Assange Wins First Stage in Effort to Appeal U.S. Extradition
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and CEO won Monday the first stage in his attempt to reverse a U.K. decision that allowed him to be extradited to the U.S. for trial on espionage allegations.
Assange received permission from the High Court in London to appeal against the decision to the U.K. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has to agree to hear the case in order for it be allowed to move on.
“Make no mistake, we won today in court,” Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, said outside the courthouse, noting that he remains in custody at Belmarsh Prison in London.
“We will fight this until Julian is free,” she added.
The Supreme Court usually takes around eight weeks to consider an appeal. This court states on its website.
The decision is the latest step in Assange’s long battle to avoid a trial in the U.S. on a series of charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents more than a decade ago.
A London district court judge rejected an extradition request from the United States. He argued that Assange would likely die in harsh U.S. jail conditions. U.S. authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder wouldn’t face the severe treatment his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.
The High Court last month overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that the U.S. promises were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely.
Those assurances were the focus of Monday’s ruling by the High Court.
Assange’s lawyers are seeking to appeal because the U.S. offered its assurances after the lower court made its ruling. However, the High Court reaffirmed the ruling of the lower court and said that she should have allowed the U.S. to offer assurances before making her final judgment.
The High Court gave Assange permission to appeal so the Supreme Court can decide “in what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state … in extradition proceedings.”
Assange’s lawyers have argued that the U.S. government’s pledge that Assange won’t be subjected to extreme conditions is meaningless because it’s conditional and could be changed at the discretion of American authorities.
The U.S. has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse linked to WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.
Assange is 50 and has been detained at Belmarsh Prison. Assange was initially arrested in 2019 for failing to post bail as part of a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Assange applied for protection in the embassy to avoid expulsion to Sweden in 2012, where he was facing allegations of sexual assault and rape.
Sweden dropped its sex crimes investigation in November 2019 due to lack of time.
American prosecutors claim that Assange illegally assisted Chelsea Manning, U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal classified diplomatic cables. These files were later published by WikiLeaks, which put lives in danger.
Lawyers for Assange argue that their client shouldn’t have been charged because he was acting as a journalist and is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press. He published documents that exposed U.S. military misconduct in Iraq, and Afghanistan.