Roy Drew, Mullumbimby
Australian citizen journalist/publisher Julian Assange’s full hearing for extradition to the US is scheduled to start on Monday, 7 September at The Old Bailey in London.
Extradition hearings, and all of the preliminary hearings so far, have been held in a magistrate’s court.
The fact that the hearing is being held in the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales raises certain questions in itself, and is a cause for concern as to what is being prepared against Julian.
It comes after long delays owing not only to the pandemic, but also the (possibly deliberate) slow turning wheels of the English judicial system.
Since April 2019, he has been incarcerated in Her Majesty’s Belmarsh high security prison in London.
Despite the fact that there are no charges against him in the UK he has been held on remand ever since. He is suffering from compromised health in a prison system racked with COVID-19.
He has been denied reasonable visits, from his family and legal team.
Adding further complication, the US prosecution has been allowed to present another layer of charges, which are in fact almost the same as the original 18.
This can be seen as both hostility towards Assange, and a delaying tactic.
These violations of his basic right to due process have raised concern among the international legal fraternity with 14 legal associations and 150 individual lawyers and legal experts having presented a petition to the UK government demanding that they ‘…act in accordance with national and international law, human rights, and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr Assange his long overdue freedom – freedom from torture, arbitrary detention, and deprivation of liberty and political persecution’.
We can only hope that the British government shared the letter with Canberra.