07:13, February 25 224 0 theguardian.com

2020-02-25 07:13:04
Julian Assange was 'handcuffed 11 times and stripped naked'

Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part.

Their appeal to the judge overseeing the trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London was also supported by legal counsel for the US government, who said it was essential that the WikiLeaks founder be given a fair trial.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for Assange, said the case files, which the prisoner was reading in court on Monday, were confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night and that he was put in five cells.

He appealed to the judge to consider the treatment as it was harming Assange’s “right to a fair trial and his ability to participate in the proceedings”.

The judge, Vanessa Baraitser, replied that she did not have the legal power to comment or rule on Assange’s conditions but encouraged the defence team to formally raise the matter with the prison.

However, she said she would expect Assange to be treated in a way that protected his right to a fair trial. “I think everyone in the court supports a fair hearing,” she said.

James Lewis, for the prosecution, said they did not want Assange to be held in a condition or experience treatment that jeopardised his right to a fair hearing. It was open to the court to make “trenchant comments” to the British government.

The court heard on Monday that the Donald Trump administration was targeting Assange as “an enemy of America who must be brought down” and his life could be at risk if he was sent to face trial in the US.

Lawyers for Assange intend to call as a witness a former employee of a Spanish security company, who says surveillance was carried out for the US on Assange while he was at Ecuador’s London embassy and that conversations had turned to potentially kidnapping or poisoning him.

Assange, 48, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Australian, who could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty, is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

The hearing continues.