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February 28, 2020

Judge dismisses concerns over Assange’s mental state

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P
Pa
February 28, 2020

LONDON: A judge has dismissed concerns about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s mental state as she refused to allow him to leave the dock.

Assange, 48, is fighting to avoid being sent to the US on 17 charges under the Espionage Act and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion after the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

He saluted supporters in the public gallery as the case was adjourned on Thursday afternoon after four days of legal argument at Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court.

On Thursday, Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, made a formal application for him to be allowed to leave the glass-enclosed secure dock and sit with his lawyers to hear evidence when the case resumes in May.

Assange, who lawyers said is taking medication, had complained that he was struggling to follow proceedings or have confidential conversations with his lawyers.

Summers told Judge Vanessa Baraitser: “Mr Assange is a vulnerable person. You are aware of the psychological issues in this case.” But rejecting the application, the judge told Assange: “I have not been told of any particular aspect of your condition which requires you to leave the dock and sit with your legal team.”

She said other measures could be put in place to ensure he could participate, instruct lawyers and get a fair trial. Assange will next appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by video-link for a short administrative hearing on March 25 before a case management hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, where he will appear in person on April 7.

The extradition hearing will continue on May 18, with an expected three weeks of evidence, but a decision could take months and is likely to be appealed against by the losing side, whatever the outcome.