During this week’s four days of legal argument in the Julian Assange extradition case, a number of issues were raised by Mr Assange and his legal team in respect of his treatment and ability to partake effectively in proceedings.
On the second morning of the hearing, counsel for Mr Assange, complained that his client had, on the preceding day been handcuffed 11 times, twice been strip-searched, and had some of his legal paperwork confiscated by security staff. Counsel for the prosecution supported the defence in asking District Judge Baraitser to “send a message” to prison authorities that their treatment of Mr Assange was “unacceptable”. Later that day Mr Assange, through his solicitor, complained that he was “struggling” to concentrate and with the fact that he cannot speak to his legal team.
On day three of the hearing, Mr Assange himself rose to complain about his ability to communicate with his lawyers. He said “I am as much a participant in these proceedings as I am at Wimbledon.” The hearing was adjourned to allow Mr Assange to instruct his legal team. When proceedings resumed, the defence asked the court to consider allowing Mr Assange to leave the dock and to sit with his legal team.
Rejecting the defence’s application on day four of the hearing, District Judge Baraitser said she had not been told of any particular aspect of Mr Assange’s condition which requires him to leave the dock and sit with his legal team. The judge said she would allow more frequent breaks to enable Mr Assange and his team to confer.