Julian Assange has appeared in court via video-link for the first time in three months, where his lawyers argued that a new US indictment against the WikiLeaks founder is being used for political purposes.
The journalist’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald warned Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Monday that US Attorney General William Barr may be using the case for “political reasons,” and that a new indictment against Assange has the “potential consequence of derailing proceedings.”
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The WikiLeaks founder is currently fighting extradition to the US, where he faces charges of violating the US Espionage Act and conspiring to “commit computer intrusion” for allegedly trying to help army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
The US Justice Department issued a superseding indictment against Assange in June, which it said broadens the “scope of the conspiracy,” and also accused Assange of recruiting Anonymous hackers.
Fitzgerald said that the indictment had been “sprung on” Assange’s defense team, and could result in the hearing being postponed until after the US presidential election in November.
Fitzgerald says it would be improper if the new indictment would postpone the hearing until after the November election in the US.”If it’s going to happen, if they are going to mount a fresh request and drop the existing request, can it happen as soon as possible.”
— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) July 27, 2020
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that, because the superseding indictment hasn’t been served to the court, no directions can be made. She said that today is the deadline for any further evidence from the prosecution before the extradition hearing, apart from psychiatric reports.
After a long delay, Assange appeared via video-link and was reported to look tired. He has been imprisoned in Belmarsh for over a year. His partner Stella Morris tweeted that she hasn’t seen him in 17 weeks, and that he has not been given a mask in prison. She said that the prison guards don’t wear them either.
Julian Assange is wearing a beige sweater with a pink shirt.