Report by Angie
Demands for greater public access from Julian Assange supporters to officials at Westminster Magistrates Court, were granted today.
Steadfast members of the Julian Assange Defence Committee (JADC) and like-minded supporters, have been requesting a courtroom that would accommodate 40 members of the public, rather than 13, to witness the preliminary trial hearings of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, prior to the start of his extradition hearing to the USA on charges of espionage which could see him imprisoned for 175 years. After queuing to enter the court for several hours, followers were greeted with the unexpected last minute change in courtroom.
Once inside the public gallery well-wishers, including the rapper and visual artist, MIA, offered the beleaguered detainee a raised clenched fist from the public gallery. Mr Assange replied with a grateful salute in acknowledgement of supporter’s enduring loyalty. Mr Assange is currently imprisoned on remand in the notorious maximum security prison in south London, HMP Belmarsh,
A barely audible Mr Assange stated his name and date birth. There has been considerable concern expressed about his physical and mental deterioration in Belmarsh Prison where he is restricted to his cell for 22 hours a day in the Healthcare wing. Visitors have included Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.
Following the failure of the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to reply to a letter of concern signed by over 60 doctors from around the world in November 2019, demanding his transfer to a university teaching hospital for treatment, they are now awaiting a reply from the their complaint to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland on the 05.12.19. “In our opinion the UK government’s conduct in this matter is irresponsible, incompatible with medical ethics and unworthy of a democratic society bound by the rule of law. We reiterate our grave concern that Mr Assange could die of deliberate medical negligence in a British prison and demand an urgent response from the UK government.”.
Mr Assange’s lawyers have repeatedly complained they have not been granted sufficient time by Belmarsh Prison to meet with him to prepare his case, amounting to a breach of their client’s rights. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser was informed today by Gareth Pierce, Mr Assange’s barrister, that they had only managed to meet with him for 2 hours on Friday 10.01.20 at HMP Belmarsh.
While Judge Baraitser did not directly comment on the Governor of the Prison’s failure to ensure Mr Assange’s legal rights were being met, in recognition of the situation, she offered some accommodation. First she arranged for the case to be rescheduled later in the afternoon once Mr Assange’s legal team ‘indicated to this court that you have concluded such matters as you were able to manage.’ and secondly she announced that the case hearing would be postponed until the 23.01.20.
On leaving the court, rapper MIA shared the news with demonstrators and the media that she was to be presented with a medal by the Queen at Buckingham Palace tomorrow. She said ‘It was very important for me to turn up this morning because tomorrow I’m going to be meeting the Queen and I wanted to hear what you guys wanted to get me to say to her.’ She was immediately interrupted with cries of ‘Free Julian Assange’. She smiled and promised to ‘relay your message to Her Majesty’.
You can find a good reporting of the day’s proceedings over at wsws in their article “Julian Assange attends procedural hearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court” By Thomas Scripps who attended the court hearing.
Over at Breibart there is a large selections of interviews from supporters who attended the hearing: https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2020/01/15/exclusive-video-interviews-with-protestors-at-julian-assange-hearing/