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World At the trial of Julian Assange, his supporters say "no to extradition"

22:55  24 february  2020
22:55  24 february  2020 Source:   liberation.fr

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Des soutiens de Julian Assange, à Londres samedi. © TOLGA AKMEN Supporters of Julian Assange, in London on Saturday. On the first day of the trial of the leader of WikiLeaks, the lawyer for the American administration accused Assange of having by his publications "endangered" sources, while his defense denounced a "political" procedure.

Banners and signs "Free Assange", "No to extradition", "We are all Julian Assange". A few tents pitched in the grass, not far from the gates. John Woolton, father of WikiLeaks founder , the lawyers of the Australian, but also fluorescent chasubles, including that of Maxime Nicolle aka "Fly Rider": a coach of yellow vests traveled from France. Throughout the day, chants, slogans, sirens will be heard in the courtroom and the media annex.

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Shortly after 10 a.m., Assange, closely shaved, gray-blue blazer on gray sweatshirt, confirmed to judge Vanessa Baraitser his identity and his age, 48 years old. Just before the 1 p.m. break, he will speak to explain that he has the greatest difficulty hearing the debates and concentrating: he is isolated by a window, and the clamors of his supporters outside, that 'he understands, does not help. During the morning, he examined files and above all listened to James Lewis, the lawyer representing the United States, explaining the reasons why the American administration is demanding his extradition.

Across the Atlantic, WikiLeaks leader faces 18 charges: one for computer hacking - accused of trying to help Chelsea Manning, source of hundreds of thousands of documents US military response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 to "crack" a password - and the other 17 under US law on espionage, this denounced by a number of associations defending human rights and freedom of the press. The Australian is thus implicated for "association of criminals with a view to receiving information relating to national defense", "obtaining" and "disclosure" of this information.

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Documents not redacted

Lewis' strategy is clear: Assange, he asserts, is not charged "for having disclosed embarrassing or embarrassing information that the [American] government would have preferred not to disclose", but for having "Incited" Chelsea Manning to seize classified documents and "endangered sources, dissidents, human rights activists" in Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan by publishing unredacted documents. In September 2011, almost a year after the publication of the first American diplomatic cables in partnership with several media, WikiLeaks had indeed put the complete archive online, then accusing the Guardian journalists of having made public in a password book to access the protected folder. According to Lewis, "hundreds of sources" had to be warned, some relocated, and some later "disappeared" - but authorities were unable to link to WikiLeaks publications.

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In the afternoon, it’s Edward Assger’s attorney Edward Fitzgerald’s turn to speak. And to insist, on the contrary, on the "efforts" led by WikiLeaks, during the year 2010, to expurgate from the masses of documents revealed by the platform elements likely to endanger people. When all the cables were published, "the information was already available," he insists.

“High risk of suicide”

Beyond the substance of the American accusations, the Australian defense team intends above all to thwart the extradition request by arguing of a purely political nature - stressing in particular that the Obama administration had given up using the Spy Act against Assange. Fitzgerald also addressed in his introductory speech the visit of the elected Republican of California Dana Rohrabacher to Assange, then reclusive in the Embassy of Ecuador, in the summer of 2017: Rohrabacher, he argued, would then have, on behalf of Trump, offered the Australian a presidential pardon in exchange for statements on the source of Democratic camp emails published by WikiLeaks during the US presidential campaign - which the White House denies, while the elected official claims to have acted without consulting the President. The lawyer also referred to the hyper-close surveillance to which Assange was subjected to the embassy from the end of 2017, argues that a "fair and equitable" trial would be impossible if he were to be tried in the United States , and put forward the risk of ill-treatment and the "high risk of suicide" of his client in the event of extradition.

The battle, in any event, has only just begun. The debates, which are to be held for one week, will resume in mid-May for three more weeks. Not to mention that in the event of a first unfavorable decision, the defense team will try all possible remedies, which can theoretically bring the case of Julian Assange up to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom or the European Court of Human Rights .

Supporters of Julian Assange demonstrate in London against his extradition .
© REUTERS / Peter Nicholls WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsonn, Julian Assange's father, John Shipton, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, during the London demonstration , February 22, 2020. Two days before the start of Julian Assange's hearing, a protest against his possible extradition to the United States took place in London this Saturday, February 22. Thousands of protesters marched to demand the release of the founder of WikiLeaks.

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