The US government has made a late request to have Julian Assange extradited based on a new indictment, prosecutor Claire Dobbin told Westminster magistrates’ court at yesterday’s hearing. Washington is seeking to expand the charges against him, including by extending the group of people he is alleged to have conspired with beyond former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning,
The WikiLeaks founder who attended the short hearing via video link from Belmarsh prison, spoke only to give his name, date of birth and to confirm that he could hear the proceedings. He has yet to be arrested over this third and latest indictment, full details of which were not read out in court.
Florence Iveson, representing Julian, said the “11th hour” submission was “astonishing” and accused the US of “seeking to add a considerable amount of conduct and seeking to extend the case significantly.”
She said that the legal team not yet been able to take full instructions from their client about the third version of the indictment against him and argued that the new material should have been provided “at a much earlier stage,” adding that it could affect the evidence of witnesses due to be called in at the extradition hearing in September. It is possible that as a result of this new indictment Julian’s lawyers will seek a delay to the hearing due to start on 7 September.
Julian faces 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one of conspiracy to hack into official computers while trying to expose war crimes. His father, John Shipton watched the court proceedings from the public gallery along with other supporters.
Meanwhile according to a report in the Morning Star on 17 August more than 150 lawyers have written to Boris Johnson accusing authorities of violating the law in the extradition case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
A total of 152 legal experts and 15 lawyers’ associations wrote to the PM last Friday, the day of Mr Assange’s final administrative hearing (reported above) before Old Bailey hearings scheduled from Monday 7 September. The lawyers called on the government to grant Mr Assange’s “long overdue freedom,” and said authorities have violated “national and international law.”
In the 10-page letter, they said that 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.”
They also stated that, 24 hours prior to last Friday’s hearing, the US Department of Justice lodged another indictment with the British court to replace the existing indictment against Mr Assange 14 months after deadline, despite no new information or charges. Defence lawyers argued that the court accepting the new indictment constitutes “an abuse of legal process.”
The signatories also allege that Mr Assange’s legal privilege has been “grossly violated” through illegal seizure of confidential documents and “constant and criminal” surveillance of conversations with lawyers inside the Ecuadorian embassy. They add that prison authorities have been “severely restricting both the frequency and duration of his legal visits.”
Among the signatories are Lord Hendy QC, Australian barrister Julian Burnside AO QC, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the Association of American Lawyers (AAL). Its general secretary Luis Carlos Moro said: “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.”