Assange Can Appeal Extradition to U.S., British Court Rules

Assange Can Appeal Extradition to U.S., British Court Rules

A London court docket dominated on Monday that Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, might attraction his extradition to the United States, a transfer that opens a brand new chapter in his extended struggle in opposition to being despatched to America to face trial on espionage expenses.

Two High Court judges mentioned they might enable a full attraction to be heard and gave Mr. Assange’s attorneys till Friday to submit a full case define to the court docket.

Mr. Assange, 52, has been held in Belmarsh, one in every of Britain’s highest-security prisons, in southeast London since 2019 as his struggle in opposition to the extradition order has proceeded via the courts.

Earlier this yr, the High Court requested the American authorities to offer assurances that Mr. Assange can be granted protections beneath the U.S. Constitution, together with that he wouldn’t be denied constitutional rights routinely granted to Americans simply because he’s Australian and that the demise penalty wouldn’t be imposed.

The U.S. Embassy in Britain responded in a letter despatched to Britain’s Foreign Office in April. Mr. Assange’s authorized staff accepted that the United States had assured he wouldn’t face the demise penalty however argued in court docket that the opposite assurances didn’t go far sufficient to satisfy the court docket’s request.

The United States had promised that if Mr. Assange have been extradited, he would “have the flexibility to boost and search to depend on at trial” First Amendment protections, however added, “A choice as to the applicability of the First Amendment is completely throughout the purview of the U.S. courts.”

Mr. Assange’s authorized staff considered that caveat as unsatisfactory. “We say this can be a blatantly insufficient assurance,” mentioned one in every of his attorneys, Edward Fitzgerald. He argued that “there is no such thing as a assure that he might be even permitted to depend on the First Amendment.”

In their Monday choice, the judges agreed Mr. Assange had grounds to attraction his extradition on that foundation.

Mr. Assange faces expenses within the United States beneath the Espionage Act associated to WikiLeaks’ publication of tens of 1000’s of secret navy and diplomatic paperwork leaked to the location by Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, in 2010.

In June 2012, Mr. Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, the place he stayed for the subsequent seven years over fears that he might be arrested. He was ultimately evicted from the embassy in 2019 and was promptly arrested.

The U.S. Justice Department had charged Mr. Assange with 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act by collaborating in a prison hacking conspiracy and by encouraging hackers to steal secret materials. In 2021, the extradition order for Mr. Assange was denied by a British judge, who dominated that he can be susceptible to suicide if despatched to a U.S. jail. But the High Court later reversed that call and Priti Patel, Britain’s dwelling secretary on the time, authorised the extradition request.

An earlier request from Mr. Assange’s authorized staff for an attraction was rejected by a judge, earlier than the 2 judges who made Monday’s choice determined that his attraction might go forward.

Shortly after the choice was handed down, Stella Assange, Mr. Assange’s spouse, spoke to supporters outdoors the court docket in central London. They waved white flags that mentioned “Let Him Go Joe,” urging President Biden to drop the case, whereas others tied yellow ribbons that learn “Free Assange” onto the gates in entrance of the constructing.

“The Biden administration ought to distance itself from this shameful prosecution,” Ms. Assange advised the gang, including, “This case ought to be deserted.”

Speaking outdoors of the court docket after the choice, Rebecca Vincent, director of campaigns for Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group that has lengthy denounced the fees in opposition to Mr. Assange, referred to as the choice a victory for his case, and for press freedom.

“It has been far too lengthy to get up to now, however it’s so necessary,” she mentioned, earlier than urging President Biden to “make it his legacy” to drop the case.

Since his arrest in 2019, Mr. Assange has hardly ever been seen, and he determined to not attend the listening to on Monday for undisclosed well being causes, in accordance with his authorized staff. Throughout his time in jail, his attorneys and Ms. Assange have warned about his bodily and psychological well being. In 2021, Mr. Assange had a small stroke. Speaking forward of the ultimate listening to, Ms. Assange mentioned her considerations for his psychological well being have been “very severe.”

Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks, mentioned at a information briefing final week that Mr. Assange’s authorized staff had been focusing its efforts on a political decision, which he mentioned “has been bearing fruit.”

“More and extra political leaders are coming to the facet of Julian,” Mr. Hrafnsson mentioned. “They see the absurdity on this case. And how severe the implications this may have for press freedom worldwide.”

The Australian authorities has put its help behind Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has mentioned he hopes the case will be “resolved amicably.”

Last month, President Biden mentioned that the administration was contemplating a request from Australia that Mr. Assange be allowed to return there and never face jail, prompting hypothesis that Washington might be rethinking the case. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to remark on the time.

Supporters have lengthy argued that Mr. Assange’s life might be in danger if he have been despatched to the United States for trial. While his attorneys say that he might resist 175 years in jail if convicted, attorneys for the U.S. authorities have mentioned that he can be extra prone to be sentenced to 4 to 6 years.

James Lewis, a lawyer for the United States, argued in court docket on Monday that assurances offered by the United States made it clear that Mr. Assange would have ample protections to make sure that the nation would abide by Britain’s extradition legislation.

The extended nature of the case isn’t unheard-of, partially due to Britain’s extradition guidelines, which permit for appeals on a wide range of points, mentioned Nick Vamos, former head of extradition for the British Crown Prosecution Service.

“The courts will entertain numerous completely different sorts of arguments about equity and jail circumstances and human rights and political motivations and all of these issues,” Mr. Vamos mentioned, including that, finally, this will have allowed Mr. Assange to “purchase time” for a political resolution.


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