US lawyers told the High Court that the judge who blocked Julian Assange’s extradition was misled by his psychiatrist.
The US government is filing a legal appeal to try to get the Wikileaks founder extradited.
In January, a court ruled that Mr. Assange could not be extradited to the United States due to concerns about his mental health.
Mr. Assange is wanted for publishing thousands of confidential documents in 2010 and 2011.
The US claims the leaks broke the law and endangered human lives, but Assange says the case is politically motivated.
In appealing against the January decision, US lawyers said they had given four clear assurances that he would be treated humanely.
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District judge who oversaw the US extradition appeal earlier this year, Vanessa Baraister, said that confidential military and government documents released by Assange are likely to constitute a crime during publication on Wikileaks, including disclosure of identity of Iraqi and Afghan citizens who had helped coalition forces – could not be transferred to the United States because he was unwell and could take his own life.
However, the US team, launching its appeal, said the evidence was wrong and that the Wikileaks founder could even serve a prison sentence in Australia.
James Lewis QC, representing the United States, told the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice Holroyde that the conclusion reached in January was wrong for legal and evidential reasons.
Lewis said that Mr. Assange’s psychiatrist misled the previous judge and that the United States was not given the opportunity to address the judge’s concerns.
Mr. Assange, 50, is wanted in the United States on charges of conspiring to obtain and disclose information on national defense following the publication by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The publications include the April 2010 release of footage showing US soldiers shooting dead civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.
Mr Assange has been detained in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 when he was taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police before being arrested for violating his bail conditions.
He had entered the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual offense charges, which he always denied and were eventually dropped.
At the start of the proceedings on Wednesday, Assange’s legal team told the judges that their client had been asked not to attend the hearing via video link because he apparently wasn’t well enough to do so.
Later in the morning, Mr. Assange chose to attend. He could be seen sitting in a video link suite in the prison, wearing a light colored shirt and dark tie, with shoulder length hair and a black mask around his mouth.
Lewis told the High Court that Washington gave four binding assurances as to how the hacker and the activist would be treated:
- The United States would not impose a highly restrictive form of isolation on Mr. Assange before or after trial, although they could do so if he committed a further crime
- Mr. Assange could ask to serve a sentence in Australia and the United States would agree to such a transfer
- Prison authorities will ensure that Mr. Assange receives “any clinical and psychological treatment” recommended by prison doctors
- In addition to this, Mr. Assange would not even be sent to ADX Florence, the isolated “supermax” prison in the United States, reserved for the worst offenders.
Lewis said, “Insurance is binding on the United States.”
He added: “The district judge’s approach carries the risk of rewarding fugitives for their flight and creating an anomaly between the courts’ approach to domestic criminal proceedings and extradition.”
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