Assange Court Report September 23: Morning

Assange Court Report September 23: Morning

Asperger Syndrome puts Assange at “high risk,” if extradited

Julian Assange has Asperger Syndrome and would not be able to manage American prison conditions, an Old Bailey court has been told.

The testimony, from expert witness Quinton Deeley, a Senior Lecturer in Social Behaviour at King’s College London and Consultant Neuropsychiatrist in the National Autism Unit, came on the 11th day of evidence at the hearing which will determine if the Wikileaks founder should be extradited to the USA on charges of espionage and computer hacking.

Asperger Syndrome, Deeley told the court, is a disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. The witness said that he had come to this diagnosis after a six-hour telephone interview with Assange, as well as interviews with his friends and family.

Asked if the defendant would be able to tolerate conditions in a US prison, which would almost certainly involve solitary confinement, Deeley said “no”, adding that this, given his mental state, would be “unbearable.”

Cross-examining on behalf of the US government, barrister James Lewis QC challenged the psychiatrist’s diagnosis noting that Assange had once hosted a TV chat show, and showed the court a video of Assange eloquently answering questions at a panel discussion at the Frontline Club in London. Deeley responded by saying these were “highly structured environments,” and someone responding well in them did not contradict his medical conclusions.

“If he is being treated as an expert and can expand at length, he can deal with that,” the psychiatrist said.

Lewis then put to the witness a statement from Assange’s mother that he was a “selfless and dutiful father,” and suggested this was incompatible with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Deeley replied that people with Asperger’s can still be “dutiful and principled, and moved by the suffering of other people.”

He added that if Assange was extradited he would be at “high risk, more likely than not,” and “any responsible clinician would have to actively manage the serious risks to his health.”

The trial continues.

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