Assange's Removal From Ecuador Embassy Coordinated On Trump's Order - Witness

LONDON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 22nd September, 2020) A witness for the defense of Julian Assange on Monday told the UK court deciding on the whistleblower's extradition to the United States that the removal of the WikiLeaks founder from the Ecuadorean embassy in London in April 2019 was coordinated on direct orders from US President Donald Trump.

The testimony was presented by Cassandra Fairbanks, a US journalist that in her written statement said that in that period of time she used to work for a pro-Trump news organization and was also in a direct message group with then US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Arthur Schwarz, a prominent Republican Party donor and an informal adviser for Donald Trump Jr.

According to Fairbanks, whose statement was read in the courtroom by one of Assange's lawyer, Schwarz told her as early as October 2018 that the US government would be going into the Ecuadorean embassy to get Assange.

"I responded that entering the embassy of a sovereign nation and kidnapping a political refugee would be an act of war, and he responded 'not if they let us,'" the witness said.

She said that at that time, she did not know that Grenell himself had already worked out a deal for Assange's arrest with the Ecuadorean government.

"Schwarz informed me that in coordinating for Assange to be removed from the Embassy, Ambassador Grenell had done so on direct 'orders from the President,'" the witness added.

According to her statement, the adviser told her that the US government had said they will not pursue the death penalty, because that would have prevented the Uited Kingdom and Ecuador from extraditing the whistleblower to the United States.

The hearing to decide whether Assange should be sent to the United States resumed on September 7 at the London Central Criminal Court, after six months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Department of Justice is seeking the whistleblower's extradition on 17 espionage and one count of computer misuse, which carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, for the publication of classified information on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands of US diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.

The WikiLeaks founder, who has been locked up at the maximum-security prison of Belmarsh since his arrest at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, is attending the trial from behind a glass panel, away from his defense team.

The hearing is expected to last another two weeks, and it is highly probable that the verdict will be appealed.