be in the range 100−1000 virions
  • there are typically 103−107 virions per aerolized influenza droplet with diameter 1 μm − 10 μm
  • the 50%-probability MID easily fits into a single (one) aerolized droplet

For further background:

  • A classic description of dose-response assessment is provided by Haas (1993).
  • Zwart et al. (2009) provided the first laboratory proof, in a virus-insect system, that the action of a single virion can be sufficient to cause disease.
  • Baccam et al. (2006) calculated from empirical data that, with influenza A in humans, “we estimate that after a delay of ~6 h, infected cells begin producing influenza virus and continue to do so for ~5 h. The average lifetime of infected cells is ~11 h, and the half-life of free infectious virus is ~3 h. We calculated the [in-body] basic reproductive number, R0, which indicated that a single infected cell could produce ~22 new productive infections.”
  • Brooke et al. (2013) showed that, contrary to prior modeling assumptions, although not all influenza-A-infected cells in the human body produce infectious progeny (virions), nonetheless, 90% of infected cell are significantly impacted, rather than simply surviving unharmed.

All of this to say that: if anything gets through (and it always does, irrespective of the mask), then you are going to be infected. Masks cannot possibly work. It is not surprising, therefore, that no bias-free study has ever found a benefit from wearing a mask or respirator in this application.

Therefore, the studies that show partial stopping power of masks, or that show that masks can capture many large droplets produced by a sneezing or coughing mask-wearer, in light of the above-described features of the problem, are irrelevant. For example, see such studies as these: Leung (2020), Davies (2013), Lai (2012), and Sande (2008).

Why there can never be an empirical test of a nationwide mask-wearing policy

As mentioned above, no study exists that shows a benefit from a broad policy to wear masks in public. There is good reason for this. It would be impossible to obtain unambiguous and bias-free results:

  • Any benefit from mask-wearing would have to be a small effect, since undetected in controlled experiments, which would be swamped by the larger effects, notably the large effect from changing atmospheric humidity.
  • Mask compliance and mask adjustment habits would be unknown.
  • Mask-wearing is associated (correlated) with several other health behaviours; see Wada (2012).
  • The results would not be transferable, because of differing cultural habits.
  • Compliance is achieved by fear, and individuals can habituate to fear-based propaganda, and can have disparate basic responses.
  • Monitoring and compliance measurement are near-impossible, and subject to large errors.
  • Self-reporting (such as in surveys) is notoriously biased, because individuals have the self-interested belief that their efforts are useful.
  • Progression of the epidemic is not verified with reliable tests on large population samples, and generally relies on non-representative hospital visits or admissions.
  • Several different pathogens (viruses and strains of viruses) causing respiratory illness generally act together, in the same population and/or in individuals, and are not resolved, while having different epidemiological characteristics.

Unknown aspects of mask-wearing

Many potential harms may arise from broad public policies to wear masks, and the following unanswered questions arise:

  • Do used and loaded masks become sources of enhanced transmission, for the wearer and others?
  • Do masks become collectors and retainers of pathogens that the mask wearer would otherwise avoid when breathing without a mask?
  • Are large droplets captured by a mask atomized or aerolized into breathable components? Can virions escape an evaporating droplet stuck to a mask fiber?
  • What are the dangers of bacterial growth on a used and loaded mask?
  • How do pathogen-laden droplets interact with environmental dust and aerosols captured on the mask?
  • What are long-term health effects on HCW, such as headaches, arising from impeded breathing?
  • Are there negative social consequences to a masked society?
  • Are there negative psychological consequences to wearing a mask, as a fear-based behavioural modification?
  • What are the environmental consequences of mask manufacturing and disposal?
  • Do the masks shed fibres or substances that are harmful when inhaled?

Conclusion

By making mask-wearing recommendations and policies for the general public, or by expressly condoning the practice, governments have both ignored the scientific evidence and done the opposite of following the precautionary principle.

In an absence of knowledge, governments should not make policies that have a hypothetical potential to cause harm. The government has an onus barrier before it instigates a broad social-engineering intervention, or allows corporations to exploit fear-based sentiments.

Furthermore, individuals should know that there is no known benefit arising from wearing a mask in a viral respiratory illness epidemic, and that scientific studies have shown that any benefit must be residually small, compared to other and determinative factors.

Otherwise, what is the point of publicly-funded science?

The present paper about masks illustrates the degree to which governments, the mainstream media, and institutional propagandists can decide to operate in a science vacuum, or select only incomplete science that serves their interests. Such recklessness is also certainly the case with the current global lockdown of over 1 billion people, an unprecedented experiment in medical and political history.

Dr. Dennis Rancourt is Ph.D from University of Toronto (1984), and is a former professor of physics at the University of Ottawa.

Sources

  • Baccam, P. et al. (2006) “Kinetics of Influenza A Virus Infection in Humans”, Journal of Virology Jul 2006, 80 (15) 7590-7599; DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01623-05
  • Balazy et al. (2006) “Do N95 respirators provide 95% protection level against airborne viruses, and how adequate are surgical masks?”, American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 34, Issue 2, March 2006, Pages 51-57. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2005.08.018
  • Biggerstaff, M. et al. (2014) “Estimates of the reproduction number for seasonal, pandemic, and zoonotic influenza: a systematic review of the literature”, BMC Infect Dis 14, 480 (2014).
  • Brooke, C. B. et al. (2013) “Most Influenza A Virions Fail To Express at Least One Essential Viral Protein”, Journal of Virology Feb 2013, 87 (6) 3155-3162; DOI: 10.1128/JVI.02284-12
  • Coburn, B. J. et al. (2009) “Modeling influenza epidemics and pandemics: insights into the future of swine flu (H1N1)”, BMC Med 7, 30.
  • Davies, A. et al. (2013) “Testing the Efficacy of Homemade Masks: Would They Protect in an Influenza Pandemic?”, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Available on CJO 2013 doi:10.1017/dmp.2013.43
  • Despres, V. R. et al. (2012) “Primary biological aerosol particles in the atmosphere: a review”, Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 64:1, 15598, DOI: 10.3402/tellusb.v64i0.15598
  • Dowell, S. F. (2001) “Seasonal variation in host susceptibility and cycles of certain infectious diseases”, Emerg Infect Dis. 2001;7(3):369-374. doi:10.3201/eid0703.010301
  • Hammond, G. W. et al. (1989) “Impact of Atmospheric Dispersion and Transport of Viral Aerosols on the Epidemiology of Influenza”, Reviews of Infectious Diseases, Volume 11, Issue 3, May 1989, Pages 494-497,
  • Haas, C.N. et al. (1993) “Risk Assessment of Virus in Drinking Water”, Risk Analysis, 13: 545-552. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1993.tb00013.x
  • HealthKnowlege-UK (2020) “Charter 1a – Epidemiology: Epidemic theory (effective & basic reproduction numbers, epidemic thresholds) & techniques for analysis of infectious disease data (construction & use of epidemic curves, generation numbers, exceptional reporting & identification of significant clusters)”, HealthKnowledge.org.uk, accessed on 2020-04-10.
  • Lai, A. C. K. et al. (2012) “Effectiveness of facemasks to reduce exposure hazards for airborne infections among general populations”, J. R. Soc. Interface. 9938-948
  • Leung, N.H.L. et al. (2020) “Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks”, Nature Medicine (2020).
  • Lowen, A. C. et al. (2007) “Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and Temperature”, PLoS Pathog 3(10): e151.
  • Paules, C. and Subbarao, S. (2017) “Influenza”, Lancet, Seminar| Volume 390, ISSUE 10095, P697-708, August 12, 2017.
  • Sande, van der, M. et al. (2008) “Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Infections among the General Population”, PLoS ONE 3(7): e2618. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002618 Shaman, J. et al. (2010) “Absolute Humidity and the Seasonal Onset of Influenza in the Continental United States”, PLoS Biol 8(2): e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000316
  • Tracht, S. M. et al. (2010) “Mathematical Modeling of the Effectiveness of Facemasks in Reducing the Spread of Novel Influenza A (H1N1)”, PLoS ONE 5(2): e9018. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009018
  • Viboud C. et al. (2010) “Preliminary Estimates of Mortality and Years of Life Lost Associated with the 2009 A/H1N1 Pandemic in the US and Comparison with Past Influenza Seasons”, PLoS Curr. 2010; 2:RRN1153. Published 2010 Mar 20. doi:10.1371/currents.rrn1153
  • Wada, K. et al. (2012) “Wearing face masks in public during the influenza season may reflect other positive hygiene practices in Japan”, BMC Public Health 12, 1065 (2012).
  • Yang, W. et al. (2011) “Concentrations and size distributions of airborne influenza A viruses measured indoors at a health centre, a day-care centre and on aeroplanes”, Journal of the Royal Society, Interface. 2011 Aug;8(61):1176-1184. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0686.
  • Yezli, S., Otter, J.A. (2011) “Minimum Infective Dose of the Major Human Respiratory and Enteric Viruses Transmitted Through Food and the Environment”, Food Environ Virol 3, 1-30.
  • Zwart, M. P. et al. (2009) “An experimental test of the independent action hypothesis in virus-insect pathosystems”, Proc. R. Soc. B.2762233-2242

Palestinians Can Now See Their Stolen Property in the Database We’ve Made Public

By Dr. Nasser Qudwa

Comment: all truths eventually comes out, even those that a buried under a ton of rocks, concrete and lies….. like a green leaf sprouting from the crack in the grey rubble, sunlight warming it and a rain of tears shed by so many that pass on by nourishing it…. The truth is there for all to see. LONG LIVE PALESTINE

Rather than just pushing pro-Israel positions, Trump fully endorsed an extremist pro-annexation narrative, presenting a plan that perpetuated Israel’s denial of Palestinian national rights. It not only encouraged illegal colonial settlements, but also negated Palestinian refugee rights. The US aimed to pre-empt several final status issues, including Jerusalem, settlements and refugees, by going beyond even Israel’s stated positions.

Trying to dismantle UNRWA, the United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees, was a key part of the Trump team’s strategy. Yet, what they did not realise is how solidly enshrined Palestinian rights are within the UN system – particularly refugee rights.

This began as soon as the UN appointed its first mediator, Sweden’s Folke Bernadotte, who was later assassinated in Jerusalem by Israeli terrorists. Perhaps his most important legacy was Resolution 194, approved on 11 December 1948, which established a Conciliation Commission comprising the US, France and Turkey, aimed at supporting the parties to reach a final settlement.

While the commission did not achieve its main goal, it did succeed in establishing a comprehensive database of the private property belonging to Palestinian refugees, churches, endowments and non-Palestinian owners in the territory occupied by Israel in 1948.

For many years, the database was classified as secret, and copies of the work were distributed to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, the Arab League and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The work of the commission was updated and digitised after the UN called upon the secretary-general to “take all appropriate steps … for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel and to preserve and modernize existing records”.

The resulting copy was given to the Mission of Palestine to the United Nations that I was heading.

International responsibility

It was in the context of the tremendous US attack against the rights of our people that we decided to make the database open to the public through the Yasser Arafat Foundation. If the team behind the Trump Middle East plan was arrogant and ignorant enough to dismiss international law, UN resolutions and even Washington’s own diplomatic history, we thought there could be a chance that they would understand the value of private property and the rights of individual owners.

Today, we have decided to open the records for every Palestinian to be able to check on their property and, in certain cases, obtain respective documents.

Whoever accesses this database will realise not only the great injustices inflicted upon the Palestinian people but also how much Israel has profited from Palestinian refugee property. The database includes 210,000 owners and 540,000 parcels of land, and it was mainly built up using British land and tax registries. This includes around 6,000 maps showing the locations of each parcel.

In other words, we can fairly talk about 5.5 million dunums (1.359 million acres) of private Palestinian property in what is now Israel, excluding the Naqab, as it was not registered.

Palestinian refugee rights are well enshrined in international law and relevant UN resolutions. The same international community that decided to divide Palestine cannot continue to ignore the results of its actions.

In the absence of a just and lasting political settlement that addresses all issues in accordance with international law, the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including self-determination, will continue being its responsibility.

Failed approach

Trump said that by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he was taking Jerusalem “off the negotiating table”. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, used similar logic in his campaign to strangle UNRWA, aiming to take the refugee issue “off the table” as well.

But their approach failed. This should serve as a lesson for those who continue working to deny Palestinian rights. Denying Palestinian rights means denying the basic principles upon which the UN was established, and represents one of the biggest failures of the multilateral international system. The greatness of the Palestinian cause is the reason Trump failed.

When Israel became a UN member in 1949, it committed to respect the UN Charter and its resolutions. Seventy-two years later, it has still failed to do so.

The Biden administration will not aid the cause of peace if it tries to repeat formulas aimed at solidifying Israel’s impunity and denying Palestinian rights. It should instead seek to partner with other members of the international community to repair previous failures, realising that international law cannot be bypassed, nor can the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees.

The refugee property database that we have opened to the public should serve as a reminder of the magnitude of what has been done to the Palestinian people.

Dr Nasser Qudwa is the head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation and member of the Fatah Central Committee. He is the former permanent representative of Palestine to the United Nations and foreign minister. He led the Palestinian team at the International Court of Justice in the case against the wall built by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory (2004).

It is time for the one state solution to go mainstream

A promising outlook that would make the settler colonisers shudder and quake. They should be afraid as their bubble that has been built upon the blood of the indigenous, the lies their terrorist regimes have fed them, and the deceit they choose to wrap themselves in, has a concrete potential to come to an end. This has never been a “conflict” but a colonial settler project that has been in motion for over 100 years. Anyone who tells you this “conflict” cannot be resolved is infantile in their thinking. Anyone who tells you this “conflict” has been going on for thousands of years, that the Arabs have always been bloodthirsty hounds, needs to do a little bit of basic reading. There are simple solutions to every issue/problem, and this “conflict” has one too:

By Awad Abdelfattah and Jeff Halper

December 18, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – The “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” has often been presented as one of the most intractable in modern world history.

But one reason for this is precisely that it has been wrongly analyzed as a conflict and thus the “solutions” offered and the “peace processes” for getting there fail.

This is not a conflict. There are not two sides fighting over some issue that can be resolved through technical negotiations and compromise. Rather, Zionism was – and is – a settler-colonial project.

Jewish settlers arrived in Palestine from Europe with the intention of taking over the country and making it their own. Like all settler movements they came equipped with a narrative of why the country actually belonged to them, and they pursued their claim to entitlement unilaterally. The indigenous Palestinian population (which included Sephardi, Mizrahi and ultra-Orthodox Jews) had no voice in the process; they were not a “side,” but simply a population to be disposed of.

That remains true to this day as the settler Zionist project has virtually completed its task of Judaizing Palestine, of transforming an Arab country into a Jewish one. Its inescapable conclusion is apartheid: confining Palestinians into disconnected and impoverished enclaves scattered over 15 percent of their country.

Settler-colonialism and apartheid, however, cannot be resolved through negotiations and compromise. A people cannot negotiate their fundamental human, national, political and civil rights. The only way out of a colonial situation is through a process of decolonization.

What does that entail? It entails a fundamental readjustment to the current reality. It entails the return of Palestinain refugees and their reintegration into society. It entails the dismantling of all structures of domination and control, be they political, economic or ideological and cultural.

It requires acknowledging that the colonized population has the right to an equal say in the construction of the post-colonial polity. It necessitates the formation of a new political system and civil society that guarantees equal rights to all its citizens as well as to the national, ethnic and religious groups that comprise it.

It further demands an equitable redistribution of resources, especially land, the prime target of settler-colonialism, along with an acknowledgment by the colonizers of the suffering they have brought, and consequent reparations.

It is such fundamental change that is needed to generate a new, shared political community. And that, in turn, is the only possible way settler-colonialism can be transcended.

A political program

Settler-colonial analysis is well-developed in academic circles and offers genuinely new horizons for a just peace in Palestine/Israel. But it has not yet penetrated popular or political discourses, which are still mired in necessarily fruitless attempts to negotiate – or, more precisely, manage – a conflict.

Attempting to replace conflict resolution with the more appropriate and just process of decolonization, a Palestinian-led initiative has emerged out of Haifa over the past three years.

The One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), though still in its infancy, comprises Palestinians from every major community (citizens of the areas that in 1948 became Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the refugee camps and the Diaspora/Exiles), together with their anti-colonial Israeli Jewish allies. It has issued a call for the establishment of a single democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, one that will also witness the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

Building on the work of others, the ODSC has also formulated a 10-point political program that “thinks through” the entire process of decolonizing the settler-colonial entity of Israel through the establishment of a post-colonial polity and political community. They are, in brief:

  1. Decolonization. The only way to resolve a settler-colonial situation is through a thorough process of decolonization that will ultimately give rise to a new, shared political community.
  2. A Single Constitutional Democracy. One democratic state shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed.
  3. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from which they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property and/or compensate them.
  4. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
  5. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODSC will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODSC views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.

Considerable work still needs to be done to flesh out our program, which is very much a participatory work in progress. But our task in this historic moment is clear: to enter the political arena armed with a clear and compelling political program, organization and strategy, all required if we are to effectively mobilize our main allies, the global grassroots.

A democratic state in historic Palestine is no utopian vision. It is doable, it is critical and it is urgent. The time has come for an inclusive democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Awad Abdelfattah is the Coordinator of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC). He is the former Secretary-General, Balad/Tajamo party.

Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a founding member of the ODSC. His forthcoming book is Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: The Case for One Democratic State (London: Pluto, 2021)

pre-drawn conclusions

I have been utterly heartbroken, unequivocally sad for a long time.  It’s over so many things, but in particular, the Julian Assange (show/sham) trial that came to a close a couple of weeks ago.  A rushed close that has not drawn a single “journalists” attention to the mainstream media; the very people this particular trial should be concerned for the consequences to them.  Their silence has been deafening to say the least.

This political trial has been a tragic travesty unfolding from day one.  Make no mistake it is political and its conclusions are pre-drawn indeed.    The charade, this play, where the actors on the prosecutions’ side (including the presiding magistrate) are all on the US political payroll, it is hard not to see what is going on here:  this sham trial from the start is to make the prisoner/suspect/truth teller, the witnesses, the pubic (all 5 of them), the supporters, the whole lot of them to throw their hands up in the air and scream ‘ I GIVE UP!’.

Julian Assange’s treatment from the moment he was dragged out from the Ecuador embassy, shoved into the police van with the numerous police puppets, made to be housed with the most violent criminals at Belmarsh Prison.  The US regime hoped he would take his own life while in solitary confinement. They did not know his resilience

Unable to be a participant in his own hearing, it has been a blatant eye opener for those who really cared to see, to watch, to read.  The UK has been a puppet to the US regimes. Even Vanessa Baraister, who is only a magistrate (not judge!), is at the bottom, the dregs, of the ‘judicial’ system, who, as John Pilger accurately calls a “gothic looking creature”.   This chapter of lawlessness is on stage to portray fairness and equality to the world, that the US regime is the most democratic and above all other nations.  But it is they – the real supporters of dictatorships and terrorists of the world – who had drawn up the scripts for the “gothic looking creature” to read out.

Evil is being whitewashed, torture being fluffed off, and killing innocent people by the millions are apparently of no significance or consequence to those who commit the most ghoulish of crimes against their very own species!  The irony: the very people who grip the baton of freedom (to slander, torture, and slaughter whomever they wish), human rights (abusers), democracy (as long as it is their inverted version) and yes, exceptionalism (imaginary at best), are the very people who abuse, murder, degrade, humiliate, lie cheat and steal, carte away and untold number of unknowns to ‘secret’ prisons dotted all over the globe, then walk away as if it is their right. 

Do they not know that karma is a wicked, hideous bitch? 

It is so heart wrenchingly miserable that no one cares to know about what is willfully being done to Julian Assange, in broad daylight no doubt.  He has shone the light upon the dark side!  Yet if the light were shone upon Bashar Al-Assad, or Maduro, or Xi, it’s worth the time, a look, a gasp, a ‘we need to drop bombs on the civilians to save their lives from that wicked dictator!’.

Too many people have benefitted from Wikileaks and Julian Assange.  But when it and he became too inconvenient and embarrassing, he was dropped. 

Julian Assange is now awaiting his pre-drawn conclusion to be delivered by the “gothic looking creature” that is already pre-drawn.  And it is depressing.

show trial of Julian Assange

The Assange Hearing Day 21 – by Craig John Murray

I really do not know how to report Wednesday’s events. Stunning evidence, of extreme quality and interest, was banged out in precis by the lawyers as unnoticed as bags of frozen chips coming off a production line.

The court that had listened to Clair Dobbin spend four hours cross-examining Carey Shenkman on individual phrases of first instance court decisions in tangentially relevant cases, spent four minutes as Noam Chomsky’s brilliant exegesis of the political import of this extradition case was rapidly fired into the court record, without examination, question or placing into the context of the legal arguments about political extradition.

Twenty minutes sufficed for the reading of the “gist” of the astonishing testimony of two witnesses, their identity protected as their lives may be in danger, who stated that the CIA, operating through Sheldon Adelson, planned to kidnap or poison Assange, bugged not only him but his lawyers, and burgled the offices of his Spanish lawyers Baltazar Garzon. This evidence went unchallenged and untested.

The rich and detailed evidence of Patrick Cockburn on Iraq and of Andy Worthington on Afghanistan was, in each case, well worthy of a full day of exposition. I should love at least to have seen both of them in the witness box explaining what to them were the salient points, and adding their personal insights. Instead we got perhaps a sixth of their words read rapidly into the court record. There was much more.

I have noted before, and I hope you have marked my disapproval, that some of the evidence is being edited to remove elements which the US government wish to challenge, and then entered into the court record as uncontested, with just a “gist” read out in court. The witness then does not appear in person. This reduces the process from one of evidence testing in public view to something very different. Wednesday confirmed the acceptance that this “Hearing” is now devolved to an entirely paper exercise. It is in fact no longer a “hearing” at all. You cannot hear a judge reading. Perhaps in future it should be termed not a hearing but an “occasional rustling”, or a “keyboard tapping”. It is an acknowledged, indeed embraced, legal trend in the UK that courts are increasingly paper exercises, as noted by the Supreme Court.

In the past, the general practice was that all the argument and evidence was placed before the court orally, and documents were read out, Lady Hale said.
She added: “The modern practice is quite different. Much more of the argument and evidence is reduced into writing before the hearing takes place. Often, documents are not read out.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, in many cases, especially complicated civil cases, to know what is going on unless you have access to the written material.”

At least twice in the current case, Judge Baraitser has mentioned that the defence gave her three hundred pages of opening argument, and has done so in the context of doubting the need for all this evidence, or at least for lengthy closing arguments which take account of the evidence. She was highly resistant to any exposition by witnesses of their evidence before cross-examination, arguing that their evidence was already in their statements so they did not need to say it. She eventually agreed on a strict limit of just half an hour for witness “orientation”.

However much Lady Hale thinks she is helping by setting down a principle that the documentation must be available, having Patrick Cockburn’s statement online somewhere will never have the impact of him standing in the witness box and expounding on it. What happened on Wednesday was that the whole hearing was collapsed, with both defence and prosecution lawyers hurling hundreds of pages of witness statement at Baraitser’s head, saying: “You look at this. We can get finished tomorrow morning and all have a long weekend to prepare our next cases.”

I was so disappointed by the way the case petered out before my eyes, that the adrenaline which has carried me through must have dried up. Returning to my room at lunchtime for a brief doze, when I tried to get up for the afternoon session I was overcome with dizziness. I eventually managed to walk to the court, despite the world having decided to present itself at a variety of sharp and unusual angles, and everything appearing to be under glaring orange sodium light. The Old Bailey staff – who I should say have been really friendly and helpful to me throughout – very kindly took me up in a lift and through the advocate’s robing room to the public gallery.

I am happy to say that after court two pints of Guinness and a cheese and ham toastie had a substantial restorative effect. Those who have followed these reports will understand how frustrating it was to be deprived of James Lewis asking Noam Chomsky how he can venture an opinion on whether this extradition is politically motivated when he is only a Professor of Linguistics, or whether he has ever published any peer-reviewed articles. To attempt to encapsulate the wealth of information skipped through yesterday is not the work of an evening.

What I shall do for now is give you the eloquent and brief statement by Noam Chomsky on the political nature of Julian Assange’s actions:

I will also give you the breathtaking testimony of “Witness 2”:

A friend last night gave me the cold comfort that I should not worry about the hurried close of these proceedings reducing the public gaze on the evidence and the arguments (and I think there were altogether nine witness statements yesterday), because that public gaze had been extremely limited, as indeed I have been continually explaining. In other words, it makes no difference. I follow that argument, but it goes against some fundamental beliefs and motivations I have about bearing witness, which I shall need to develop further in my own mind.

In the next few days I will try to bring you a synthesis and analysis of all that passed on Wednesday. Now I need to go to court and see the last few dribbles of this case, and exchange last glances of friendship with Julian for some months.

show trial of Julian Assange

The Assange Hearing Day 20 – by Craig John Murray

Tuesday has been another day on which the testimony focused on the extreme inhumane conditions in which Julian Assange would be kept imprisoned in the USA if extradited. The prosecution’s continued tactic of extraordinary aggression towards witnesses who are patently well informed played less well, and there were distinct signs that Judge Baraitser was becoming irritated by this approach. The totality of defence witnesses and the sheer extent of mutual corroboration they provided could not simply be dismissed by the prosecution attempting to characterise all of them as uninformed on a particular detail, still less as all acting in bad faith. To portray one witness as weak may appear justified if they can be shaken, but to attack a succession of patently well-qualified witnesses, on no basis but aggression and unreasoning hostility, becomes quickly unconvincing.

The other point which became glaringly anomalous, in fact quite contrary to natural justice, was the US government’s continued reliance on affidavits from US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg and Board of Prisons psychiatrist Dr Alison Leukefeld. The cross-examinations by the US government of the last four defence witnesses have all relied on precisely the same passages from Kromberg and Leukefeld, and every single one of the defence witnesses has said Leukefeld and Kromberg are wrong as to fact. Yet under US/UK extradition agreements the US government witnesses may not be called and cross-examined. When the defence witnesses are attacked so strongly in cross-examination on the points of disagreement with Kromberg and Leukefeld, it becomes glaringly wrong that Kromberg and Leukefeld may not be similarly cross-examined by the defence on the same points.

Similarly as to process, the only point of any intellectual purchase which the US government’s lawyers have hit upon is the limited direct experience of the witnesses of the H unit of the ADX Supermax prison. This casts in a stark light last week’s objection to the defence introducing further witnesses who have precisely that experience, in response to the affidavits of Kromberg and Leukefeld on these specific points, which were submitted on 20 August and 2 September respectively. The prosecution objected to these witnesses as too late, whereas both were submitted within a month of the testimony to which they were responding. The US government and Baraitser having ruled out witnesses on this very specific new point, their then proceeding to attack the existing defence witnesses on their knowledge of precisely the point on which they refused to hear new evidence, leaves a very bad taste indeed.

The first witness of the day was Maureen Baird, former warden (governor in UK terms) of three US prisons including 2014–16 the Metropolitan Correction Centre (MCC) New York, which houses a major concentration of Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) prisoners pre-trial. She had also attended national courses and training programmes on SAMs and met and discussed with fellow warders and others responsible for them elsewhere, including Florence ADX.

Led through her evidence by Edward Fitzgerald QC, Baird confirmed that she anticipated Assange would be subject to SAMs pre-trial, based on the national security argument and on all the documentation submitted by the US Attorney, and post-trial. SAMs meant being confined to a cell 23–24 hours a day with no communication at all with other prisoners. In MCC the one hour a day outside your cell was spent simply in a different but identical empty cell known as the “recreation cell”. She had put in an exercise bike; otherwise it was unequipped. Recreation was always completely alone.

Prisoners were allowed one phone call a month of 30 minutes, or 2 of 15 minutes, to named and vetted family members. These were monitored by the FBI.

Fitzgerald asked about Kromberg’s assertion that mail was “free-flowing”. Baird said that all mail was screened. This delayed mail typically by two to three months, if it got through at all.

Baird said that the SAMs regime was centrally determined and was the same in all locations. It was decided by the attorney general. Neither the prison warden nor the Board of Prisons itself had the power to moderate the SAMs regime. Fitzgerald said the US government had claimed yesterday it could be varied, and some people under SAMs could even have a cellmate. Baird replied “No, that is not my experience at all”.

Fitzgerald quoted Kromberg as stating that a prisoner could appeal to the case manager and unit manager against the conditions of SAMs. Baird replied that those people “could do nothing”. SAMs was “way above their pay grade”. Kromberg’s description was unrealistic, as was his description of judicial review. All internal procedures would have to be exhausted first, which would take many years and go nowhere. She had never seen any case of SAMs being changed. Similarly, when Fitzgerald put to her that SAMs were imposed for only one year at a time and subject to annual review, Baird replied that she had never heard of any case of their not being renewed. They appeared simply to be rolled over by the Attorney General’s office.

Baird said that in addition to herself applying SAMs at the MCC, she went on national training courses on SAMs and met and discussed experiences with those applying SAMs at other locations, including the Florence, Colorado ADX. SAMs had strong and negative consequences on prisoners’ mental and physical health. These included severe depression, anxiety disorder and weight loss. Baird said she agreed with previous witness Sickler that if convicted Assange could very well face spending the rest of his life imprisoned under SAMs at the Florence ADX. She quoted a former warden of that prison describing it as “not built for humanity”.

Fitzgerald took Baird to Kromberg’s description of a multi-phased programme for release from SAMs. Baird said she recognised none of this in practice. SAMs prisoners could not participate in any group programmes or meet other prisoners in any circumstances. What Kromberg was describing was not a programme but a very limited list of potential small extra privileges, such as one extra phone call a month. Phase 3 involved mingling with other prisoners and Baird said she had never seen it and doubted it really applied: “I don’t know how that happens”.

Fitzgerald asked Baird about Dr Leukefeld’s claim that some prisoners enjoy Florence ADX so much they did not want to leave. Baird said this was a reflection of the extreme anxiety disorders that could affect prisoners. They became scared to leave their highly ordered world.

It was interesting to see how the prosecution would claim that Baird was unqualified. It was very difficult to counter the evidence of a prison warder about the inhumanity of the prison regime. The US government hit on a quite extraordinary attack. They claimed that the prison system was generally pleasant as described by Leukefeld and Kromberg, but that the prisons in which Baird had worked had indeed been bad, but only because Baird was a bad warden.

Here are brief extracts from the US Government’s cross-examination of Baird:

Clair Dobbin Are you independent?
Maureen Baird I work for one attorney but also others.
Dobbin You appear on a legal website as a consultant – Allan Ellis of San Francisco.
Baird I do some consultancy, including with Allan but not exclusively.
Dobbin You only work for defendants?
Baird Yes.
Dobbin It says that the firm handles appeals and post-conviction placing.
Baird Yes, I tend to get involved in post-conviction or placing.
Dobbin Do you have any experience in sentencing?
Baird What kind of sentencing?
Dobbin That is what I am asking.
Baird I have testified on prison conditions pre-sentence.

This was a much briefer effort than usual to damage the credentials of the witness. After questions on Baird’s exact prison experience, Clair Dobbins moved on to:

Dobbin Do you know the criteria for SAMs?
Baird Yes.
Dobbin Why do you say it is likely Assange will get SAMs? Kromberg only says it is possible.
Baird Kromberg talks about it a very great deal. It is very plainly on the table.
Dobbin It is speculative. It can only be decided by the Attorney General as reasonably necessary to prevent the disclosure of national security information.
Baird They have made plain they believe Assange to hold further such information.
Dobbin You are not in any position to make any judgement.
Baird It is my opinion he would be judged to meet that criterion, based on their past decisions.
Dobbin How can you say the risk exists he would disclose national security information?
Baird He is charged with espionage. They have said he is a continuing risk.
Dobbin I am suggesting that is highly speculative and you cannot know.
Baird I am judging by what the government have said and the fact they have so much emphasised SAMs. They very definitely fail to say in all this that SAMs will not be applied.

After further discussion on Kromberg’s claims versus Baird’s experience, the US government moved on to the question of the SAMs prisoners under Baird’s care in the MCC.

Dobbin You say they were in solitary confinement. The officers on the unit did not have human contact with the prisoners?
Baird They did not speak to inmates.
Dobbin Why not?
Baird That is not what prison officers do.
Dobbin Why not? You were in charge?
Baird They just open the small viewing slot in the iron door every half hour and look through. Conversation just did not happen.
Dobbin You could encourage that?
Baird I could lead by example. But ordering conversation is not something a prison warden does. I did not have that authority. There are unions. If I instructed the prison officers to socialise with the prisoners, they would reply it is not in their job description.
Dobbin Oh, come on! You could encourage.
Baird On a normal basis, those officers do not talk to inmates.
Dobbin Did you tell your staff to? Wouldn’t the first thing you do be to tell your staff to talk?
Baird No. That’s not how it works.
Dobbin Did you raise your concerns about SAMs with those above you?
Baird No.
Dobbin Did you raise your concerns with judges? (brief discussion of a specific case ensued)
Baird No.
Dobbin Did you raise concerns about the conditions of SAM inmates with judges?
Baird No. They were a very small part of the prison population I was dealing with.
Dobbin So you didn’t encourage staff or raise any concerns?
Baird I tried to be fair and compassionate. I talked to the isolation prisoners myself. The fact that other staff did not engage is not uncommon. I do not recall making any complaints or recommendations.
Dobbin So these conditions did not cause you any concerns at the time. It is only now?
Baird It did cause me concerns.
Dobbin What did you do about your concerns at the time?
Baird I did not think I had any influence. It was way above me. SAMs are decided by the Attorney General and heads of the intelligence agencies.
Dobbin You did not even try.

This was an audacious effort to distract from Baird’s obviously qualified and first-hand evidence of how dreadful and inhuman the regime is, but ultimately a complaint that Baird did not try to modify the terrible system does not really help the government case. In over two hours of cross-examination, Dobbin again and again tried to discredit Baird’s testimony by contrasting it with the evidence of Kromberg and Leukefeld, but this was entirely counter-productive for Dobbin. It served instead to illustrate how very far Kromberg’s and Leukefeld’s assurances were from the description of what really happens from an experienced prison warden.

Baird demolished Dobbin’s insistence on Kromberg’s description of a functioning three-stage programme for removal of SAMs. When it came to Dr Leukefeld’s account of SAMs prisoners being allowed to take part in psychiatric group therapy sessions, Baird involuntarily laughed. She suggested that from where Dr Leukefeld sat “in the central office”, Leukefeld possibly genuinely believed this happened.

The afternoon witness was an attorney, Lindsay Lewis, who represents Abu Hamza, who is held at ADX Florence. The videolink to Lewis had extremely poor sound and from the public gallery I was unable to hear much of her testimony. She said that Hamza, who has both forearms amputated, had been kept in solitary confinement under SAMs in the ADX for almost ten years. His conditions were absolutely inappropriate to his condition. He had no prosthesis sufficient to handle self-care and received no nursing care at all. His bed, toilet and sink were all unadapted and unsuitable to his disability. His other medical conditions including severe diabetes, hypertension and depression were not adequately treated.

Lewis said that the conditions of Hamza’s incarceration directly breached undertakings made by the US government to the UK magistrates’ court and High Court when they made the extradition request. The US had stated his medical needs would be fully assessed, his medical treatment would be adequate, and he was unlikely to be sent to the ADX. None of these had happened.

In cross-examination, Dobbin’s major point was to deny that the assurances given to the British authorities by the US Government at the time of Hamza’s extradition amounted to undertakings. She was also at great pains to emphasise Hamza’s convicted terrorist offences, as though these justified the conditions of his incarceration. But the one thing which struck me most was Lewis’s description of the incident that was used to justify the continued imposition of SAMs on Hamza.

Hamza is allowed to communicate only with two named family members, one of whom is one of his sons. In a letter, Hamza had asked this son to tell his one-year-old grandchild that he loved him. Hamza was charged with an illegal message to a third party (the grandson). This had resulted in extension of the SAMs regime on Hamza, which still continues. In cross-examination, Dobbin was at pains to suggest this “I love you” may have been a coded terrorist message.

The day concluded with a foretaste of excitement to come, as Judge Baraitser agreed to grant witness anonymity to the two UC Global whistleblowers who are to give evidence on UC Global’s spying on Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. In making application, Summers gave notice that among the topics to be discussed was the instruction from UC Global’s American clients to consider poisoning or kidnapping Assange. The hidden firearm with filed-off serial numbers discovered in the home of UC Global’s chief executive David Morales, and his relationship to the Head of Security at the Las Vegas Sands complex, were also briefly mooted.

show trial of Julian Assange

The Assange Hearing Day 19 – by Craig John Murray

comment: send Lewis, Baraitser, Dobbin, the entire US administrations of past, present and future, to the prisons they downplay. Let us all hear how great these institutions worse than Nazi camps are.

Today was the worst day for the defence since the start of the trial, as their expert witnesses failed to cope with the sheer aggression of cross-examination by the US Government and found themselves backing away from maintaining propositions they knew to be true. It was uncomfortable viewing.

It was not that the prosecution had in any way changed their very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating; in fact the precise prosecution template was once again followed. It goes like this.

  1. undermine academic credentials as not precisely relevant
  2. humiliate by repeated memory test questions of precise phrasing of obscure regulations or definitions
  3. denigrate relevance of practical experience
  4. iterate official positions and challenge witness to say they are expressed by named officials in bad faith
  5. humiliate by asking witness to repeat from memory regulations for expert testimony in UK courts
  6. run though a list of qualifications and government positions relevant to the subject and make witness say one by one they have not held them
  7. claim testimony is biased or worthless because it does not include government assertions at full length.

You will note that none of this has anything to do with the truth of the actual evidence, and to date almost all witnesses have easily, sometimes contemptuously, seen off this intellectually shallow method of attack. But today was another story. The irony was that, when it came to the real subject matter of the evidence, it was obvious to any reasonable person that the prosecution claims of the good conditions in the American Prison service for high profile national security prisoners are just nonsense. But it was a day when the divorce between truth and court process was still plainer than usual. Given the horrific reality this process was disguising, it was a hard day to sit through.

First to give evidence by videolink was Yancey Ellis. An attorney with a doctorate in law, Ellis has been practising for 15 years including five as a US Marine Judge Advocate. He currently practises in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is now private, having formally been a public defender. As such he is very familiar with the Alexandria Detention Centre where Assange would be held pre-trial. This includes visiting clients in the Administrative Segregation, (AdSeg or X block) where high profile and national security prisoners are held.

He testified that pre-trail detention could last many months or even years. Isolation from other prisoners is the purpose of the X block. Prisoners are in tiny cells of approximately 50 square feet, which is under 5 square metres. The bed is a shelf. On a daily basis only one to two hours are allowed outside the cell, into a small area outside at a time when nobody else is there. The second hour was generally available only in the middle of the night, so was not utilised.

Edward Fitzgerald, QC for the defence, asked Ellis whether prisoners in Administrative segregation could associate. Ellis replied “not really”. The purpose of AdSeg was to prevent it. You were never allowed out of your cell at the same time as another AdSeg prisoner. Contrary to the assertions of Gordon Kromberg, it was very difficult to talk through the thick steel doors. You would have to scream at the top of your voice to be heard at all. Ellis had tried it himself to consult with his clients. Communication was only possible if he could find a deputy to open a food flap for him. As prisoners in AdSeg were locked down, the unit was not usually staffed.

Ellis said that AdSeg was solitary confinement, on the definition of more than 22 hours a day alone with no human interaction. In practise, there was no appeal to the judicial authorities on prison conditions. “Courts will defer to the jail on how they house inmates” [which of course mirrors Baraitser’s answers to requests to ameliorate Assange’s periods in solitary confinement and other mistreatment in Belmarsh prison].

Fitzgerald pointed out that the AdSeg regime Ellis described was even without the addition of Special Administrative Measures, which bring additional restrictions. Ellis confirmed none of the clients he represented was subject to SAMs. He confirmed they did get phone access, but only to a service that allowed them to send “pre-recorded phone calls” to relatives. Fitzgerald then asked how this was affected by SAMs, but James Lewis QC objected on the grounds Ellis had said he had no direct knowledge and Baraitser upheld that.

Fitzgerald asked Lewis about provision of medical and psychiatric care. Ellis replied that the Alexandria Detention Centre does not employ a doctor. There were some social work and counselling services available in-house. Medical services were provided by a private firm. It could take several weeks to see a psychiatrist, even in a crisis. Asked about suicide risk, Ellis said prisoners could be made to wear a “special suit” [straitjacket?] and had shoelaces, belt etc. removed.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined for the US government and I think this is best conveyed as dialogue. Again this is slightly condensed and paraphrased. It is not a transcript (it would be illegal for me to take a transcript; no, I don’t know why either).

Lewis You have described US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg’s testimony as “inaccurate or incomplete”. How many prisoners are there currently in Alexandria Detention Centre?
Ellis Approximately 300.
Lewis You say there are four or six cells in administrative segregation?
Ellis Yes, in the H block.
Lewis Your info comes from your visits and from prisoners?
Ellis Yes.
Lewis Have you interviewed the governor?
Ellis No.
Lewis Have you interviewed the custodial staff?
Ellis No.
Lewis Have you interviewed the psychiatrists or psychologists?
Ellis No.
Lewis You have given one side of the story. One side of the picture. Do you agree?
Ellis Do I agree there are two sides to every story?
Lewis US Marshalls annually inspect the jail. Do you disagree?
Ellis I don’t know.
Lewis Kromberg says it was inspected on August 5 2019 by US Marshalls and found fully compliant. What do you say?
Ellis Alright.
Lewis Also the Commonwealth of Virginia inspected July 23-5 2019. There have been no suicides during the current inspection period.
Ellis They have a good track record when it comes to completed suicides.
Lewis Have you read these reports? Do you know the findings of these reports? You don’t know how prisoners are assessed for different types of housing?
Ellis I have frequently asked for assessment reports in individual cases. I have never been given them.
Lewis You don’t know that Assange will be placed in Administrative Segregation?
Ellis I would bet that he will.
Lewis Kromberg has stated that AdSeg prisoners have access to prisoner programmes but you have testified otherwise. But you have never represented federal prisoners, have you?
Ellis There is no difference in treatment inside the jail between state and federal prisoners.
Lewis Were you asked by the defence to state that AdSeg is solitary confinement?
Ellis No.
Lewis There is unlimited access to your lawyers. That is not considered in your definition of solitary confinement.
Ellis Not unlimited.
Lewis AdSeg prisoners have library access?
Ellis Rarely. They may be able to go there in their time outside the cell, but only if it can be empty at that time so they do not meet anybody.
Lewis You say Assange will be housed in AdSeg on the ground floor. You cannot know that.
Ellis National security prisoners are all on the ground floor. The higher floors are for general population.
Lewis Your clients in AdSeg were a security risk. Do you know that Assange will be so deemed?
Ellis No.
Lewis How do you know Assange won’t be kept in the medical wing?
Ellis High profile prisoners are not allowed to mix with the general population.
Lewis But won’t Mr Assange benefit from a phalanx of lawyers questioning his conditions. Don’t you think his publicity and support will bring better treatment?
Ellis I don’t know that will be the effect.

Edward Fitzgerald then re-examined for the defence.

Fitzgerald Your judgements are based on your personal observations?
Ellis Yes, and the reports of my clients.
Fitzgerald And why do you say Assange will be kept on the H block?
Ellis It’s the design of the jail. Nowhere else a long term AdSeg prisoner could be held.
Fitzgerald On prisoner programmes, you say they would not be possible if it involved meeting another prisoner?
Ellis Yes, and there are no individual programmes.

For the first time in this trial, Baraitser herself now asked a question of the witness. She asked Ellis why he thought Assange would not be held in the general prison population, as he currently was at Belmarsh. Ellis said it was because he was a public figure in a high profile case. Baraitser suggested that in the UK, being a high profile figure did not mean different treatment. Ellis said he was simply recounting the actual practice of the Alexandria jail in such cases.

Baraitser’s intervention was extraordinary given she had heard irrefutable evidence from Dr Blackwood that Assange had been placed into isolation in the medical wing in Belmarsh after somebody took a brief snatch of video of him, to prevent “reputational damage” to the prison. Yes, now she was saying high profile prisoners in the UK are not removed from the general prison population. She seems to have an infallible mental filter for blocking inconvenient information.

Her less subconscious filter was next in evidence, as there was time for a quick procedural judgement before the next witness, on the question of the decision of the prison governor on Julian Assange in the razor blade in the cell case. The record of the hearing on this ran to a minimum of 19 paragraphs, the judgement itself being in paragraph 19. Baraitser had indicated she was minded only to take para 19 as evidence, although the defence said the whole document contained very useful information. I am told that paras 1 to 18 include information on the extraordinary decision to place Julian Assange in solitary confinement disguised as “healthcare”, including the fact Belmarsh chief medic Dr Daly had produced not one of the compulsory monthly medical reports in his five months on the medical wing.

In one of those accommodations I find inexplicable, the defence conceded, without forcing Baraitser to a judgement, that paragraphs 1 to 18 should be ignored and only para 19 accepted as evidence, on the understanding it did establish the existence of the razor blade and thus vindicate Prof Kopelman’s judgement, and showed the charge had merely been dismissed as not timeous.

Yancey Ellis’s cross-examination above reads very well, and he did provide good answers to the prosecution attack. But he sounded rattled and nervous, and the performance was less convincing than it reads. This was to get much worse for the defence.

The next witness was Joel Sickler. He has a Master’s degree in the administration of justice and has worked for forty years in sentencing and advocacy. He is head of an organisation called Justice in Alexandria, Virginia, an expert in prison conditions, and has visited over 50 prisons across the United States. His organisation makes representations to the court on which institutions are suitable for a prisoner. He testified that he had made dozens of visits to the Alexandria Detention Centre.

He testified that in line with policy Assange would be placed in AdSeg due to his involvement in national security issues and concerns he might pass secrets on to other prisoners. He might also be categorised as needing protection from other prisoners and from self-harm. He would have zero to very limited contact with other prisoners. Sickler characterised Kromberg’s claim that inmates could communicate with each other through the steel doors and thick plexiglass windows as “ridiculous”. If SAMs were applied on top, that involved statutory isolation.

Sickler said that his knowledge of post-incarceration conditions at ADX Florence in Colorado came largely from reading reports. He had one client in there who was not subject to SAMs but was still effectively in solitary confinement for twenty years, despite a clean conduct record. Fitzgerald asked about provision of medical and psychiatric care, and Sickler stated that across the federal system he had dozens of clients who had found a way to commit suicide. In ADX specifically, there was a possibility of being transferred to a Federal medical centre in extreme cases.

At the ADX, Assange would be kept in the SSU known as the H block. With or without SAMs, contact with other prisoners would be completely barred. Contact with the outside world would be extraordinarily limited. Any contact permitted with family would be monitored by the FBI. One 15-minute phone call was allowed per month. Post conviction, contact with lawyers was very limited.

Fitzgerald asked how you could appeal against SAMs or other prison conditions. Sickler replied that appealing even over minor administrative matters virtually never succeeds. SAMs can only be varied by the Attorney General. In the prison system generally, Sickler had filed many thousands of requests on prison conditions and perhaps a dozen had succeeded. With SAMs there was effectively no chance. Solitary confinement could be indefinite in ADX – there was no upper limit.

Fitzgerald asked about changes in the prison after the Cunningham Mitigation settlement. Sickler said changes had been nominal. Any real improvement had only affected lower security prisoners. On prison conditions in general “Official statements, public pronouncements are one thing, reality in prison is something else”. The affidavit by Dr Alison Leukefeld for the government looked great on paper but was not the practice. On the other hand, reports by organisations like the Marshall Project exactly matched with his practical experience. Official statistics, like only 3% of federal prisoners having mental health problems, “do not ring true to me”. There was a significant risk Assange would not receive adequate physical and mental healthcare.

Clair Dobbin then rose to cross-examine. Again, I will report this as dialogue.

Dobbin What do you actually do? Do you work for the defence in cases?
Sickler Yes, I help identify the appropriate institution for imprisonment and help clients navigate the prison system.
Dobbin So prisoner advocacy?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin So you only go to prisons to visit those you represent?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin So you are not a prison inspector?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not an academic?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a psychiatrist?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a researcher?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a doctor? You don’t get to see medical records?
Sickler No, I am not. But I retain a medical consultant. I look at medical reports and I initiate conduct reports on a daily basis.
Dobbin But you don’t have across the board access? Only in respect of your clients?
Sickler That is right.
Dobbin But you are not a clinician. You do not have the authority to validate medical opinion?
Sickler No, but I employ a medical consultant.
Dobbin Is this consultant a clinical psychiatrist?
Sickler No.
Dobbin Have you represented anybody on SAMs?
Sickler No. SAM-like procedures, but not SAMs which can only be ordered by the attorney general.
Dobbin But you said clearly in your affidavit that you have SAM clients. Did you put that there because you want to give the impression you have more expertise than you do?
Sickler Of course not.
Dobbin You have never been to the AdSeg area of Alexandria Detention Centre. So what is your opinion based on?
Sickler Information given to me by numerous third parties including my clients, other lawyers and the public defender.
Dobbin But did you not think it was important to make plain in your statement this is hearsay?
Sickler I didn’t see the distinction as important.
Dobbin Did you see the rules governing expert evidence to this court?
Sickler Yes. I did not think that was against the rules.
Dobbin You have seen Kromberg’s statement. Do you accept there may be legitimate reasons for Assange to be in AdSeg?
Sickler Absolutely.
Dobbin Prisoners in protective custody receive all the same services and rights as other prisoners?
Sickler Of course.
Dobbin Do you agree that he would be able to attend programmes with other prisoners?
Sickler Not if under SAMs.
Dobbin Do you agree that those in protective custody can meet with other prisoners?
Sickler Certainly.
Dobbin Do you agree there are no restrictions on access to lawyers?
Sickler Absolutely, there is a constitutional right.
Dobbin Do you agree that SAMs can only be imposed by the Attorney General?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin What is the procedure for that?
Sickler It involves consulting the intelligence agencies.
Dobbin It needs the certification of one of the heads of one of the security agencies that the prisoner is a threat to the United States?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin You cannot know that Assange will get SAMs. And SAMs differ from person to person.
Sickler Yes, correct.
Dobbin In the case of convicted terrorist El-Haj, he was under SAMs but still allowed access to family members?
Sickler Yes, his immediate family.
Dobbin Provisions depend on the individual prisoner?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin The judge who convicted [another prisoner not heard clearly] entered the MMC personally to check on prison conditions. Does that not show there is good judicial supervision?
Sickler I have seen it, on rare occasions.
Dobbin SAMS does not restrict access to lawyers.
Sickler How do you access lawyers in Florida ADX? And pre-trial there are scheduling difficulties. If he is under SAMs his lawyer will himself be subject to surveillance.
Dobbin What evidence do you have for that?
Sickler The Lynne Stewart case. Lindsay Lewis.
Dobbin Lynne Stewart was running a message for jihadists (she added much alleged detail). Her client was subject to SAMs to prevent him running a terrorist organisation.
Sickler The case, and others, had a chilling effect on the willingness of lawyers to take on SAM cases involving national security.
Dobbin The Alexandria Detention Centre is not overcrowded
Sickler No, it’s below capacity. It is a well-run jail. The staff are very professional.
Dobbin Kromberg sets out very substantial medical staffing levels.
Sickler I understand those are mostly private contractors, not prison staff. In practice prisoner needs are not meaningfully met. It takes a few days to a few weeks to get treatment.
Dobbin But they do get sufficient treatment?
Sickler There is no real psychiatric intervention. This is not top tier. Usually prisoners are just medicated.
Dobbin So they have access to medication? And someone to talk to?
Sickler Correct.
Dobbin Your evidence only refers to one suicide, at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre.
Sickler That is just one example, one of my current cases.
Dobbin But two prison officers have been charged for that.
Sickler We are always swift to blame a little man.
Dobbin It was not the protocols that were wrong, just two people did not do their job. [This is possibly the Epstein case.] The ADC has a good record on suicide.
Sickler It is a very very arduous, almost torturous system of confinement in AdSeg. Assange has depression and is on the autism spectrum. It will be unbearable for him. Even with healthy clients of mine, there has been a terrifying deterioration in these conditions.
Dobbin The evidence is they are successful in preventing suicide at the ADC.
Sickler Yes, they have a stellar record.
Dobbin In the Babar Ahmad case (2012), the European Court of Human Rights considered SAMs and ruled it was not an unacceptable regime. Has anything changed since 2012?
Sickler Not significantly.
Dobbin You initially said in your report Assange might not be sent to ADX. Now you change your mind. Sentencing is at the discretion of the judge. There is no basis for your report.
Sickler I changed my mind in the intervening period. From the second superseding indictment, the charge is now espionage and the government alleges Assange is a continuing threat to the USA.
Dobbin You were a consultant in the Reality Winner case. She only got 53 months.
Sickler She was a qualitatively different kind of defendant.
Dobbin She was an insider. They normally get harsher sentences. She is serving her sentence in a medical facility.
Sickler Not on medical grounds. It is the closest federal incarceration facility to her family.
Dobbin You say Assange would be in solitary confinement. But Kromberg states that most inmates in special housing are in double cells with a cell-mate.
Sickler That can be worse. Many are violent and mentally unwell. Assaults by cellmates are frequent.

There followed an interchange where Dobbin tried to trip up Sickler over the procedures for committing someone to ADX Florida, but he proved knowledgeable in detail.

Dobbin The procedures say that prisoners with health conditions will not be sent to the ADX unless there are serious security concerns.
Sickler Abu Hamza is there and he has no arms.
Dobbin There are just 14 people in ADX in this category. You have not been there. How do you get your information?
Sickler Reports including the Lowenstein Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights
Dobbin Prisoners at ADX do get family visits.
Sickler How often would Mr Assange get family visits? Why don’t you tell the court?
Dobbin [name not heard] a convicted terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane is in ADX and gets family visits and phone calls.
Sickler He is allowed communication with two named family members. But how often is he allowed to call or see them?
Dobbin You have said solitary confinement at the ADX can be indefinite?
Sickler That’s my impression.
Dobbin What is your source of information?
Sickler It’s from prisoners and lawyers. It’s anecdotal, I admit. But are you saying at some point the US government will decide that Assange won’t be likely to divulge classified information?
Dobbin Do you understand that there are three levels in the H block that defendants can work themselves through to get out?
Sickler No.
Dobbin Did you know that even in SAMs, prisoners can mingle together for social periods?
Sickler No, I did not.
Dobbin (Quotes ECHR judgement endorsing the stepdown programme)
Sickler You have to be within 2 years of release. If you are designated by the Attorney General for SAMs, you are not eligible for that programme. Conditions in the ADX are extraordinarily arduous.
Dobbin Kromberg sets out the stages and says that stage 3 allows contact with other prisoners

Sickler It sounds awful. Even when you reach phase 3 with the extra privileges. If they do that in practice, well that’s wonderful. It still sounds awful to me.
Dobbin There is a progression.
Sickler I should like to know how long it takes.
Dobbin Do you know the numbers who have come out of the ADX? Shouldn’t you know these facts?
Sickler The place is torturous. That is not in dispute.
Dobbin How inmates are treated will depend on how big a security risk they are.
Sickler Precisely.
Dobbin Medical care at the ADX is not affected by SAMs.
Sickler OK.
Dobbin Do you agree that as a result of the Cunningham Settlement there has been a substantial improvement?
Sickler I cannot say.
Dobbin Gordon Kromberg testifies that ADX Colorado has more mental health provision per inmate than any other federal prison.
Sickler That is needed because of the extreme circumstances people are kept in.
Dobbin Does that not indicate to you that the standard of care is good?
Sickler Is there meaningful patient/clinician interaction? I don’t know.
Dobbin The Cunningham Settlement led to over 100 people being removed from ADX.
Sickler But how many had SAMs?
Dobbin We have established that you don’t know anything about the movement out of people with SAMs.
Sickler Yes, you have established that.
Dobbin As a result of the Cunningham Mitigation two new mental institutions were established.
Sickler Yes, for schizophrenia and psychoses.
Dobbin A Department of Corrections report of 2014 shows that some inmates never want to leave ADX as they find the standard of care so good. They re-offend to get back in.
Sickler They cherry-pick whom they speak to. Most prisoners are desperate to get out.
Dobbin Every report gets an official response from the Board of Prisons and policies are constantly upgraded.
Sickler Yes, but I just don’t see results in practice. I had one client recently, a prisoner, who rather than being treated was beaten up and thrown naked in the hole. It took months before a court got him out. Another was refused his diagnosed and prescribed medicines as not in the BoP formulary.
Dobbin In the first case there was judicial review. So the system works.
Sickler After six months.

There was more of this. The cross-examination lasted two and a half hours. Again, it seems much more convincing from Sickler written down than it did live, where he appeared shaken by the aggression. The answers he gave which sound like firm responses, sounded petulant and throwaway when he delivered them. He gave the impression that it was not worth his time to engage with the unreasonable Dobbin and, while I heartily sympathise, that was not the requirement of the moment.

Sickler very definitely gave the impression he was at times agreeing with the prosecutor just because that was the easier line of action. He often did so in a voice that suggested scepticism, sarcasm or mockery, but that was not plain in his words and will not be apparent in the transcript. In normal life, making short sarcastic responses like “Oh yes, it’s marvellous” in reply to ludicrous assertions by the prosecution about the provision of US supermax prisons, may work as a form of ridicule; in a court setting it does not work at all. In fairness to Mr Sickler, being at home rather than actually in a court session will partly account for it. But the court record will say Sickler says prisoner provision in US supermax prisons is marvellous. It doesn’t note sarcasm.

Dobbin is officious beyond the point of offensive; she comes over as properly obnoxious as a person.

The unpleasant irony in all this is that both Sickler and Ellis were mocked and scorned for their lack of personal knowledge of ADX Colorado, when prosecution and judge had combined just on Friday to bar two witnesses who the defence both wished to testify, who had expert personal experience of ADX Florence. That is yet another striking example of the fact that this process is divorced from any genuine attempt to find truth or justice.