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Assange’s lawyer denies he requested segregation

Julian Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens made the denial in a tweet to me this morning:

he didn’t Carl. Have confirmed to anyone who asked. It was the Governors decision, sd to be for safety.

For a few days now I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of how Assange came to be held “in solitary confinement” (as Mark Stephens has put it – see this impromptu press conference outside City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 14 December, 8 minutes in) when in Wandsworth prison from the 6-16 December.

Two media sources had previously published anonymous suggestions that Julian Assange might himself have asked to be segregated from other prisoners under “rule 45” of the Prison Rules. On 9 December the Guardian wrote that

Assange is thought to have asked to be housed away from other prisoners, who had shown a high degree of interest in him after he arrived

and on 15 December the Daily Mail wrote that

A prison source said Assange was being treated like any other inmate held in the segregation unit, which is where he had requested to be.
What Mark Stephens has said today clearly contradicts the anonymous sources referred to in the Guardian and Mail, and would seem to close the question of how segregation came about. It makes sense that the decision was on grounds of safety: under Prison Service Order 1700 Julian Assange’s own protection would be the only relevant grounds on which he could be segregated from other prisoners. There’s no suggestion Assange could have been thought disruptive or to have committed any misconduct in prison, which would be the alternatives.

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  1. This is an interesting exercise of subtleties. However, it is not really clear to me why this is important.

    I think, more important is a question that would lead from this topic. How can it be that someone who is not even charged with anything can be put in circumstances that as Glen Greenwald describes them as torture

    Even if one does not go as far as Glen Greenwald, in any case being put in solitary confinement without the necessary physical and mental stimulation needs to be seen as punishment.

    While there is a problem with justice if people just abscond charges being made against them, maybe there needs to be a discussion how such people should be prevented from absconding without punishing them unreasonably. I think this is a very important question, since anybody could be in a situation of being falsely accused, even it is true that the majority of people would always get bail.

  2. I agree that there does need to be a discussion about the bail and extradition regimes in general. However, great care must be taken in keeping the discussion separate from the particulars of this case.

    To give a slightly different example, I believe that the extradition of Gary McKinnon is both politically and morally wrong. However, the decision that he should be extradited is undoubtedly legally correct. What that case illustrates (from my political perspective) is the unfairness of the law rather than unfairness in its application.

    When Mark Stephens says that Julian Assange is Gary McKinnon Mark 2, he actually contradicts the opinion he has stated elsewhere that the treatment of his client is politically motivated. If the harsh treatment of his client is the product of a process that is inherently harsh, it is less rather than more likely that he is being victimised.

    In my opinion, describing segregation as “solitary confinement” and bail with conditions as “house arrest” is misleadingly emotive.

  3. Just in case it is not clear from txwikinger’s post, the allegation that is being made by Glenn Greenwald in the linked article above is that Bradley Manning is being tortured, not that Julian Assange is.

  4. Definitive proof has now been obtained that the prosecution of Julian Assange is a conspiracy that has been organised by the CIA, the Knights Templar, the Duke of Edinburgh and the paedophile ring that abducted Maddy McCann. I have summarised the details because I know that no-one will be bothered to click the link below.

  5. @James Medhust: I agree that the discussion needs to be broadened and hence leave the particular cases. However, the cases are, even if they might be seen as extreme, a timely reminder that there are issues that are very rarely spoken about and hence somehow disappear in the shadows of the justice system.

    Interestingly, McKinnon’s case might be a good example for a pardon, though I don’t remember if this concept still exist in English law and how often it is used. The body of law can never be accurate in every case when used in its technicalities. Therefore, there needs to be an additional component which can override it when the law by itself would create inhumane and unfair results.

    I am also surprised that Judges and Justices do not more often take on such arguments when they rule. It reminds me of Lord Dennings judgments (i.e the Treehouse case), when often his purpose seemed to be to mold the law that it would fit the necessary result, rather then to be a bystander that would just cover himself by the technical application of the law.