This Thursday, October 28, defense lawyers warned of the risk of suicide of Julian Assange if he is extradited to the United States. Judges at the High Court in London are being asked to say whether they uphold or overturn the refusal to extradite the 50-year-old Australian.
The judges of the High Court in London are called upon to say whether they confirm or cancel the refusal to extradite Julian Assange, who faces 175 years in prison in the United States for having made public hundreds of thousands of classified documents. The defense of the 50-year-old Australian insisted this Thursday, October 28 on the risk of suicide of the founder of WikiLeaks in the event of extradition to the United States, despite assurances from Washington on the fate which would then be reserved for him.
Their decision is not expected for several weeks. “You have given us a lot of food for thought and we will take our time,” said Judge Ian Burnett, who was in charge of the case with another senior magistrate, after two days of hearings, without giving a date. Whatever it is, it is very unlikely that the decision will mark the epilogue of this long-term legal standoff.
“Alcatraz of the Rockies”
If the United States wins the case, the January decision will be overturned and British justice will once again have to decide. And whoever loses, they have the option of applying to the UK Supreme Court. On Thursday, the Wikileaks founder’s lawyers highlighted the risk of Julian Assange’s suicide if he were handed over to the United States, a risk which had explained the rejection of the extradition request by Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January .
They insisted on Washington’s assurances that Julian Assange would not be incarcerated at the dreaded ADX Florence Prison, Colorado, dubbed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”, and where members are held in near total solitary confinement. of al-Qaeda. Diplomatic assurances which are “a solemn matter”, underlined Thursday the lawyer representing the United States, James Lewis, “we do not distribute them like Smarties”. To support her decision, Judge Vanessa Baraitser notably highlighted the inability of this country to prevent the suicide of American financier Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sex trafficking of minors.
“These findings stem primarily from the nature of Mr. Assange’s mental disorder and his fear of being extradited given the exceptional nature of his case,” said Wikileaks founder Edward Fitzgerald’s lawyer. “There is no indication that these factors have changed in any way with these assurances,” he said.
Julian Assange refused to appear on Thursday, after participating on Wednesday from the high security prison of Belmarsh, where he has been detained for two and a half years, in part of the debates by videoconference. He was arrested by British police in April 2019 after spending seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had taken refuge while out on bail. He feared extradition to the United States or Sweden, where he faced rape charges, since dropped.
He is being prosecuted for having disseminated, from 2010, more than 700,000 classified documents on American military and diplomatic activities, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the lawyer representing the American government James Lewis assured that Julian Assange had “no history of serious and lasting mental illness”, ensuring that even the experts appointed by his defense found him only “moderately depressed”.
He claimed the Australian had “every reason to exaggerate his symptoms” and warned against a decision based on predictions made in a “crystal ball” about his fate if extradited. He also insisted that psychiatrist Michael Kopelman deceived justice by ‘covering up’ the fact that his client had become a father of two children with his lawyer Stella Moris while he was cloistered at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
According to Julian Assange’s lawyer, the assurances provided by the United States do not exclude his incarceration in a very high security prison in the United States and there is “no reliable basis” to overturn the refusal of extradition . There is “a great risk of suicide whatever the measures”, he argued, explaining that “no error of law has been identified” in Judge Baraitser’s approach.