Julian Assange Wins Right to Appeal His U.S. Extradition

Hollie Adams/Reuters
Hollie Adams/Reuters
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A London court on Monday ruled that Julian Assange can appeal against his extradition to the United States, a decision which will be welcomed as a significant victory by his supporters but one which is also likely to extend his lengthy legal battle in Britain.

The ruling comes after two High Court judges in March deferred a decision about whether the WikiLeaks founder could launch a new appeal against an order from the U.K. government for him to be sent to the U.S. to face trial on espionage charges. The justices said at the time that Assange would be granted leave to appeal unless the American government could provide “satisfactory” assurances about the rights that Assange would have during a prospective trial.

Biden Says He’s ‘Considering’ Request to Drop Julian Assange’s Prosecution

The U.S. Embassy in London in April made assurances that the Australian journalist would not be “prejudiced by reason of his nationality” and said that he would be able to seek First Amendment rights. American officials also said he would not face the death penalty in his case.

In court Monday, however, Assange’s lawyers argued the assurance that he could seek First Amendment protections was “blatantly inadequate” and that an American court wouldn’t be bound by it, according to Reuters.

Assange has been indicted in the U.S. on charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication almost 15 years ago of classified documents and cables leaked to the organization by Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. In 2012, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London under diplomatic asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden over a rape allegation in a case that was later dropped.

He remained in the embassy until his relationship with the Ecuadorian government became increasingly frayed, culminating with him being kicked out of the building in 2019 and promptly arrested by British authorities for skipping bail.

The 52-year-old has spent the last five years in Belmarsh Prison—a high-security facility notorious for its tough conditions—while his fight against extradition has played out in the British courts. Assange’s family members have repeatedly expressed concerns about his health deteriorating in the prison and he was absent from court Monday on health grounds, his lawyer said, according to the Associated Press.

Assange’s supporters say his disclosures exposed the wrongdoing of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue that his leaks put lives in danger. Assange’s lawyers have claimed that he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison if found guilty in his case, but U.S. authorities say he would likely face a dramatically shorter sentence.

Last month, President Joe Biden said he is “considering” a request from Australia to scrap the prosecution altogether. Asked about Biden’s comments, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in an interview that he was “increasingly optimistic about an outcome” in Assange’s long-running case, “but one certainly has not been delivered yet.”

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