‘Outrage’ Over Judge’s Refusal To Allow Assange to Sit With His Lawyers During Extradition Hearings

On the 28th February 2020 Mohamed Elmaazi reports

Julian Assange has repeatedly complained that he can’t properly follow proceedings during his extradition hearings, he can’t speak to his lawyers without the possibility of the prosecuting side or security hearing him and that he can’t properly instruct his defence team.

On 27 February the judge in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing denied an application for him to leave the dock and sit with his lawyers for the second part of his hearings due to be held in May. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser heard one hour of legal arguments from Mark Summers QC, who acts for the defence, before reading out from a prewritten judgement on the application, presumably based on the written submissions which Summers filed with the court earlier.

The day before Assange’s defence lawyers argued that he should be allowed to sit with his lawyers so that he can properly participate in his own defence. James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, actually agreed with the suggestion. “This is your court madam, you can do with it as you see fit”, Lewis told Baraitser. A position that the judge did not agree with at the time.

Baraitser explained that while she was not necessarily opposed to Assange leaving the dock and sitting with his lawyers, she did not think it was within her jurisdiction for her to grant such a request, nor did she believe it would be possible without Assange’s custody technically being broken. She also argued that it was for the security personnel, namely private security firm SERCO which oversee prisoner security in the court, who must conduct a “risk assessment”.

Julian Assange Complains That He Can’t Participate Properly in His Proceedings

Assange had repeatedly complained to the court, both directly and via his lawyers, that he was unable to properly follow proceedings and that he was unable to regularly consult with his lawyers. The court was told that a combination of his psychiatric state (the UN torture expert, and two other medical specialists, determined that the award-winning editor and journalist showed symptoms of being psychologically tortured), the side effects of his medication, and the unsuitability of the headphones given to him, all meant that he could not properly aid in his own defence.

Observers Question Whether Assange Is Receiving a “Fair Hearing”

​At the final press conference Rebecca Vincent, of Reporters Without Borders, Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange’s barristers, along with WikiLeaks’s Editor-in-Chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, all expressed their frustration, disappointment, and outrage regarding the judge’s decision.

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