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CREDIBLE reports of CIA plots to assassinate or kidnap Julian Assange make it impossible to know what would happen if he were extradited to the United States, the Wikileaks founder’s lawyer told the High Court today.
The central London court heard a second and final day of legal arguments in the US appeal against District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s decision in January not to extradite Mr Assange, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.
Representing the journalist, Edward Fitzgerald QC told the court that Mr Assange faced a “menacing, threatening and frightening” situation while under surveillance in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and that he was monitored “in co-operation with an American agency” during his time there.
He was responding to James Lewis QC, representing the US, who defended the proposal for extradition by stating that “Mr Assange would have a cellmate, the average sentence for these crimes is only five years, and he would probably have his time in detention taken off his sentence.”
The US wishes to prosecute the Wikileaks founder over the leaking and publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs.
Mr Assange, who is being held in Belmarsh prison, was reported to be too unwell to join proceedings even by video-link.
Mr Fitzgerald reiterated the weight of psychiatric evidence that extradition would make suicide a grave risk.
“From the moment he arrived in the States, Mr Assange would be held in solitary confinement,” he told the court. “This would create conditions in which suicide would be impossible to resist.”
In written submissions, the lawyer said that Judge Baraitser had produced a “carefully considered and fully reasoned judgment,” adding it was “clear” that she had “scrupulously applied the test for oppression in cases of mental disorder.”
Crowds once more gathered outside the court before the hearing, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, who said: “Julian Assange should be released immediately. A monstrous injustice has been done to this man whose only crime is telling us the truth.”
“In a different country he would be hailed as a whistleblower who told the truth about the dangers we are all facing, the dangers the whole world is facing,” he said.
“I think we should bear witness to Julian’s bravery and his determination and demand … that he’s not removed under any circumstances to the United States, and … that he be released from Belmarsh so he can continue his life with his partner, with his children.”
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