How did Julian Assange look at his hearing (21/10/2019)?

Bearing in mind the disheartening state of the founder of WikiLeaks on the 21st October hearing, can we still hope to save his life?

A lot has been written about Assange’s current state. Some wrote that it was difficult for him to remember his name and his date of birth (how can we state such a thing? We do know that there were huge pauses between each part of his answer, but do we know for sure that this is due to memory issues?) Some journalists said that Assange held back tears (how do we know? I was the person in the public who was sitting the closest to him and still I could not see his eyes. Twenty-five meters and two glass screens separated us. One for the public and another for the defendant. Was it because of his voice? I didn’t hear the slightest sob in his voice: on contrary I did find it feeble but it was clear and assertive. Some said that Assange was standing straight; another lady said on contrary that his head was shrunken in his shoulders.

For the sake of neutrality, I had kept my impressions to myself and had only described what I had seen without interpreting it, and so I hope, avoiding sensationalism. Today I think that I can also share my personal impressions.

These are the facts: Assange was indeed standing straight on his feet, he did raise his left wrist to greet us. There were indeed pauses while he identified himself “My name is (silence) Julian Assange (silence) and my date of birth is the (silence) the third of July (silence) nineteen seventy-one. His voice was indeed frail just like his lawyer’s who seemed apologetic: a voice in total contrast with that of the heartless judge, Vanessa Baraitser.

Here are my personal impressions. To me Assange looked like a zombie. At the hearing he was totally destroyed, in the same state as the terrorists subject to psychological and physical torture are usually depicted at their trials. He reminded me somewhat of Salvatore, the character in the movie In the name of the rose. Or maybe his state was due to the high doses of medication targeting his nervous system.

My personal opinion - which is worth just the same as other people’s - is that he is no longer the person we knew while he was being interviewed at the Embassy of Ecuador. Was this because of the high level of medication he is probably subject to? Was this due to his loneliness (1)? Was it due to depression or was it because he had accepted his fate? Was it a combination of all these factors?

In other words, I was under the impression that after six months of detention, Assange had let go of his life, that he had come to accept that his life no longer belonged to him and that above all he had become a cause. He was also a son, a father, a brother, a friend. His life had become Humanity’s property. So, now, he was supporting us, he was supporting us in the struggle that he had become and which is now killing him. In the hearing there were people who had nothing to do with each other. All they had in common was him, the defendant.

This attitude is frequent in people who have been knowing for a long time that their life is coming to an end. There was this member of my family who also lived each day as an extra day, and just like Chelsea Manning put it, she lived on “a day to day” basis. Thus, she did as she was told, out of politeness, not to let us down. Not to let her family down because, she thought, we probably needed her more that she needed us.

Une bouteille à la mer, écrire à Julian Assange, quand même Une bouteille à la mer, écrire à Julian Assange, quand même
I believe that this is Assange’s current. I want to behave in the same way as with this family member of mine and support him until the end. I will write to him as I would toss a bottle into the sea, without expecting a response, without knowing whether he actually gets my letters or not. At the same time, I want to accept that he may not last until the trial and that it is his absolute right to leave us now.

(It is also difficult to know what to say to a person who is not in the same timeline as the living: writing to Assange and Manning is not the easiest thing).

There are a lot of things we don’t know. What are they doing to him? Does he get his mail? Does he still have the will to live? Can he afford to have any will whatsoever?

Unfortunately Assange’s destroyed state is real. I don’t know if he will still make it to the date of his trial, on February 25th. An illegitimate and illegal trial indeed.

 

Eva Rodríguez

 

(1) Assange is locked in twenty-three hours per day and when he goes out for his forty-five minutes of daily exercise, the corridors are cleared so that he doesn’t get any contact at all with other people.

(2) When the journalist asked Manning how she felt when she was told that she was sentenced to thirty-five years of jail, she replied: “that’s not at all how you are thinking. You are thinking on a day to day basis”.

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