28. 06. 2020
Julian Assange’s legal team will have their first chance to respond to the US Department of Justice’s superseding indictment in court this coming Monday, 29th June.
The indictment, publicised last Wednesday night, has not yet been formally served on the defence. It comes over a year after the court’s deadline for serving an indictment on Julian Assange–14 June 2019.
The new superseding indictment contains no new charges and is primarily based on the witness testimony of a convicted conman, who has previously been imprisoned over embezzling wikileaks. He was also imprisoned over sex offences against minors.
‘This is a bluff, and a pretty poor bluff at that’, said WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson,’the US have no new charges to bring, just hearsay from paid FBI informants long ago disgraced in the press.’
The fresh indictment has been issued just days before the final deadline for defence evidence on 10th July in an attempt to limit defence lawyers, already prevented from effective contact with Assange, from effective responding.
The Covid crisis has further restricted contact between Assange and his lawyers. In a previous hearing Assange’s QC, Ed Fitzgerald, said that there had only been two phone calls between the legal team and Assange across a four week period.
The issuing of a superseding indictment is meant to play on the advantage that the US legal team enjoy due to Assange’s restricted access to his legal team.
The hearing on Monday is routine but lawyers are hoping that Judge Vanessa Baraitser will announce in which court the remainder of the full extradition case would be heard.
The remaining three weeks of the Julian Assange extradition hearing is due to start on 7 September 2020.
Julian Assange is charged by the Trump government with publishing the Afghan and Iraq war logs for which he could face 175 years in jail.
Julian Assange’s lawyers have experienced a considerable difficulty communicating with their client. Speaking at a recent hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said ‘We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him.’ Mr Fitzgerald continued: ‘We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.’
The UN working group on arbitrary detention issued a statement saying that “the right of Mr. Assange to personal liberty should be restored”.
Massimo Moratti of Amnesty International has publicly stated on their website that, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch published an article saying, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.