On, 3rd October 2019, Nina Cross writes
This article is a second piece focusing on Belmarsh prison, where the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, continues to be arbitrarily detained by the British government. The first part showed how Belmarsh prison has been systematically denying Assange access to justice by restricting all the means through which he could prepare his defence; access to and possession of legal documents, talking to his US lawyers, restricted meetings with his UK lawyers, and access to a laptop as a basic means to prepare his defence. These restrictions have been imposed in contradiction to all legislation and standards regarding the rights of the prisoner. This piece looks at the weaponizing of Category A prison security and the use of prison healthcare isolation as part of a program of the state-sponsored abuse of a journalist imprisoned for releasing prima facie evidence of US war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The decision on 13th September by Judge Vanessa Baraitser in a ‘technical hearing‘ at Westminster Magistrate’s Court, means that although Assange has been given parole half way through what experts believe was a disproportionate 50 week sentence for skipping police bail in 2012, he will still be kept in prison while he is fighting extradition to the US – a process which could take many years. Baraitser justified her decision as follows:
“In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again”
She described his status now as:
“...from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition”
According to the British judiciary, Assange was initially apprehended and sentenced to prison because he had ‘skipped bail’ by seeking refuge for political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy. Despite the fact the original investigation in which he was wanted for questioning (and complied) by Swedish authorities had been dropped, the British courts still treated Assange as a serious criminal and sentenced him as such. The narratives in Baraitser’s statement, the injustices arising from them and the proceedings around this hearing have all been highlighted and roundly condemned. What’s more, despite the change to Assange’s prisoner status, he has so far been kept in Belmarsh.
These inconsistencies should raise serious doubts as to whether the British justice system is operating objectively and according to domestic and international legal norms.
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