U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange with 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse for WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, although Lewis said “the longest sentence ever for this offense is 63 months.”
Lewis said U.S. authorities had promised that Assange would not be detained before his trial in a high-security “Supermax” prison or subject to strict solitary confinement, and if convicted, he would be allowed to serving his sentence in Australia. Lewis said the insurance “is binding on the United States.”
“Once there is assurance of proper medical care, once it is clear that he will be repatriated to Australia to serve a sentence there, then we can safely say that the District Judge does would not have decided the relevant question as it did, ”he said. noted.
The United States also claims that a key defense witness, neuropsychiatrist Michael Kopelman, misled the previous judge by failing to mention that Stella Moris, a member of the WikiLeaks legal team, was also a partner of Assange and had two children with him. Lewis said the information was “a very relevant factor in the question of the likelihood of suicide.”
Assange’s attorney, Edward Fitzgerald, accused US lawyers of seeking to “downplay the severity of Mr. Assange’s mental disorder and suicide risk.”
Fitzgerald said in a written submission that Australia has yet to agree to take Assange if he is convicted. Even if Australia agreed, Fitzgerald said the US legal process could take a decade, “during which time Mr. Assange will remain held in extreme solitary confinement in a US prison”.
Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, was scheduled to attend the two-day hearing via video link, but Fitzgerald said Assange had been given a heavy dose of the drugs and “doesn’t feel able to. to attend. ”
Assange later appeared on the video link at times, sitting at a table in a prison room wearing a black face mask.
Since WikiLeaks began publishing classified material over a decade ago, Assange has become a hot figure. Some see him as a dangerous secret diver who put the lives of informants at risk, and others who have aided the United States in war zones. Others say WikiLeaks has exposed official wrongdoing that governments would like to keep a secret.
U.S. prosecutors claim Assange illegally aided U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing diplomatic cables and classified military files that WikiLeaks later released. Lawyers for Assange argue that he was acting as a journalist and that he is entitled to First Amendment free speech protections for publishing materials exposing the misdeeds of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Several dozen pro-Assange protesters staged a noisy rally outside London’s neo-Gothic royal courts on Wednesday, calling the accusation politically motivated. They urged US President Joe Biden to drop the legal proceedings, which were started under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Among the protesters was Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who said Assange’s case “concerns our society, our freedom of speech, our individual human rights and we need to watch the government.”
WikiLeaks supporters say witness testimony at the extradition hearing that Assange was spied on while at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by a Spanish security firm at the behest of the CIA – and that there has even been talk of kidnapping or killing him – undermines U.S. claims that it will. be treated fairly.
The two judges on the appeal – one is England’s longest-serving judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett – are not expected to deliver their decision for several weeks. The losing party could appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
Assange, 50, has been in jail since his arrest in April 2019 for ignoring bail in a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years locked in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden dropped sex crime investigations in November 2019 because a lot of time had passed. The judge who blocked the extradition in January ordered that he must remain in detention during any American appeal, saying that the Australian citizen “had better run away” if released.
Outside the court, Moris said it was “totally unthinkable that British courts could accept” the extradition.
“I hope the courts will put an end to this nightmare, that Julian can return home soon and the wise men prevail,” she said.