A few days ago, on 3rd July, Julian Assange celebrated his 48th birthday, if 'celebrated' is a word that can be used for a man in his predicament.
By a strange coincidence, the imprisoned journalist shares his birthday with Franz Kafka, a man who knew all about persecution.
In his classic novel The Trial, Kafka tells the story of one Josef K, a man who awakes one morning to find himself under arrest for a crime which is not revealed to him. The parallels with Julian Assange's plight are unsettling.
'I'm quite unable to report that you have been charged, or rather I don't know whether you have been. It's true that you are under arrest, but that's all I know', the Inspector tells Josef K. The men who dragged Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy a few months ago, could easily have said the same thing. Assange was arrested and is currently in jail for jumping bail in relation to allegations of sexual misconduct that did not lead to charges.
Additionally, he also faces extradition to Amerika (to use Kafka’s spelling), despite not being an Amerikan citizen.
Sajid Javid, Home Secretary, signed the papers saying of Julian A 'He’s rightly behind bars'. If you’re looking for liberal legal principles in this you won’t find any.
Like Assange, Josef K has to report regularly to court.
Like Assange, his 'case' drags on and on.
Like Assange, he is the victim of a conspiracy.
Everyone seems to be in on it. In one terrifying scene in The Trial K realises that the gallery members in the assembly, who he thought would be impressed by his speech about the absurdity of the situation, are in league with his persecutors. 'Beneath the beards- and this was K's real discovery- badges of various sizes and colours glittered on their coat collars. As far as he could see, they were all wearing these badges. These apparent factions to the right and left, they were all one group, and when he suddenly whirled around, he saw the same badges on the collar of the Examining Magistrate'.
Think of how Assange has been attacked, ridiculed and slandered by commentators and political figures of both 'right' and 'left', with certain Observer/Guardians columnists as culpable as the most reactionary scribblers for Rupert Murdoch.
They were all one group...
In the nightmarish world of The Trial, the accused has no access to the legal documents pertaining to his case.' It was extremely difficult to ascertain from the negotiations which documents were involved, particularly for the accused who was usually, after all, timid and distracted by all sorts of worries'.
Compare this to the report in the Independent newspaper on Assange on 31st May 2019.
Nils Melzer, the UN Special Envoy on Torture, said that Assange had been 'psychologically tortured' and that limited legal visits and a lack of access to documents 'make it impossible for him to adequately prepare his defence'.
Whatever legal system you apply, it gravely violates human rights to publicly portray #Assange as a rape suspect for 9yrs without formal indictment despite questioning him twice & having full access to all evidence, none of which supports the State’s suspicion. @Klamberg @AjVBlog https://t.co/5NmvaJzpFY— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) 4 июля 2019 г.
I have heard from a good source that Julian Assange is feeling suicidal. Is it any wonder given the psychological torture he has been put through?
Also, his experience under the Tories is like Gregor's in Metamorphosis whose transformation into a parasite is often viewed as an expression of Kafka's feelings of isolation and inferiority. https://t.co/F0OnRQOba6— Daniel Margrain (@hairymarx1) 4 июля 2019 г.
Josef K learns that no 'actual acquittal' from the court has ever occurred. The court is 'impervious to proof'. If you haven't read The Trial, I won't reveal the ending, except to say that it doesn't bode well for Julian Assange.
Kafka's genius was that he understood that tyranny could take place anywhere and not just in obvious 'dictatorships'.'K, after all, lived in a legal state, there was universal peace in the land, all the laws were upheld, who had the temerity to assault him in his own home?' Who indeed? If there's one mistake Julian A possibly made is that he confused the claims that Britain and America are 'free societies' with the reality. The reality is that Josef K-style persecution of individuals can- and does -happen here.
The ordeal of Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, is further proof of this. His case is where The Trial meets Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Orwell's 1984, with the moral of Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes thrown in for good measure.
The Labour MP, a life-long campaigner against all forms of racism, was suspended for 'anti-semitism', following a speech in which he referred specifically to the 'scourge of antisemitism'.
As with Josef K, proof doesn't come into it. Williamson is guilty as accused, and if you don't join in the witch-hunt against him, you're a witch too. His suspension was lifted, after a panel looked into his case, but not for long because the witch-hunters didn't like the verdict. So now he is in Josef K-style limbo again. A man who is 'still free', but isn't that free. He says he's received death threats, but as he's been accused of witchcraft, there's been no concern from the usual virtue-signallers.
Even the fact that arguably the world's most famous Jewish intellectual, Noam Chomsky, has come out in his defence, saying that there was 'nothing even remotely antisemitic' in Williamson's comments doesn't seem to make any difference. Chris has to be found guilty: as in The Trial, an 'actual acquittal' is out of the question. Due process and the presumption of innocence? If you're insisting on that, you must be guilty too. The letter from Labour HQ telling you that you are under investigation is in the post.
Of course, everyone knows it's nonsense, and can see that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. But those Inside the Tent, like the Emperor's courtiers, are terrified of admitting this, as they know if they do acknowledge the lie, they will be inside the tent no longer.
Franz Kafka, if he were around today, wouldn't fail to notice the similarities between the Labour Party's Compliance Unit and the authorities in The Trial.
He'd also be saying to those persecuting Julian Assange, Chris Williamson and many others: 'I did not mean my book to be an instruction manual'.
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