The United States on Wednesday won the right to appeal the health grounds upon which a decision was made by a district judge in London not to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher to the United States, reports Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Two judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday sided with the United States to allow it to appeal the judgement by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January that Julian Assange was at too high a risk of suicide to be extradited to the United States.
The U.S. on July 5 was granted the right to appeal the decision not to extradite but not on the grounds of Assange’s health. That was reversed on Wednesday.
The U.S. now has the right to argue that the testimony of the defense’s key expert witness on suicide, Prof. Michael Kopelman, should be deemed inadmissible or granted little weight because Kopelman concealed from the court that he knew Assange had had two children with his partner, the lawyer Stella Moris.
Clair Dobbin, an attorney for the U.S., told the court that concealing that information undermined Kopelman’s credibility and Baraitser’s judgement. “The overall impression is that judge thought this was a reltively minor matter. It is duty of expert witnesses that it does not mislead,” Dobbin said.
Baraitser in her judgement acknowledged Kopelman had mislead the court but for “human” reasons, namely to protect the safety and privacy of Moris and the children. Baraitser ruled that Kopelman had been an impartial witness.
Edward Fitzgerald for the defense reminded the court that evidence in the Spanish case against the company UC Global, which spied on Assange inside the Ecuador embassy for a U.S. intelligence agency, revealed that agents had stolen the diaper of one of Assange’s children to get the DNA to prove he was the father.
They also discussed poisoning or kidnapping Assange. Baraitser heard this testimony and knew the dangers that lurked for Moris and the children and accepted that Kopelman was protecting them.
“It’s not that you make one lapse and your evidence is inadmissible and should be given no weight,” Fitzgerald told the court. “It is not a point of law. And the court should not give leave on that.”
But the court did. Lord Justice Holyrode gave full attention to Dobbin but fiddled with his pen and looked around the room when Fitzgerald spoke. And when it was time for his ruling he played it by the book. Kopelman had signed a witness declaration that he told the truth but he had not. “It is arguable he did not act in accordance with his duty and the DJ [Baraitser] erred,” he said. “It is probable that the DJ … had an incorrect approach.”
The substantive hearing of the U.S. appeal will be on Oct. 27 and 28. The U.S. has just been given a wider berth to overturn Baraitser’s decision not to extradite Assange.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe