Lawyers for Julian Assange have cited new allegations that the CIA plotted to kidnap or kill him as “grounds for fearing what will be done to him” if he is extradited to the US to face espionage charges.
The WikiLeaks founder’s legal team also described diplomatic assurances given by US authorities in an effort to overturn a ruling earlier this year against his extradition as meaningless, and not enough to overcome concerns about his risk of suicide were he to be sent to the US.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, said his client was too mentally ill to be extradited, that the US assurances did not remove the risk of him being detained in extreme isolation in the long term and the risk of suicide remained substantial.
Assange would be put into isolation on arrival in the US, he said. “This is not some distant fact. This is going to happen as soon as he arrives in America.””
Assange is being held in Belmarsh Prison and appeared only by video link on the first day of the two-day hearing.
Lawyers for the US authorities hope to overturn a January ruling by a district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, that Assange could not be extradited, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.
They contend Baraitser was misled by a psychiatrist who testified about Assange’s fragile mental state but did not include the fact that he had fathered two children in the UK.
In written legal argument, his lawyers said there were “unique and special reasons” that led to Prof Michael Kopelman’s understandable caution about the identification of Stella Moris as Assange’s partner.