This month’s Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in Western democracies and the future of investigative journalism and the new media. This is Assange’s final appeal against his extradition to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm, Sweden and constitute no crime in Britain.
The consequences, if he loses, lie not in Sweden but in the shadows cast by America’s descent into totalitarianism. In Sweden, he is at risk of being “temporarily surrendered” to the US, where his life has been threatened and where he is accused of “aiding the enemy” with Bradley Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks.
The connections between Manning and Assange have been poured over by a secret grand jury in Virginia that allowed no defence counsel or witnesses, and a system of plea-bargaining that ensures a 90 per cent conviction rate.
It is sadly reminiscent of a show trial.