News World Court hears prison computer ‘not suitable’ for Julian Assange to mount case

Court hears prison computer ‘not suitable’ for Julian Assange to mount case

Supporters of Julian Assange demonstrate in downtown Paris, France, on November 2. Photo: AAP
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Julian Assange is unable to work on his extradition case because he has been given an unsuitable computer in prison, a court has heard.

The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder is accused of leaking US government secrets in one of the largest breaches of confidential information.

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video-link on Monday, Assange wore a grey prison-issue jumper and spoke only to confirm his identity.

He had his white hair slicked back, appeared to have stubble and wore thin-rimmed glasses which he cleaned on his top before the judge entered.

The court appearance came on the same day that La Repubblica reported Assange and his lawyers and supporters were recorded by a Spanish firm during his seven years in the Ecuador embassy in London.

During the five-minute hearing, which was attended by supporters including his father John Shipton, Assange’s remand in HMP Belmarsh was extended.

He was to be released from the high-security prison in September but was remanded in custody due to fears he would abscond after he spent nearly seven years in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Gareth Peirce, representing Assange, told the court her client was unable to adequately prepare for his “very challenging case” as the computer he had been given was not suitable.

“I will put it on the record. You will understand that we are working extremely hard on this very challenging case; however, the most important of the impediments that we are facing is Mr Assange’s ability to access what he needs to work on his own case,” she said.

“After months of battle he was provided with a computer but it is not the sort of computer needed to work on the case.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she had no jurisdiction over prison conditions.

Ms Peirce replied she wanted to “exert pressure as best we can” on Belmarsh to improve the computer facilities.

Speaking outside court, a member of Assange’s team said the computer was unlikely to have internet access for research.

District Judge Baraitser remanded Assange in custody ahead of a substantive case management hearing next month.

He will also appear again at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on December 13 to confirm his remand in prison again before he ultimately appears for full extradition proceedings in February.


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