From Consortium News
Assange extradition hearing to go ahead in February
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The judge in Julian Assange's extradition process on Monday denied his lawyer's appeal for more time to prepare his case as the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher weakly told the court he was unable to "research anything" in the conditions under which he is being held in high-security Belmarsh Prison.
Assange appeared in person at Westminster Magistrate's Court in London Monday morning for a case management hearing on the request by the United States for Assange to be sent to Virginia to face 18 charges, including allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act for possessing and disseminating classified information that revealed prima facie evidence of U.S. war crimes.
Mark Summers, Assange's lawyer, told the court the charges were "a political attempt" by the U.S. "to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information." The Espionage Act indictment against Assange by the Trump Administration is the first time a journalist has been charged under the 1917 Act for publishing classified material.
"It is legally unprecedented," Summers told Judge Vanessa Baraitser. He argued that President Donald Trump was politically motivated by the 2020 election to pursue Assange.
Summers also argued before Baraitser that the U.S. "has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Assange and his lawyers." It was revealed this month that the Central Intelligence Agency was given access to surveillance video shot by a private Spanish company of all interactions Assange had with lawyers, doctors and visitors.
"This is part of an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers," Summers said. "The American state has been actively engaged in intruding on privileged discussions between Mr Assange and his lawyer."
Because of this surveillance, including "unlawful copying of their telephones and computers" as well as "hooded men breaking into offices," Assange's lawyers needed more time to prepare his defense, Summers argued. But Baraitser refused the request, and ordered Assange back in court for a second management hearing on Dec. 19. The full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on Feb. 25 next year.
As the hearing ended Monday, Baraitser asked Assange if he understood what had just transpired. "Not really. I can't think properly," he said.
"I don't understand how this is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can't access my writings. It's very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources. They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people. They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. They [know] the interior of my life with my psychologist. They steal my children's DNA. This is not equitable what is happening here."
The Guardian quoted WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson as saying that Assange's case should be thrown out because of interference with preparing his defense. "Not only is it illegal on the face of the treaty, the U.S. has conducted illegal operations against Assange and his lawyers which are the subject of a major investigation in Spain," Hrafnsson said.
According to witnesses in the courtroom, Assange appeared physically and mentally enfeebled after months in isolation in prison. Tristan Kirk, correspondent for the London Evening Standard, tweeted: "Julian Assange struggled to say his own name and date of birth as he appeared in the dock. He claimed to have not understood what happened in the case management hearing, and was holding back tears as he said: 'I can't think properly.'"
In response to Kirk's message, Assange's mother, Christine Assange, tweeted: "This breaks my heart! They are breaking my beautiful bright, brave journalist son, the corrupt bastards!"