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Press Release

Covid risk for Julian Assange at next court hearing

28. 05. 2020

Julian Assange is due to appear in court by video link from Belmarsh prison next Monday, 1st June, just days after the Ministry of Justice admitted that Covid 19 is far more widespread in prisons than was previously announced.

On doctor’s advice, Assange did not participate in the last two procedural hearings, as moving through the prison to use the communal video room would put him at even greater risk of contracting the virus.

Assange has an underlying lung condition that makes him especially vulnerable to Covid 19.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice provided a ‘more robust way’ of reporting coronavirus cases which saw the number of staff who have tested positive jump from 563 to 873 in a week.

‘The court seems to be chaotic’, said WikiLeaks editor in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, ‘Julian could not attended the last hearing even by video link because of health concerns, no lawyer was in court because of the lockdown, and most journalists couldn’t join the conference call to listen to proceedings because of a foul-up in the court’s technical facilities. Justice has to be seen to be done. It wasn’t’.

Edward Fitzgerald QC told the court on 4 May that the defence team had had no more than two phone calls with Assange in the last month. The hearing on Monday is a routine hearing to renew Assange’s detention until the extradition hearing restarts on 7th September 2020.

Campaigners continue to insist that as a remand prisoner held in jail for no crime Assange should be immediately released on bail to avoid the risk of contracting Covid 19.

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Press Release

Assange extradition hearing set to restart 7th September

13. 05. 2020

The start date for the remainder of the Julian Assange extradition hearing has been set by Judge Vanessa Baraitser for 7th September. The long-awaited decision comes in the wake of a recent procedural hearing when defence and prosecution lawyers both told the court that the original date of the 18th May was unworkable.

There is no location set for the hearing although Woolwich Crown Court, attached to Belmarsh prison, the location of the initial week of the hearing in February, is not available.

The judge had previously resisted rescheduling the hearing in spite of the Covid19 crisis which has prevented defence lawyers from meeting with Julian Assange.

‘The court seems to be chaotic’, said WikiLeaks editor in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, ‘Julian could not attended the last hearing even by video link because of health concerns, no lawyer was in court because of the lockdown, and most journalists could not join the conference call to listen to proceedings because of a foul-up in the court’s technical facilities. Justice has to be seen to be done. It wasn’t, and we’ve always said that a fair trial would not be possible at the time the judge originally set’.

Edward Fitzgerald QC told the court at the last hearing that the defence team had had no more than two phone calls with Assange in the last month.

Campaigners continue to insist that as a remand prisoner held in jail for no crime, who poses no risk to the public and with a young family in the UK, Assange should be immediately released on bail to avoid the risk of contracting Covid19.

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Press Release

Assange Extradition Hearing Date to Be Set Tomorrow

03. 05. 2020

Julian Assange’s interrupted procedural hearing will resume tomorrow, 4 May, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at 10am. The video-linked proceedings will decide when his extradition case should restart.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser previously held that the case should resume as scheduled on 18 May, in the court attached to Belmarsh prison in southeast London, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has spread into British prisons and puts Assange at grave risk. Now that both defence and prosecution lawyers have called for a delay, Judge Baraitser has finally agreed to move the date.

‘The judge was forced to agree a change in the hearing date despite her previous stubborn decision that it should go ahead this month’ said Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks ambassador, ‘It’s not the first time she has had to back down from her own unworkable timetable. She now needs to urgently reconsider her life-threatening refusal to grant bail for Julian Assange’.

The extradition hearing, in which the United States is asking the U.K. to send Assange to the U.S. to stand trial for unprecedented charges of Espionage for publishing, ran for its first week in February and is expected to take three more weeks. The earliest date under discussion is in July, but it could be postponed until November.

Assange’s lawyers have consistently argued that they have not had full and unfettered access to their client throughout the case, but the situation has markedly worsened in recent months.

In court last week Ed Fitzgerald QC said that the coronavirus crisis has reduced already restricted access to unacceptable levels. He said the legal team had only had a couple of phone conversations with Assange in the last month.

Julian Assange was not even able to appear by video link at the court last Monday because he has been advised on medical grounds that moving to and using the video link room in the prison is too great a risk.

Two prisoners have already died in Belmarsh and prisoners are now locked down 23 hours a day. The government has virtually halted its prisoner release programme which was already too limited to reduce the prison population to safe levels.

The judge has previously refused to bail Julian Assange.

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Press Release

Assange court hearig scheduled for April 27th

24. 04. 2020

Julian Assange’s lawyers will return to court on Monday to argue that his extradition trial should be postponed.

The hearing is due to resume in the court attached to Belmarsh prison on 18 May. But Assange’s lawyers will argue that they have not had full and unfettered access to their client.

The onset of the coronavirus crisis has reduced that already restricted access to unacceptably low levels.

Julian Assange will not even be able to appear by video link at Westminster court on Monday because he has been advised on medical grounds that moving to, and using, the video link room in the prison is too great a risk.

Two prisoners have already died in Belmarsh and inmates are now locked down 23 hours a day. The government has halted its prisoner release programme which was already too restricted to reduce the prison population to safe levels.

The Judge, Vanessa Baraitser, has previously refused to bail Julian Assange.

The prosecution lawyers acting on behalf of the US government have agreed that the remainder of the trial should be postponed.

Journalists and members of the public will be unable to properly and fully attended the trial if it goes ahead in the current health emergency. During the first week of the hearing in February most journalists could not gain access to the courtroom and were consigned to a portacabin in the grounds of the Belmarsh court with an inadequate video link. But even that option would be unavailable or unusable with coronavirus still a significant danger.

The remainder of the hearing, likely to last three weeks, will constitute the vast majority of the trial and will hear all the witnesses, many of whom will be travelling from abroad.

“It is quite clear that this hearing cannot go ahead in just a few week’s time,” said Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks ambassador. “Julian’s lawyers cannot prepare adequately, witnesses will not be able to travel, and journalists and the public will not have free, adequate and safe access to the proceedings. Justice will neither be done, nor seen to be done.”

The Don’t Extradite Assange campaign will organise a twitter storm on Sunday evening at 6pm ahead of the hearing.

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Press Release

WikiLeaks makes new content available free to broadcasters and websites

03. 04. 2020

Ten year anniversary of the “Collateral Murder” release   This Sunday, April 5th, marks the ten year anniversary of WikiLeaks publication of Collateral Murder, the video taken from the cockpit of two US Apache helicopters of the shooting dead of 2 Reuters journalists and 11 civilians on the streets of Baghdad. The release had a global political impact.  

This package has been produced to mark the ten year anniversary and contains new interviews those who were involved.

This material is free for broadcasters, media organisations, and campaign websites to use.

The Collateral Murder publication by WikiLeaks included the US military Rules of Engagement, for which the US now seeks Julian Assange’s imprisonment. He faces 175 years in prison if extradited to the United States.The new Collateral Murder – Ten Years On Video Package can be found here.

For more information:   Stay Informed – Don’t Extradite Assange: https://dontextraditeassange.com/#initiatives

Background: Julian Assange extradition and imprisonment – current status

Council of Europe: Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists – Alert 1/2020 – Continued Detention of WikiLeaks Founder and Publisher Julian Assange (Level 1) EFJ/IFJ, AEJ, Index on Censorship

Continued Detention of WikiLeaks Founder and Publisher Julian Assange

Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic (Council of Europe)

Julian Assange should not be extradited due to potential impact on press freedom and concerns about ill-treatment

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

International Bar Association – Human Rights Institute

IBAHRI condemns UK treatment of Julian Assange in US extradition trial

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

OSCE – Media Freedom Representative calls on UK authorities not to extradite WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange to the US, ahead of Monday’s hearing

Amnesty International

USA must drop charges against Julian Assange

Assange bail application highlights COVID-19 risk to many vulnerable detainees and prisoners

The Lancet: Letter from 117 doctors – End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange

End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange

The Council of Bar and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)

Letter regarding the interception of communications between Julian Assange and his lawyers

New York TimesEditorial Board

Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First Amendment

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Press Release

WikiLeaks marks 10th anniversary of the ‘Collateral Murder’ video

02. 04. 2020

The cockpit video of an Apache helicopter shooting journalists and Iraqi civilians became one of the greatest journalistic coups of this century when it was released 10 years ago.

In this special online event we’ll be discussing the global political impact of that revelation, with a new video presentation that interviews the families of the Iraqis who lost their relatives in the attack.

Hosted by Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign the event will hear from editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson and columnist and essayist Nozomi Hayase.

There will be a question and answer session after the speakers introduce the meeting. 

Reserve your place here for Zoom webinar: www.is.gd/cm10years

The event will take place on Sunday 5 April at 5pm UK time.

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Press Release

Campaigners slam ‘dangerous and cruel judgement’ to expose Julian Assange to coronavirus

25. 03. 2020

Judge Vanessa Baraitser brushed aside the advice about coronavirus from both of the Prison Officers Association and the Prison Advisory Service and told Julian Assange he would not be bailed on fears that he would contract the virus. 

Assange’s lawyers argued that the virus can spread rapidly in Britain’s overcrowded prisons and that there are already 100 staff off sick with coronavirus symptoms at HMP Belmarsh, the high security prison where Assange is held.

Yet despite Assange’s already weakened medical condition, including a previously reported lung complaint, the Judge refused to accept that there were fresh grounds for granting bail, even though the Justice Minister is currently reviewing whether remand prisoners like Julian Assange should be released.

Citing Assange’s previous asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy as a reason for not granting bail the Judge refused to accept the offer of house arrest and electronic tagging made by the Assange’s QC, Edward Fitzgerald.

HMP Belmarsh could not even arrange for Assange to be connected by video link for the whole hearing. He was removed to his cell while the proceedings went on without him. 

‘This is a dangerous and cruel decision’, said WikiLeaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell. ‘Coronavirus will spread in Belmarsh. With 100 Belmarsh staff off ill Julian is already at risk. Visits have been cancelled. He will have no access to friends and family and his time with his legal team will be reduced further. How is anyone supposed to prepare a defence in such conditions’

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor in chief of WikiLeaks, added, ‘to expose another human being to serious illness, and to the threat of losing their life, is grotesque and quite unnecessary. This is not justice, it is a barbaric decision’.

Julian Assange is not imprisoned for any crime and is at risk of infection. Like other prisoners who pose no risk to the public he should be released to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, his legal team argued. Belmarsh is a remand prison with 300 new intakes every month.

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Press Release

Assange to apply for bail as experts warn of COVID-19 spread in prisons

23. 03. 2020

On Wednesday, 25th of March, Julian Assange’s lawyers will make a bail application at Westminster Magistrates Court. They will argue that he is vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak in the prison where he is on remand.   The WikiLeaks founder and publisher is being held at HMP Belmarsh on a US extradition warrant for WikiLeaks’ 2010 publications about the Iraq and Afghan wars and US foreign policy. UN officials and the OSCE have called for Julian Assange’s immediate release and for the US request to be thrown out. He faces 175 years in prison if extradited to the U.S.   Prisons are considered epicentres for the spread of COVID-19 due to overcrowding and the propensity of the virus to spread in closed environments. Andrea Albutt, the President of the Prison Governors Association, has warned that “there will be deaths” in UK prisons.   It is not only prisoners whose lives are at risk but also prison staff and their families.   Spain, the U.S and Iran have released thousands of low-risk prisoners. Iran has released UK national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She wears an ankle tag and her movements are restricted to a 300-metre radius around her parents’ home.   The UK Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has likened the infection risk in UK prisons to that of cruise ships. The POA has called on the Johnson government to enact an executive release to address the crisis. Former chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick has also called for low-risk prisoners to be released.   The Johnson government has not yet released any low-risk prisoners, although it has released 300 people from immigration detention centres.  

Julian Assange falls into a category of persons who should be released to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 under the recommendations of independent legal charity, the Prison Advisory Service.

Last week, campaigners called for Julian Assange’s release and the release of all low risk prisoners to slow the spread of the virus and minimise the number of deaths in prisons.

Julian Assange’s case is one week into a four-week extradition hearing. The case began on February 22nd and has been adjourned until May 18th. It could be further adjourned due to the virus. More than 20 witnesses will be giving evidence for the defence.

All major newspapers, journalists associations and rights groups have denounced the Trump administration’s prosecution of Julian Assange as politically motivated and setting a disastrous precedent by criminalising normal journalistic behaviour.

Julian Assange has been on remand since 22 September 2019 when he finished serving a sentence for obtaining asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in 2012.

HMP Belmarsh receives 300 new prisoners every month, most of whom are then dispersed to prisons around the country. HMP Belmarsh has a total of approximately 800 prisoners and the highest suicide rate in the prison system.

The UK has 83.500 prisoners, the highest prison population in western Europe.

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Press Release

Julian Assange must be released on fears of spread of coronavirus in prison

17. 03. 2020

Julian Assange must be released before the coronavirus spreads through the prison population, the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign said today.

Prison authorities are signalling that prison inmates will be especially vulnerable to the virus. There are already 113 prison staff and 75 prisoners in isolation because they have coronavirus symptoms.

The President of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, has said that prison conditions are a fertile breeding ground for Covid 19. She added, ‘there will be deaths’.

Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother, has called for her son’s release to remove the threat of infection in prison. 

Assange has not been convicted of any crime, and is a low risk prisoner who should not be held in jail in any case. The increased health risk means he should be released immediately. 

Indeed, all low risk prisoners should be released to slow the spread of the virus and minimise the number of fatalities. 

The Prison Officers Association say that ‘in the past, governments have done what is called an executive release. This involves low category prisoners who maybe coming to the end of their sentences being released to free up prisons’.

WikiLeaks ambassador Joseph Farrell said, ‘With the authorities about to end social visits it’s essential that Julian Assange be included in any release policy. His health is already in jeopardy and further isolation would be damaging in itself, let alone the threat that he might contract the virus itself.’

Prisons in the United States are already releasing inmates to slow the spread of the virus.

Julian Assange is facing 175 years in jail if he is extradited to the US for releasing the Afghan and Iraq war logs which revealed the truth about the Afghan and Iraq wars.

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Press Release

WikiLeaks caused no harm admits US government

24. 02. 2020

No physical harm has occurred to a single individual as a result of documents published by Wikileaks. That’s the startling admission made by the US government at the beginning of the Assange extradition trial.

All that the US government QC, James Lewis, could muster was that there might be a ‘risk’ of harm…but no actual harm occurred.

To try and bolster this flimsy claim the US government argued that Wikileaks material was read by enemies of the United States. Yet this could be true of any story critical of government, and certainly true of any material revealed by a whistleblower.

What is however certain is that WikiLeaks has repeatedly revealed war crimes committed by the US government which did indeed cause harm. Not the ‘risk’ of harm but the actually maiming and killing of innocent citizens.

The US government then went on to make the untrue claim that Wikileaks released unredacted material…an accusation previously refuted by Wikileaks.

The Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign/Wikileaks will be making full press statements Woolwich Magistrates Court at lunchtime and at the end of the day’s court business.