Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

asked the United States Great Britain The High Court on Wednesday to overturn a judge’s decision that Julian Assange should not be sent to the United States to be accused of espionage, promising that WikiLeaks the founder would be able to serve any prison sentence he receives in his home country Australia.
In January, a district court judge dismissed one American request to extradite Assange on espionage charges for WikiLeaks’ publication of secret military documents ten years ago.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused extradition for health reasons, saying Assange would likely kill himself if kept in harsh U.S. prison conditions. But Baraitser rejected defensive arguments that Assange faces a politically motivated U.S. prosecution that would override the protection of free speech, and she said the U.S. justice system would give him a fair trial.

A protester stands outside the High Court in London. (AP)

A U.S. government attorney, James Lewis, claimed on Wednesday that the judge was wrong when she ruled that Assange would be at risk of suicide if sent to the United States. He said the US authorities had promised that Assange would not be detained before the trial in a top-secure “Supermax” prison or subjected to strict solitary confinement, and that in the event of a conviction he would be allowed to serve any sentence in Australia. .

Lewis said the insurance policies “are binding on the United States”.

U.S. authorities also claim that Assange does not meet the threshold for being so ill that he cannot resist harming himself.

“When there is an assurance of adequate medical care, when it is clear that he will be repatriated to Australia to serve any sentence, then we can safely say that the district judge would not have settled the relevant issue in the way she did. , “Lewis said.

Several dozen pro-Assange protesters gathered outside London’s Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the hearing, which is scheduled to last two days.

Supporters hold up banners while staging a demonstration in support of Julian Assange outside the High Court in London. (AP)

Assange, who is being held in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, was expected to attend via video link, but his lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said Assange had been put on a high-dose medication and “did not feel able to attend”. the case.”

A video link later showed Assange showing up to listen to the hearing. During previous court hearings, his lawyers said he had physical and mental problems.

Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said outside court that she was “very concerned about Julian’s health. I saw him last Saturday. He is very thin.”

“It is completely unthinkable that the British courts could agree to this,” Moris said. “I hope the courts will end this nightmare, that Julian can come home soon, and that wise heads will prevail.”

The two judges hearing the appeal – which includes England’s Supreme Court Justice, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett – are not expected to give their verdict for several weeks. It is unlikely to end the epic legal saga, as the losing side may seek to appeal to the British Supreme Court.

U.S. prosecutors have charged Assange with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer abuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The prosecutors have a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

Stella Morris, partner of Julian Assange, attends the ‘Belmarsh Tribunal’ at Church House in London. (AP)
Julian Assange’s partner Stella Morris, fourth on the left, and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristin Hrafnsson, fifth on the left, hold a banner while leading a march in support of the WikiLeaks founder. (AP)

Prosecutors say Assange illegally helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files, which WikiLeaks later released. Lawyers for Assange claim he acted as a journalist and is entitled to protection of freedom of expression in the First Amendment to publish documents exposing US military offenses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange, 50, has been in jail since he was arrested in April 2019 for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years inside Ecuador’s London embassy, ​​where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped the investigation into sexual crimes in November 2019 because such a long time had passed, but Assange remains in prison. The judge, who blocked extradition in January, ordered that he be remanded in custody under any U.S. appeal, and ruled that the Australian citizen “has an incentive to disappear” if released.

WikiLeaks supporters say testimony from witnesses during the extradition hearing that Assange was spied on while he was at the embassy of a Spanish security firm at the instigation of the CIA – and that there was even talk of kidnapping or killing him – undermines US claims that he will be treated fairly.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s partner Stella Morris gives a speech outside the royal courts. (AP)

Journalists’ organizations and human rights groups have called on President Joe Biden to drop the prosecution initiated under his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said the allegations were politically motivated and should be dropped.

“It is a condemnatory accusation that almost 20 years later, virtually no one is responsible for alleged US war crimes committed during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, let alone prosecuted, and yet a publisher who exposed such crimes is potentially standing. facing a life in prison, “she said.

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