ONE man who is missing from the public gallery at the Julian Assange hearing in London is blogger and former diplomat Craig Murray.

Murray is currently serving an eight-month jail sentence for contempt of court over his reporting of the Alex Salmond trial on sexual assault allegations – from which Salmond was cleared.

The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan has written extensively about the Assange case on his blog, which has been suspended while he is in prison.

Many regarded his writings as the only authoritative anti-establishment reports about the bid to extradite the Wikileaks founder to the US.

While the context of their individual cases are markedly different, there are parallels in that both men presented challenges to the establishment elites that make up the ruling classes on both sides of the Atlantic.

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As the Austria Press Agency (APA) noted: “Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades.

“During his time as a diplomat, he uncovered several scandals and, under Tony Blair’s administration, was maligned as a sex offender, among other things – an accusation that, after an investigation by the Foreign Office, was no longer tenable.

“But the damage was done, Murray was ousted from office.

“As a journalist, Craig Murray has again met fierce opposition from the British establishment for advocating truth-clarification and the protection of human rights with the same verve … was one of the few journalists who covered in detail the arguments put forward by Assange’s legal team during his extradition hearings.

“Notably, in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judges have curtailed the protection of freedom of expression that traditionally extends to journalism by narrowing the definition of who a journalist is.

“Both cases are frontal attacks on a specific group of journalists – those who, free from corporate or government pressure, report on important political events.

“In this way, independent journalism was discriminated against and criminalised.”

APA went on to note that the Austrian Journalists Club (ÖJC) has called for the immediate release of Murray and Assange.

The German news site Telepolis reported: “Craig Murray will no longer be able to disrupt the London judiciary in its action against Julian Assange. (Even as the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, he did not want to remain silent about the torture of the regime there and was therefore recalled from London after only two years in 2004.)"

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In May 2017, when Swedish prosecutors said they would drop the investigation into sexual offence allegations against Assange, Murray said he had asked the whistleblower if he expected then US president Donald Trump to drop the charges against him in the US.

He wrote: “Julian replied that no, he expected the opposite to be true. Trump would feel the need to be openly active against Assange to show that there had been no relationship between him and WikiLeaks.

“Julian was of course right, and Trump’s Attorney-General has announced that the United States wants to extradite Assange on charges of espionage related to the Snowden revelations of mass illegal government surveillance.”

Murray said that was not in itself new as Barack Obama’s administration had been sitting on sealed indictments against Assange for years.

He wrote: “Obama’s policy of not confirming or denying the charges against Assange in the States, enabled the media propagandists to pour scorn on Assange’s repeated insistence he was in the Ecuadorean Embassy to avoid extradition not to Sweden, but to the USA. That is now undeniable.”

Meanwhile today, the US government won the latest round in its High Court bid to appeal against the decision not to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges.

The National:

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Julian Assange appearing by video link at the High Court in London

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled in January that Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real risk of suicide. The US Government was previously allowed to appeal against her decision on three grounds, including that it was wrong in law.

Today, the US made a bid to expand the basis that can be used for its main appeal against the district judge’s decision.

The American authorities said they should be allowed to argue two further points – that the district judge was wrong in how she assessed evidence about Assange’s risk of suicide and also appeal against the use of evidence from a psychiatrist who they said “misled” the court.

Lord Justice Holroyde ruled in favour of the US authorities after he found the two points were “at least arguable” at the main appeal, which will take place over two days in October.