USA v Julian Assange: Extradition Day 1
- See here for overview and background on Julian Assange’s extradition hearing
- See the US indictment against Julian Assange here
- See Assange’s defense team’s opening argument here
- See photos of the prosecution’s skeleton argument here
Julian Assange’s full extradition hearing began today at Woolwich Crown Court at Belmarsh with the prosecution pleading for the media to stop characterizing the US effort as a politicized war on journalism, and it ended with Assange’s defense providing a comprehensive summary of the many reasons that journalists, human rights activists, and defenders of a free press have been sounding the alarm.
Assange, appearing thin in a grey suit, sat alone behind glass behind both legal benches, taking notes. Early in the proceedings, he looked up to the public gallery and raised a fist.
James Lewis QC, arguing for the Crown Prosecutorial Service, which acts on behalf of the United States in its extradition request, explicitly asked journalists covering the case not to report on it as a matter of free speech or the right to publish. Lewis worked continuously to narrow both the defense’s arguments and the judge’s focus, portraying the indictment as solely a matter of exposing informants in the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables.
In the afternoon, defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC laid out in detail the ways in which the extradition proceedings constitute an abuse of process, because they have been brought for ulterior political purposes, as an attack on freedom of speech, and fundamentally misrepresent the facts in order to extradite Assange to the US, where he faces torture, unusual and degrading treatment.
CPS Makes Dramatic Claims, Without Evidence
The CPS made dramatic claims of damage to the United States’ interests around the world, claiming that the unredacted publications put local informants at risk. But when it came time to detail that damage, the prosecutor ultimately had to admit that the US government has not been able to prove any deaths have resulted from WikiLeaks’ publications.
The prosecution then spent the rest of the morning recounting each charge, repeatedly claiming that Assange “aided and abetted” Chelsea Manning’s procurement of classified cables for the purposes of publishing.