Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day 13

September 24, 2020

Pre-Hearing

Nothing unusual to report before the hearing today but I will throw this into the mix early on:

That’s right. Assange’s own attorney has to put his ear up to the glass just to hear Assange which is the most pathetic thing I’ve heard so far in this case. Even far-right activist Tommy Robinson was allowed to sit with his attorneys and that’s after he assaulted a police officer! But I have to ask, when Assange speaks out during the hearing how does the judge hear him?? It’s all very confusing.

And then just my daily reminder that Belmarsh prison puts Assange through a five-hour ordeal every day just to take him to court which includes being handcuffed, strip-searched, and a three-hour round-trip transport. I’m wondering how many journalists and publishers out there that refuse to speak out on his behalf against this extradition request would feel if the U.S. arrested them tomorrow and put them through this punishment for simply practicing journalism. Especially those who used WikiLeaks documents in the past to bolster their work, image, or publications.

Prosecution Witness #2: Dr. Nigel Blackwood

Dr. Nigel Blackwood is a consultant forensic psychiatrist with the NHS and the second witness that the U.S. has called for the hearing. According to Blackwood, when Assange was “received from the embassy” (not sure what that means, at court? the prison? during his arrest?), he appeared “normal, polite, very engaging and articulate” with “no evidence of psychotic features.”

He found Assange to be only moderately depressed, able to manage his risk of suicide, and he “engages closely with treatments to manage that risk” (at Belmarsh). He also believes that he may have a “self-dramatising” or a “hyperbolic” approach to how he describes his symptoms. And he “works very well with other prisoners and talks proudly about his ability to bring prisoners round to his cause in what could be seen as a hostile environment.”

However, Blackwood admitted that he only used the reports from the prison psychiatrist whom Assange didn’t fully trust and he agrees that his mental health worsened in November and December 2019. He also conceded that Assange has a history of depression including one incident that required hospitalization at approximately 19 years old for post-self-harm and, personal thought, if this incident was a suicide attempt and I don’t know if it was or not, this seems extremely significant in terms of raising the bar significantly on his suicide risk if he’s extradited.

Blackwood also brought up the fact that Assange was never removed from prison to get outside medical help nor was he ever moved to a more secure unit—which surely making this not happen would have only taken one phone call from the U.S. And sure, we can all discuss how 60 doctors signed a letter regarding their concerns for Assange’s physical and mental health but at the end of the day, did his attorneys ever file anything with the court or with the prison board about seeking outside medical attention? We just don’t know.

Autism

  • He never tested Assange
  • Although Assange shows traits, he has a hard time diagnosing him with Asperger’s because he’s 49 years old and has no history of being diagnosed on the spectrum
  • Believes if Assange is on the spectrum, it’s “at the very mild end

Extradition

  • Blackwood was basically if Assange is extradited, sure, he’s at risk of suicide but meh, it’s not “high risk”

U.S. Prisons

  • Blackwood believes that U.K. and U.S. prisons are essentially alike in terms of mental health care and services
  • Depression is common in prisons so…
  • Assange is “resilient,” he’ll be fine in prison so…
  • Blackwood completely blew off what the former warden of ADX Florence supermax prison said about the facility not being fit for humanity and worse than the death penalty
  • (do NOT hire this guy as your psychiatrist)

SAMs

Blackwood agreed that SAMs will impact Assange’s mood (putting it mildly) but he felt that the description Assange’s defense attorney read to him about the measures was “at the most pessimistic end…” which begs the question, “end of what exactly?” As Assange’s attorney put it, “Once you are on SAMS you are on SAMS.” No one is kinda under SAMs like being kinda pregnant nor is there some sort of Club Med version of SAMs. They either put you under SAMs or they don’t and everyone under these special administration measures gets the same treatment, under the same guidelines. Assange will be treated exactly the same as Boston bomber, Jahar Tsarnaev.

Solitary Confinement

So basically we got today from Blackwood what we got from the prosecution’s witness yesterday: There is no solitary confinement in the U.S. prisons where Assange might be imprisoned (either before or after conviction). Blackwood simply calls ADX Florence’s total desolation program (hopped up on reading programs, games, Bingo, and TV shows, of course), “administrative segregation.” I honestly don’t know how this psychiatrist lives with himself.

Good Ol’ Fashioned Bias

So here’s some fun. Blackwood is not an expert on U.S. prisons and he only read the prosecution’s documents about them, nothing from the defense. He’s never been to ADX or any U.S. federal prison for that matter and he simply wrote his report off of what Kromberg said (document below) which was basically that ADX is a country club minus the golf course and pool—wait… *checks notes* they do have a golf course (reserved for actual terrorists only).

Physical Danger

Someone on Twitter brought up a good point about Assange being “openly declared by the US as a state enemy” and how that would play into his physical safety. Indeed, one might even add Jeffrey Epstein’s questionable “suicide” to the mix not in terms of inadequate mental health care but rather in terms of revenge or silencing. With multiple political figures publicly sharing their desire for Assange’s assassination one has to wonder why this isn’t being used in court although I’m not sure it can be under the guidelines of the extradition treaty but it is something to keep in mind.

Defense Witness #21: Dr. Sondra Crosby

According to @DefenseAssange, Dr. Crosby is an “associate professor of medicine and public health at Boston University and an expert on the physical and psychological impact of torture.”  She visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy between 2017-2019, although dates varied by journalist.

This is the totality of visits that I came across today although one account said Dr. Crosby has only visited Assange four times:

  • Once in 2017
  • Once in February 2018 and/or February 2019
  • Once in October 2019 and/or December 2019
  • Once in January 2020 (although this was reported as “last contact” which could have been a telephone call)

When she first met with him in 2017, Crosby said that Assange was showing signs of depression but was coping with it. In either February 2018 or February 2019, he was talking about suicide and she noted that his condition had declined over time: He couldn’t think straight, he had memory lapses, severe depression at times, and pleas for help. By the end of 2019, he met all of the criteria for major depression and she reported that he thought about suicide multiple times a day.

While at Belmarsh, Assange was afraid to talk about his depression because he believed that the prison would put him under harsher conditions (actually seems totally reasonable), and Crosby’s last contact with him was in January 2020, which is disappointing since it appears he trusted her to some degree. Crosby also relied on the medical portions of Nil Melzer’s reports. She believes that Assange is “at a very high risk of completing a suicide if he were to be extradited.”

Defense Witness #22: Christopher Butler

The witness statement of the representative of the website Wayback Machine, Christopher Butler, was read in court today. According to journalist Richard Medhurst, it stated that “archive.org still contains copies of WikiLeaks publications. US government has never requested their removal.” This is in regards to the government’s accusation that WikiLeaks published unredacted U.S. cables prior to anyone else which is simply not true. See John Young below.

Defense Witness #23: John Young

The witness statement of John Young from Cryptome was read in court today. Again Medhurst, “He confirms that he published the full archive of unredacted cables before @wikileaks (timestamp below). Still online today and US gov has never accused him of committing a crime or requested their removal.” It’s not even shocking that the U.S. government lied about this but what is shocking is that not once did they even approach Young about this while hunting Assange for a decade. Extraordinary. And it definitely supports “this is a political case for sure” argument.

Self-Censoring

So this whole conversation about independent journalists or journalists working for independent media outlets who are reporting on the hearing but are also censoring their own reports came up today on Twitter. Personally, every account that I follow for updates except one has stated publicly in so many words that they were not going to report fully on court proceedings and one Twitter account had the courage to address the issue today. It seems to have started with this:

Or at least that’s the gist of it and @FoWLChi’s tweets have merit even if some Assange supporters refuse to see it. At what point do you bury the government’s crimes for the sake of privacy? For one, Stella Moris, Assange’s fiance, has publicly pressured journalists not to report because it’s a breach of “their” privacy but at the end of the day we’re talking about Assange’s medical condition, not hers. And I can only assume that Assange agreed with his defense team to use his medical records in court as an argument against extradition otherwise we’re forced to believe that the team is working against their client’s wishes which opens up an entirely new can of worms, yes?

So let’s be perfectly clear about who we know knows all about Assange’s mental health (as a direct result of years of torture), some of whom have for years:

  • Every journalist that got the green light to connect to the court’s video and audio link for this hearing
  • U.S. officials
  • The CIA
  • The Ecuadorian government
  • Belmarsh staff and those who run the prison
  • UC f*cking Global
  • Psychiatrists (both for the U.S and the prosecution)
  • Lawyers (both for the U.S. and the prosecution)
  • Family and close friends

This list includes some of the very people who have either tortured Assange, continue to torture him, or have covered up for the torture. So when the few journalists who are actually covering this hearing refuse to cover the one part that shows exactly what four governments and a U.K. prison have done to him it’s a bit questionable, even with privacy issues in mind. Again, Assange agreed to this line of defense, yes?

One of the arguments that @FoWLChi used today was this picture:

They added, “In our pathetic touchy-feely “new normal” this photo – which did more to end Vietnam War than all the articles, books, debates & protests combined – would be helpfully (for US Gov) CENSORED out of ‘concern for privacy of the family’ & worry about ‘triggering’ some delicate soul!” And indeed they’re right. Again, at what point as a journalist do you bury the severity of government crimes to protect privacy—the severity of which you and the torturers have been privy to and that you’ve now decided the public doesn’t get to hear.

Furthermore, for some of us that have been pointing out how utterly dysfunctional the support community is and how it has manipulated Assange’s condition for years, perhaps journalists will understand that this is the time when we might catch a glimmer of truth of what actually happened to Assange at the hands of multiple governments and in prison. You need only read this to understand the manipulations the public has been through:

With that said, of course every journalist has to make this decision for themselves and on some level we must be respectful of that despite disappointment or outrage. That doesn’t mean silence is a virtue. On the contrary:

Speaking our minds is what we all should be doing but we should also consider the hard work that these journalists have put into reporting on this hearing. I definitely lean on the side against censorship in this case which only helps the enemy and I find it to be yet another sad and pathetic day in the community when certain accounts are openly pressuring journalists to censor themselves or calling those who report accurately and openly as “non-journalists.” Grow up. A man’s life is on the line.

Twitter Sources

The Twitter users I followed today that I want to give a special thanks to for covering the hearing and that were used as my source material include (these guys and gals do the heavy lifting so we don’t have to):

A head’s up that @SMaurizi will no longer be covering the hearing (for now). Yesterday, the UK prosecution for the United States took issue with her doing so ⟶ “I am afraid today and in the coming days I won’t be able to follow and cover the Julian #Assange extradition hearing because the lawyers acting for the US government asked I won’t do it as I am a witness of fact in the Julian #Assange extradition hearing.” – Stefania Maurizi

Featured photo: Hannah Mckay | Reuters

Articles

Bridges for Media Freedom Daily Court Summary: A.M. SUMMARY and P.M. SUMMARY
*I didn’t see any posted today

Richard Medhurst Day 12 and 13 Updates (video) HERE

Of Interest

“How Did We Get Here? The Threat of Fascism in U.S.” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org

“No more appeals to the fascist Trump! The Assange campaign must turn to the working class!” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org

“The Darkest Corner: Special Administrative Measures and Extreme Isolation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” Center For Constitutional Rights

Conditions of Prison in Alexandria, VA via The Justice Campaign (Twitter thread)

“Lockdown Life is Better in Virtual Reality” Madeleine Spence, The Times

“Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange (english subtitles)” via ardmediathek.de

Witnesses

  • Day 1 and 2: Mark Feldstein
  • Day 2: Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Day 3: Paul Rogers, Trevor Timm
  • Day 4: Eric Lewis (cancelled)
  • Day 5: Eric Lewis
  • Day 6: Eric Lewis (continued), Thomas Durkin
  • Day 7: John Goetz, Daniel Ellsberg
  • Day 8: John Sloboda, Carey Shenkman
  • Day 9:
    • Nicky Hager
    • Jennifer Robinson (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
    • Khaled El-Masri (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
    • Carey Shenkman (continuation from day before)
    • Dean Yates (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
  • Day 10:
    • Christian Grotthoff
    • Andy Worthington (statement read by judge/unclear)
    • Cassandra Fairbanks (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
  • Day 11: Dr. Kopelman
  • Day 12:
    • Dr. Quinton Deeley
    • Seena Fazel
    • Dr. Catherine Humphries (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
  • Day 13:
    • Dr. Nigel Blackwood
    • Dr. Sandra Crosby
    • Christopher Butler (statement read in court, no cross-examination)
    • John Young (statement read in court, no cross-examination)

Attorneys

  • Edward Fitzgerald QC (Assange defense)
  • Mark Summers QC (Assange defense)
  • Jennifer Robinson (Assange defense)
  • Gareth Peirce (Assange defense)
  • Florence Iveson (Assange defense)
  • James Lewis QC (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Joel Smith (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Claire Dobbin (prosecutor for the U.S.)

Documents

Defense Opening Arguments HERE

Defense Skeleton Arguments HERE and HERE

Prosecution Skeleton Arguments (photos via @MacWBishop) HERE

Prosecution Witness Bundle Including Kromberg Statement (bundle may be subject to change with each witness) HERE

Defense Witness #1 Statement: Professor Mark Feldstein HERE and HERE

Defense Witness #2 Statement: Clive Stafford-Smith HERE

Defense Witness #3 Statement: Paul Rogers HERE

Defense Witness #4 Statement: Trevor Timm HERE

Defense Witness #5 Statement: Eric Lewis (not released)

Defense Witness #6 Statement: Thomas Durkin (not released)

Defense Witness #7 Statement: John Goetz HERE

Defense Witness #8 Statement: Daniel Ellsberg (not released)

Defense Witness #9 Statement: John Sloboda (not released)

Defense Witness #10 Statement: Carey Shenkman HERE

Defense Witness #11 Statement: Nicky Hager (not released)

Defense Witness Statement #12: Jennifer Robinson (not released)

Defense Witness #13 Statement : Khaled El-Masri HERE

Defense Witness #14 Statement: Dean Yates HERE

Defense Witness #15 Statement: Christian Grotthoff HERE

Defense Witness #16 Statement: Andy Worthington (not released)

Defense Witness #17 Statement: Cassandra Fairbanks HERE

Defense Witness #18 Statement: Dr. Kopelman (not released)

Defense Witness #19 Statement: Dr. Quinton Deeley (not released)

Prosecution Witness #1 Statement: Seena Fazel (not released)

Defense Witness #20 Statement: Dr. Catherine Humphries (not released)

Prosecution Witness #2 Statement: Dr. Nigel Blackwood (not released)

Defense Witness #21 Statement: Dr. Sandra Crosby (not released)

Defense Witness #22 Statement: Christopher Butler (not released)

Defense Witness #23 Statement: John Young HERE

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