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US government sent in ‘hooded men’ to break into offices connected to Assange, court hears

THE US government sent “hooded men” to break into offices connected to journalist Julian Assange, a court has heard.

Mr Assange, 48, appeared at Westminster magistrates’ court today for a case management hearing about his possible extradition to the US.

He is wanted by the US on 18 charges related to his investigative journalism with Wikileaks, including obtaining video evidence of US troops killing Reuters staff in Iraq.

Supporters, including the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), surrounded the court house in Marylebone as Mr Assange arrived in a prison van from Belmarsh, where he is being held in harsh conditions.

The British government’s own prison inspectors have criticised conditions at Belmarsh as “inhumane,” in a scathing report published this month.

Once in court Assange struggled to say his own name, appearing frail and confused.

Mr Assange’s barrister Mark Summers QC said: “This is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It is legally unprecedented.”

The silk also claimed that the US was involved in invading his client’s legal privilege.

He said: “The American state has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Mr Assange and his lawyers in the [Ecuadorian] embassy, also unlawful copying of their telephones and computers [and] hooded men breaking into offices.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused to grant defence lawyers more time to gather evidence and told Mr Assange his next case management hearing will take place on December 19 before a full extradition hearing in February.

When his case was adjourned, Mr Assange said: “This is not equitable.

“I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing. It’s very difficult where I am.”

He told the judge he is up against a “superpower” with “unlimited resources” and appeared to be fighting back tears as he added: “I can’t think properly.”

War resister Ciaron O’Reilly from the Catholic Worker movement told the Morning Star that Assange was “in trouble for exposing a war that 1.5 million people in this city marched against.

“Julian is a journalist and a publisher and he’s going to be extradited to the US for telling the truth about that war.”

Mr O’Reilly called on the anti-war movement to do more and welcomed a fresh initiative by politicians in Assange’s homeland of Australia to raise his case.


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