Julian Assange would successfully be held in solitary confinement if he have been to be extradited to the US, a court docket heard at the moment.
The WikiLeaks founder faces 20 years in a high-security jail beneath the very best situation, however may very well be sentenced to 175 years, a US authorized knowledgeable stated.
Eric Lewis, a US lawyer with a grasp’s diploma in criminology who has represented high-security prisoners, together with these accused of terrorism offences, informed the court docket that the US resolution to extend the variety of costs in opposition to Assange would “considerably improve the jeopardy” Assange confronted.
Essentially the most extreme espionage costs imposed within the US have resulted in life sentences. Even these on the decrease finish of the size have led to sentences of 20 or 30 years, he stated.
Lewis was talking on the fifth day of an extradition listening to in opposition to Assange on the Outdated Bailey.
The 49-year-old defendant faces 17 costs beneath the US Espionage Act 1917, after WikiLeaks revealed hundreds of paperwork from the previous US Military soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010-11.
Assange faces an additional cost of conspiracy to commit pc intrusion beneath the indictment filed by a grand jury within the Jap District of Virginia.
The case was disrupted by technical difficulties all through the day, which made tough for the court docket to listen to Lewis giving proof remotely from the US.
Lewis stated it was vital that Assange was charged beneath the Trump administration in 2018, reasonably than beneath the Obama presidency in 2013.
The Obama administration had concluded that it couldn’t prosecute Assange for publishing leaked paperwork with out additionally prosecuting journalists on The New York Instances.
When the US filed a late indictment in opposition to Assange, that confirmed that The New York Instances downside had “been blown out of the water”.
Lewis stated that if Assange was extradited, he was nearly actually going to be topic to particular administrative measures (SAMs) in a safe detention centre in Alexandria, Virginia.
This may imply Assange wouldn’t be capable of affiliate with different prisoners, stated Lewis. He can be detained for 22 or 23 hours a day in his cell.
Though prisoners are allowed out of their cell for a bathe or recreation, this usually takes place at evening when different prisoners are sleeping, and prisoners are shackled, Lewis informed the court docket.
He stated it was extremely seemingly that Assange would face SAMs.
“All of the indicators are pointing to the federal government taking the view that Assange has entry to giant quantities of secret info and being concerned about disclosure,” he stated.
Prosecution query’s Eric Lewis’s impartiality
James Lewis QC, representing the prosecution, questioned the experience of the witness and his impartiality.
Beneath questioning, Eric Lewis disclosed that he had been paid £100 an hour for his work as an knowledgeable witness within the case, however didn’t know what number of hours he had labored.
The barrister requested Eric Lewis why he had not included a variety of opinions, together with that of US prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, in his witness statements.
“I don’t assume I’m required to set out Mr Kromberg’s half a dozen affidavits, in any other case my statements can be lots of of pages,” he stated.
The QC additionally questioned Eric Lewis’s independence as an knowledgeable, mentioning that he had written an op-ed in The Unbiased newspaper and had given a radio interview supporting Assange.
“Earlier than I turned an knowledgeable, I expressed my very own views as a political and coverage matter,” he stated. “These are my views and nonetheless are my views.”
Eric Lewis stated he was capable of analyse the legislation and the information and put his private views behind him – “one thing that’s performed on a regular basis”.
The prosecution lawyer pressed the witness on whether or not he had any qualification in jail situations or had written any peer-reviewed articles on situations in prisons.
Eric Lewis stated he had spent extra time than he cared to consider visiting prisons and talking to prisoners. He holds a level in criminology and taught legal legislation for a few years, which additionally required a data of jail situations.
James Lewis QC for the prosecution turned to the case of Abu Khathallah, who was accused of masterminding the Benghazi terrorist assaults and was represented by Eric Lewis.
Eric Lewis stated he and different attorneys had problem accessing Khathallah when he was positioned beneath particular measures.
“I and different attorneys on the workforce frolicked with him, nevertheless it was neither straightforward nor speedy,” he stated. “That’s partly why he was held in remand for 3 years.”
Eric Lewis stated he didn’t agree that there was a distinction between administrative segregation and solitary confinement.
“I’d recommend that 22 hours a day in a 50ft2 cell with no contact with the remainder of the inhabitants causes individuals to deteriorate quickly, and for my part is solitary confinement,” he stated.
Eric Lewis stated that in his view, Khathallah was held in solitary confinement, though he had entry to limitless visits from attorneys.
“In actuality, it didn’t embody limitless visits as a result of there have been quite a few sensible and authorized obstacles,” he stated.
The witness stated that every one of his authorized visits to his shopper have been recorded by cameras.
“We have been informed there was not sound [recording] however we weren’t sure of that. We have been informed that the workforce that reviewed [the recordings] weren’t the prosecution workforce,” he stated. “However I’ve seen too many instances the place these assurances weren’t met.”
He agreed that the situations imposed on Khathallah didn’t have any affect on his acquittal on capital costs.
Prosecution lawyer beneath ‘insupportable stress’
Following the cross-examination, Lewis informed the decide, Vanessa Baraitser, that he was beneath “insupportable stress”, to cross-examine the witness beneath a time guillotine.
He stated Eric Lewis’s solutions have been too lengthy. “I ask a query and he provides a speech,” he stated.
Baraitser stated Lewis had requested for 4 hours to cross-examine the witness and had used 30 minutes.
“I requested your view how lengthy you’ll take. You’ve offered that estimate,” she stated. “The world ‘guillotine’ comes solely from you. I’ve not used it.”
Assange can be ‘unable to organize for trial’
Beneath additional cross-examination from the prosecution, Lewis stated situations in US prisons would make it tough for individuals concerned in nationwide safety trials, similar to Assange, to organize for his or her case.
“We’re speaking about one million categorized paperwork that Mr Assange can’t see with out safety clearance.”
He stated that anybody beneath SAMs shouldn’t be allowed entry to information or different supplies except that’s agreed.
The prosecution barrister took Lewis via selections by the European Courtroom of Human Rights within the case of Barbar Ahmad in 2012.
The European court docket rejected an software that SAMs contravened Article three of the European Conference on Human Rights pre-trial.
“I see that’s the conclusion of the court docket,” stated Lewis, including that new info on the state of US prisons had come to gentle since 2012.
The prosecution pushed Eric Lewis to say, if SAMs makes elevating defence points unimaginable, what have been the defence points that Assange is elevating?
“I can’t say for sure. I’m not his lawyer. There have been one million paperwork that have been leaked,” he stated.
The witness stated in written submissions that US courts have been ill-prepared for individuals with psychological well being points.
He stated that ADX Florence, a most safety establishment that Lewis referred to in his proof, had been described by the warden as “dehumanising, not match for humanity, a destiny worse than loss of life”.
The prosecution lawyer requested Eric Lewis if he would settle for that the European court docket took into consideration the psychological state of an individual with Asperger’s when discovering incarceration in a maximum-security facility didn’t seaside EU human rights legislation in its 2012 verdict.
“I’d settle for that with the caveat there was far more info since 2012,” he stated. “Psychological analysis is dynamic.”
Eric Lewis stated he was not a medical knowledgeable, however relied on a public assertion of the Inspector Normal of Prisons and of a examine of “supermax prisons” by Yale Legislation College.
He stated that solely 35% of psychological well being sufferers in US prisons have been being handled, that the variety of psychological well being professionals in US prisons had been lower and that self-harm had gone up.
James Lewis QC challenged the witness, if he was an knowledgeable on psychological well being, to state from reminiscence when the US Bureau of Prisons (BoP) had up to date its pointers
“I’ve checked out hundreds and hundreds of pages of paperwork and I don’t have that form of eidetic reminiscence,” he stated.
The barrister pressed Lewis to say whether or not he was an knowledgeable on US prisons or not.
“I’m an knowledgeable in what I’ve put in my knowledgeable report. I consider I’ve knowledgeable data. If you’re asking if I’m a governor or a warden, I’m not,” he stated.
Following a sequence of technical issues, which meant the court docket couldn’t hear Lewis giving proof remotely from the US, the court docket adjourned the listening to till tomorrow.
The case continues.