Edward Fitzgerald sought to compare Julian Assange’s case with that of Lauri Love’s before the judge who overturned Love’s extradition order to the United States.
Consortium News has remote video access to the courtroom for the two-day hearing.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Edward Fitzgerald, a lawyer for imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, at the High Court on Thursday sought to draw parallels with the case of Lauri Love, a British hacktivist whose extradition order to the United States was overturned, before the very judge who took part in that decision.
Fitzgerald argued on the second and last day of the U.S. appeal hearing that the Assange and Love cases had many similarities that the High Court should take into account. He was addressing Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, who ruled with another judge in 2018 that Love should not be sent to the United States because of a high risk of suicide.
The judge in the lower court, Westminster Magistrate’s Court, had ordered Love’s extradition, which the High Court overturned, after which the U.S. dropped the charges of hacking U.S government computers. In Assange’s case, the judge in Westminster barred Assange’s extradition, which prosecutors for the U.S. are trying to overturn in the High Court.
Fitzgerald on several occasions referred to the Love case. He pointed out that both Love and Assange were diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which increases a risk of suicide. And he said the High Court in Love had looked into the future to see that extradition to the U.S. would be oppressive because of the high risk of suicide.
James Lewis QC for the prosecution had on Wednesday argued that a determination of the risk of suicide could not be predicted and had to be based on current medical evaluations only. Fitzgerald contended that the “predictive function is found in Love.” He said: “It is legitimate for the court to determine whether likely conditions would be exacerbated by the conditions” of future imprisonment.
At that point Burnett interjected from the bench to say that the district judge in Love’s case had determined that he would not succeed in committing suicide in a U.S. prison because of preventive measures there. In Assange’s case, the district judge Vanessa Baraitser, ruled that those measures would not prevent Assange from taking his own life.
“It is a completely different case,” said Burnett in a remark that could be interpreted in various ways. As he is the judge in both cases it could have been an ominous statement for Assange. However, Burnett was referring to what the lower court had a ruled, a decision he had a part in overturning.
Fitzgerald said that Baraitser had ruled that prison conditions in the U.S. were at the heart of Assange’s risk of suicide. “She said conditions will make it worse and that is quite analogous with the Lauri Love case,” he said.
Baraitser ruled that Assange’s suicidal impulses were driven by his mental disorders and not a rational decision, Fitzgerald said. “I draw comparison with Love because these are the same two disorders” and the “same evidence” that these were two intelligent individuals being driven to suicide by their mental illness.
Fitzgerald in the morning session also defended the decision of defense witness Michael Kopelman to have excluded the name of Stella Moris and the existence of her two children with Assange from his preliminary report because he was aware the CIA was spying on the couple and had discussed a plot to kill or kidnap him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Fitzgerald mentioned in court for the first time last months report in Yahoo! News that confirmed that the CIA had seriously considering assassinating Assange.
The Assange lawyer also sought to dismiss U.S. assurances made to the court after the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing in lower court that Assange would not be placed harsh Special Administrative Measures (SAM) in the U.S. Fitzgerald said that irrespective of where Assange would be housed it was the “overwhelming effect on his mental state of extradition” itself that Baraitser ruled would spur his suicidal intentions by “removing him from protective factors, irrespective of SAMS.”
The hearing continues this afternoon.