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Photographers attempt to capture a picture of Julian Assange, believed to be in this prison van, leaving Westminster Magistrates Court on December 7, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Today I came across this image by Peter MacDiarmid. It converges a few threads I’ve noted before.

I don’t know how many times Assange went to court along the public streets of London but it’s worth looking at another of McDiarmid’s images, this time of Assange in the interior of a custody van.

SERCO, the company providing the custody van is as global as Wikileaks itself and specialises in lock-ups and government services.

The Wikileaks saga has gone relatively quiet recently. Bradley Manning’s circumstances are no longer top of the hour. The Bradley Manning Support Network describes his conditions of detention:

Although Bradley has not yet been tried, he has been held in solitary confinement since May 2010. He has been denied meaningful exercise, social interaction, sunlight, and has occasionally been kept completely naked. These conditions are unique to Bradley and are illegal even under US military law as they amount to extreme pre-trial punishment.

Contrary to this account are reports that Manning is no longer in total lockdown. In April, he was transferred to a medium security facility in Fort Leavenworth.

If we are to compare experiences, remember, Assange in the scenario above was also under pre-trial detention.

Solitary confinement or not, Bradley Manning – regularly the subject of bullying -is not in the best shape to cope with incarceration. In 2007, early in Manning’s army career, doctors reported he was “mentally unstable” and recommended he be “discharged immediately”. The recommendation was rejected and due to a shortage of computer intelligence analysts, Manning was recycled back into service and pushed through the system.

Currently, Manning is heavily medicated with anti-depressants.

The U.S. military has made no comment on Manning’s psychological condition other than to say it is being investigated. He faces court marshal in December 2011. Manning faces 52 years if he is found guilty. That’s a long time for someone who, according to this credible 18-minute presentation, is a shell already.

The theatre surrounding Assange’s charges, detention, court dates and bail are in stark contrast to the near invisibility of Manning’s transfers and detention. With Assange remaining bold, vocal and in the public eye, Manning’s invisibility is even more conspicuousness. By numerous definitions, it seems Bradley Manning is already fading away.

Carl Court / AFP – Getty Images; Dan Kitwood / Getty Images; Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

These photos of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court inside a prison van with red windows reminded me of Ben Graville’s past work, which I wrote about here.

Graville’s In & Out The Old Bailey caused some controversy drawing accusations of exploitation. Do we feel Assange is being exploited here? I don’t really think so. Assange is well aware of media praxis and photographer protocols for winning that shot. By his direct eye contact, it would seem he’s putting on a show for these photographers? Or maybe it’s just the edit?


You could run hog wild with reading the colour here, but I won’t. I’ll just mention, witch-hunts, the Hunt for Red October, Red Letter Day, the commies, the Reds, blood on “their” hands, whoever they are, the Scarlet Pimpernel, drive by night tactics, sex by surprise, red light districts and the red ink of Top Secret papers. All collapsing on top of this portrait of a man, still widely misrepresented.


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