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January 26, 2021

After judge blocks Julian Assange extradition, Arif Naqvi’s decision due

National

January 26, 2021

LONDON: The Westminster Magistrates’ Court is set to announce later this week whether Pakistani businessman and Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi will or will not be extradited to America – just weeks after an extradition judge blocked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States on the basis of his deteriorating physical and mental health conditions - similar in the case of Naqvi as his lawyers have publicly stated during the extradition proceedings before District Judge Emma Arbuthnot.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled at the Old Bailey on 4 January, 20121 that Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US due to risks over Assange’s mental health and risk of suicide if extradited to the US; the judge also took notice to Assange’s lawyers submissions in relation to increased concerns over prison conditions inherent at US prison facilities, having only come to light in recent years.

Mr Assange is wanted over the publication of thousands of classified documents through WikiLeaks. Despite the clear political motivation arguments provided demonstrating possible interference, the judge did not include any of this evidence in her decision, instead stating that while US prosecutors had met the tests for Mr Assange to be extradited for trial, the US was incapable of preventing him from attempting to take his own life if sent to a US prison.

During the proceedings of Arif Naqvi’s case, several expert witnesses have appeared to testify before the judge via video link around prison conditions at facilities where Naqvi would possibly be held. It is notable that while most white collar detainees in the US (largely US citizens) are held in open prisons or camps, this would not be the case for Naqvi as he is a foreign national and therefore would be subject to a medium security prison at the very least. These prisons have been noted to be gang-ridden with violence and drugs rampant across the system, sometimes with the help of those who work in the prisons themselves.

One of the expert witnesses, who has held various senior positions previously at the ECC, James Troisi, was quoted saying: “there are certainly bad apples in the mix of sworn staff. There have been instances where sworn staff - either through cowardice or attentiveness - allowed physical altercations to continue without a response. I am [also] aware of instances where sworn staff were guilty of using excessive force, or taking out their bad day on detainees”.

He then went on to say: “it would be a very brief period of time before Mr Naqvi’s status would be common knowledge. There are gangs and career criminals in every housing unit. Mr Naqvi will be seen as a man of means and there will be people that will want him to provide commissary purchases and provide goods if he wants to eat tomorrow”.

In total, 6 expert witnesses focused on providing evidence to the court that demonstrated sending Arif Naqvi to a US jail would compromise his human rights, endanger his life subjecting him to be exposed to potential violence, and moreover likely result in him not having access to proper medication and adequate care to aid to his health.

Those who have given their video testimonies to support their written testimonies before the judge in the last hearing include: Michael Baldassare, Joel Sickler, James Troisi, Joshua Dratel and Lindsay Lewis. Naqvi’s lawyers argued that US prison conditions have worsened substantially, falling short of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention - especially with the onset of Covid-19.

Expert witness and lawyer Micahel Baldassare told the court that the situation at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) is “chaos” and the situation at this facility is as bad as at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility (MCC) in Manhattan and Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn area. The ECC has been provided as an alternative to the latter prisons because Naqvi’s lawyers had already raised serious concerns to the court about those prisons.

Baldassare told the court that Arif Naqvi will be unable to get bail in the US because the way in which the system is weighed against him - he is not a US citizen and does not have strong community ties to New York and it is still unclear as to what the prosecutors would seek by way of bail.

Another expert, Joel Sickler commented that prisons are psychologically and emotionally debilitating for prisoners in the US. Prisons are inherently dysfunctional in the US” and that he’s already been traumatised by 7 weeks in Wandsworth”.

Mr Naqvi was arrested in London in April 2019 on the US request. He faces allegations of money-laundering, racketeering and fraud. The Pakistani national faces close to an incredible 300 years in jail on 16 counts if extradited to the US despite all investors in their funds getting all their money back as an earlier hearing was told. Arif Naqvi, through his lawyers, has continued to strongly deny the disturbingly long 300 years sentence in the indictment that the US is pushing against him on count of 16 charges. The hearing has concluded and a decision is due.