The two-day U.S. appeal against the denial of extradition of Julian Assange has ended in London with the U.S. promising humane prison conditions and Assange’s lawyers saying the CIA tried to kill him.
Consortium News had remote video access to the courtroom for the two-day hearing.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The United States vowed that only a “moderately depressed” Julian Assange would serve time in a humane U.S. prison if he is extradited, while lawyers for Assange told the High Court that the Central Intelligence Agency plotted to assassinate him, as a two-day U.S. appeal hearing came to a close on Thursday in London.
The U.S. is seeking to overturn a lower court decision in January not to extradite the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher on the grounds that he is at high risk of suicide if he faced time isolated in a harsh American prison.
A prosecutor for the U.S. set out over the course of the hearing to convince the two High Court justices to reject that ruling, arguing that Assange is not seriously ill and would not be placed in solitary confinement should he be sent to the U.S.
Assange’s lawyers on the other hand defended the lower court finding of severe mental conditions and high likelihood of committing suicide and sought to dismiss American assurances to Britain that Assange would not be put under Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) or housed in the maximum security ADX Florence prison in Colorado.
They went further, telling the court that the foreign intelligence service of the government requesting Assange’s extradition had seriously considered murdering or kidnapping him.
Assange lawyer Mark Summers QC essentially told the court that before the United States tried to legally extradite him from Britain it discussed concrete plans to extract Assange from Britain by kidnapping him and rendering him to the United States, possibly through a third country.
Summers began by pointing out that it would be the very Central Intelligence Agency, which plotted to harm him, that would ultimately determine whether Assange would be imprisoned in SAMS. “The relationship between the CIA and Mr. Assange is vast and it’s not before this court,” said Summers.
Chief Justice Ian Burnett, one of the two High Court judges, interjected, “It’s not contested that the CIA is intensely interested in Mr. Assange.”
“Yes, but what they are prepared to do,” Summers said. “I invite my Lords to understand the lengths they went to against Mr. Assange.” He then ran through the details of a Yahoo News! report in September about how the CIA plotted against Assange.
“It seems there were discussions in the Oval Office about killing him and sketches were drawn in the summer of 2017 as matters escalated to render him back to America from the U.K.,” Summers said. “But the U.K. refused to go along with this.”
Former CIA director Mike Pompeo “is on the record that some things are true and it’s under Congressional investigation,” Summers said. He referred to testimony in Assange’s September 2020 hearing when former employees of the Spanish security firm UC Global first talked about plans to kidnap or poison Assange.
James Lewis, QC, the prosecutor for the U.S. said nothing about this in his 30-minute rebuttal at the end of the hearing. During the September 2020 extradition hearing Lewis called talk of threats to assassinate Assange “palpable nonsense.”
Lewis spent most of that time defending the assurances the U.S. has given Britain that Assange would not face harsh conditions in a U.S. prison.
He first addressed the defense contention that because these assurances came after the lower court judgement that they are new evidence and should be rejected.
“All that has happened is that the requesting state had every opportunity to give assurances and chose otherwise, and then ran a case for two years and lost,” Summers for the defense had said earlier. “Nothing justifies the U.S. changing its case in this way.”
“It is absurd to say we had every opportunity” to provide the assurances before the judgement, Lewis responded. “It is proper to deal with assurances at any stage. This is not a sea change. Assurances are not evidence. The fact is it is common sense that an assurance will be reactive in nature. You can’t anticipate an area a judge is focused on until the judge puts out a judgement.”
Lewis cited a case when the High Court in an extradition case gave a government an additional 14 days to come up with assurances. He cited another case in which the requested person was freed but then the extradition process was restarted when assurances were provided.
“We could start again with Assange,” Lewis said ominously.
Summers brought up several cases in which a requesting government had received assurances from the United States that were not fulfilled. He called U.S. assurances “conditional” and “aspirational” citing the language of the assurances that if Assange after imprisonment harmed U.S. national security he could be placed in harsh isolation.
Summers said one must stick to the letter and not the spirit of U.S. assurances. He again referred to the CIA plot against Assange.
“Nothing about this is case normal,” he said. “This is a case of credible evidence of U.S. plans to do serious harm to Assange, contemplating assassination, rendering, kidnapping and poisoning and it is worthy of an investigation of these assurances that this same government asks us to believe.”
But Lewis said, “The U.S. has never broken diplomatic assurance.”
And because of this, “Mr. Assange now knows he is not going to SAMS or ADX Florence so his suicidal ideology [sic -ideation] should subside,” Lewis said. “He now knows he will get adequate medical care.”
Then Lewis quoted three expert witness from the September hearing, including one from the defense, who each said Assange was only “moderately depressed” rather than beset with a combination of mental conditions that would drive him to suicide if extradited, as the lower court ruling said.
Lewis’ message to the judges was that both pillars of the lower court judgement were demolished: Assange is not seriously ill and he won’t be going to a harsh U.S. prison.
“You have given us much to think about and we’ll take time to consider it,” Burnett told the lawyers as he closed the hearing.
He did not give a date when the High Court’s decision will be made.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
Please Support CN’s
Fall Fund Drive!
Why is the US still pursuing Assange at all. When did we develop this life long vengeance model and what purpose does it serve except to hide other crimes since committed by other miscreants who populate the bowels of US intelligence agencies. Leave Assange alone. Try having those prosecuting him do something useful.
I am 71 years old and the US government has never told the truth in my lifetime. I do know that the CIA is responsible for the murder of more innocent people than Hitler did Jews during WWII. Don’t think so? Read The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & The Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World by Vincent Bevins. It is the story of the CIA. After all the lying and murder the CIA and the US government has been responsible for, no one in touch with reality could possibly believe anything they say.
Hey, “Queens Counsel” Lewis, Jeffrey Epstein was “suicided” in a FAR less austere prison. It’s nice to be Queen’s Counsel when the CIA write your talking points.
The Judges have now retired to consider the best way that they can extradite (rendition) Julian with enough weasel words and excuses for the UK Government to say, “nothing to do with us, it’s the law, don’t you know ?”
The reality is that the UK Government (like Australia and Canada and others) will do exactly what they are told to do by the US.
It’s not complex. Julian is being punished for highlighting the fact that the US broke the law – US Law, International Law and Moral Law.
And now the british judges think several months about this while Julian is kept in unhuman conditions in Belmarsh. Why they keep him in such a place. The reality is that an innocent man has now served two years in prison while his little children must be without their father. Who is going to compensate that and how ?
For a starter
From 1778 to 1871, the United States government entered into more than 500 treaties with the Native American tribes; all of these treaties have since been violated in some way or outright broken by the US government
As Amnesty said, the government’s promise isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell. It would be good if the gov got blowback for our own very long history of human rights abuses….
The word of the United States Government is worthless. The diplomatic assurances are empty promises and attempts to promise humane conditions and no solitary confinement for Julian Assange are promises the attorneys and diplomats have zero control over. Once the United States Government gets custody of Julian Assange they will take him before a low dishonorable Federal Judge who also will turn Julian Assange over to the United States Department of Justice, another large law firm of low scummy dishonorable attorneys and other degenerate employees by the Department of No Justice for you. Once the U.S. Department of Justice has custody of Julian Assange they will turn custody over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons or United States Bureau of Prisons and they do not care what was ordered by a Federal Judge. Matter of fact the Staff and Management of the U.S. Federal Prisons call Federal Judges “useful idiots who keep the prisons full of political prisoners”. The Federal Prisons and U.S. Prisons do not care what some diplomat says or even what a Federal Judges says, once the U.S. Prisons have custody of Julian Assange they will put him in solitary confinement for decades if they want, torture him all they want and they answer to nobody and they do not care what some low federal judge wrote in a sentence, the prison staff and management is corrupt and that is not going to change, it is like the rest of U.S. Politicians and their never ending corruption, bribes and dishonor. A diplomat or attorney from the U.S. can not assure anything about US prison conditions, not even possible. I would not allow extradition of Julian Assange to the United States Government for the fact he will be forever reduced in health, wealth and inhumane conditions is the very definition of United States Prisons, Inhumane conditions is the United States business model, Julian Assange would very likely die in a U.S. Prison. Personally I really do not care what Julian Assange published, from what I read it is all 100% truth and fact so that to me forms a “Perfect Defense”. I vote to deny extradition of Julian Assange.
Weasel words from the US attorney should be laughed out of court. Anyone who believes any assurances of ethical behavior on the part of the US government has no connection to reality.
An overly strong connection to reality is studiously avoided at the higher levels of key institutions. USA and UK differ in the precise nature of tolerable attachments to reality. (For practical reasons some are tolerated.)
How could anyone argue that the whole process has anything to do with justice?
Yes, absolutely. a complete farce.
Ask those that have been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered about the honesty of the US government.
Not only unsafe in the hands of those that had plotted to kill him and who had hired 24-7 surveillance (that would likely elicit paranoia mental conditions in any normal human), Julian would not be tried by a jury of peers, in say, Silicon Valley or Austin, Texax, but rather by a jury of peers of the prosecutors!
Biden could stop all of this NOW!
Many prayers to Julian and family and legal team, and many thanks to Consortium News and all the journalists covering this most important case of our lifetimes! #FreeJulianAssangeNOW
Why didn’t the defence raise the issue of whether Julian should be tried for espionage in the first place and challenge the judgement of Vanessa Baraitser in this area? Democracy in ever secretive States cannot survive without accurate information on which to make judgements. The US/UK crimes would not have been exposed if left to the (secretive )State to investigate? Why was the illegal spying on Julian in the Equador Embassy not raised and his denial of access to proper resources in Belmarsh?
I have also wondered about this. We can be assured that if the case was the other way round and the UK government was trying to extradite someone from the US on the same charges, and it was revealed that spying had taken place, imagine the fuss the US would make.
This will not end well for Julian. I can already hear them droning on about “assurances” as they ship him off to his death in the US.
“But Lewis said,”The U.S. has never broken diplomatic assurance.””
WHAT????? The United States is a serial assurances, agreements, treaties, conventions, and deal breaker. Fitzgerald and Summers should have read to the court some of the most egregious cases in which the U.S. broke its words to emphasize that the US is “non agreement capable”.
“Fitzgerald and Summers should have read to the court some of the most egregious cases in which the U.S. broke its words to emphasize that the US is “non agreement capable”.”
“It’s certainly astounding to have to plead for mercy for a completely innocent person who was in fact the one defending the law and human rights, a multi-award winning publisher who is accused of revealing war crimes and corruption. “
Perhaps a different perspective other than the concept of “justice” will illuminate ?
The conflation of “law” and “justice” is a very useful tool in cloaking the rule of some of the many and hence underpins the useful oxymoron of “representative democracy”.
In broad terms inherent within the decision that the “law” and lawyers need to consider is whether to attempt to encourage others’ continued immersion in the conflation of “justice” and “law” to facilitate the continuation of illusions such as “representative democracy”, or to rely on the continuance of Mr. Rove obervation that “We are an Empire, we create our own reality to which others react” in order to deflect/misdirect/minimise challenge to the social relations of which the “justice”/”law” is a facilitator.
It is a derative of the dilema outlined by Mr. Shakespeare:
“To be , or not to be, that is the question
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.
To die – to sleep, no more; and by a sleep to say we end
the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to:
tis a consumation devoutly to be wished.
To die, to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream – aye there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”
Since lawyers are engaged in a profession of facilitating conformance in some degree, the register and strategy of Mr. Fitzgerald is framed/informed – it would be impolite to introduce notions of real politik openly in such fora, but more cultured to catalyse the perceptions of others by reliance on precedent.
However as the outcomes facilitated by Mr. Hamlet illustrate, even in the short term blowback/collateral damage could not be avoided, and in the longer term Mr. Hamlet’s illusions were not sustainable.
Times of trouble were not restricted to the times of Mr. Shakespeare or Gospodin Ivan Grozny, in English Czar Ivan the Terrible.
As ever opening Pandora’s box exposes a womb of unexpected consequences to which some react by:
“To die, to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream – aye there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”
which does not only apply to “lawyers”.
But Lewis has a rebuttal: Assange is a mere Australian, so it should not matter.
“But Lewis has a rebuttal: Assange is a mere Australian, so it should not matter.”
Since “justice” is alledgedly “to be done”, it needs to be seen to be done” and hence your observation is likely rendered “ultra vires”.