Report by Maxine Walker
Having refused bail in March, in April Judge Vanessa Baraitser declared that the extradition hearing would go ahead in May. An absurd decision given the virus, the defence inability to prepare with JA, the risks to his health and the fact that few would be able to attend to observe or provide testimony at the trial.
She also refused to grant anonymity to JA’s partner and children.
Clearly someone then told her that her decision to go ahead with the hearing in May, would give grounds for judicial review or appeal.
By 4 May therefore she agreed to postponing the start of the hearing. This will now start on 7 September. The venue is not confirmed and we should not assume that it will be in London.
Given the unknowns about whether the pandemic having a second or even third wave, the same difficulties may well arise again. In the meantime JA remains in the charnel house of the prison system. He was also excluded from the Early Release programme, though this in fact never materialised. Instead the Government has chosen to rely on locking up prisoners for 23 and a half hours a day, no visitors or normal activities and a ‘temporary’ expansion in capacity, including 500 converted shipping containers to create more single cells.
There is an obvious problem with this. It is inconceivable to keep the mass of prisoners locked up solitary confinement for a prolonged period. Mental health issues, suicide and self-harm are likely to result. And yet there is no plan B that would allow relaxation of the regime. That ship sailed when the Early Release programme did not take place.
As Stella Morris has said:
Covid does not make solitary confinement acceptable. Julian has been kept in a single cell for +23h/day for over eight weeks now with no visits. Lives will be lost to suicide if not to the virus. Prolonged solitary confinement is torture.
Without bail or other form of release, JA’s life remains in grave danger. He has been unable to attend the past three hearings at Westminster Magistrates Court due to ill health and has been unable to use the prison’s video facilities due to risk of infection.
At 20 May, 21 prisoners in England/Wales and 7 prison staff have died after contracting Covid-19. Highest numbers of prisoners testing positive are in Midlands jails (90) and in Wales (80). Some 3000 prison and probation staff have been referred for testing. These are Ministry of Justice figures and who knows how they are calculating them.
On 4 May the protest outside court by JADC was dispersed by police. They appeared to be a mixture of regular Metropolitan Police Officers and Specialist Operations (essentially anti-terrorist/ airport security). One of our JADC members Derek has written to Liberty to ask for their advice on this – a disproportionate response to a peaceful protest. If they do not reply soon we should find somewhere else to refer this to. It is important to check rights on this as the regulations restricting assembly may remain in force for up to 2 years.
Please read Max Blumenthal’s piece at the Grayzone on Embassy spying programme and circulate it as far and wise as possible:
In it the extent of CIA spying on Julian Assange at the embassy is further revealed and the role of US billionaire Sheldon Adelson in financing the operation as well as acting as a cut out for the CIA is further documented, together with the names of two of his employees involved in the operation.
Please watch Glenn Greenwald’s excellent exposition of what the case is about, patiently explains facts and points out that the normally fanatically anti-Trump liberals/left should not support the extradition.
To the WikiLeaks supporters who stood witness to the Ecuadorian Embassy siege for years, the involvement of UK intelligence agencies and Metropolitan Police in the CIA led operation against Julian Assange is a fact. That is why any current legal proceedings regarding extradition at UK Courts under the supervision of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, an individual linked to the UK Intelligence and Security establishment through her husband and son, is a complete travesty of justice. We continue in our Journey of support of the WikiLeaks publisher, witnessing documenting events and organising actions in his defence.
For a more detailed account of the developments in the Julian Assange cae and the campaigning to free him please visit the brilliant blog maintained by The Courage Foundation. You will find a fully referenced day to day account from the denial of bail on 25th of March to links of all the amazing webinars organised by The Courage Foundation, The Official Don’t Extradite Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and The Free The Truth Webinars organised by Deepa Driver and Iain Munro that JADC supports. here is one from the 11th of April, Enjoy!