The completion of the US Extradition Hearing of Julian Assange at Magistrates level is yet to come with closing arguments for the Defence and Prosecution yet to be submitted and a decision by Judge Baraitser (supervising Judge Emma Arbuthnot) to be handed out 4th of January 2021.
He remains a remand prisoner at HMP Belmarsh and has to be presented roughly every 28 days in front of a judge to confirm his detention. These regular court hearings take place at Westminster Magistrate’s Court that handles all extradition cases in the region. Julian Assange appears via video link from prison. Audio access is offered to a small number of interested parties pre-approved by the judge. These short hearings offer the opportunity to discuss in court case management issues. The hearings are held in small court rooms with limited accessibility to the press or the public. Covid social distancing rules have imposed more restrictions. For the hearing Resident public liaison Constable Geary informed me that Court number three could this time accommodate 3 members of the press and six members of the public. It also gives the opportunity to supporters to show their solidarity by gathering outside the court to protest his prosecution and persecution.
Judge Baraitser removed audio access to all NGO’s that have been monitoring the case with a ruling in September. As a result Rebecca Vincent of Reporters without Borders turned up at court to secure a space in the public gallery. This is what she had to say when she came out of the hearing: “We are the only NGO that is putting up this fight. We continue to call for Assange’s release, that the charges against him to be dropped and for him to certainly not be extradited to the United States” John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father said: “There is an application from the defence to extend the 4 weeks given for submitting the final submissions for one week to 5 weeks. The reason for this is the jail has delayed in giving Julian the laptop which contains the submissions for Julian to review. It looks like judge Baraiter will agree to one week extension. I’ll let you know by and by the decision has not yet been made.” The presiding judge during the hearing was District Judge Tan Ikram.
Outside the Court more than 35 supporters gathered in solidarity with Julian Assange. Flyers were distributed to passers by, Banners and posters were held, a speech by Maxine Walker was read out and our ‘beep to free Assange’ banner and posters had drivers keeping our ears indulged with their solidarity beeps. The protest was socially distanced throughout following covid social distancing guidelines and our risk assessment, with a very short gathering at the end where most of us gathered to take a group photo and chant together.
Special Thanks to Ruptly, LetmelookTV and many other independent journalists like Tareq Haddad and Mohamed El Maazi who covered the case, joined us, took photos and shared our message on social media. The Daily Mail was the only UK Newspaper to report on the case hearing with a quote on Edward Fiztgerald :
This is just a caller over, we are in contact with Judge Baraitser about the timetable. I think that she is dealing with that. ‘On behalf of Mr Assange there are no submissions.’”
We shall return to Court both inside and outside on the 26th of November 2020.
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