A case management hearing was held this morning in London for imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who appeared via video link Belmarsh prison. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser confirmed that Assange’s full extradition hearing will begin on 24 February 2020, but it will now take place over three or four weeks rather than the initially scheduled five days.
Assange’s defense team outlined the main arguments it will make and witnesses it will call at the full hearing in February. Lawyers announced they will argue that the US-UK Extradition Treaty should not allow Assange’s extradition because it includes an exemption for political offenses.
“We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offence and these offences as framed and in substance are political offences,” Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told the court.
The defense will also include evidence of prejudicial statements from US government officials against Assange, along with information resulting from Chelsea Manning’s US court martial.
Barry Pollack, representing Assange in the United States, said,
“Mr. Assange’s legal team today previewed the powerful reasons he should not be extradited to the United States to face prosecution under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful, newsworthy information that exposed wrongdoing by the United States government.”
Assange’s legal team will present evidence medical evidence as well. Assange’s deteriorating health conditions, particularly since entering solitary confinement on the health ward at Belmarsh, have been of ongoing concern. Following a medical visit in May, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer wrote that Assange was suffering from psychological torture. Last month, more than 60 doctors signed an open letter calling on Belmarsh to release Assange to receive proper medical care immediately, warning he could die in prison without adequate treatment.
Finally, Assange’s defense will include evidence from the Spanish investigation into the surveillance of UC Global, a private security company which spied on Assange’s legal, medical, and personal visits in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and sent recorded material to the CIA.
UC Global director David Morales has been arrested in Spain in connection with the illegal surveillance,