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Assange denied bail after extradition blocked, will appeal to UK High Court

Assange denied bail after extradition blocked, will appeal to UK High Court, WSW

Thomas Scripps, 6 January 2021 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been denied bail and continues to be held on remand in Belmarsh maximum-security prison.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser handed down the decision Wednesday in Westminster Magistrates Court, after ruling on Monday against Assange’s extradition to the United States on mental health grounds. Assange will remain in custody until the prosecution’s appeal of that ruling is heard.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson announced afterwards that Assange’s legal team would be taking the bail decision to the High Court.

Baraitser’s refusal to grant bail confirms that her decision not to extradite was motivated by political considerations and not any genuine concern for Assange’s health. Assange will be kept in conditions which have had a grave impact on his mental health, during a massive escalation of the UK’s COVID-19 epidemic.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, Nick Vamos, former head of special crime and head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service, indicated that the appeal process would likely take two to three months.

In her decision, Baraitser accepted the prosecution’s insistence that Assange’s flight into the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012—after a UK court had granted him bail in connection with Sweden’s trumped-up sexual assault investigation and extradition request—was proof of his willingness to abscond in the future. This is an absurd and vindictive position……..

Assange now has a court ruling in his favour. He is, regardless, prepared to submit to stringent bail conditions amounting to effective house arrest with a GPS tag—conditions which have allowed terror suspects to receive bail. His experience of claiming asylum in an embassy has proved it “unpleasant”, in Fitzgerald’s words, and led “to him being effectively confined for some seven years” before having his asylum revoked. “That is not something that he is ever likely to repeat.”

Assange also now has a family, a partner and two children, in the UK. Besides being a reason for Assange not to abscond, Fitzgerald argued, his family provides significant human rights grounds for his release on bail. On account of COVID-19 restrictions in the prison, Assange “hasn’t seen his family in person since March 2020”. He has never been able to live with them, having spent 15 months held on remand pending his extradition hearing.

Assange’s family, Fitzgerald noted, is highly relevant to the question of his mental and physical wellbeing. “The grant of bail”, he said, “would allow actual physical contact with his family, that would… alleviate mental distress”.

Baraitser had acknowledged the benefit of his family’s support to Assange in her ruling on extradition, which described him as a “depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future.”

Bail would also “considerably reduce” the risk of Assange’s exposure to COVID-19. Fitzgerald pointed to the “severe outbreak” of the virus suffered by Belmarsh Prison recently and said there had been 59 positive cases prior to Christmas. He added, “on any view, the position [the state of the UK’s epidemic] is worse now and, on any view, he would be safer isolating with his family than if he was in Belmarsh.”

Baraitser dismissed these concerns, declaring “this prison is managing prisoners’ health during this pandemic in an appropriate and responsible manner.”……….

January 9, 2021 - Posted by | Legal, UK

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