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/ rsf.org/en/free-assange
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/ rsf.org/en/free-assange
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! rsf.org/en/free-assange /60

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More from @rebecca_vincent

18 Oct
I’ve had some questions about my profile pic. I keep it up because it’s a case that doesn’t get nearly enough attention - that of Christopher Allen, a dual US/UK national & young freelance journalist who was killed reporting on the civil conflict in South Sudan on 26 August 2017.
Chris was one of 10 journalists killed with impunity during the civil conflict that broke out in December 2013. A unity government was finally formed and the conflict is considered to have ended this past February - but still nothing has been done to address the lasting impunity.
But responsibility does not stop with the South Sudanese. Chris’ own governments - the US and UK - have done shamefully little in more than 3 years. The UN system has also failed. And because Chris was a freelancer, there was no big media outlet to step in and help his family.
Read 14 tweets
14 Sep
Good morning from week two of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing at the Old Bailey in London! Will share this week’s observations in this new thread.

#FreeAssange 1/
I’m not at court this morning, but have a colleague holding my place so I can hopefully monitor this afternoon’s sitting. He was told 3 of the 5 public gallery places are still being held for these mysterious no-show “VIPs”, meaning only 2 are currently occupied. Ridiculous. 2/
After last week’s Covid scare, witness testimony has resumed with Eric Lewis testifying this morning. Would love to be able to watch remotely, but @RSF_inter & all other NGOs had their access to the video link revoked last week. Back later - hopefully having gotten into court! 3/
Read 16 tweets
10 Sep
Good morning from Day 4 of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing at the Old Bailey! Will share today’s updates on this thread.

#FreeAssange 1/
Waiting outside the public gallery entrance with activists @deepa_driver and Moritz Müller, who have been queuing since the early hours to gain access. So grateful for @rubio49158845, who kindly gave me his seat again 🙏 2/ Image
We *should* be getting in this morning, but have been told the public won’t be admitted until 11:30 - we’re not sure why. Only three of us will be allowed into the public gallery, which means they’re still saving spaces for the mysterious “VIPs” who have still yet to show up. 3/
Read 11 tweets
9 Sep
On the way back to the Old Bailey this morning to try again to monitor the US extradition hearing in the case of @wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. The court has severely restricted NGO access, so it is very uncertain whether my @RSF_inter colleague @cmihr & I will get in. 1/
The court has refused to recognise or accommodate the role of professional NGO observers, so we are left to compete for spaces in the public gallery, which has been limited to 2 to 5 people, despite the fact that there are 36 seats in that part of the overflow courtroom alone. 2/
On day 1, we finally got in due to the intervention of the German embassy & political observers. On day 2, I was able to monitor the afternoon session thanks to the kindness of an activist who had queued for hours & gave me his seat so we could tell the world what’s happening. 3/
Read 15 tweets
8 Sep
Some observations on Julian Assange’s extradition hearing so far, after a very hectic start (and a very long day!) yesterday.

Thread👇

#FreeAssange 1/
Yesterday morning, @StellaMoris1, @cmihr and I attempted to deliver @RSF_inter’s petition with more than 80,000 signatures calling on the UK authorities not to extradite Julian Assange. @10DowningStreet refused to accept it. 2/
Instead we brought our banner with the 80,000 signatures to the Old Bailey court, where we also addressed the @DEAcampaign protest. We reiterated our call for Julian Assange to be released, for the charges against him to be dropped, and for him not to be extradited to the US. 3/
Read 11 tweets
14 Aug
As I’m on leave, my colleague @katifallon_ tried to attend this morning’s hearing in Julian Assange’s case for @RSF_inter. However, only 4 people were allowed into the public gallery, so she (6th in line) was turned away. I’m now attempting to monitor on the phone. #FreeAssange
It seems only five journalists were allowed into the courtroom. The rest of us (press + NGO observers) are stuck on the conference call system that has proven completely unfit for purpose since lockdown began. https://t.co/YpZL7QgqJN
Good recap of this morning’s issues with the Assange hearing. Would be almost comical if it didn’t have such worrying implications for due process and open justice.
Read 6 tweets

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