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Assange ‘handcuffed and stripped naked on first day of extradition hearing’

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The WikiLeaks founder’s barrister complained about his client’s treatment inside high-security Belmarsh prison.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times and stripped naked twice during the first day of his extradition hearing, a court has heard.

The 48-year-old is fighting extradition to the US, where he is wanted to face 18 charges over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, complained about his client’s treatment inside high-security Belmarsh prison at the start of the second day of the hearing on Tuesday.

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange is fighting extradition to the US (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“What I think the court can do is give an indication to the prison authorities if there is a risk that treatment of this nature will impinge on his ability to participate in these proceedings.”

The lawyer said papers handed to Assange in court had been taken from him at Belmarsh after he left next-door Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court.

Mr Fitzgerald said his client’s treatment “could be a contempt of this court”.

But District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she has no powers to issue directions to the Prison Service and can only act if there is evidence that Assange is unable to participate in the case.

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“If it comes to that, please let me know,” she said. “Unless and until it does, unless you are asking this court to make a finding of contempt, I’m afraid my powers are very limited in this respect.”

Assange has been held on remand in Belmarsh since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching his bail conditions while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were subsequently dropped.

Assange is accused of conspiring to steal from and hack into department of defence computers along with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

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Prosecutors claim he put hundreds of sources around the world at risk of torture and death by publishing unredacted documents containing names and other identifying details.

But Chris Summers QC, also representing Assange, argued the extradition request misrepresents the facts.

“You can accurately describe this chapter of the case as lies, lies and more lies,” he said.

He told the court WikiLeaks had begun redacting a tranche of 250,000 leaked cables in November 2010, working with media partners around the world.

“That process involved the US government and state department feeding suggested redactions to the media,” he said.

“Knowing the US government was involved in the redaction process, can it be in any way said the request represents a fair or accurate representation of what occurred?”

Mr Summers blamed the publication of the unredacted database of documents on a 2011 Guardian book about WikiLeaks.

He said: “Far from being a reckless, unredacted release, the world knows, every reporter in this room knows, the US government knows, that what actually occurred was that one of the media partners published a book in February 2011 and published the password to the unredacted materials, which then enabled the entire world to publish those unredacted materials in a book and they circulated on the internet, not on the WikiLeaks site, but on other sites.

“None of them have been prosecuted, some of which are US based, all of them published first, some of them are still there.”

Assange is also accused of encouraging Manning to steal classified documents, which allegedly included a bid to crack a password hash on US department of defence computers to access to a classified network called the Secret Internet Protocol Network.

But his lawyers point to evidence given by Manning at her own 2013 court martial, which they say refutes the claims.

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