Julian Assange may not ‘survive’ US legal fight, lawyer says

A lawyer for Julian Assange says she does not know “how much longer he can last” as he continues the long-running fight against his extradition to the US.

Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who has been involved in the case from the beginning, said it was time for a political solution, conceding a legal one appeared hopeless.

Ms Robinson told the National Press Club on Wednesday that the WikiLeaks founder had faced a “stark injustice” and his health was continuing to decline since he suffered a mini-stroke.

“I really don’t know how much longer he can last,” she said.

Ms Robinson said his wife now spoke on his behalf because he could not, adding she anxiously waited for the phone call that she dreaded.

“It is no exaggeration … he is suffering profoundly in prison and she doesn’t know if he’s going to survive it,” she said.

“It requires a political solution and if we don’t find one, Julian is going to be detained for many, many years to come.”

After a year-long extradition hearing that was repeatedly interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Assange won his case in January 2021.

Ms Robinson noted the medical evidence showed he would suicide if he was extradited to the US prison system where he would be subjected to special administrative measures.

The Trump administration then appealed, offering an assurance that he would not be placed in such oppressive prison conditions.

“US assurances are not worth the paper written on,” Ms Robinson said.

“The CIA had planned to kidnap and kill an award-winning journalist (Mr Assange) in London.

“When the news broke I thought finally, this is the thing that will put the case to an end. This will be it, but no.

“A British court accepted the US assurance despite the fact that we were not able to challenge it in court with evidence and said that his extradition could go ahead.”

Mr Assange’s legal team have since filed an appeal and are waiting to hear whether the High Court will grant permission to hear it.

“If it does, we can expect a process that goes on for years through the High Court and all the way to the UK Supreme Court,” Ms Robinson said.

“If we lose, we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

“He will face an unfair trial (in the US) and once convicted it could take years before we ever get the opportunity to run a constitutional argument under the first amendment before the US Supreme Court.

“That is another decade of his life gone, if he can survive that long.

“That’s why I am here. This case needs an urgent political fix. Julian does not have another decade of his life to wait for a legal fix.”

Mr Robinson said the case had been rife with abuse of process, including with the US-UK extradition treaty, misrepresentation of the facts to secure Mr Assange’s extradition and surveillance of him.

“It is the first time in US legal history that a journalist is facing prosecution under the Espionage Act for committing acts of journalism,” she said.

“The US is going to argue that Julian Assange as an Australian citizen is not entitled to free speech constitutional protections at all.”

Mr Robinson also noted Mr Assange had two young children, aged three and five, who are patted down and examined by guards when they line up to visit him in prison, which she described as a heartbreaking.

He was also not able to see his family for six months during the pandemic, and when he finally did, he was not allowed to give them a cuddle.

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