Julian Assange has appeared in court via video-link for the first time in three months, where his lawyers argued that a new US indictment against the WikiLeaks founder is being used for political purposes.
The journalist’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald warned Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Monday that US Attorney General William Barr may be using the case for “political reasons,” and that a new indictment against Assange has the “potential consequence of derailing proceedings.”
The WikiLeaks founder is currently fighting extradition to the US, where he faces charges of violating the US Espionage Act and conspiring to “commit computer intrusion” for allegedly trying to help army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
The US Justice Department issued a superseding indictment against Assange in June, which it said broadens the “scope of the conspiracy,” and also accused Assange of recruiting Anonymous hackers.
Fitzgerald said that the indictment had been “sprung on” Assange’s defense team, and could result in the hearing being postponed until after the US presidential election in November.
Fitzgerald says it would be improper if the new indictment would postpone the hearing until after the November election in the US.”If it’s going to happen, if they are going to mount a fresh request and drop the existing request, can it happen as soon as possible.”
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that, because the superseding indictment hasn’t been served to the court, no directions can be made. She said that today is the deadline for any further evidence from the prosecution before the extradition hearing, apart from psychiatric reports.
After a long delay, Assange appeared via video-link and was reported to look tired. He has been imprisoned in Belmarsh for over a year. His partner Stella Morris tweeted that she hasn’t seen him in 17 weeks, and that he has not been given a mask in prison. She said that the prison guards don’t wear them either.
Julian Assange is wearing a beige sweater with a pink shirt. He seems to had some sort of headphones or headband on his head.He’s slouching and he looks pretty tired.
“What the US is doing is truly unprecedented,” WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said of the indictment being “introduced halfway into extradition proceedings.”
“All the alleged events have been known to the prosecution for years,” he said. “What’s really happening here is that despite its decade-long head-start, the prosecution are still unable to build a coherent and credible case.”
The extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on September 7 at the Old Bailey, and Assange is expected to be there in person. He is due to appear at another hearing on August 14.
The war logs and cables leaked by Manning and published by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed potential US war crimes and shocking details about both its foreign policy and civilian casualties.
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