- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2019

Julian Assange has been denied access to evidence relevant to his ongoing extradition case, a lawyer for the jailed WikiLeaks publisher told a British judge Friday.

Gareth Peirce, a defense attorney representing Mr. Assange, voiced related concerns during a hearing held at Westminster magistrates court in London, British news outlets reported.

Mr. Assange, a 48-year-old Australian native, has been incarcerated since April at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London in connection with criminal charges brought against him in the U.S. related to WikiLeaks, the secret-spilling website he launched more than a decade earlier. The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking his extradition, and that request will be considered during hearings currently scheduled to take place in the U.K. early next year.

Roughly two months until extradition proceedings are slated to start, Ms. Peirce complained Friday about defense lawyers lacking access to their client and said it was keeping them from sharing evidence with their client, according to British news reports.

“Without Mr. Assange’s knowledge, some of it is recently acquired evidence, some of it is subject to months of investigation not always in this country, of which he is unaware because of the blockage in visits,” said Ms. Peirce, the U.K.’s Press Association reported.

“Mr. Assange has not been given what he must be given, and we are keen to go through this to the best of our abilities to keep with the requests of the court,” added Ms. Peirce, The Daily Mail reported. “It is predicated on the underlying evidence that Mr. Assange has not reviewed.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she lacks jurisdiction over Her Majesty’s Prison Service but agreed it would be helpful for defense lawyers to access their client, according to the outlets.

“Can I make it clear that I have no desire to stand in the way of any lawyer having proper access to their client and it’s in the interest of justice that they do,” said the judge, Press Association reported. “What I can do and say is to state in open court that it would be helpful to this extradition process that Mr. Assange’s lawyers have the access to their client.”

Another case-management hearing is scheduled for December 19.

Mr. Assange has been charged in the U.S with conspiracy to commit computer hacking and multiple violations of the U.S. Espionage Act. He faces decades behind bars if extradited and convicted.

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