Assange Court Report Day 1: Afternoon
While this morning belonged to the US government to put its an argument for the extradition of Julian Assange, this afternoon belonged to the defence, as Edward Fitzgerald QC put the case for him not to be sent to the USA to face trial on espionage and computer misuse charges.
The grey-haired defence barrister told the court that the charges against Assange were not about criminal justice, but were “due to underlying political motives of the US government.”
He said that he would produce evidence that Fitzgerald says that US President Donald Trump met with FBI Director James Comey and told him he wanted a “head on a pike,” to discourage leakers and whistleblowers. “This is the real motive for this prosecution,” he said, adding, “Julian Assange has been made an example of.”
He continued: “This prosecution is not because of any new facts, it was because it was politically expedient. He also noted that recent comments by senior US administration figures have, in his opinion, seriously prejudiced Assange’s right to a fair trial.
Fitzgerald then told the court that he had a witness that would confirm a US Congressman, and ally of President Trump, Dana Rohrabacher, had offered Assange a full pardon on all charges if he would only say that the Russsian government was not involved in the leak of documents to Wikileaks during the 2016 election.
This, counsel said, was “political extortion, threatening Assange with years in prison if he would not do Trump a political favour.” Fitzgerald also said he would be presenting evidence that says US intelligence was spying on Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy, including filming and recording discussions with his legal team. He added that a witness would be testifying that ““more extreme measures,” to deal with Assange were discussed, including “kidnapping and poisoning.”
Summing up, the defence barrister said of Assange: “He is anti-war, anti-imperialist, for free speech and an open society. Those beliefs inevitably bring him into conflict with powerful states, and have led to him being called a ‘terrorist.” He said that there was no evidence anyone was damaged or hurt due to the Wikileaks releases, concluding:
“Julian Assange faces life in prison for publishing true information that was in the public interest..if truth becomes treason we are all in trouble.”
The case continues.