From defend.wikileaks on Sept. 19, 2019:
‘In a surprise “technical hearing” at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 13 September 2019, Julian Assange was told that he will continue to be detained at HMP Belmarsh to the United States’ extradition request even after his bail sentence ends on 22 September 2019.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who will preside over Julian’s extradition hearing, told Assange, who appeared by video-link,
“You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.”
The judge’s comments did not appear to be part of any formal ruling, as no bail application had yet been made.
Speaking to Assange, the judge also alleged, “I have given your lawyer an opportunity to make an application for bail on your behalf and she has declined to do so.”
In fact, as Julian Assange’s father John Shipton, who was in the courtroom, explained in an interview, the judge decided on her own to discuss Julian’s bail at what was supposed to be merely a “technical hearing.”
Judge Baraitser “decided to hear a bail application case which wasn’t before her,” Shipton said, “which she promptly refused.” When asked who brought the bail application, he said, “She made it herself.”
Assange himself was clearly caught off guard as well. When explicitly asked by the court if he understood these developments, Assange responded, “Not really. I’m sure the lawyers will explain it.”
The surprise hearing is especially troubling given ongoing concerns over Julian Assange’s ability to defend himself against the United States’ extradition request, the trial for which is scheduled for February 2020. In response to the abrupt nature of the hearing, a member of the public has written an open letter to Westminster Magistrates Court calling for more transparency about their proceedings.
“Absconding” to asylum
The grounds for which Assange was preemptively denied bail are troubling as well. Judge Baraitser told him, “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.” To describe Assange’s decision to request asylum from Ecuador and to stay in Ecuador’s Embassy in London since 2012 as him having “absconded” is to willfully ignore overwhelming evidence that Assange’s fears of political persecution were entirely well-founded.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum in 2012 explicitly because of the likelihood that he would otherwise be at serious risk of extradition to the United States, which has now realized Assange’s fears with an indictment threatening 175 years in prison for journalistic activity. The judge’s claim that Assange “absconded” further ignores the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s multiple statements ruling that Assange has been arbitrarily detained.
Following Assange’s 50-week sentence on a bail violation conviction on 1 May 2019, the UN Working Group wrote that it was “deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange.”
Continuing Assange’s solitary
Julian Assange is currently being held in solitary confinement at HMP Belmarsh. He remains in the health ward and is only transported in and out of his cell under so-called ‘controlled moves’, meaning the prison is locked down and hallways are cleared. Furthermore, the prison hasn’t delivered mail to him for over a month, and Julian is unable to call his parents or his US lawyer. Continuing to imprison him beyond his sentence furthers this inhumane treatment and should be condemned.
Labour MP Chris Williamson responded to the news on Twitter:
@DerbyChrisW ‘Plans to hold Julian Assange in detention after his unjust sentence ends is an outrage.
Britain is increasingly behaving like a tin-pot dictatorship in its dealing with him. I’m raising his unjust treatment with the Home Sec#FreeJulianAssange https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49689167 …
An administrative hearing in Assange’s case is scheduled for 11 October at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and a status update hearing is scheduled for 21 October.’
On May 14 Oscar Grenfell at wsws.org had explained why the end of his sentence came on that day, rather than the full 50 weeks of his original sentence:
“Assange was convicted of absconding on bail, as a result of his application for political asylum, just hours after he was illegally expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy and arrested by the British police on April 11.
The British judge presiding over the hearing ignored the fact that Assange had forfeited the bail monies his supporters had paid; that he had spent close to seven years effectively detained by the British authorities in the small embassy building; and that his right to seek political asylum had been repeatedly upheld by United Nations’ bodies.
Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks. Under British legislation, the maximum sentence for a bail violation is 52 weeks. Those convicted of such an offence, however, are eligible for release after half of that time served.
Baraitser’s refusal to release Assange demonstrates the vindictive disregard of the British establishment for the warnings about his physical and mental health.”
‘Dedicated to David Allen Green, Joshua Rosenberg, Joan Smith, Hadley Freeman, Jess Phillips, David Aaronovitch and the entire staff of the Guardian/Observer’, 22 Sep, 2019, Ambassador Craig Murray
“As of today Julian Assange has finished his jail sentence for missing police bail. There is no Swedish charge or request for his extradition, those risibly flimsy sexual allegations no longer being needed by the state.
As of today, Julian Assange is in prison purely and simply for publishing secrets of the US state, revealing war crimes and the dirtiest of diplomacy. I should like to dedicate this post to all of those in the title and dozens of their colleagues in the British “liberal” establishment, all of whom claimed that Julian’s fears of being incarcerated in the UK or Europe facing extradition for publishing US secrets were entirely bogus and a mere pretext for hiding, and that this would never happen. Those of us who said this was a real fear and a real danger were, myself most definitely included, derided as fantasist, deluded, paranoid and conspiracy theorist.
So now Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist in a maximum security prison, probably for years, waiting for his case to be heard and extradition faced for the grievous crime of doing his job and publishing. While the British liberal establishment simply buries its nose in its perfumed handkerchief and pretends that the fear it derided as imaginary, has not come true.”
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)