A lawyer for Julian Assange complained Tuesday that the WikiLeaks founder was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice, and had court papers taken away on the first day of a hearing on his extradition to the United States, per the AP. Attorney Edward Fitzgerald told a judge that the treatment of Assange at London's Belmarsh Prison “could be a contempt of this court.” The extradition hearing opened on Monday at Woolwich Crown Court, which is located next to the prison. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is hearing the case, said she had no power to act unless Assange became unable to participate in the proceedings, which are expected to last several months. "If it comes to that, please let me know,” the judge said.
Another lawyer for Assange, Gareth Peirce, told the judge on Tuesday that Assange was “struggling” and finding it hard to concentrate. Assange, 48, is wanted in the US on espionage charges over the leaking of classified government documents a decade ago. US prosecutors accuse Assange of conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password, hack into a Pentagon computer, and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They allege that WikiLeaks' publication of the unedited documents put US intelligence sources who were mentioned in them at risk of torture of death. Assange says he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection. (On Monday, prosecutors disputed that journalist argument.)