01:50 GMT22 September 2020
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    Julian Assange appears to be subject to the "full wrath of government" as a result of his political opinions and actions, further to decisions being taken at "the highest levels of government", Professor Paul Rogers told a London court while giving expert testimony.

    Professor Paul Rogers, emeritus professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, told the court at the Old Bailey on Wednesday that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has strong political views and that his prosecution does appear to be politically motivated.

    The political scientist, who specialises in international security, concluded that Mr Assange has very clear political opinions - and that the clash of those views with successive US administrations, especially the current one, suggests that he is regarded primarily as a political opponent who must experience the "full wrath of government".

    Professor Roberts told the court that:

    "This does appear to be a political trial for many reasons of course – the return to political motivation is a political high level… an unusual level for most Western governments. Atypical of American and Western administrations for many years."

    He noted that President Donald Trump "appears to take considerable antipathy to President Obama and what he did during his administration" and that it was "reasonable to assume that that is one reason the current admin might take a different stance to to the Obama administration."

    The professor said that Assange has "very clear" political views which do not align with mainstream political views but are of a more "libertarian" nature that is "very clear cut". It is a wider political view than merely publishing US classified documents as WikiLeaks have also published documents connected to trade unions, NGOs and corporations, the professor explained. Professor Roberts emphasised the fact that the failure to prosecute Mr Assange by the Obama administration followed by the decision to prosecute by the Trump administration weighed strongly in favour of the idea that the prosecution was politically motivated, though that is not the only factor in his assessment.

    Professor Roberts also contextualised the prosecution noting that WikiLeaks documents exposed many fallacies about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as revealing a truer picture of the extent of war crimes and civilian casualties.

    ​James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, pressed Professor Roberts as to why the professor had not included the arguments put forward by the US attorneys which set out their legal arguments in support of the indictment. Mr Lewis suggested that an unbiased expert would assist the court by addressing all of the evidence.

    ​Mr Roberts responded that he was looking at the wider political context of the prosecution and was happy to discuss the arguments posed by the government but "took it as read" that the US government had legal arguments further to their prosecution.

    Mr Lewis also asked whether Professor Roberts had seen the evidence against Mr Assange. The Professor had originally signalled that he had but later clarified, upon being challenged by Mr Lewis, that he thought the prosecution was referring to the indictment and supporting documents rather than the evidence itself.

    ​The cross-examination ultimately ended with Mr Lewis putting it to Professor Roberts that he was "giving a biased opinion in defence of Mr Assange" which the witness strongly objected to, suggesting that there were interpretations of his testimony which he strongly contested.

    Mr Assange remains incarcerated in the Belmarsh maximum-security prison on pre-trial detention, despite completing his sentence for absconding while on bail when he sought and obtained asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy. He faces up to 175 years in prison if he is convicted on all 18 charges currently levied against him.

    Sputnik has been granted access to monitor the hearings via a live video feed and will continue to report on the case and the goings on outside of the court building as the extradition hearings develop.

    Related:

    EXCLUSIVE: 'A Danger for Justice' - Assange Defence Expert Explains How US Conspiracy Trials Work
    Extradition Hearing: Assange and WikiLeaks Redacted Documents and Protected Sources - Defence Team
    Assange Hearing: Refusal to Grant an Adjournment is a 'Gross Violation', Says WikiLeaks Chief
    Assange's Extradition Hearing Resumes, Prosecutors Shift Away From Espionage Charges
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    Wikileaks, Julian Assange
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