High Court allows Assange to appeal

Dhe extradition case for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is incarcerated in the UK, could soon be heard before the Supreme Court. The High Court in London on Monday allowed Assange to lodge an appeal. Assange’s wife Stella Moris told the courtroom that Assange “won in court today”. The decision reflects “what we wanted to achieve”. Independent experts, on the other hand, spoke of a “partial success”. Assange’s lawyers failed to obtain a direct appeal that would have required the Supreme Court to hear the case. It is now at the discretion of the highest court whether or not to accept the case after an application by Assange.

In December, the American government won an appeal to the High Court and secured Assange’s extradition to the United States. The High Court overturned a district court ruling that had refused to extradite Assange on the grounds that he could take his own life in the American justice system.

Assange is expecting an 18-count indictment in America, mostly based on the Espionage Act. While his lawyers fear their client could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, the Washington government spoke of a likely sentence of four to six years. Assange is accused of having, together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, stolen and published classified material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby endangering the lives of US informants. His supporters see Assange as an investigative journalist who exposed war crimes.

In the maximum security prison for three years

The Australian has been in Belmarsh high-security prison in London for almost three years. He had previously sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was being investigated for a sex crime. The investigations have since been discontinued. Assange feared being extradited to the United States by Sweden. Moris said on Monday her husband is “suffering a lot” from the prison conditions. “Julian must be freed,” she demanded. “He shouldn’t have spent a single day in prison.”

During the appeals process last fall, US government lawyers questioned whether Assange’s life would be at risk if extradited. They cited a guarantee from the American government that the extradited person would only be tried in the United States, during which he would not be held under the strictest security conditions. The authorities would also ensure that Assange received “any clinical and psychological treatment” that prison doctors deemed advisable. If convicted, he could apply to serve his sentence in his home country of Australia; this would be supported by the Washington government. The lawyer spoke of “binding assurances”. This was found credible by the High Court. The assurances would rule out any threat to Assange, it said in the verdict.

Had the High Court rejected Assange’s request on Monday, the US extradition request would have been referred to the UK Home Office. Had Home Secretary Priti Patel then ordered the extradition, Assange could have challenged this in court again. However, according to the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, this would have been the “last chance” to prevent Assange’s extradition.


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