Julian Assange’s extradition hearing resumed in London today.
The mainstream media is beginning to show a bit more interest in this critical case, but we cannot expect them to give it the attention it deserves — especially given their tunnel-vision focus on the U.S. election and the pandemic.
Despite the many restrictions being placed on covering the hearings (some due to the pandemic, others due to the court’s lack of respect for transparency–see below!),our team is committed to keeping you informed of the hearings and related news.
Access to Proceedings Restricted!
Perhaps it is fitting that Julian’s landmark struggle for press freedom, transparency, and the people’s right to know is running into problems related to…press freedom, transparency, and the people’s right to know.
A One-Two Punch of Rulings against Julian
Baraitser’s decision to revoke access to the proceedings was followed by a pair of decisions against Julian that underscore the fundamental lack of fairness Julian and his defense team are facing.
First, Baraitser considered the defense’s request to “excise” the new information the U.S. included in its recent superseding indictment. The defense was objecting to the fact that the U.S. had modified its claims just six weeks before the hearing — despite the fact that the charges relate to alleged conduct that took place more than a decade ago. That was unfair to the defense, as they had inadequate time to prepare. This sandbagging move was more egregious considering the difficulties the defense has had preparing; Julian has not even been allowed to see his lawyers since the hearings paused in February! The defense asked that Baraitser ignore the new information out of fairness, because the alternative — further delays — only punishes Julian further by keeping him in prison (and at greater risk of contracting COVID).
Baraitser ruled against this request, but what followed was particularly telling. Her rationale for ruling against the defense was that she offered an alternative: an adjournment so that the defense would have time to prepare responses to the new charges and compensate for the “unfairness” of the last-minute U.S. filing. But when Julian’s team then made a fall-back request — an adjournment, which Baraitser said was the appropriate course of action to begin with — she denied it. Instead of acting in the interests of justice, Baraitser acted out of spite — punishing the defense for asking for her preferred solution only after losing their first motion. According to reporter Kevin Gosztola, Baraitser “seemed to believe Assange’s legal team should’ve better understood the law and asked for an adjournment instead of demanding she exercise her authority.”
This one-two punch against Julian comes against the backdrop of his continued confinement and inability to meaningfully contribute to his own defense. He has had no in-person access to his lawyers and limited capacity to review the charges against him, let alone do the research necessary to fight back. All told, grounds for appeal seem to emerge with every one of her adverse rulings.
Expert Testimony Begins
If there was a bright spot to today’s hearings, it was the beginning of expert testimony. Professor Mark Feldstein, a journalism historian, took the virtual stand and addressed key points related to the scope of journalism and the First Amendment’s protections. You can read Dr. Feldstein’s written statement here, and some of the highlights from his live appearance here. Sadly, there were technical issues with the video link that cut short Dr. Feldstein’s testimony, which is expected to resume tomorrow morning.