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Julian Assange

Julian Assange. Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia / Flickr / cropped from original / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

After ruling that Assange won't be extradited to the US on Monday, Judge Baraitser then sent him back to Belmarsh and denied him bail, reports Jamal Elaheebocus

On Monday morning, Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused the extradition of Julian Assange, eleven months after the trial started in February last year. The US immediately appealed the decision which will be heard in a higher court.

But on Tuesday morning, the judge refused to grant Julian Assange bail. The US prosecution claimed that there was a risk that Assange would flee during bail, citing the Mexican President’s offer of asylum and Assange’s assistance to Edward Snowden as evidence that he would be likely to flee elsewhere.

Even more ludicrous was the US’ claim that there is very little threat from Covid in Belmarsh, arguing that there are only three prisoners in Belmarsh with Covid, which seems implausible given the rates of Covid in London and the fact that Belmarsh’s prisoners are currently in lockdown. They also outrageously claimed that Assange’s mental state had been exaggerated.

In response, Assange’s defence argued that 50% of Assange’s wing in Belmarsh now have Covid. They also argued that Assange’s desire to be with his family, who he hasn’t been able to see since March, would undoubtedly keep him in the UK. Belmarsh is still refusing prison visits and so Assange would be unable to see his family if kept in Belmarsh.

They also stated that the offer from the Mexican President was only meant to apply after all the legal proceedings were over. The defence concluded with a plea for Assange to be kept under house arrest instead of in Belmarsh.

On Monday the judge almost entirely repeated the US prosecution’s claims and only stopped the extradition based on the likelihood that Assange would commit suicide if he was sent to prison in the US.

Now the judge again went along with most of the US prosecution’s claims; she said that there was no threat of Covid at Belmarsh, that Assange still had the incentive to abscond and that he had fled before. She therefore rejected bail.

So Assange has once again had to return to Belmarsh high-security prison, in which Covid is rampant. The judge had acknowledged the risk of Assange committing suicide in US prison and yet was unconcerned about the risk of that happening in Belmarsh.

The decision fits with the judge’s unwavering agreement with the US prosecution and her dismissal of the public interest defence for whistleblowers and journalists.

As Stella Morris, Assange’s partner said, Assange should never have been in Belmarsh in the first place. He must be granted bail and released immediately.

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