Julian Assange might serve his jail term in an Australian jail, as noted by a US lawyer in the London court. The WikiLeaks founder has been tossed around in the criminal court ever since his arrest. The US pursued extraditing him to their country, but the UK court rejected the request in January.
The American government is leading in trying to jail Assange for espionage charges. Reports from the courts state that “US authorities have told British judges that if they agree to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges, the WikiLeaks founder could serve any US prison sentence he receives in his native Australia.”
Assange became a person of interest in 2010 after his company WikiLeaks collaborated with US Army Intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak US secret documents [Source]. The classified documents contained the ‘Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder’ video from April 2010, the Afghanistan war logs in July 2010, Iraq war logs in October 2010, and Cablegate from November 2010. Because of this, US authorities launched an investigation into WikiLeaks’s operations and leadership board, but Assange believes that the Americans were hunting for him.
They argued that Assange and Manning’s actions endangered the lives of informants across the globe, and it was an attack on their secret agent departments and operations. US prosecutors charged Assange with 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse after publishing leaked military and diplomatic documents. These allegations “carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. Mr. Lewis commented on this sentence and said, “the longest ever imposed for this offense is 63 months” [Source]. Assange refuted all these allegations and noted how there was no evidence of any informants being endangered.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the extradition of Assange, alluding to how he had spent a significant amount of time hiding from authorities and behind bars, so he might commit suicide after being exposed to harsh conditions in the American prisons. His mental health was questioned as his legal team emphasized that point and managed to stop the extradition. But on Wednesday, a US lawyer completely refuted Assange’s unstable mental health condition and was against the view that “it was too fragile to withstand the US judicial system.”
According to lawyer James Lewis, Assange “has no history of serious and enduring mental illness,” and his current condition does not even show an unstable person who cannot control his actions. A new bid by the US authorities promises not to hold Assange in a top security “Supermax” prison before a trial; he will not face any harsh conditions. If found guilty, he will serve his jail sentence in Australia. Lewis vowed that the assurances “are binding on the United States.”
The lawyer explained that “Once there is an assurance of appropriate medical care, once it is clear he will be repatriated to Australia to serve any sentence, then we can safely say the district judge would not have decided the relevant question in the way that she did.”
His argument was also linked to neuropsychiatrist Michael Kopelman who omitted to mention that Assange and WikiLeaks’s legal team member Stella Morris had two children together. This was “a highly relevant factor to the question of likelihood of suicide.” Since Morris is directly connected to the suspect, she might have propagated falsehoods to save her children’s father from the clutches of the law.
Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, despised US lawyers for trying to “minimize the severity of Mr. Assange’s mental disorder and suicide risk” [Source]. Fitzgerald also told the court that Australian authorities still agree to imprison Assange if he is convicted. The US legal process to move him to Australia will take long, “during which Mr. Assange will remain detained in extreme isolation in a US prison,” as noted by Fitzgerald. The suspect was supposed to attend this hearing, but his lawyer said he had taken strong medication, so he “doesn’t feel able to attend.” Assange joined the video link later during the court proceedings.
After the hearing, Morris said it was “completely unthinkable that the UK courts could agree” to extradition and added that “I hope the courts will end this nightmare, that Julian can come home soon and that wise heads prevail.”
The two justices who heard this appeal are expected to give a ruling after some time, so both legal teams can only hope for the best.