ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Denied Bail, Further Visits, Despite Virus Risk

UPDATED: Despite fears by his lawyers and doctors that Julian Assange is at high risk of being infected in prison, his judge on Wednesday denied him bail, reports Joe Lauria.

Hrafnnson Blasts Baraitser Decision;
Health Warnings on Assange Ignored;
Plea to Postpone May Hearing Resumption

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been denied bail after his lawyers argued he was at risk of a coronavirus infection.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on Wednesday that Assange was a flight risk and couldn’t be trusted to be released. She repeated hearsay that Assange would prefer suicide to extradition and appeared to tip her hand by saying there was a “high risk of extradition.”

She told Westminster Magistrate’s Court: “I have heard evidence that Assange would consider suicide before being allowed to be extradited to the United States. There is a high risk of extradition.

“No court wishes to keep a defendant in custody, even less so during the emergency we are now experiencing,” Baraitser said. “But Mr Assange’s past conduct shows the lengths he is willing to go to escape proceedings.” 

Assange was given political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 as he feared that extradition to Sweden would lead to extradition to the United States, a fear much maligned, but proven true as the U.S. wants Britain to send him to a court in Alexandria, VA to stand trial on 17 counts of espionage and one of computer intrusion.

“Conditions imposed on him last time did nothing to prevent him taking the steps that he did,” Baraitser said. “At the time he made the decision to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy he was subject to a European arrest warrant. He now faces serious allegations in the US.”

Dismisses Health Concerns

Baraitser dismissed concerns by Assange’s lawyers, that given previous health issues, including a lung problem, a prison was a breeding ground for infection. There have been so far no reported cases of coronavirus at Belmarsh Prison. But neither have there been reports of testing at the prison.

A  2018 British government report on prison health, which cited the Care Quality Commission in England, said UK prisons suffer from “overcrowding and lack of personal space” that raises the danger of “communicable diseases.” The report said that in a cell with three beds in Belmarsh, “there was little room to move; if all three men were standing up there was not enough space for them to pass each other without touching.” 

“As matters stand today this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release,” Baraitser said. “This is a rapidly changing environment.” .

She said: “It is the government’s responsibility to protect all prisoners and I have no reason not to rely on Public Health England to help the government do exactly that. No cases of COVID 19 having been confirmed in HMS Belmarsh.” 

Doctors for Assange had warned this week of the potential danger to Assange in prison.

House Arrest Rejected

Assange lawyer Edward Fitzgerald argued in court that Assange would be unlikely to flee Britain given travel restrictions over the pandemic. Fitzgerald’s request that Assange be kept under house arrest with an ankle monitor—as he was detained during his Swedish extradition process—was also denied by Baraitser.

‘There is a real risk he will contract coronavirus and suffer a fatality or a serious illness,” Fitzgerald said.

“For 23 hours a day he is in solitary. The opportunity for infection of corona are still there because he is exercising with 40 other people in a confined space. All the fears we have have become compounded,” he said.

Fitzgerald then told the court that Assange would be allowed no visitors.

“He may himself die due to increased risk of exposure. All past lifelines of support for him have been shut down. I was told the weekly visits will be cut down and now I’m told they will not take place at all,” Fitzgerald said.

It was not immediately clear how this would affect visits by his attorneys.

‘Barbaric’

Kristinn Hrafnnson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, blasted Baraitser’s decision to deny bail as “barbaric.”

“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,” Hrafnnson said.

WikiLeaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell said: “This is a dangerous and cruel decision. 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 defense in such conditions.”

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said the denial of bail came as “no surprise.”

On the final day of Assange’s extradition hearing in February Baraitser had invited Assange’s lawyers to apply for bail after their requests that he be allowed to leave a bullet-proof box at the back of the courtroom to sit with his lawyers during the process.

Plea to Postpone May Hearing

Fitzgerald pled to the court to postpone the resumption of Assange’s hearing for three weeks beginning on May 18.  Bloomberg News reported:   “The remaining three weeks of the Australian’s extradition trial, currently scheduled for May, is probably no longer feasible due to the number of witnesses abroad and difficulties in preparing the case while under lock-down, his lawyer said.” 

The Wednesday hearing was only attended by 14 people in addition to Baraitser. Technical difficulties marred the attempt to hold the case management hearing by video conference.

Bloomberg reported:

“The legal system is grappling with something its never faced before: how to maintain justice while adhering to strict rules imposed by the government. The move to shift often ancient court rooms into using modern-day technology to connect lawyers, court reporters and litigants around the world hasn’t been smooth.

Officials originally gave the wrong phone number, and calls were ringing on the desk of a frustrated receptionist at a brokerage firm. Assange’s long-time lawyer Gareth Pierce was having trouble accessing the hearing.

Baraitser arrived, but the next five minutes were a chorus of “Can you hear me?” The judge took the time to thank Assange’s supporters for observing social distancing rules.

Along with Baraitser and her clerk, 14 people were present in the court at Westminster, including Assange’s fans and an attorney sporting a surgical mask. It was a far cry from the first week of his trial in February, where hundreds of supporters and journalists queued for hours, desperate to get a seat in court.”

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

18 comments for “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Denied Bail, Further Visits, Despite Virus Risk

  1. GMCasey
    March 27, 2020 at 14:13

    Perhaps another effect of the coronavirus is that it attacks those in government who lack the humanity gene. It appears that this judge is one of those. However, trying to erase Truth is ridiculous and that said-to-be Judge Vanessa Baraitser, must have cheated her way through law school. On the other hand she does not appear to be doing her job. Hoping for Julian to die, I suppose, and does she think that people have not connected the dots—that if he dies in prison, the Truth will be unknown? That she herself could be charged with his death? That perhaps she believes that her right as Judge gives her the right to attempt murder under cover of—a potentially deadly disease? I suggest that you commit to Julian’ s safety Judge Baraitse, r as when a nation conspires to murder a Truth Teller, that judge and that nation not only lose their credibility, but their humanity too.

  2. John Drake
    March 27, 2020 at 10:47

    The way this is drawn out and the decisions Vanessa Baraitser is making that have squishy or no basis in law show that the proceedings themselves are a form of punishment and torture.
    John Pilger described her attitude thus, “”Her face was a progression of sneers and imperious indifference; she addressed Julian with an arrogance that reminded me of a magistrate presiding over apartheid South Africa’s Race Classification Board. When Julian struggled to speak, he couldn’t get words out, even stumbling over his name and date of birth. ”
    Britain is showing the barbarism that has long been an undercurrent throughout its empire period. It has not progressed much in that regard since the Middle Ages; and now all it can do is be the lap dog for its former colonies over the pond.
    Ms. Baraitser must not realize she is an embarrassment to her country and any semblance of the rule of law.

  3. rosemerry
    March 26, 2020 at 16:29

    “District Judge Vanessa Baraitser” Is this an actual human being? Put in place by the equally cruel and biased Lady Arbuthnot, whose family are deeply involved in the kind of military criminal activities Assange exposed on Wikileaks yet she refused to recuse herself, Baraitser shows the shameful state of “UK Justice”. How can anyone blame Assange for wanting to avoid the US “justice system” which is even worse and which Baraitser agreed that her judgment is set on extraditing him into?

  4. MrLiberty
    March 26, 2020 at 13:14

    Just like Jeffrey Epstein, if Assange dies, it won’t be by his own hand either.

  5. val barnes
    March 26, 2020 at 11:25

    They are showing us over and over again we are not to inform and educate people. I can see now and understand how the slave masters
    punished the slaves for attempting to learn how to read and write. It’s about freedom, power and self determination.
    And we wonder why there is so much corruption in government. Its because the people who suppose to serve the people work for
    there buddy clicks. Well if there is any good news its that God is watching us all. Hallelujah!!

  6. Barry Campbell
    March 26, 2020 at 11:07

    When as a wee lap dog when your master says “sit” you sit and await attentively for further orders

  7. val barnes
    March 26, 2020 at 10:50

    So sorry to hear that. Bless you for keeping us informed. val

  8. Neddy
    March 26, 2020 at 09:21

    Why haven’t the “proceeding’ been advancing at an expected pace? This is, after all, only an extradition hearing not a capital case. Once Baraister rules. if necessary, the appeal can get underway.

  9. March 26, 2020 at 06:37

    This is murder in disguises.

  10. KBB
    March 26, 2020 at 02:25

    Our President Donald Trump should remove all threats of prosecution and extradite Mr. Assange to the US, so he can testify under oath in court as to WHO sent him Hillary Clinton’s emails that were not hacked from her secret computer but rather, downloaded onto a thumb drive(s) and given to him. If allowed to testify, Assange’s testimony could not only clarify from whom he received the emails, but could also confirm the recent Congressional ruling that the Russians did not hack Hillary’s computer and subsequently send the emails to Assange.

  11. Me Myself
    March 25, 2020 at 23:22

    ” Baraister said. “But Mr Assange’s past conduct shows the lengths he is willing to go to escape proceedings.”

    ? Is this assumption in evidence or did she just rely on what she herd on the television ?

    Was due process litigated on his rights to seek asylum? from a fake charge, that is currently not in dispute.

    His willingness to escape (illegitimate) proceedings is his Right!

    Not taking into consideration his willingness to obtain permission to leave Sweden.

    Not Considered By This ….!

  12. Realist
    March 25, 2020 at 20:54

    TPTB not only want to take this guy out of circulation, they want to punish him, to make him suffer as much as possible, to make him an example to anyone else who would buck them and their murderous ways of controlling–or at least manipulating–the entire planet.

    Droning–sudden anonymous butchery from the skies accompanied by heinous double taps against would-be rescuers–without any due process enveloping any innocents in the immediate proximity as “collateral damage” is what Barack MF’er Obama should be most remembered for in the history books.

    For the service of exposing this two-faced monster (sorry, a$$hole, you sought the position, you received the Nobel under false pretenses, you take the heat) to the world for acts committed widely around the world (from Africa, to the ME and East Asia) that truly rival the atrocities attributed to Hitler, true humanitarians Manning, Assange, and Snowden must be given no respite in this life. That’s clearly the agenda of the empire’s hit men. Also probably explains why Russia suddenly had a target painted on its back when it offered safe haven to Snowden. He’s smart to keep a low profile. Ask Epstein about the long reach of Langley’s spooks.

  13. Anon
    March 25, 2020 at 20:25

    How nice of Baraister to save Mr. Assange from suicide by subjecting him to Covid19.

  14. elmerfudzie
    March 25, 2020 at 18:37

    Sympathy from this commentator, calling for leniency and other judicial considerations on behalf of Assange was as difficult as swallowing the “red pill” …I’ve already done this. As I recall, the year was 2004, that toilet paper of record the NYT, virtually all MSM outlets and alternative news (with the exception of Liberationnews, Nation mag and a brief Obit posted at NPR) failed to defend the attorney-client privilege when Lynn Stewart (gloriously) rose to defend her client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. He was a cleric convicted of planning a bizarre assortment of terror attacks (everything from attempts on Prez Carter’s life to plans for blowing up Big Ben, if you can believe this stuff) That so called bastion of the liberal left, KPFA (permanently) kicked off the airwaves the single advocate(s) for Lynn Stewart, Ralph Schoenman and his wife Mya Shone (the Taking Aim broadcasts). A troublesome pair of anti Zionist anti capitalist Jews who found themselves, promoting the basic human rights of Stewart’s client. Many Taking Aim broadcasts specifically focused on the Abdel-Rahman case. The incessant call for preserving the attorney-client privilege proved to be impossible for American style democracy (small “d”) to tolerate.

    In summary then, Stewart was convicted for felony conspiracy, material support to terrorists and thus was summarily disbarred. Convicted of passing messages from her client (interview room bugged?), to his followers in al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Now, Suddenly the alternative press and MSM wake(s) up only to witness the courtroom placement of physical barriers, client isolation and lack of attorney client privilege!…. Weeellll, where were you all when voices were silenced, pulled off the air, for supporting the many travails suffered by Lynn Stewart?

    R.I.P. Lynn, I just had to give em hell!

  15. Donald Duck
    March 25, 2020 at 17:49

    This particular episode, and more generally the treatment handed out to Assange, says more about the Atlanticist cabal – i.e., the, US, the UK and Sweden, than it does about Assange. The whole brouhaha is clearly symptomatic of the utter degeneration of western civilization. Rule by a controlled and controlling oligarchy masquerading as democracy. Law is being ridden over roughshod in order silence not only Assange but any future critic of empire. In particular I would particularly pick out the role of Sweden, that snivelling, oh so politically correct political abomination. It was the French Ambassador to the UK who once referred to Israel as ‘that shitty little country which will be the death of us.’ The same might also be said of Sweden.

    • Robyn
      March 26, 2020 at 07:39

      Well said, Donald Duck. But please don’t exclude Australia, Julian’s home country, which has done zero for him. This is understandable insofar as Australia does not have an independent foreign policy and always defers to Washington, but I have been astonished to see nearly all Australian Members of Parliament from the Prime Minister to local representatives, turn a blind eye to Julian’s treatment. I have never been more ashamed to be Australian.

    • Andrew Thomas
      March 26, 2020 at 10:03

      This is, truly, straight out of Kafka, as has been the entire proceedings. Covid19 has its uses; now, without very much luck, Julian Assange will die in prison, along with many of the “dangerous terrorists” locked up in Belmarsh, who are so lacking in basic humanity that whatever they did on his behalf in that prison finally moved the warden, or whatever he is called, to move him out of continuous isolation. Ignored for months was pressure from the outside, which included the most distinguished advocates for human rights the world over. It makes one wonder about who the other inmates of Belmarsh really are, and the actual danger to the outside world they pose. God help Julian and all of them, along with the other prisoners, and immigrants and asylum seekers detained in conditions that are Petri dishes for all manner of horrors, let alone a disease with this extraordinary transmissibility. Thank you, Mr. Lauria, for continuing your coverage of this outrage.

    • jack flanigan
      March 26, 2020 at 18:08

      Well said you Robyn. As an Australian I can confirm that Australia is a slimy rotten corrupt banana republic. It is a failed experiment. We are a shallow gutless nation; a fascist police state with a lobotomized population addicted to (watching but not participating in sport). Indifferent to truth, human suffering and addicted to cruelty and revel in being represented by the worst elements in our society. I haven’t mentioned greed, jealousy and betrayal nor cruelty and dishonesty. Nor have I time to touch upon the genocide and theft of the land and centuries of torture and cruelty still carried out to this day against the original owners of this land. If hypocrisy is a virtue then we have it in abundance.

      I am a descended white Anglo Saxon male who is 3rd generation born in Australia
      Jack Flanigan D.O.B 21/09/1946

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