Julian Assange too ill to attend as court hears claim of ‘breathtaking’ plot to poison him

Julian Assange too ill to attend as court hears claim of ‘breathtaking’ plot to poison him

Outside, supporters chanted his title and held placards bearing his face, whereas inside, legal professionals informed the overflowing courtroom of a “truly breathtaking” plot to poison him.

But Julian Assange wasn’t there to witness any of it.

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The Australian didn’t seem as his last-ditch try to keep away from extradition from Britain to the United States bought underway Tuesday at London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

Mr Assange — who’s being held throughout city at HM Prison Belmarsh, and faces a slew of espionage prices in America — had been given permission to attend the listening to in individual.

However, when proceedings started, his barrister Edward Fitzgerald KC informed the court the WikiLeaks founder was too ill to come, and even pay attention in by way of video hyperlink from jail.

Mr Assange’s spouse, Stella, final week described the 52-year-old’s well being as “in decline, physically and mentally”.

Outside court, Rebecca Vincent, a director at Reporters Without Borders, mentioned she was “concerned” by Mr Assange’s incapacity to seem in court, and that when she final noticed him in jail on January 16, he was “unwell and in pain”.

A woman sitting on a chair surrounded by ribbons
Julian Assange’s spouse, Stella, exterior the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday.(ABC News: Adrian Wilson)

His authorized choices within the UK are operating out.

Mr Assange, 52, is asking the High Court of England and Wales permission to attraction a choice that will see him handed to American authorities.

He is dealing with extradition to the US, the place he has been charged with 18 legal offences, together with acquiring, receiving and disclosing categorized data.

The prices relate to materials printed on Mr Assange’s WikiLeaks web site in 2010.

That data — given to him by soldier-turned-whistleblower Chelsea Manning — detailed proof of, amongst different issues, conflict crimes dedicated by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Assange was residing within the United Kingdom on the time of publication, and this listening to represents his closing authorized avenue in that jurisdiction to keep away from the extradition.

If he’s profitable, he’ll stay in custody whereas the High Court hears an attraction at a later date.

If he isn’t, Mr Assange might try to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights — though legally, it could be potential for British authorities to ship him to the US earlier than that.

He might face 175 years in custody if convicted on the fees in America.

A large crowd of people holding signs with supportive slogans of Julian Assange
A big crowd might be seen exterior the Royal Courts of Justice in London earlier than Julian Assange’s attraction software started.(ABC News: Adrian Wilson)

‘Murderous sketches and plans’

Mr Fitzgerald KC on Tuesday informed the court all the knowledge his shopper had printed was within the public curiosity and that the offences Mr Assange had been charged with have been political, one thing that will make him exempt from extradition below the treaty that exists between the UK and US.

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He mentioned Mr Assange had successfully develop into the “spokesperson for a global political movement against the United States”, which amounted to being “almost like an opposition party”.

Mr Fitzgerald informed the court the “revelations” Mr Assange had printed modified authorities coverage within the US.

The court heard arguments from Mr Assange’s authorized staff on Tuesday, earlier than legal professionals for the US state their case on Wednesday.

A woman with a sticker on her forehead and mask showing a man's face strung around her neck looks at the camera
A lady exterior the Royal Courts of Justice, in London on Tuesday morning.(ABC News: Adrian Wilson)

Another of Mr Assange’s barristers, Mark Summers KC, took intention on the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates Court, who had in 2021 thrown out most of his authorized staff’s makes an attempt to block the extradition.

Mr Summers KC on Tuesday informed the court there have been a number of “red flags” the earlier choose ought to have thought of, together with a “truly breathtaking” CIA plot to poison or kidnap his shopper.

The barrister identified that, whereas the plan was introduced as proof on the time of Mr Assange’s listening to in January 2021, extra particulars had emerged in a information story printed by Yahoo later that 12 months.

“Whatever her reasons for not considering the evidence of the plot to kidnap or poison the defendant, there is compelling evidence now in existence that the plot was real,” Mr Summers KC informed the court.

The lawyer informed the court that the information story had detailed how “murderous sketches, plans and options” have been requested by, and introduced to, then-US president Donald Trump in 2017.

“This extraordinary plan only fell away when the UK authorities weren’t terribly keen on renditions or the potential for a shootout in the streets of London,” he mentioned.

Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo has beforehand denied there was a plan to kidnap or poison Mr Assange.

A large crowd of people holding signs with supportive slogans of Julian Assange
Julian Assange had a lot of help exterior the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand.(ABC News: Adrian Wilson)

Mr Assange has been behind bars since April 2019 when London’s Metropolitan Police arrested him contained in the Embassy of Ecuador, on Kings Cross Road, the place he had resided for nearly seven years whereas claiming political asylum.

His authorized staff argue the US Espionage Act 1917, below which 17 of Mr Assange’s 18 prices fall, has by no means been used to prosecute publishers earlier than.

They additionally argue extraditing Mr Assange, who is just not an American citizen and was not residing or working within the US on the time of the alleged offences, would signify an unbridled extension of Washington’s judicial attain.

A man speaking from a balcony, with a large media contingent below

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes some extent to reporters in London in 2017.(Reuters: Neil Hall)

Outside court, Stella Assange described her husband as a political prisoner whose life was in danger.

“He should never be extradited to the United States,” she mentioned.

“He would never be safe. The United States plotted to murder my husband.”

The Australian authorities and opposition are each towards the extradition, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese final week telling federal parliament he needed the method resolved “amicably”.

Manning was launched from custody in 2017 after having her 35-year jail sentence commuted to seven years by then-US President Barack Obama.

The listening to continues.

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