Report by Joe Brack, EF Press, photos by Joe Brack and Alison Mason
Arriving at the Court around 8.30am a posse of press were gathered around the side goods entrance (human cargo only) and a long queue snaked from the main entrance. I was heartened to see so much support for Julian Assange but disappointed to find out that the majority were there to report on the recent Reading stabbing suspect’s appearance directly after Julian Assange and in the same courtroom.
4 JADC members and supporters were allowed in and 14 press were divided between the court and the public gallery. Half of the press claimed an interest but were seat-warming for the next case, thus denying genuine press and public access. After much kerfuffle with the telephone link to defence lawyer, Mark Summers, the hearing started 15 mins late, with Ms Iverson of the CPS representing US interests and Judge Baraitser on the bench.
Summers raised the issue of the new superseding indictment from the US, having learned about it from the press without having receipt or notice. This seriously compromises the defence’s ability to comply with submission dates and already agreed deadlines. He was ‘surprised’ at this method of communication without receiving a rational explanation from Baraitser or any censure of the US prosecutors using the press rather than emailing the defence.
Mark Summers raised the issue of the new indictments and Baraitser responded that she had received an email from US prosecutors but not the actual indictment. Then the discussion was turned to the 10th of July as the day for final submissions for the defence. It was unclear what the exact response and nature of her ruling.”
In the related Official WikiLeaks Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign press release, WikiLeaks Editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said:
‘A superseding indictment is supposed to do what it says on the tin, it’s supposed to replace the existing indictment’, said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, ’But the US have no new charges to bring, and they can’t even be bothered to send the court or the defence team the document. That just shows this is a glorified press release and not a new indictment at all.’ Hrafnsson continued ‘This shows how they are abusing due process in the UK and flaunting the legal system’s rules’.
Outside the court solidarity activists raised their voices to defend Julian Assange from this latest assault.
She states that the arrangements are proportionate and satisfied this is a hearing in open court, reminding us it is a criminal offence to record or transmit any part of the hearing. Questioning begins of Mark Summers as to Julian’s ‘refusal’ to attend via video link due to his current condition. Staff at HMP belmarsh emailed Baraitser claiming he isn’t unwell, refused to attend and would not sign a refusal form. The court needs to be satisfied that non-attendance is due to ill health and by implication not a defence tactic to garner sympathy and attention.
Baraitser turned her attention to the venue for the full trial 7 Sept 2020 suggesting the Central Criminal Court, the Old Baily, may be available, but unable to confirm at this time. Historically the Chief Magistrate would have ‘Bow Street runners’ operating from the Old Bailey, a precursor of the Met Police, to enforce warrants and judgments. Fitting for our current Chief Magistrate Lady Arbuthnot’s extradition plans for Julian.
The date is set for the next case management hearing 10am Monday 27 July 2020 as Baraitser demands that Julian appears via the video link unless she receives evidence of his incapacity to attend. I suggest she visit HMP Belmarsh to check for herself, because you just can’t get the (Serco) prison staff now days.
Another short hearing that failed to address the issues raised by the defence in any equitable manner and further evidences the US prosecutors underhand and illegal due process, more concerned with a propaganda war than a genuine extradition. Outside the court Dr Deepa Driver commented, ‘We must be very conscious that Julian has consistently been stitched up in the British Legal system and it is very, very important that the Rule of Law is upheld. that judges who have conflicts of interests are not allowed to be on this case.’ Wikileaks editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson observed, ‘This underlines what we have seen before, a total disregard for the due legal process in the case. It also shows the contempt, the disregard the US has for the British Justice system’
Unfortunately the US Department of Justice, William Barr, CPS, FCO and Judge Baraitser remain convinced that Julian Assange is not only culpable for Espionage, but also computer intrusion and being internet buddy with Anonymous. If the UK media only showed half the interest in freedom of speech and the Assange case as they do on the Reading stabbing arraignment they may be able to dispell the increasing clamour that they are State propagandists writ large in the Borough of Westminster today and the UK the rest of the time.
Joe Brack EF Press