In reporting the case of American prisoner Matthew Paul DeHart, it’s rare to encounter good news, but today is that rare day. One day after DeHart’s extradition from Canada, the country where he had sought asylum as a political refugee, to the United States, the Courage Foundation has named DeHart the third recipient of its multi-faceted assistance. NSA leaker Edward Snowden and AntiSec hacktivist Jeremy Hammond are the two previous recipients.
For the last three years DeHart and his parents have been struggling to remain in Canada, the country to which DeHart had fled after what he says was torture and drugged interrogation at the hands of the FBI. 48 hours ago, after his last refugee appeal was declined, he was extradited from Canada and handed back into the welcoming arms of US law enforcement officers at Niagara Falls, who are officially detaining him on a child pornography indictment for which he could serve up to 15 years. Meanwhile Canadian sources say that the government paperwork on the DeHart case actually indicated an espionage investigation, not a child porn case at all. No child porn has ever been found on any of DeHart’s computers or devices.
DeHart and his family believe that this all goes back to a mysterious file uploaded to a server DeHart maintained years ago, when he was active in Anonymous’s Project Chanology, an operation targeting the Church of Scientology. The file was uploaded by an as yet unnamed third party, and was quickly deleted by DeHart when he saw the highly sensitive contents, reportedly an FBI investigation into CIA activities. The file was re-uploaded and allegedly forwarded to WikiLeaks. And that, says DeHart, is the real reason for this international game of human hot potato.
Now DeHart is on his way to Tennessee, where he will await trial (and where he has already served 21 months of pre-trial imprisonment on the child porn charges).
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange responded to the handover, saying “Canada’s actions are shameful. It may as well not have a border.”
Courage has accepted Matt as its third beneficiary in order to raise awareness about his case, prevent him from experiencing further mistreatment in detention and to raise urgently needed funds for his legal defence. DeHart’s legal team have confirmed that they intend to launch legal action against the US government as well as defend Matt from the charges he currently faces.
Sarah Harrison, Courage’s Acting Director, said:
The FBI has ruined Matt’s life to cover up what he knew and to punish his support of WikiLeaks and Anonymous. Objective judges have agreed that the child porn charges are a ruse to smear him in pursuit of national security information.
The award consists of fundraising assistance (direly needed: the current fundraiser, on Canadian site Fundrazr, sits at just over $2,000, a tiny fraction of the actual costs of this three year legal Via Dolorosa), legal advice, and a new website to act as a clearinghouse for information and keep DeHart’s name before the public.
Meanwhile, his legal team is looking not simply at defence, but also at what activists call direct action. Attorney Tor Ekeland has announced plans to sue the US government, saying “We intend to vigorously defend Matt in the United States, as well as file a civil suit against the Federal Government for violations of Matt’s constitutional rights that he has endured in this process.”