Rebecca Vincent Profile picture
Sep 21, 2020 60 tweets 21 min read Read on X
Week three, Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing. A new thread.

#FreeAssange 1/
It’s now Day 10 of proceedings at the Old Bailey in London. Campaigns Officer @AustinPatrickC is currently in court monitoring in person for @RSF_inter. I’ll be back in court myself tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s my recap from last week.
Some exciting news: thanks to your support, signatures on @RSF_inter’s #FreeAssange petition have more than doubled since the hearing began. Please keep signing & sharing, and we’ll take the petition back to @10DowningStreet along with @StellaMoris1 when proceedings conclude. 3/
We attempted to deliver the first 80,000 signatures on the #FreeAssange petition to @10DowningStreet on day one of the extradition hearing. They refused to accept it. We *love* that the public’s response was to share it even further. Please keep it up! 4/
Here’s what 80,000 signatures looked like - now we’re at more than 160,000. We’re going to need a bigger banner...can we double it again? 5/ Image
Meanwhile, access issues continue. We’ve written to the court about the 3 public gallery seats that continue to be withheld for mysterious “VIPs” who have not turned up in 2 weeks - contravening the court’s stated policy that these are first-come, first-served for the public. 6/
This is only one of many barriers to NGO observers monitoring this hearing, which has been the most difficult to access of any case I’ve ever monitored in any country - to the detriment of open justice, the right to a fair trial, and the public’s right to access information. 7/
Back tomorrow with my own observations from court. In the meantime, follow the small but dedicated press corps that stick with this case. And please do sign and share @RSF_inter’s #FreeAssange petition! 8/
It’s been an incredibly hectic day, but I monitored the AM & PM sessions in person, witnessing Professor Kopelman’s full testimony. Will share some observations shortly. Unlike journalists, I lose my devices each time I get into the public gallery, so can’t live tweet! 9/
Professor Michael Kopelman’s testimony was strong & disturbing. He spoke of Julian Assange’s history of depression, his anxiety, his frequent suicidal thoughts, his auditory hallucinations, his PTSD, his sleep disorder. He painted a clear picture of extreme vulnerability. 10/
Please note that today was uncomfortable to witness & this is uncomfortable to write. No one would want to feel exposed in the way Julian Assange was today. But it’s important for the world to know what’s at stake - and I feel a responsibility as one of few who bore witness. 11/
According to Kopelman, Assange has reported having suicidal thoughts hundreds of times per day. He plans, he prepares (for example, writing a will), and he calls the Samaritans most days. 12/
Kopelman said Assange’s auditory hallucinations tell him things like “you’re worthless”, “you’re nothing”, “you’re dust”, “you’re dead”, and to kill himself.

The prosecution argued these were self-reported. Kopelman pointed out hallucinations are always self-reported. 13/
Kopelman believes the conditions Assange would be held in in the US would exacerbate all of these conditions. He stated resolutely that if Assange were extradited to the US, he would find a way to commit suicide. “He is certainly clever enough to do so”. 14/
Kopelman said Assange was concerned by Chelsea Manning’s suicide attempt in Alexandria Detention Center - where Assange would also likely be held - saying the fact she would do that just days before the possibility of bail shows had bad detention conditions must be. 15/
In James Lewis’ cross-examination, the prosecution demonstrated what I can only describe as a deliberate misinterpretation of serious mental health issues and neurodiversity (given Assange’s ASD). He was particularly dismissive of the severity of clinical depression. 16/
On several occasions, Professor Kopelman noted that James Lewis was attempting to make psychiatric diagnoses. “I am the psychiatrist and you are a lawyer”. 17/
At one point Professor Kopelman also somewhat humorously noted that although James Lewis was attempting to discredit him in court, he had previously attempted to engage his expertise on another matter. 18/
Prosecutor James Lewis also attempted to discredit UN Special Rapporteur on Torture @NilsMelzer, dismissing his report after visiting Assange at Belmarsh prison as “palpable nonsense”. Melzer’s report detailed the effects of psychological torture on Assange. 19/
Today’s testimony added urgency to the humanitarian need for Julian Assange’s release - although I want to emphasise that @RSF_inter believes Assange should be released full stop, and the charges against him dropped. 20/
I also want to emphasise that the UK authorities bear responsibility for anything that happens to Assange in detention here - and for anything that happens to him in detention in the US if he is extradited. This country still has the chance to stop this. We can, and we must. 21/
For anyone in the system who is following (I know you are) and has any decency, now is the time to reconsider this position. Now is the time to decide what kind of country we want to be - and I hope it’s a country that still respects democratic principles and the rule of law. 22/
I feel awful even writing this thread. My heart is broken for @StellaMoris1 and their kids, not to mention @MrsC_Assange and John Shipman. Absolutely no one deserves this. 23/
Perhaps this all should come with a trigger warning. Please take care of yourselves, and each other. I’m ending this day very grateful for my own mental health and my freedom - and that of the people I love. 24/
Here’s my video overview for @RSF_inter of today’s proceedings. Accessing the hearing still remains hugely difficult, but we’ll continue to get in whenever possible. 25/
Oh and here’s @RSF_inter’s little campaigns team in action today, tired and somewhat stressed (well me anyway - @AustinPatrickC is endlessly calm!). Thank you, @MElmaazi for the photos! 26/ ImageImage
Day 12...a quick note to say that @AustinPatrickC will be in court this afternoon for @RSF_inter. I’ll be back myself tomorrow. We’ll also have some news on our #FreeAssange campaign out soon. 27/
Do follow @RSF_inter’s campaigns officer @AustinPatrickC, who is working with me on our campaign to #FreeAssange and can also be found around or in court. 28/
Some news: @RSF_inter’s #FreeAssange petition was targeted through a spambot attack. But no data was compromised and we’re more determined than ever to secure Julian Assange’s release and stop his extradition to the US. 29/
Please keep signing and sharing our #FreeAssange petition - it’s more important than ever. We’ll make sure the UK authorities can’t ignore tens of thousands of voices. 30/
Just reading through reports from today’s sittings (day 12), including @kgosztola’s very helpful thread. Along the same lines as their questioning on depression and other mental health issues yesterday, the prosecution seems to be deliberately misunderstanding neurodiversity. 31/
A lack of understanding of neurodiversity also seems to fuel much of the public perception of Assange as being “unlikeable”. People who have never met him pick this up from media reports & don’t realise he has Aspergers, which would perhaps result in a kinder interpretation. 32/
This leads to the bigger problem in that the court of public opinion being turned against Julian Assange enables the US & UK governments to behave this way. I truly believe if there were greater public pressure, they would not be able to get away with a political prosecution. 33/
I also don’t know when it became a prerequisite for us to have to like someone to be concerned about our governments flouting their human rights obligations & endangering the future of journalism. That honestly says more about us than it does about the person under scrutiny. 34/
I learned years ago in my human rights work that no one - absolutely no one - whose case we defend is a saint. And neither are we. We’re all human, and flawed. Yet no less deserving of our rights. 35/
I once even spent a couple of years campaigning for a jailed journalist in Azerbaijan, who on release turned on and attacked those who defended him (including me) and does the regime’s bidding to this day. But I know we did the right thing - and that’s what matters most. 36/
Someone tweeted at me the other day about their (anti-Assange) view being the “only correct moral position”. But my moral code does not allow our governments to persecute someone for embarrassing them and in doing so, damage public interest reporting for years to come. 37/
Make no mistake: Julian Assange’s case will be historically significant. Our actions (or inaction) now will be historically significant. I know what side of history I want to be on, and what future I want my children to inherit. Do you? 38/
It’s late. I’m exhausted. Everyone involved in this effort is exhausted, not least because of the hoops we are being made to jump through. But don’t underestimate the importance of bearing witness and speaking up. Rest up & stay strong. I hope to get back into court tomorrow. 39/
Another hectic day! I was able to get into the public gallery to monitor the testimonies of two more medical experts: Dr Nigel Blackwood (for the prosecution) and Dr Sondra
Crosby (for the defence). 40/
Despite the fact that Dr Blackwood played down aspects of Assange’s mental health issues and ASD, he did not dispute that Assange suffers from depression and has traits of Aspergers. But he argued that these conditions were less severe than defence witnesses had indicated. 41/
Blackwood acknowledged Assange’s suicidal thoughts - but determined him not to be a suicidal risk. I found it disturbing that a psychiatrist would gamble with someone’s life in this way: betting on the fact that he won’t act on these suicidal impulses if extradited. 42/
Dr Crosby painted a very different picture, having visited Assange 4 times from Oct 2017 to Jan 2020 (twice in the Ecuadorean embassy & twice in Belmarsh prison). She spoke of Assange’s depression, trauma and suicidal thoughts, as well as concerns about his physical health. 43/
Crosby noted a “marked deterioration” in Assange’s condition between his time in the embassy and her next visit to him in Belmarsh prison in October 2019 - in particular noting she was alarmed about his detailed suicidal preoccupations. 44/
Dr Crosby stated clearly that she believes Assange is at high risk of committing suicide if extradited to the US. How many medical experts need to emphasise this for it to be taken seriously? 45/
Dr Crosby was also concerned about Assange’s physical health, noting his diagnosed osteoporosis leaves him extremely vulnerable to cracking bones. She believes the conditions he would face in US detention would increase his risk of fractures - and therefore his mortality. 46/
Two statements were also read into the record, including one from Cryptome founder John Young, stating that the website had published the unredacted diplomatic cables, which are still online, but has never been told by US law enforcement these were illegal or to remove them. 47/
This is always a point worth bearing in mind in this case: the US is not going after any other outlet that published the unredacted cables, including sites that still host the cables. Only Wikileaks - which was not even the first to publish them. 48/
But my main takeaway from today was the appalling gamble with Assange’s life - which the prosecution (for the US government) is clearly willing to risk, with other medical experts expressing certainty that he would attempt suicide in US high security detention conditions. 49/
At one point today, prosecutor James Lewis asked if anyone extradited to the US from the UK had ever attempted suicide. But has any depressed, autistic person ever been extradited from the UK to the US to face 175 years in prison for publishing public interest information? 50/
Let me be clear: Julian Assange’s possible extradition to the US is a matter of life or death, as I said to @DEAcampaign today - and all for his contributions to journalism. 51/
.@kennardmatt joined us in the public gallery this afternoon. It was nice to have a witness to the madness we have somehow become accustomed to in these 13 days of proceedings. Honestly, no one would believe the extent of it without experiencing it directly... 52/
Oh! There’s been a development with the VIP situation. I found out the 3 seats were being held for diplomats - but it turns out they didn’t know this. Thank you @AusHouseLondon for intervening with the court, which means 5 seats are now being made available to the public. 53/
That’s it for today. Tomorrow my colleague @cmihr will be in court for @RSF_inter, having travelled from Berlin again to monitor proceedings, because this case is of high global importance to us. Follow him for observations on Patrick Eller’s testimony on computer forensics. 54/
Good morning! Day 14 of proceedings is underway. My colleague @cmihr is in court monitoring for @RSF_inter today. His thread here: 55/
I’m seeing reports from court that there will be no extradition ruling before January - meanwhile Assange languishes in Belmarsh prison. After the medical evidence we’ve heard, this is clearly unacceptable. At a minimum, he should be released immediately on bail. 56/
My colleague @cmihr speaking to @DEAcampaign after today’s sittings. He’ll be tweeting more observations shortly (we lose access to our devices in the public gallery, so can’t live tweet like the journalists covering the hearing). 57/
That’s a wrap on another long and frustrating week of proceedings. I’m still reflecting on the powerfully disturbing testimonies we heard from medical experts, and am more concerned about Julian Assange’s wellbeing than ever. He really should be immediately released. 58/
Despite continued severe access restrictions, @RSF_inter remains the only NGO to get into this hearing, and we’ve managed to monitor at least part of the proceedings on most days. We’ll be back in court on Monday, and will keep up our campaign to #FreeAssange! 59/
In the meantime, please do sign & share @RSF_inter’s #FreeAssange petition, to show that malicious spambot attacks will not deter our campaigning. We’ll take it back to @10DowningStreet at the end of these proceedings and ensure your voices are heard! /60

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More from @rebecca_vincent

Feb 20
My (belated!) thread on the first day of the #DayX hearing at the UK High Court, which I was able to monitor in person for @RSF_inter. I’ll share a few thoughts on today’s proceedings and some access issues below, as well as our concerns for Julian Assange’s health 🧵 Image
For the first time in four years of covering these extradition proceedings, @RSF_inter representatives were properly accredited to attend the hearing as NGO observers. Me, @fiona_obrien and @LM_Kretschmer had reserved seats in the public gallery section of the main courtroom.
@RSF_inter @fiona_obrien @LM_Kretschmer We understand that @pen_int’s observers were also given reserved seats. @amnesty and @englishpen’s representatives were able to get in with help from others who had queued for the public gallery (thank you to these hero activists!). It’s unclear why they weren’t also accredited.
Read 14 tweets
Apr 4, 2023
Today @RSF_inter was meant to be the first NGO to gain access to @wikileaks publisher Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison. This took months to secure. @cdeloire and I were confirmed to visit today at 9:15 am - but we were barred access by the Prison Governor at the last minute. 1/
We followed all of the prison’s procedures and rules. We arrived early with all documents. But we were told at reception that we would not be allowed in, as the Prison Governor had taken us off the list. The reason? They had “received intelligence” that we were journalists. 2/
No further discussion was possible. The Prison Governor would not come speak to us. We have written a formal complaint. Assange’s lawyers have written too. We will keep seeking access. We call on Belmarsh Prison to reverse this decision and respect Assange’s visitation rights. 3/
Read 9 tweets
Oct 15, 2022
Still absorbing the news from Malta - the significance cannot be overstated. 5 years, with so many of us campaigning, to start chipping away at impunity in a single case. This is an important step towards justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia - but what about the bigger picture? 🧵
Globally around 1,000 journalists have been killed in connection with their work over the past decade - the vast majority (around 9 out of 10 cases) committed with full or partial impunity. That’s why it stands out so much when justice is achieved in any case - it’s an anomaly.
This year alone, at @RSF_inter we have tracked killings of 45 journalists and 4 media workers around the world - and we’re only in October. That’s not to mention arbitrary detentions, which are rising year by year. At this moment, a staggering 524 journalists are unjustly jailed.
Read 15 tweets
Apr 20, 2022
Today the Westminster Magistrates’ Court will hold a short hearing in the extradition case against Julian Assange. The court is expected to give an order referring the matter back to the Home Office. I’ll be monitoring for @RSF_inter and will have updates on this thread. 1/
The hearing is listed for 10:15 am UK time. In a welcome change from the previous judge (Vanessa Baraitser), I’ve been granted remote access as an NGO observer. I’ll be following proceedings online and will be outside court afterwards to give a statement for @RSF_inter. 2/
Once the court issues the order, the defence has 4 weeks to make representations, then Home Secretary @pritipatel could approve/reject extradition at any time. @RSF_inter has called on her to protect journalism & press freedom by refusing extradition. She should #FreeAssange! 3/
Read 10 tweets
Jan 24, 2022
Back at the High Court this morning awaiting the decision on whether the judges will accept @wikileaks publisher Julian Assange’s right to appeal his extradition case to the Supreme Court. The hearing starts at 10:45. I’ll be monitoring for @RSF_inter and will have updates here. Image
Today’s decision will follow the High Court’s ruling of 10 December, overturning the district judge’s decision barring Assange’s extradition on mental health grounds. This court found in favour of the US’ diplomatic assurances re. Assange’s treatment.…
Good thread by @StellaMoris1 explaining the various possible scenarios we could see with today’s ruling.
Read 8 tweets
Jan 19, 2022
I’ll be back in court today to monitor the ongoing trial in the case of Arron Banks v @carolecadwalla. @RSF_inter and many other expert free expression organisations consider this vexatious case a clear example of SLAPP. I’ll have updates on this thread.…
Catch up on my live thread from Monday’s proceedings here:
.@johnsweeneyroar’s piece for @BylineTimes on the first two days of the trial is also very good:…
Read 52 tweets

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