Julian Assange’s father and girlfriend greeted each other with a kiss outside the Old Bailey as the WikiLeaks founder appeared in court for his US extradition hearing today.
Around 100 demonstrators set up outside the court this morning, including fashion designer Westwood, who was wearing bright yellow football boots.
Assange, who has been in high-security Belmarsh Prison for 16 months, is wanted in the US over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.
Speaking outside court Assange’s father, John Shipton, blasted today’s extradition hearing as an ‘abuse trial’.
Mr Shipton was seen greeting his son’s partner, Stella Moris, with a kiss outside court as she arrived after handing in a petition at Downing Street calling for Assange’s release.
This morning the 49-year-old appeared in court for the first time in months, facing 18 charges – including plotting to hack computers and conspiring to obtain and disclose national defence information.
Appearing in court clean shaven with spectacles perched in his short cropped hair, Assange spoke to confirm his name and date of birth at the start of the hearing.
He formally said he did not consent to extradition, following a fresh indictment lodged in the US.
Julian Assange, pictured in May 2019, faces 18 charges – including plotting to hack computers and conspiring to obtain and disclose national defence information
John Shipton, Mr Assange’s father, was seen arriving at the Old Bailey today ahead of his son’s extradition hearing
Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton, and partner Stella Moris, greeted one another outside the court
The allegations include that Assange conspired with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a scrambled password, known as a ‘hash’, to a classified US Department of Defence computer.
If convicted, he faces a maximum possible penalty of 175 years in jail.
Inside the court District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, and James Lewis QC, for the US government, are not to repeat their earlier submissions to the court but they are ‘to be tested and challenged in what they have said.’
Mr Fitzgerald has argued extradition should not be granted because it is essentially a political crime which would not be covered by the UK/US extradition treaty.
Assange is also fighting the extradition on the basis he would likely receive a life sentence on conviction which would be ‘inhuman and degrading’ for someone ‘with his mental vulnerabilities’.
His team stated there was a risk Assange would take his own life if extradited.
Julian Assange appeared in court for the first time in months today, after being taken to the Old Bailey from HMP Belmarsh
Mr Shipton spoke to crowds outside the court in London on Monday, before his son’s extradition hearing got underway
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joined protesters outside the Old Bailey demonstrating against the potential extradition of Julian Assange
The document said Assange would be denied the right to a fair trial in the US and claimed it would be a ‘flagrant violation’ of his right to protect journalistic sources.
Mr Lewis’ skeleton argument stressed the issues raised by Assange’s team should be dealt with at his eventual trial and not by an extradition court.
He said in the document: ‘It is not a trial of the facts or issues, which the defence are endeavouring to make it. The sole questions are whether the statutory requirements of the Extradition Act 2003 are satisfied.
‘No issue of abuse arises.
‘The defence cannot run a political motivation argument whilst simultaneously running the same argument as an abuse of process.
‘It is clear beyond argument that there is an overwhelming case of computer misuse and disclosure of classified sources. These are serious crimes and the prosecution is undertaken by independent prosecutors in the United States of America.’
Demonstrators held up signs outside the Old Bailey, while inside, Julian Assange told a judge he did not consent to extradition
Vivienne Westwood joined Assange supporters outside the Old Bailey wearing yellow football boots
Assange’s partner Stella Moris and human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson arrived at the Old Bailey today. Ms Moris has handed in a Reporters Without Borders petition with 80,000 signatures against the extradition
Mark Summers QC, defending Assange, told the extradition hearing at the Old Bailey the ‘fresh allegations at the 11th hour’ were brought without warning or explanation, giving the defence no time to properly prepare a response.
The indictment introduced in June alleges that Assange conspired with Hackers to break into computer systems, as a means of obtaining new material for his WikiLeaks website.
Mr Summer highlighted the difficulties Assange faced in speaking to his lawyers in the midst of ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
‘It would be an impossible task for the defence to deal with these fresh allegations in any meaningful way in the time that has been afforded to them, and that time is a matter of weeks in respect of which we are provided absolutely no explanation for the late arrival of these matters.’
He added: ‘What is happening is abnormal, unfair and liable to create injustice if allowed to continue.’
Assange’s supporters have accused the US administration of targeting the Australian national for ‘political’ reasons after WikiLeaks exposed alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.
Dozens of supporters, including his father, John Shipton, gathered outside the Old Bailey on Monday, where a small stage has been erected for a planned protest.
Addressing crowds outside the court, Mr Shipton said: ‘Julian has two young children, what concerns me today is the rights of those children.’
As he showed crowds a picture of Assange and his partner Stella Moris, Mr Shipton said: ‘Julian hasn’t seen those children for six months.
‘They weren’t allowed to embrace their father under the regulation that if they touched each other Julian would have to spend two weeks in self-isolation, in quarantine, in jail, as if circumstances are not dire enough.’
Protesters gathered outside the Old Bailey and listened to speeches ahead of the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing
Demonstrators roared in applause as speeches demanded the Government free Assange, while some banged drums and carried banners
He described the extradition hearing as an ‘abuse trial’, adding: ‘The insistence, the malice that constantly falls like a Niagara upon Julian is just appalling, and indicates to us that the administration of justice here is enfeebled.’
Demonstrators roared in applause as speeches demanded the Government free Assange, while some banged drums and carried banners.
Dame Vivienne told the PA news agency: ‘I’m an activist, I am very frightened, I’ve lost days and years of sleep worrying about Julian Assange.
‘Julian Assange is the trigger, he is shining the light on all the corruption in the world.’
She added: ‘We’ve got to protect human rights, the establishment is corrupt, they will not listen to Julian.’
A mobile billboard van drove past featuring a ‘Don’t extradite Assange. Journalism is not a crime’ slogan and a picture of his face.
Supporter Lise Brand, 56, from Surrey, said: ‘He is looking at 175 years in American prison, I don’t hold any hope.
‘The UK government and justice system has treated him so badly.’
Meanwhile, Assange’s partner Stella Moris arrived at Downing Street in a bid to deliver a Reporters Without Borders petition against the extradition, which has been signed by around 80,000 people.
Last month, she launched a Crowdjustice campaign to help fund his defence which has now topped £100,000.
Speaking on Sunday, Ms Moris, who has two young sons with Assange, described the possible impact on their family.
She said: ‘To the boys, Julian has become a voice on the telephone, not their father whom they can see and hug.
‘It is heartbreaking to think that if Julian is extradited and put in a US super-max prison, the boys will never get to know their father and he will never see them grow up.
Westwood donned a white hood with ‘justice’ written across the front as part of today’s protest
Demonstrators protesting the potential extradition of Julian Assange have gathered outside the Old Bailey this morning
The Socialist Equality Party set up among the crowd outside the Old Bailey on Monday morning
‘That is what is at stake for us as a family. But there are also much bigger issues that we are fighting for.
‘Julian’s case has huge repercussions for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. This is an attack on journalism.
‘If he is extradited to the US for publishing inconvenient truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then it will set a precedent and any British journalist or publisher could also be extradited in the future.’
The extradition case, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being heard by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey.
It is expected that dozens of witnesses will be called to give evidence over four weeks, with the judgment likely to be delivered at a later date.
Protesters wearing Anonymous masks held up placards calling for Julian Assange’s freedom
Activist and writer John Rees spoke outside the court building in London, ahead of the extradition hearing
Assange’s legal team is being spearheaded by Edward Fitzgerald QC, with James Lewis QC acting for the US authorities.
No journalists are allowed in court for the hearing because of Covid-19 restrictions, with some observing by videolink from another room in the building and others provided with a remote link.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser warned against a repeat of an incident at an earlier hearing in Woolwich Court Court in which a photograph of Assange in the dock was taken and posted on social media, against strict court rules.
The judge added that she had revoked access to the remote video link to some individuals who had been sent it ‘in error’.
Assange has been held on remand in Belmarsh prison since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching his bail conditions while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost seven years.
Westwood arrived in a striped jumper and bright yellow football boots, carrying a ball with ‘justice’ written in red
Stella Moris brought her partner’s press card with her as she arrived at Downing Street to deliver a petition earlier on Monday
Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said he was ‘hesitant to be hopeful’ as Julian Assange’s fight against extradition began at the Old Bailey.
Addressing supporters outside court, he said: ‘But hope is not enough, we need to fight for the justice.
‘We need to show our determination to have this extradition hearing dismissed because the future of journalism is at stake.’
He described a video of a Baghdad airstrike that was leaked by Wikileaks, in which two Reuters journalists were killed, adding: ‘It is the most important fight, it’s the most important fight of the century when it comes to journalism.
‘Let’s keep up the fight, let’s stay strong, let’s not rely on hope, let’s fight for justice.’
The hearing continues.