The US DoJ filed a further superseding indictment in the form of an entirely new extradition request to the UK court less than 3 days before the final administrative hearing on Friday 14 August 2020. This means Assange will have to be re-arrested on the first day of the resumption of his substantive extradition hearing on 7 September 2020.
The new indictment/request contains no new charges, only the expansion of the alleged facts under the charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, using allegations made and publicly available as far back as 2010 and 2011, thus not consisting of any new information.
Florence Iveson, a barrister acting for Julian Assange, said the decision by the US government to serve a second superseding indictment at “the eleventh hour” was “astonishing and potentially abuse of process.” She continued that in order to avoid a delay to the substantive extradition hearings the court should ignore the new fact pattern now associated with the conspiracy charge on the superseding indictment and simply decide the case based on the prior indictment, Mohamed Elmaazi reports.
John Pilger has branded the new indictment simply “farcical.” He further shared the observation of Assange’s defence team that this is merely an attempt by the Trump regime to delay the substantive hearing until after the US election which further proves that Assange is a political prisoner.
Additionally “the new indictment seems to be another cheap attempt at diverting the public’s attention away from the 170 years’ imprisonment which is sought for Assange’s purely journalistic activities to an alleged hacking conspiracy, a minor offence punishable with 5 years’ imprisonment maximum,” said extradition expert and member of Lawyers for Assange, Dr. Polona Florijančič.
On a separate note, the new restrictions imposed on British courts meant that only a few members of the public were able to access the hearing on Friday, continuing the now standard breach of the human right to a public trial in the Assange case. The dial-in facility failed yet again and left journalists and other observers waiting on their phones to gain access in vain for 3 hours.
Rebecca Vincent, international campaigns director at Reporters Sans Frontières, tweeted: “I have never in my career faced so much difficulty attempting to trial monitor as in Julian Assange’s case. Whether in person or remotely, there are constant barriers to access. Completely unacceptable.”
The substantive hearings are scheduled to resume on 7 September 2020, however the defence has until 21 August to request a further delay.