Attempt to extradite Assange represents ‘an assault on journalistic rights’, says his defence lawyer

Westminster Magistrates Court Julian Assange Hearing 14 June 2019
Support us and go ad-free

The author attended Julian Assange’s extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Julian Assange’s arrest and potential extradition to the US represents an “assault on journalistic rights” and on “principles of free speech”, his defence lawyer told Westminster Magistrates’ Court (MC) on 14 June 2019. Mark Summers QC was explaining why it was not practical for judge Emma Arbuthnot to decide on Assange’s extradition case this year.

A complex case involving a “multiplicity of profound issues”

Most attendees expected the substantive issues to start being discussed on 14 June. But unexpectedly, Arbuthnot agreed to list the publisher’s substantive extradition hearing for the week starting 24 February 2020. The chief magistrate’s decision followed an agreement between the legal representatives for both parties. But Summers stressed that even the current deadline “of service of defence evidence” was “if anything… a conservative estimate” because this is an “important and complicated case” involving a “multiplicity of profound issues”.

An isolated client

Summers also highlighted that the incredibly difficult circumstances Assange is facing made preparing his defence far more difficult. He said that prison authorities were denying Assange any access to a computer. He was also not allowed to handle papers, and his lawyers had to post all documents to their client in Belmarsh prison. Assange had yet to even see the indictment which Summers said wouldn’t arrive until the following week. Summers also told the judge that they were challenging Assange’s conviction for skipping bail.

Lauri Love: I was on bail during my case but it was still ‘horrific’

Technologist Lauri Love, who successfully avoided extradition to the US amid hacking allegations, told The Canary that:

I was on bail. I could organise, I could see my lawyers and I could talk to them whenever I wanted. And even then it was physically, emotionally, and spiritually horrific. And I am still carrying the traces of that trauma – so it would be immeasurably worse for Julian… [who] is in the hospital wing because his health is so poor.

Assange: Neither I, nor WikiLeaks, nor Chelsea Manning hacked anything

At the end of the hearing, Assange asked the court whether US authorities were alleging that he “hacked” any computers. Assange spoke via video link from Belmarsh. The co-founder of WikiLeaks noted that “there has been quite a lot of false reportage” regarding his case. So he wanted to:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

clarify there is no allegation that I hacked anything or that WikiLeaks hacked anything.

Assange: ‘WikiLeaks isn’t anything but a publisher’

He continued by saying that he didn’t “want to accuse the US government of trying to mislead the press”. But he also didn’t want anyone to be ‘fooled’ into “believing that WikiLeaks is anything but a publisher”. There is one charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” on the US indictment. However, there is no charge that either Assange, whistleblower Chelsea Manning, or Wikileaks actually “hacked” into any computers.

The judge concluded by saying that “no doubt the press will accurately report what has been said today”. Her comments were met by some low-level grumblings from the public gallery.

Featured image via Mohamed Elmaazi

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us