Day four of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing saw lawyers discussing whether international law supersedes English law and a dramatic rejection by the judge of a simple request for Assange to be allowed to sit with his lawyers.
Snowy and wet weather didn’t deter the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters who gathered outside the Woolwich Crown Court and could again be heard inside the courtroom itself.
It was expected that the day would begin with Judge Vanessa Baraitser considering an application by the defense for Assange to sit on the benches with his lawyers, rather than in the glass-fronted dock where he has been so far, flanked by security guards, and unable to communicate with his team or hear proceedings properly.
Instead, however, the court offered Assange headphones to help him hear. He took the headset and Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defense said they would “give it a try” but he would need to be “glued to the mic” to ensure Assange could hear him and it may not be a proper solution.
It was not the last that was heard of the issue, which blew up dramatically later in the day.
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Legal arguments kicked off with James Lewis QC for the prosecution rehashing points made on Wednesday that English law contains no exception to extradition for “political offenses” and that this trumps international law. On the contrary, the defense has argued that a 2003 US-UK extradition treaty (along with a slew of other treaties and international conventions), do prevent extradition for political offenses — and that this is more relevant.
Lewis argued that Fitzgerald was trying to introduce an exception through the “backdoor” and subverting the intention of parliament. He also argued that “political offenses” would need to mean Assange explicitly aimed to overthrow the US government or incite a change in policy — and said it was not clear that this was the whistleblower’s goal when he leaked information.
Lewis also reiterated his argument from Monday’s hearing that Assange was not being prosecuted for leaking information to the media,