There were bizarre scenes at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London today, as the extradition process of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange (present via videophone from Belmarsh prison) was again delayed.Proceedings were held up this morning so Assange could converse for the first time in five months with his legal team. The prosecution team failed to turn up at the hearing because they were told events started at 3:30 p.m. Only five members of the press were allowed to enter the courtroom to monitor proceedings. Other journalists, observers, and NGOs attempting to listen via telephone could not, as they were given the number to another courtroom. One journalist who did make it inside claimed that the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, was, “clearly reading from a pre-written ruling.”
Perhaps most bizarre, however, is that the United States Department of Justice dropped its original indictment in June, just two days after Assange’s defense team submitted their full and final evidence for the extradition hearing. Today was the first time Assange saw the charges against him.
One consequence of the replacement indictment is the legality of even keeping the hacktivist publisher imprisoned. Baraitser stated that Assange has not even been arrested under the new indictment and is still being held under the old one that is now null and void.
Thus, to recap: the defendant (who is not even legally under arrest) had not even seen the “new” charges (which were the same as the old ones) or met with his defense team for five months, the judge was reportedly reading from a pre-written script, the prosecution did not turn up, journalists could not watch or listen to the proceedings, which were interrupted by screaming from the prison where Assange is being kept.