Contributed by Jim Hayes
Julian Assange’s extradition hearing began with a series of revelations, which immediately began to lay bare, the lengths to which the United States will go to impose its will. This is how it continued in the days that followed.
The US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003 and updated in 2007, Article 4 says, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which the extradition is requested is a political offense.”
It seems that the United States holds that this is this provision that only applies to US citizens, which of course, excludes Julian Assange. They are also arguing that the charges are ‘not political in nature’.
Extradition would also be contrary to the Magna Carta on which British law is based, and the Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, argued Assange’s legal team.
Barrister for Assange, Edward Fitzgerald QC, answered the claim that the charges are ‘not political, by arguing that the obvious reason for publishing, to stop the abuse of human rights, is clearly of a political nature.
The claim to the contrary is based on the argument that the intention, was not to overthrow the US government or force it to change policies. Can it honestly be denied that the reason to expose human rights abuses is to change the policies that cause them?
Furthermore, the well document response by US politicians, commentators and sections of the media, branding Assange “hostile” and “treasonous,” despite not being a US citizen, have been extremely political in themselves.
“WikiLeaks didn’t just seek to induce change, it did induce change,” said Fitzgerald. “What other purpose can there be publishing the Apache helicopter strike [video, showing the killing of 12 people] and [US] rules of engagement than to show that the war was being waged in a way that conflicted with fundamental human rights?
Collateral Murder (Iraq 2007)?
Video from People Over Politic
There was the admission from the US side, that Washington had discussed and considered killing Julian Assange by poisoning.
Then there was the bombshell that President Donald Trump had sent someone to offer a pardon, in exchange for favourable testimony connected to the Russian meddling in US political affair allegation. this was vehemently denied by the White House, of course. But it won’t go away.
The allegation that Trump turned to extortion when promise of a pardon didn’t work
Video from US GLOBAL NEWS
Emphasis began to shift towards Assange himself, and by the third day of the hearing, this dominated proceedings.
UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer and a range of medical experts have been making it clear that the defendant’s health is suffering as a result of the treatment he has been receiving. This has been called a form of torture.
But rather than seriously consider this, Judge Vanessa Baraitser, opted to repeatedly question the defendent’s demeanour in the court and ask his lawyers, if their client is engaged in the proceedings.
Julian Assange repeatedly intervened to complain about what he was being subjected dto in the court, his isolation in a glass cage on the dock, his subsequent inability to properly hear proceedings, and inability to communicate with his lawyers.
He eventually spoke out and told the court:
“I am as much a participant in these proceedings as I am at Wimbledon.
“I cannot meaningfully communicate with my lawyers. There are unnamed embassy officials in this court room. I cannot communicate with my lawyers to ask them for clarifications without the other side seeing.”
Confidential exchange between the defendant and legal council is necessary to conduct a proper case.
before the hearing , Assange and his lawyers had been consistently and illegally spied on at the Ecuadoran embassy, through installed cameras and microphones. Evidence of this was provided a former employee of a Spanish security company (UC Global SC) contracted to do the job.
After being transferred to Belmarsh Prison, access to lawyers continued to be limited. These impositions, made it very difficult to prepare a defense case.
Julian Assange was also forced to strip at least 6 times and constantly handcuffed during the time of the hearing.
“Even in America, accused murders sit beside their lawyers in the courtroom without shackles,” WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson.
Despite the seriousness of these impositions, the judge dismissed them as not being enough to warrant any changes.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser openly expressed her hostility over Assange’s interventions.
“I can’t make an exception in your case,” she said.
The case was adjourned and finished a day before it was scheduled to end. this prevented Assange’s legal team making a formal application for a change in the seating arrangement and and submit an application for bail, which would have provided better conditions to prepare for the next phase of the hearing.
It will begin on 18 May. Three weeks have been set aside fr the presentation of evidence and cross examination. There is a general expectation that it will take longer, especially when it will proceed under a hostile judge.