LONDON: Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States as he would not get a fair trial and would be a suicide risk, his lawyer told a British court hearing on Monday.
Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said extradition would expose Assange to inhumane and degrading treatment by a disproportionate sentence and prison conditions.
Fitzgerald said the extradition request was motivated by politics rather than any genuine crimes. He said it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him because of his mental state and risk of suicide.
He said the US attitude to Assange had changed when Donald Trump came to power and that the US president wanted to make an example of his client.
Fitzgerald said in 2013 the US government under former president Barack Obama had decided that Assange should not face any action. But that in 2017, after the 2016 election of Trump, an indictment was brought against Assange.
Why the change? “The answer is President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech and a new hostility to the press amounting effectively to declaring war on investigative journalists,” Fitzgerald said.
The indictment was brought, “not on the basis of new revelations, but because it had become politically expedient and desirable,” Fitzgerald said.
Supporters hail Assange as an anti-establishment hero who revealed governments’ abuses of power, and argue the action against him is a dangerous infringement of journalists’ rights.
Chants from 100 of his backers outside could be clearly heard inside. Assange himself complained about the din. — Reuters