the essential This Thursday 28 October, defense lawyers warned about Julian Assange’s risk of suicide he is extradited to the United States. The judges of the High Court in London are called upon to say whether they uphold or overturn the refusal to extradite the 50 year-old Australian.
Their decision is not expected for several weeks. “You have given us a lot of grain to grind and we will take our time,” said Judge Ian Burnett, in charge of the case with another senior magistrate, without giving a date, after two days of hearings. Whatever it is, it is highly unlikely that the decision will mark the end of this long-term legal standoff.
“Alcatraz of the Rockies”
If the United States succeeds, the January decision will be annulled and the British justice will again have to decide. And whoever loses it, he has the option to apply to the UK Supreme Court. On Thursday, lawyers for the founder of Wikileaks focused on the risk of suicide for Julian Assange if he was returned to the United States, a risk that explained the rejection of the extradition request by Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January .
They emphatically recalled assurances from Washington that Julian Assange would not be incarcerated at the dreaded ADX Florence prison in Colorado, nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”, and where members are held in near total isolation. Al-Qaeda. Diplomatic assurances which are “a solemn question”, underlined Thursday the lawyer representing the United States, James Lewis, “one does not distribute them like Smarties”. To support her decision, Judge Vanessa Baraitser notably highlighted the inability of this country to prevent the suicide of American financier Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sex trafficking in minors.
“These conclusions stem primarily from the nature of Mr. Assange’s mental disorder and his fear of extradition given the exceptional nature of his case,” said lawyer for Wikileaks founder Edward Fitzgerald. “There is no indication that these factors have changed in any way with these assurances,” he pleaded.
Julian Assange refused to appear on Thursday, after participating on Wednesday from Belmarsh high security prison, where he has been held for two and a half years, in part of the proceedings by videoconference. He was arrested by British police in April 2019 after spending seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken refuge while at large under caution. He feared extradition to the United States or Sweden, where he has been the subject of charges for rape, since dropped.
He is being prosecuted for having broadcast, from 2010, more than 700 000 classified documents on US military and diplomatic activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the lawyer representing the American government James Lewis assured that Julian Assange had “no history of serious and lasting mental illness”, assuring that even the experts appointed by his defense found him only “moderately depressed”.
He said the Australian had “every reason to exaggerate his symptoms” and warned of a decision based on predictions made in a “crystal ball” about his fate in the event of extradition. He also insisted that psychiatrist Michael Kopelman cheated the courts by “covering up” the fact that his client had become a father of two with his lawyer Stella Moris while he was cloistered at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
According to Julian Assange’s lawyer, the assurances provided by the United States do not exclude his incarceration in a very high security prison in the United States and there is “no reliable basis” to overturn the refusal of extradition . There is “a great risk of suicide regardless of the measures”, he argued, explaining that “no error of law has been identified” in Judge Baraitser’s approach.