Fri 17 September 2021

The WikiLeaks founder appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court this morning via video link from Belmarsh Prison.

Julian Assange was today remanded in custody until 21 October as his legal team were given a further week to submit “expert material” in his case against extradition to the US on espionage charges.

His lawyer, Gareth Peirce, told Westminster Magistrates Court that today’s hearing had originally been set “as an optimistic date” to hear substantive arguments in the case, but these would now commence in 10 days.

The WikiLeaks founder appeared via video link from the high-security Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, where he has been held since 11 April – initially for breaching police bail in connection with a European arrest warrant from Sweden. A state prosecutor there is considering the evidence before deciding whether to charge him over an allegation of sexual assault. The sentence for the bail offence ended last month, but a judge ordered his continuing detention, pending the extradition hearing to the US.

Shortly after 10.30am this morning, Assange entered the Belmarsh video suite carrying a large cardboard box, apparently full of papers, which he placed out of range of the camera. He spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth. 


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Outside the court, Emmy Butlin, a spokeswoman for the Committee to Defend Julian Assange who was in the public gallery for the hearing, said: “We were shocked today to see the physical deterioration in Julian Assange”.

The comment comes as the Government has issued a formal denial, through the office of the British High Representative to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, that Assange “has been subjected to torture in any form as a result of actions by the UK Government”. Dated this week, the statement was made in response to a report submitted five months ago by Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr Melzer concluded that Assange had been exposed to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which clearly amount to psychological torture”. It also claimed that Assange had been “arbitrarily” detained during his seven years living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was given political asylum. The UK response noted that he could have left “at any time”. The Melzer report points out that this would have entailed risking arrest and extradition to the US.

In a separate development this week, it emerged that the head of the security company accused of spying on Assange at the embassy and passing the contents of his private conversations to US intelligence, has been arrested and released on bail in Spain. David Morales, of UC Global, faces allegations of breach of privacy, which are the subject of an active investigation by Spain’s High Court.

The US indictment against Assange contains 17 charges of publishing classified information, referring to the so-called Afghan and Iraq War logs and diplomatic cables, which WikiLeaks obtained from Chelsea Manning while she was working as an Army intelligence analyst.

Assange is accused of “risking serious harm to United States national security” and putting “human sources at a grave and imminent risk”.

It was confirmed in court today that he will attend the next hearing in person.

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