‘FREE Julian Assange!’ demanded a mass protest outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday morning while inside, the head of WikiLeaks won the right for extra time with his defence lawyer.
Assange has been held in solitary confinement in the high security HMP Belmarsh since April 2019, awaiting the outcome of an extradition request by the US where he faces 18 charges, including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.
Demanding more time, his legal representative Gareth Peirce told the court yesterday: ‘We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.’
Rapper and singer MIA, (real name Mathangi Arulpragasam) was among more than 40 people allowed inside the packed public gallery, all of whom were required to show security they had switched their phones off before entering.
Assange spoke only to confirm his name, his date of birth, and to briefly state he did not understand an element of the proceedings, during the 12-minute hearing.
After District Judge Vanessa Baraitser granted his lawyer Gareth Peirce extra time with her client, Assange defiantly raised his right fist to the sky as he was led to the holding cells.
Joe Corrie from the free Julian Assange campaign, told Sky News: ‘What we have seen so far has been a joke.’
He alleged: ‘The first magistrate called Assange a “narcissist” then we found out that actually that magistrate was compromised and should never have heard the case in the first place.
‘At the last hearing that Julian Assange had, which was to set the time needed to hear the next case next month, the magistrate turned around to the US attorneys and said: “I thought you wanted to get this over with quickly,” which shows collusion between the parties,’ he further alleged.
‘So it seems like he is in a kangaroo court. He hasn’t been allowed to prepare for his case and he has been treated atrociously.’
A rattled presenter then rushed to the defence of the prosecution: ‘Sorry, the comment that you have just made, your point, I wouldn’t suggest shows evidence of what you were asserting. I mean this is a legal process, I mean he is facing extradition to the United States.’
But Corrie hit back: ‘And it is shocking what is happening to him at the moment, I mean this man, this poor man is facing what is …’
The Sky presenter interjected: ‘He has evaded justice for a very long time.’
Corrie replied: ‘He has not evaded justice at all, what do you mean? He claimed asylum because he was in fear of his life and what has happened is exactly what he feared would happen and why he claimed asylum in the first place. He is being treated exceptionally cruelly and unfairly.’
Assange’s full extradition hearing is scheduled for February 24 at Woolwich Crown Court.