A london court The hearing resumes this Monday to decide if the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange must be extradited a U.S, where a trial for spineage awaits him in a controversial case where his defenders denounce a serious violation of press freedom.
After a first week of views in February, Assange, 49, was due to return to court in April but the process was delayed by the pandemic of coronavirus that, according to their lawyers, prevented them from going to jail to prepare the case.
The hearings are expected to last three or four weeks and are marked by protests: the followers of the Australian computer expert they have called today a demonstration at the gates of the court on Monday under the slogan Don’t extradite Assange, journalism is not a crime.
Before ruling on the extradition request, the English courts must ensure that it is not disproportionate or incompatible with human rights. Held in a high security London prison since his arrest in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy, where for seven years he lived as a refugee in a small room, Assange he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison if the US justice found him guilty.
“Attack on freedom of the press”
Washington reproaches him for putting informants and strategic assets in danger with the publication in 2010 of compromised secret documents about the US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which revealed acts of torture, civilian deaths and other abuses. But for his support committee, they are “politically motivated charges” that “represent an unprecedented attack on press freedom and the public’s right to know,” they denounced in a statement.
“Allowing the extradition of Julian Assange on this basis would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press and, ultimately, could hamper the work of the press as a provider of information and public guardian in democratic societies,” warned the Council of europe.
But United States holds that Assange is not a journalist but a “hacker” and assures that he helped the intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal those secret documents before exposing the material to the eyes of the world.
He also accuses him of having conspired with members of the hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous and having had “unauthorized access to a government computer system in a NATO country.”
Frail physical and mental state
Assange’s lawyers have been warning about him for months fragile physical and mental state of the Australian, who in previous appearances appeared confused and with difficulties to express himself or was simply absent due to health problems.
In the February hearings, they assured that the US president Donald Trump He had promised to forgive him if he denied that emails published by WikiLeaks that contributed to the defeat of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections had been leaked by Russia. The White House has denied this accusation.
According to the Australian’s defense, Trump wants to do with him an “exemplary” punishment in his “war against investigative journalists” and Assange I would not have a fair trial in U.S.
“The political persecution is evident,” said former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who coordinates his team of lawyers internationally, on the sidelines of the February hearings.
Assange’s defenders also denounce “illegal” surveillance on behalf of U.S by a Spanish security company of which his client was a victim when he was living as a refugee in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The Spanish justice has opened an investigation in this regard.
Whatever the outcome of this high-profile London trial, the losing party will almost certainly appeal. So the Australian, deprived of freedom for more than eight years, could spend many more months imprisoned in the British capital.