Julian Assange should be ‘hailed’ as whistleblower, says Jeremy Corbyn

Julian Assange should be ‘hailed’ as whistleblower, says Jeremy Corbyn

Crowds gathered at the High Court in London on Thursday as the United States continued its fight to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Police stood guard at a set of closed gates as dozens of supporters holding placards chanted “free, free Julian Assange” out on the street and a queue of more than 50 members of the media and public waited for the court to open.

Assange, 50, did not appear via video-link from Belmarsh Prison as proceedings continued at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The Australian is wanted in the US on allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Assange should be “hailed” as a truthteller and released from prison.

“He’s committed no crime, and he’s in a maximum security prison,” he said. “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.”

In January, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled the Australian should not be sent to the US, citing a real risk of suicide. The judge concluded there was a real risk he would be subjected to “special administrative measures” (SAMs) and detained at the ADX Florence Supermax jail – a maximum security prison near Colorado – if extradited.

The US has since provided assurances, including that it would consent to him being transferred to Australia to serve any prison sentence he may be given.

(L-R) WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris

(AP)

James Lewis QC, representing the US Court of Appeal, on Wednesday argued that Baraitser “entirely based her decision” on the risk Assange would be submitted to special administrative measures.

However, Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Assange, argued on Thursday that suicide prevention measures may not be sufficient if someone is determined to take their own life.

He told the court: “People find ways to commit suicide whether they are clever or not clever but if they are driven.

(Geoff Caddick/AFP via Getty Images)

“I do not accept Mr Lewis’ argument that once SAMs and ADX are taken out you can safely say the district judge would not have answered the relevant question as she did.”

The defence barrister said the argument “simply doesn’t stand up” given the overwhelming reasoning Ms Baraitser gave for her decision, which was that Assange would take his life given his mental condition. The barrister also argued it was “likely” SAMs would be applied in the US.

“That’s why we say, irrespective of the assurances, you simply cannot say she would not have reached the same conclusion,” he added.

Mr Fitzgerald also challenged Mr Lewis’ claim that evidence from Assange’s psychiatric expert, Professor Michael Kopelman, should have been dismissed after he was found to have “misled” the district judge.

He said it was “not true” that the district judge found the professor had misled the court and said alleged “omissions” over Assange’s relationship with Stella Moris were born out of an “understandable caution” over identifying his partner.

Mr Fitzgerald said the expert’s concerns had arisen from reports Ms Moris and her children were being targeted, as well as an alleged plot to kidnap or poison Assange while he was at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He told the court there was no “tactical advantage” gained by not revealing the relationship.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

He had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.

The two-day hearing at the High Court, before Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Holroyde, is expected to end on Thursday with a decision at a later date.

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