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Lawyers and academics call on Government to end Julian Assange extradition

17. 08. 2020

On the day of Julian Assange’s final administrative hearing before his substantive extradition hearings scheduled for 7 September, 152 legal experts and 15 lawyers’ associations have today written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, accusing government authorities of violating “national and international law” in the Australian WikiLeaks founder’s case.

The international group of legal practitioners, professors, judges, doctors of law and eminent jurists has called upon the UK government to bring an end to Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings, and grant his “long overdue freedom”, on legal grounds.

Among the signatories are Lord Hendy QC, a leading expert in UK labour law, prominent Australian barrister Julian Burnside AO QC, and 15 lawyers’ associations, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Association of American Lawyers (AAL), both of which have consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the highest UN status granted to NGOs.

In a 10-page letter (attached), translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish, the legal experts charge the UK government with breaching several legal acts and treaties, citing the prima facie illegality of the US extradition request, serious violations of human rights and due process, and denial of a fair trial, including “judicial conflicts of interest”. 

“Senior District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) Emma Arbuthnot, who as Chief Magistrate oversees Mr. Assange’s extradition proceedings, has been shown to have financial links to institutions and individuals whose wrongdoings have been exposed by WikiLeaks”, the letter states. Her vested interest in the case violates the right to “a fair and public hearing before an impartial tribunal”, a “cornerstone of democracy”, the legal experts warn.

The signatories allege that Assange’s legal privilege has been “grossly violated” through illegal seizure of privileged legal documents, and “constant and criminal” audiovisual surveillance of “meetings and conversations” with his lawyers inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

They add that, despite the case’s complexity, “prison authorities have failed to ensure that Mr. Assange can properly consult with his legal team and prepare for his defence, by severely restricting both the frequency and duration of his legal visits.” 

Lawyers for Assange member Dr. Polona Florijančič commented on today’s hearing: “Today we observed a further breach of the right to a public trial, with journalists and the public unable to follow the proceedings through the court’s dial-in system. Meanwhile, Assange was allowed a short video conference with his lawyers before the hearing, the first time this has been possible for several months. It is no surprise that the continuing breaches of due process rights and Assange’s unlawful detention have led to a further deterioration in his psychological health, as per a new psychiatric report from the defence.”

Preview link to letter: https://l4assange.mironet.ch/en/open-letter.html

Preview link to signatories: https://l4assange.mironet.ch/en/signatories-all.html

Download the Open Letter to the British Government

Quotes from signatories:

AAL General Secretary Luís Carlos Moro: “The extradition of Mr. Assange sets a risky precedent for the entire democratic world, because it represents, rather than due process of law, an undue process of political persecution.”

Former National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns SC: “One of the most dangerous features of the Assange case is the idea that the US can seek to extradite any person, anywhere in the world, if they upset US interests. This extraterritorial reach is contrary to the rule of law and a dangerous attempt to undermine freedom of speech, a right all of us should cherish.”

Slovenian law Professor Andraž Teršek: “The case of Julian Assange is about political transparency, democratic legitimacy, free journalism and public media, which no individual should ever give up, and which no political institution, power or government should deny, prevent or punish. The trial’s implications are of great importance in modern society.”

Notes:

The final administrative hearing before extradition proceedings resume was held today, Friday 14 August, in Westminster Magistrate’s Court at 10am BST.

Despite no new information and no new charges, 24 hours prior to today’s hearing the US Department of Justice (DoJ) lodged a superseding indictment with the court, to replace the existing indictment against Assange, 14 months after the UK court deadline of 14 June, 2019. The defence argued that accepting the new indictment, lodged just three weeks prior to extradition proceedings, constitutes ‘an abuse of legal process.’ The defence has until August 19 to apply for postponement of the main hearings. Since this is now an entirely new extradition request Assange will have to be re-arrested at some point in the future.

The second phase of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing will be held in the Old Bailey in central London for three weeks from September 7th, with a possible further week at a later date.

Website: www.lawyersforassange.org

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