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LIVE UPDATES: ASSANGE HEARING DAY FIVE—Court Disrupted by Sound of US TV Report on Assange

Court resumes in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange Monday morning. Consortium News is watching the proceedings and providing live updates throughout the day.

Stay with Consortium News all day for continuous updates as we have remote video access to watch every moment of court proceedings. Follow our live Tweeting.  And tune in to CN Live! at 5 pm BST, noon EDT every day court is in session for a video report on the day’s events.

Court Disrupted by Sound of
US TV Report on Assange 

9:26 am EDT: The court says it is investigating whether the interruption of the proceedings came from witness Eric Lewis’ computer (he is testifying online), or whether the court’s video feed was hacked.  Just before lunch the sound of a U.S. TV report on Assange came through the video-link and into the courtroom. If it was a hack there are concerns among the press that the the remote video access could be stopped.

8:30 am EDT: Court has suddenly adjourned as it was interrupted by the sound of an American news report about the Assange case. The lawyers jumped to their feet throwing their arms in the air. Judge Vanessa Baraitser quickly fled the court. No one appears to have an idea how that happened. It was nearing lunch break so court will probably resume in about an hour. 

James Lewis QC for the prosecution was cross examining the defense witness, American lawyer Eric Lewis, when the interruption occurred.  Prosecutor Lewis has followed the same tactic he’s used on every defense witness, trying to undermine their claims of being an impartial expert.

He laid out that Eric Lewis is being paid for his testimony by the defense, and as he has with the previous defense witnesses,  showed that this witness did not include a 36-page  affidavit from Asst. U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg in his written testimony.

James Lewis then tried to show that because Eric Lewis is not a mental health or medical professional that he had no grounds in his written testimony to say that Assange would not receive adequate health care in prison. 

The prosecutor also tried to establish that Assange would receive a fair jury trial because of the conviction of Zacarias Moussaoui in the 9/11 case. But Eric Lewis stood his ground, at times demanding that the prosecutor be fair in his questioning.

He rebutted the Moussaoui example by correcting the prosecutor that Moussaoui was convicted in the D.C. District Court, not in the Eastern District of Virginia where Assange would be sent. “That is a very different jury pool,” witness Lewis said.

He also resisted the prosecutor by saying his assessment that Assange would not receive adequate mental care in prison was based on the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s own report, which said only a fraction of inmates needing such care actually get it.

Prosecutor Lewis is also trying to trip up witness Lewis by pointing to a 2012 European Court of Human Rights extradition judgement in which a defendant found to have mental illness was still allowed to be extradited. Witness Lewis responded that knowledge of mental health issues in the law have been updated since 2012.

Prosecutor Lewis seeks to undermine witnesses by asking detailed questions, such as what the eight reforms have been in recent years in mental health care in U.S. prisons.  Witness Lewis could not answer, but stressed that though he’s not a medical expert or a paid expert on prison conditions his own experience with clients incarcerated in the U.S. led him to the conclusion that under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) Assange would not be treated humanely. 

Outburst From Prosecutor
to Judge Over Time Restraints

6:52 am EDT:  Prosecutor James Lewis QC has just engaged in a bitter argument with Judge Vanessa Baraitser about the time limit she has imposed on his cross examination, referring to it as a “guillotine.”   Baraitser responded that she asked Lewis for a time estimate before the trial began he said he would need four hours a day for cross examination.  Lewis complained that Baraitser was allowing the defense witness, Eric Lewis, to “ramble on.”

“I am giving a warning,” Lewis said. “I’m not prepared to be under a circumstance, where he is allowed to give long answers. It is not how cross examinations work.” He added: “I have never been guillotined in a cross examination ever, by no judge in 35 years experience in extradition cases that I have ever known.”

Baraitser said: “The court has power to ensure efficient movement through this case. There are 39 witnesses. I asked you and you provided that estimate. The word guillotine come from you,” she said. “I say it is time management and that’s the end of the matter.”

It was an extraordinary outburst from a prosecution delivered in condescending tones to a judge. Lewis was clearly not getting the answers from the witness that he desired, no matter their length or shortness.  When court returned Lewis apologized to the judge for any “intemperate” language he may have used. 

5:17 am EDT: Defense witness appears on screen. He had used link from last week by mistake.

Pause as Court Waits for Defense
Witness Eric Lewis to Take the Stand

5:17 am EDT: Defense witness Eric Lewis has not logged onto the witness stand. Pause in the court as the defense team tries to locate him. Judge Vanessa Baraitser says Lewis has not responded to two email messages.  Witness list says Lewis will be testifying online from Italy, which is now after 11 am there. 

Use of Surgical Masks in Court Discussed 

5:07 am EDT:  Court begins with discussion of wearing masks in the court. Mark Summers, Assange lawyer, is asking that masks should be worn. Camera swung over to show Assange sitting behind a glass wall, wearing a surgical mask.  Baraitser said rules do not require wearing of masks in the court, but it is “in the discretion of those in attendance” whether or not to wear one.   “Taking instructions though the glass from Mr. Assange, one must get one’s face close” to his client, Summers said. 

Defense Witness Eric Lewis to Take the Stand

3:50 am EDT: The extradition hearing of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange resumes on Monday morning at 10 am BST, 5 am EDT, after court was adjourned for two days on Thursday to await a Covid-19 test for one of the lawyers in the courtroom. It came back negative.  Assange’s defense team has slated only one witness on Monday, American lawyer Eric Lewis, who wrote this piece last year in The Independent saying he did not want to see Assange extradited to his country.