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Julian Assange: UK court to rule on WikiLeaks founder’s attempt to appeal against US extradition

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Julian Assange: UK court to rule on WikiLeaks founder’s attempt to appeal against US extradition

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The British High Court is due to rule on Monday on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can take his fight against US extradition to the UK Supreme Court.

The move is the latest step in Assange’s long battle to avoid being sent to the United States to face charges of spying for WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents more than a decade ago.

Just over a year ago, a London District Court judge rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to commit suicide if held in harsh prison conditions in the USA.

US authorities then assured that the WikiLeaks founder would not face the severely restrictive conditions which his lawyers say would put his physical and mental health at risk.

Last month, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision. High Court judges Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyd said the US pledges were sufficient to ensure Assange would be treated humanely.

They said the US pledges were “solemn undertakings, offered by one government to another, which will bind all officials and prosecutors who deal with relevant aspects of Mr. Assange’s case now and in the future.”

Assange’s lawyers say these promises are unreliable and have sought leave to appeal to Britain’s highest court. They argue that the US government’s promise that Assange will not be subjected to extreme conditions makes no sense because it is conditional and could be changed at the discretion of US authorities.

Nick Vamos, a partner at Peters & Peters solicitors in London and a former extradition officer at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, said the appeal was unlikely to be granted. Assange can only take the case to the Supreme Court if the High Court decides there are issues of “general public importance” to consider.

Even if the High Court judges reject this argument, the long legal saga is unlikely to end immediately. Assange still has other avenues of appeal against the extradition decision open to him.

Assange, 50, has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison since 2019, when he was arrested for jumping bail in a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years locked inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange sought embassy protection in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations.

Sweden dropped sex crime investigations in November 2019 because so much time had passed.

US prosecutors allege Assange illegally helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and classified military files which WikiLeaks later released, putting lives at risk.

Assange’s lawyers argue that their client should not have been charged because he was acting as a journalist and is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees freedom of the press. They say the documents he released exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julian Assange: UK court to rule on WikiLeaks founder’s attempt to appeal against US extradition

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