Extradition trial concludes, Assange to remain in prison until verdict in January

The trial concluded after 18 days of extensive submissions from experts and witnesses over a range of aspects concerning the persecution of Wikileaks in the US

October 01, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Assange’s partner, Stella Moris (front and centre) talking to supporters gathered outside the courthouse, along with Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristin Hrafnson and Craig Murray (back, to the left). Photo: Mohamed Elmaazi/Twitter

The extradition trial of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has come to a close on Thursday, October 1. The trial ends after nearly four weeks of the testimonies from more nearly three dozen expert witnesses, covering a range of aspects of the case, from Assange’s mental health to the political nature of the charges he will be facing in the US to the possibility of torture and maltreatment he is likely to face if extradited.

The defense will have four weeks to submit their closing arguments to the court. The prosecution will have two weeks after that to respond to the defense and submit their closing arguments. The defense then will have 72 hours to respond. Judge Vanessa Baraitser is set to deliver the verdict on January 4, 2021. Until January, Assange will remain in the Belmarsh prison because he was denied bail.

The final two days of the trial involved a marathon run of testimonials, submitted by the defense team. On the final day of trial, the presiding judge refused to accept some of the testimonies over prosecution’s objections that the defense had run out of time. The submissions that were rejected by the court included those that would have dealt with current superseding charges against Assange, based on which the extradition process is ongoing.

The rejection of the statements was despite the fact that the trial ended a day earlier than the original schedule, and the defense was only submitting testimonies that were already agreed by both parties to be up for submission.

Among the testimonies submitted in the last two days, there were several anonymous statements from employees of UC Global, the company that is accused of spying on Assange on behalf of the US government during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy. The anonymous testimonies revealed discussions between US intelligence officials and employees of UC Global on the possibility of kidnapping or even poisoning Assange.

Among other key witnesses who spoke in these days, include that of Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn. The Middle East correspondent for the Independent, told the court that Wikileaks’ revelations on Afghanistan and Iraq were crucial in bringing out the realities of the war.

Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who worked with Assange to publish documents related to Italy, told the court about the great deal of care taken by the Wikileaks team to protect sources and the integrity of the documents throughout the publishing process.

Other statements submitted to the court included those by US attorneys Michael Tigar and Robert Boyle, who have pointed out the inherently political nature of the Espionage Act, echoing the expert witnesses who had testified earlier in the trial.

Outside the Old Bailey courthouse, where the trial took place, Assange’s family, colleagues and supporters held a mini-celebration commemorating the 14th anniversary of Wikileaks’ domain registration and also delivered short and final statements to those assembled.