On 7 July, the UK High Court of Justice agreed to hear an appeal from the U.S. Government on narrow grounds, though no date has been set for those proceedings.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the U.S. Government, is challenging District Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling that Julian Assange not be extradited for health and medical reasons.
The original judgment accepted the defence’s evidence that Assange was a suicide risk and that the conditions of detention in a U.S. supermax prison facility might well exacerbate it.
There was also a:
'... real risk that … Assange will be subject to restrictive special administrative measures [SAMs].'
The result of such measures would see his mental health:
'... deteriorate to the point where he will commit suicide with the "single minded determination" described by Dr [Quinton] Deeley.'
She was further:
'... satisfied that Mr Assange’s suicidal impulses will come from his psychiatric diagnoses rather than his own voluntary act ... it would be oppressive to extradite [Assange] to the United States of America.'
The prosecution contends that the Judge erred in law in determining that Assange’s extradition would be an oppressive measure. The Judge should have also been forthcoming to the U.S. Government of her concerns or “provisional view” of the risk posed to Assange and sought relevant “assurances”.
This latter point is disingenuous; the case by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) was based on shoddy assertions by prosecutors and expert witnesses who betrayed their ignorance about the role played by SAMs and supermax prison conditions.
But in making their appeal, the prosecutors were all sweetness, suggesting that SAMs would not be imposed on Assange in pre-trial detention or, should he be convicted, in prison. Feeling the need to draw the line somewhere, they would not promise that other forms of isolation of administrative segregation would not be used.
While Assange would not necessarily find himself incarcerated at the ADX Florence in Colorado, it would depend on any “future act” that would qualify.
As for how Assange would be treated medically, the CPS made another weak promise that he would:
'... receive clinical and psychological treatment as is recommended by a qualified clinician employed or retained by the prison.'
The prosecutors were also willing to give another assurance they refused to test at trial. Assange would be allowed to avail himself of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in brokering a prisoner transfer to Australia.
The DoJ would give their consent to any such arrangement.
Assange’s defence lawyers were clearly sceptical about the prosecution’s motives:
'They had every opportunity to offer such an assurance at the extradition hearing, since the relevant Council of Europe treaty has been in operation for many years.'
Any such proceeding pursuant to the treaty, in any case:
'... could not take place until the conclusion of the trial and all appellate processes, which are obviously likely to be very prolonged.'
As this was taking place, the publisher would face conditions of isolation 'in an alien and hostile environment far from his family'.
The prosecutors further sought to weaken Judge Baraitser’s judgment by again targeting the testimony of Professor Michael Kopelman, whose evidence they had attempted to discredit with almost manic enthusiasm.
That less than noble effort involved claiming that Assange “had a strong incentive to feign or exaggerate his symptoms” aided by his consultation of “scientific journals”. The prosecution also accused Kopelman being partial to Assange, having deliberately concealed 'information that he had been told about Mr Assange’s partner Stella Moris and their children'.
Judge Baraitser conceded in her judgment that the concealment was:
'... misleading and inappropriate in the context of his obligations to the court, but an understandable human response.'
She accepted Professor Kopelman’s view that:
'Assange suffers from recurrent depressive disorder, which was severe in December 2019 and sometimes accompanied by psychotic features [hallucinations], often with ruminative suicidal ideas.'
The defence countered in their submission against the appealing prosecutors that Baraitser had not erred in law in concluding that Assange’s “suicidal impulses” would stem from his “psychiatric condition” and would not be the result of “his own voluntary act”.
The “attack” on Kopelman also failed to:
'... recognise the entitlement of the primary decision-maker to reach her own decision on the weight to be attached to the expert evidence of the defence on the one hand and the prosecution experts on the other.'
In a statement in response to the High Court decision, Moris recalled the miscellany of glaring defects in the case against her partner: the fabricated testimony of lead DoJ witness Sigurdur Thordarson; nefarious suggestions that Assange be assassinated by U.S. agents; surveillance of his legal team and the theft of legal documents; and, for good measure, threats against the family.
'The case is rotten to the core, and nothing that the U.S. Government can say about his future treatment is worth the paper it is written on.'
Moris’s reference to Thordarson is important since it forms an important part of the prosecution case claiming that Assange was more a hacker than a journalist and inclined to recruit people to that cause with an ideologue’s enthusiasm.
The argument is designed to neutralise any protections the publisher might have under the free speech amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The indictment alleges that Assange, in early 2010 and while in contact with Chelsea Manning for reasons of obtaining 'classified information … met a 17-year old ... who provided [him] with data stolen from a bank'.
The indictment asserts that Assange asked the teenager in question:
'... to commit computer intrusions and steal additional information, including audio recordings of phone conversations between high-ranking officials of the Government of NATO Country-1, including members of the Parliament of NATO Country-1.'
Monsegur, posing as a member of the hacking outfit LulzSec, had turned informant. With his touted links to WikiLeaks and Assange, the FBI sought the teenager’s services. Thordarson had never been much more than a volunteer with the mundane task of raising revenue for WikiLeaks, though he left an enduring mark by embezzling over $50,000 from the organisation’s coffers.
In an interview with the Icelandic biweekly Stundin last month, the witness who has had an inglorious record of fraud, embezzlement and abusing minors revealed that 'that Assange never asked him to hack or to access phone recordings of MPs'.
Thordarson now insists that he had:
'... received some files from a third party who claimed to have recorded MPs and had offered to share them with Assange without having any idea what they actually contained.'
He never went through the files, nor verified whether they had audio recordings as claimed by the third-party source. The allegation that Assange instructed him to access computers in order to find such recordings was also dismissed.
Despite all this, the sham theatre of British justice continues. Assange, his health fragile, remains locked up in Belmarsh prison, all previous bail applications refused. Despite January’s ruling against extradition, the Biden Administration is still keen to get their man.
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