The U.S. Department of Justice has promised a court in the United Kingdom not to put Julian Assange in a maximum security prison or in solitary confinement if he is extradited to the United States, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Isolation is defined as torture by most of the rich countries of the world, although it is common practice in the United States even for minor crimes.
The UK rejected a request from the DOJ to extradite Assange in early 2020, because the judge said co-founder WikiLeaks was likely to suicide attempt if he was sent to the United States to be tried. Judges in Europe can block extradition to any country where it is believed that the prisoner will face torture, a practice that the US routinely commits without calling it by the name of “torture”.
Assange, 50, was sentenced to almost one year in prison in 2019 for skipping bail in 2012. Asange claimed asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and lived there for nearly seven years. before the Ecuadorian government revoked Assange’s asylum and then he was dragged out into it April 2019.
The DOJ under President Donald Trump charged Assange in the United States with 18 charges of violating the Espionage Act for publishing leaked material from the United States in 2010 and 2011, including documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The DOJ continued the persecution under current President Joe Biden. Assange is also accused of a computer piracy account. Together, the charges can carry a sentence of 175 years in prison.
The only allegation of “conspiracy to make computer intrusion” was on Assange’s alleged attempt to help whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack the password on a U.S. government computer containing allegedly classified material. in 2010. Manning spent much of his time in prison undergoing torture. of isolation.
Assange previously said he would give himself up to U.S. authorities if Chelsea Manning was pardoned, but he went back on that promise after President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. In 2017, Assange claimed Obama only let Manning go free to make Assange looks like a liar.
Vanessa Baraitser, a judge in Assange’s extradition case, said in January that the co-founder of WikiLeaks would likely be put in isolation for 23 hours a day while awaiting trial in the United States, something most of the world sees as unacceptable -At least out of totalitarian states like North Korea.
“Mr. Assange makes the gloomy hope of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a minimum. He makes this prospect look like someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide, ”Judge Baraitser wrote reign earlier this year.
“I found that Mr. Assange’s mental condition is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” Baraister wrote.
The British judge did not rule on the other merits of the DOJ case and seemed sympathetic to the idea that Assange had crossed a line in the publication of classified materials, although in particular the UK had no protection. particularly robust for freedom of expression.
Interestingly, the DOJ also promised that Assange might be able to serve his prison sentence in his native Australia after facing trial in the United States, something that is not typical, such as the Wall Street Journal note:
Experts have said the Justice Department’s offer to allow Mr. Assange to face any sentence in Australia was unusual, since detainees usually demand such a move once convicted, under the international prison transfer program.
“It’s extremely rare, and it’s usually based on a post-conviction trial,” said Mark Lytle, a former federal prosecutor who is now a lawyer at law firm Nixon Peabody. “To offer up front to win extradition, this is a break with politics.”
Nick Vamos, a partner at London law firm Peters & Peters and a former chief extradition for the CPS, said it is also unusual for the United States to provide broader assurances to a foreign court over the treatment of prisoners. and that he had refused before doing so in cases of terrorism.
How likely is it that the DOJ will abide by its agreements not to torture Assange? U.S. officials have told the judge they reserve the right to return on one of their promises if Assange “should do anything after offering these insurances,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
It doesn’t inspire much confidence, to say the least.