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UK: Julian Assange asks to sit with lawyers for extradition case

Julian Assange in UK court outburst over distance from lawyers

Wednesday 26 February 2020, by siawi3


Julian Assange asks to sit with lawyers for extradition case

Earlier, WikiLeaks founder likened to Alfred Dreyfus as QC argued that extradition for political reasons is prohibited

Ben Quinn

Wed 26 Feb 2020 16.26 GMT
First published on Wed 26 Feb 2020 13.52 GMT

Julian Assange supporters protest outside Woolwich crown court on Tuesday. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Julian Assange’s extradition case is to hear an application on Thursday for him to leave a dock surrounded by bulletproof glass and sit with his lawyers after he complained of being as much a participant in the proceedings as “watching Wimbledon”.

The WikiLeaks founder, who is fighting extradition to the US, told a judge at Woolwich crown court that he was unable to participate in the case, meaningfully communicate with his lawyers or talk to them with them with any confidentiality, adding that there were “unnamed embassy officials” from the US in the courtroom.

Gesturing to people sitting behind lawyers acting for US authorities, he said they had “a hundred times more contact” with their legal team than he had, before he was told by Vanessa Baraitserthat defendants “don’t normally have a voice unless and until they give evidence”.

Assange went on to complain that “there has been enough spying on my lawyers already” – an apparent reference to the surveillance of him and others when he spent a number of years inside the Ecuadorean embassy.

“We respectfully submit this is a gentle man of an intellectual nature and there is no reason why he should not be able to sit with us and be able to communicate with us during the hearing,” said Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, who told the court earlier that his client was now on medication.

James Lewis QC, a barrister for the US authorities, said he would have no problem, for example, with Assange being allowed to sit in the well of the court handcuffed to a security official. However, he would oppose a bail application, which his counterpart had suggested he might do.

Judge Baraitser said that allowing Assange out of the dock was not a risk assessment she could make and questioned whether he would still technically be in custody if allowed out of the dock. Advice is to be sought overnight.

Earlier, Assange was likened to the Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun and the 19th-century French army officer Alfred Dreyfus as his lawyers argued that his extradition to the US should be prohibited.

A central plank of efforts to prevent him from being sent for trial in the US was laid out on the third day of hearings at Woolwich crown court, where Fitzgerald said the US-UK extradition treaty expressly ruled out extradition for political offences.

He argued that Assange, who has been charged in the US with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 charges under the Espionage Act, faces the same sort of accusation that the UK brought against Gun, a GCHQ employee who leaked details to the Observer of a secret US campaign to spy on the UN before the Iraq war.

“Had she fled to another country, she would have been able to say, ‘This is a purely political offence,’” said Fitzgerald, who cited Dreyfus, the French military officer of Jewish descent wrongly convicted of spying in 1894 in an atmosphere of antisemitism.

“Equally, we know that Dreyfus was charged with espionage, providing information to the German armed forces. It turned out to be a totally false and wrong allegation but there is no doubt that had he gone to the UK and had France sought his extradition it would have been a purely political offence even if the allegations had been accepted.”

Prosecutors say Assange’s case is covered only by the Extradition Act 2003, which makes no exception for political offences.

Responding to the defence, Lewis said there was no such thing as a political offence in ordinary English law, adding that it arose only in an international context.

“It cannot ever be said that we cannot prosecute members of the IRA here in the UK for sedition,” he added. “Which ever way one looks at it, the treaty has not given any rights whatsoever to Mr Assange.”

The hearing continues.



Julian Assange in UK court outburst over distance from lawyers

Published 1 hour ago on February 26, 2020

By Agence France-Presse

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday briefly disrupted his extradition hearing in Britain to complain about being forced to sit away from his lawyers.

The 48-year-old Australian stood up and launched an impromptu courtroom address from inside the glass-panelled dock of the court during the third day of the hearing, being held in southeast London.

“I can’t speak to my lawyers with any proper confidentiality,” he complained, noting microphones near the dock could pick up conversations.

“I can’t ask, I can’t instruct them,” added Assange, wearing a grey blazer and a sweater over a collared shirt and seated between two guards.

“There’s a whole series of people sitting there and there’s microphones.


“This case already has enough spies on my lawyers as it is.”

While Assange is behind glass in the dock, his legal team is in the well of the court.

The one-time computer hacker argued he was “as much a participant in Wimbledon” — referring to the annual tennis championships — as in the hearing, and complained US officials present had “100 times more contact with their legal team”.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who moments earlier had asked Assange’s legal team to check on him because he appeared tired, promptly intervened to end the outburst, ordering a short break.

“Generally speaking, defendants don’t necessarily have a voice unless and until they give evidence,” she told Assange, adding it was “completely unusual to let defendants speak for themselves”.

– ‘Intellectual nature’ –

Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His extradition hearing inside Woolwich Crown Court, next to the high-security Belmarsh prison where Assange is being held, began Monday and is expected to last five days before reconvening in May.

After the brief delay Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said he would apply for his client to sit in the well of the court in future, claiming he “poses no threat to absolutely anybody”.

“Mr Assange is finding it very difficult and feels it very unfair that he can’t properly communicate with us while proceedings are going on,” he added.

“We respectfully submit that this is a gentle man of an intellectual nature and there’s no reason why he should not be able to sit with us.”

Baraitser said she would be “happy to hear an application,” but warned: “I can’t imagine that that could be accommodated”.

She added it would likely require a bail application, which had previously been denied.

Assange spent much of the past decade holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy after skipping bail in Britain to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden.

James Lewis, a lawyer for the US government, said prosecutors “would not agree to a release from custody”.



Julian Assange complains he cannot follow US extradition hearing

By Andrew MacAskill

February 27, 2020 — 5.49am

London: Julian Assange complained he was struggling to follow his extradition hearing on Wednesday as his legal team argued Britain should not send him to the United States because the charges against him were politically motivated.

Photo: A protester outside Belmarsh prison prior to the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, England. Credit:Getty

Assange, 48, faces 18 counts in the US including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law for publishing thousands of classified diplomatic cables. He faces decades in prison if convicted.

But the Wikileaks founder complained he was struggling to hear proceedings from his position in the dock at Woolwich Crown Court and asked to be able to sit with his lawyers.

“I am as much a participant in these proceedings as I am at Wimbledon (tennis),” he told the judge. “I cannot communicate with my lawyers or ask them for clarifications.”

On the third day of the hearing, Assange said he was also unable to communicate privately with his lawyers because of microphones in the dock and unnamed US embassy officials in the courtroom.

Photo: Two supporters wear masks and hold signs during a protest against the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange outside Belmarsh Magistrates Court in London, Credit:AP

Assange’s legal team will submit a formal application for him to leave the dock on Thursday after judge Vanessa Baraitser said such a move was not a risk assessment she could make and questioned whether he would still technically be in custody if allowed out of the dock.

She said most defendants normally sit in the dock and that she could not make exceptions but she did however ask Assange’s legal team to make a formal application that he should be able to move.

James Lewis, for the US government, said he would not object if Assange were allowed to sit in the well of the court handcuffed to a security official.

Earlier, Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said extradition for political offences was not allowed under the Anglo-US Extraditions Treaty set up in 2003.

Photo: Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joins supporters outside Belmarsh prison prior to the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.Credit:Getty

Violent crimes and terrorism were the only type of political crimes that the treaty allows people to be extradited for, he said.

His legal team compared Assange to the British Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun and Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who in 1894 was convicted of treason and shipped to a penal colony off South America’s Atlantic coast.

Fitzgerald also argued that the court needed to consider various protections enshrined in both international law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

But Lewis for the US disagreed with the claim that espionage is a political offence.

He said earlier this week that Assange had put lives at risk by disseminating classified materials through Wikileaks.

The United States asked Britain to extradite Assange last year after he was pulled from the Ecuador embassy in London, where he had spent seven years holed up to avoid being sent to Sweden over sex crime allegations which have since been dropped.


Earlier, Fitzgerald argued Assange’s alleged crimes were “pure political” offences which are ineligible for extradition under international law and treaties.

Rebutting the claims, Lewis said British law did not allow for such exceptions or recognise any such treaty rights.

Assange could be jailed for 175 years if convicted on all 17 Espionage Act charges and one count of computer hacking that he faces.