Assange Lawyers Warn of Suicide if Extradited
Julian Assange's lawyer cited suicide as a possible outcome if the Australian is extradited to the United States on his espionage charges.
A defense lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argued Thursday that US promises that Assange would not be subjected to harsh prison conditions if extradited were not enough to address concerns regarding his fragile mental health and high risk of suicide.
Assange's lawyer said the Australian was "too mentally ill" to be extradited to the US in light of his trial on "espionage charges."
During a two-day hearing at Britain’s High Court, the lawyer said new data does not justify reconsidering the refusal to extradite Assange.
A US government lawyer said US authorities promised Assange would not be held in a top-security prison ahead of trial, nor would he be subjected to strict isolation conditions. The lawyer also explained that, if convicted, the Australian would be allowed to serve his sentence in his home country.
Fitzgerald, Assange's lawyer, argued that US 'assurances' were all "caveated, vague, or simply ineffective." He explained that they do not remove the risk of his detention in extreme isolation in the US in the long term. The risk of Assange killing himself remained substantial if he was extradited, he said.
"It is perfectly reasonable to find it oppressive to extradite a mentally disordered person because his extradition is likely to result in his death," he said. Fitzgerald also called on judges to use their power to protect people from extradition to a foreign state where "we have no control over what will be done to them."
The United States has indicted the 50-year-old on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. He could face up to 175 years in prison.
Assange is currently being held at London's high-security Belmarsh Prison; he did not attend his Thursday hearing, although he did virtually appear on Wednesday.
Assange's lawyers argue he was acing a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment freedom of speech protections for publishing documents that exposed the US military lawlessness in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supporters of Assange say his prosecution was politically motivated.
The United States is also seeking to overturn an earlier ruling by a British court, which refused Washington's request to extradite Assange, citing suicide as a possible outcome of him being held under harsh US prison conditions. The ruling was made by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser.