Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day 15

September 28, 2020

Pre-Hearing

Nothing unusual to report except that human rights groups and NGOs are still being denied entry to the hearing. From @jlpassarelli, “September 28th, day 15 of the #AssangeCase extradition proceedings. 40 political and #FreeSpeech advocate observers including @RSF_inter and @amnesty are still banned from observing the most important trial of our lifetime by Judge Baraitser without any explanation.”

And 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.

Release of Medical Report

The hearing started with the judge’s ruling on whether or not Assange’s medical report should be released to the media. You may remember that on Friday both the defense and prosecution agreed to withhold it, defense arguing to the judge that “open justice would not be advanced by the disclosure of this information.” After speaking to a member of the press Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that she would make her decision today.

And keep in mind what Naomi Colvin said, “This is a press request for access to the medical reports. Note that the press agencies *always* request access to material (of course they do). This isn’t about JA personally.” So maybe Assange supporters can remember that in the future and stop taking things so personally meaning you probably shouldn’t be advocating that Assange is a journalist and that the government shouldn’t go after him for journalistic activity while your attacking journalists for conducting normal journalistic activity just because it doesn’t suit you.

The judge’s final decision is that the records will be withheld with the exception of Dr. Catherine Humphries’ witness statement which was read into court on September 23, 2020. Her statement was about neurological tests Assange had taken.

Defense Witness #26: Yancy Ellis

Mr. Ellis has been practicing law for 15 years, he was a judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, and he’s a public defender in Alexandria, VA. He’s very familiar with the Alexandria jail (ADC) where Assange would likely be held in pre-trial detention if he’s extradited.

Administrative Segregation

Ellis believes that Assange will be held for months if not years at ADC in administration segregation known as “X-block” during pre-detention. The cells are tiny and only have room for a sleeping space, a metal toilet and sink, and not much else. Assange would only spend around 1-2 hours outside of his cell and the entire point of X-block is to keep you away from other inmates. If you want to talk to a prisoner in the cell next to you as the prosecution claimed you could do, you literally have to scream at the top of your lungs for anyone to hear you. According to Ellis, these are “the basic minimum physical conditions of the unit” and SAMs would make the environment even more extreme.

Mental Health Care

ADC has social workers and counsellors but no doctors on staff. There’s also a part-time psychiatrist but no psycho-therapy. Medical care for someone with psychological disabilities was described at “very limited,” and I guess if you’re lucky, every once in a while a social worker will check in on you.

Suicide

The prosecution for the United States tried to pull off this amazing argument that because ADC hasn’t had any suicides in awhile (what’s this about?) it’s always sunny at ADC. But it seems the only thing they might be good at is making sure there aren’t any completed suicides i.e. Chelsea Manning. As for how ADC deals with prisoners at risk for suicide, they simply move them into the medical unit or a state psychiatric hospital.

Prosecutor James Lewis QC on Cross

During cross, Lewis argued that Ellis never interviewed the warden at ADC but isn’t this the same prosecution who ignored what the former warden of ADX Florence said, you know, like it’s not fit for humanity? He also argued that Ellis can’t see into the future and has no idea if Assange would be put under administrative segregation but isn’t the point that Lewis can’t either and that Assange could be? And then he tried to say that a “phalanx of lawyers” would be looking out for Assange and making the “minutist criticism of every detail of the conditions,” which a. sure, maybe, but as of now it doesn’t appear that Assange’s lawyers have filed much of anything in 16 months to protect him at Belmarsh b. that’s not how it works, you don’t get to be incompetent and then say “well just file a complaint” and c. if Assange commits suicide, it’s a little late to file anything.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser

After cross and re-examination, Judge Baraitser asked Ellis why he thought that Assange would be held in administrative segregation since U.K. prisons hold everyone, regardless of their public standing or notoriety, under the same conditions. Ellis stated that in his experience with U.S. prisons, being a public figure coupled with (in this case) mental health issues that likely means Assange will be segregated and isolated.

Defense Witness #27:Joel Stickler

Defense witness Joel Stickler was a correction counsellor in D.C.’s Department of Corrections, he has more than forty years experience in federal prison-related matters and prison advocacy, he founded the Justice Advocacy Group, and is extremely familiar with the jail in Alexandria (ADC).

Administrative Segregation

Stickler agreed with Ellis that Assange would probably be sent to the X-block at ADC based on Assange being a public figure, concerns for his safety, and his risk of self-harm. But note, also because of the charges levied against him i.e. he’s a national security threat. Stickler also agrees that Assange would not be able to communicate with other inmates and despite the infamous Kromberg stating otherwise, Stickler says that “in practice, that’s ridiculous. You have to scream [to each other].”

Suicide

Stickler also agrees that prisoners with mental health issues or at risk of suicide are generally medicated or sent to the prison’s psychiatric ward. However, he believes that if someone is “intent on committing suicide, it can be done,” and then noted that one of his clients killed themselves despite being one of the most guarded prisoners there. U.K. prosecution for the U.S. was nice enough to point out that the prison guards who allowed it to happen were being prosecuted for falling asleep on the job (“falling asleep” as in the same “falling asleep” under Epstein’s watch?) after which Stickler pointed out, “…but that doesn’t bring him back.”

The prosecution also tried to argue against isolation and segregation by noting that some inmates get to buddy up with someone else in their prison cell like we’re talking about summer camp—that is, summer camp where your roommate has a lot of mental problems and likes to beat you up every once in awhile. “One time, at ADC…”

SAMs

Really disturbing testimony today from Stickler about his clients, one of which went into prison at age 25 and has been in solitary confinement for 22 years. A second client was held in solitary for 19 years. Sickler believes:

  • There’s no cap on time someone can spend in isolation
  • Assange will be classified at the highest level if prosecuted
  • Assange will likely not receive the mental health care he needs
  • Assange will get a long sentence, if not life in prison

Prosecutor Claire Dobbin QC on Cross

  • Claire Dobbin for the prosecution pointed out that terrorist Wadih el-Hage isn’t under SAMs but when Stickler asked her which prison he was at she refused to answer
  • Dobbin compared Assange’s case to that of Reality Winner’s who received a five year prison term
  • After Dobbin kept up pretenses that Assange might not be in solitary, Stickler replied, “They are going to put in in [sic] him there incommunicado and keep his [sic] that way for years, I’ve had a client held that way for 22 years.”
  • Despite admitting to Dobbin that ADX Florence is well-staffed, Stickler doesn’t agree that its effective

The three main takeaways from Stickler’s testimony today is that he firmly believes Assange will be put under SAMs if extradited and prosecuted, U.S. prisons cannot adequately care for prisoners’ mental health issues especially when you take into account SAMs and long term isolation, and, despite what ADX might say, reality is much different than what they say in their holiday brochure.

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

Daily Updates

Bridges for Media Freedom Daily Court Summary: A.M. SUMMARY and P.M. SUMMARY

Richard Medhurst’s Daily Updates (video) HERE

Mohamed Elmaazi’s Daily Report HERE

@AssangeDefense’s Daily Report HERE

Articles

“Julian Assange faces ‘torturous’ months in parking space-sized cell if extradited to US, court hears.” Press Association via pressgazette.co.uk

“Julian Assange ‘faces fate worse than death’ in US: WikiLeaks founder could serve life in isolation at dreaded ‘Supermax’ prison that’s home to America’s most violent terrorists and drug lords if extradited, court hears.” Emer Skully via DailyMail

“Dissident Ai Weiwei protests possible extradition of Assange.” AP News Wire via independent.co.uk

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
  • 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)
  • Day 14:
    • Jakob Austein
    • Patrick Eller
  • Day 15:
    • Yancy Ellis
    • Joel Stickler

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

Defense Witness #6 Statement: Thomas Durkin

Defense Witness #7 Statement: John Goetz HERE

Defense Witness #8 Statement: Daniel Ellsberg HERE

Defense Witness #9 Statement: John Sloboda HERE

Defense Witness #10 Statement: Carey Shenkman HERE

Defense Witness #11 Statement: Nicky Hager HERE

Defense Witness Statement #12: Jennifer Robinson HERE

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 HERE

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: 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 HERE

Defense Witness #23 Statement: John Young HERE

Defense Witness #24 Statement: Jakob Austein HERE

Defense Witness #25 Statement: Patrick Eller HERE

Defense Witness #26 Statement: Yancy Ellis

Defense Witness #27 Statement: Joel Stickler (not released)

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