As Assange extradition hearing resumes, the future of a free press is on trial

Red Lines host Anya Parampil speaks with journalist Juan Passarelli, director of the film “The War on Journalism: the Case of Julian Assange,” about the trial of Julian Assange and his experience working with Wikileaks.

Passarelli explains how the UK court has not made the proceedings accessible to the media, and how Assange has been systematically mistreated and is “obviously suffering a lot, mentally and physically”:

JUAN PASSARELLI: “Julian (Assange) has not been given the right to a fair defense. He hasn’t seen his lawyers for six months — not on video, not in person — because nobody is allowed to visit Belmarsh Prison, because of Covid conditions. He is locked in a room 23-and-a-half hours a day.

“There was a superseding indictment that the (US) Department of Justice issued on the 24th of June, but it was only given to the court on the 14th of August, which is three weeks ago. And Julian has not been able to read it; so he hasn’t even been able to read the charges that he is facing. And he is going to see his lawyers for the first time (on September 7) at the hearing. So what kind of justice is that?

“Concerning his health, it is actually deeply worrying. His partner and two children went to visit him for the first time a week-and-a-half ago, and he was not allowed to get close to them under the threat that he would be put under absolute isolation for 14 days if he touched the children. He was given a mask for the first time since Covid began to see his family.

“He has reportedly lost a lot of weight. He is in physical pain. He has an injury in his shoulder that happened quite a few years back; while he was exercising in the embassy and practicing some boxing, he injured his shoulder and it is still a big problem. He has a sprained ankle; so physically he is in a lot of pain.

“And as you probably are aware, the special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has examined him, with two expert medical experts; this is the UN special rapporteur on torture, and has delivered a report to the United Kingdom saying that he displayed all the symptoms of a person who is under psychological torture.

“And the UK took six months to reply, and the reply was a one-pager saying, ‘We’re not doing anything about it,’ basically, and that he is not under torture.

“The psychological report that the defense submitted — I was in court on the 14th of August when the superseding indictment was finally given to the court — the psychological report was given to the prosecution, and they say that his psychological, mental health is deteriorating, and has been deteriorating rapidly throughout the last weeks.

“I was able to see him in court that day, through video link, where he was not wearing a mask, even though he has a chronic lung condition, and that all the prisoners in the prison use that video link booth to speak to court, and there is a lot of Covid going around in the prison. He was asked for his name and date of birth; he almost didn’t remember his date of birth.”