A London court ruled in favor of Julian Assange and may appeal against the extradition order to the United States

A London court ruled in favor of Julian Assange and may appeal against the extradition order to the United States
A London court ruled in favor of Julian Assange and may appeal against the extradition order to the United States

In this file image, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is transported from a court where he appeared for violating the conditions of his parole seven years ago, in London, on May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/ Matt Dunham, archive)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against extradition to the United States on espionage charges, a London court ruled on Monday, a decision likely to further lengthen what has already been a long legal saga.

High Court judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson said that Assange has grounds to challenge UK government’s extradition order.

His supporters cheered and applauded outside the court as news of the ruling reached them from inside the Royal Courts of Justice.

In March, two judges rejected most of Assange’s arguments but said he could take his case to the Court of Appeals unless the United States ensured that would not face the death penalty if extradited and would have the same free speech protections as a U.S. citizen.

The court said that if Assange, who is an Australian citizen, could not rely on the First Amendment, then it was arguable that his extradition would be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which also provides protection for freedom of expression and the media. .

The United States has provided those assurances, although Assange’s legal team and his supporters argue they are not good enough to send him to the country’s federal court system.

Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrives at the High Court for an extradition hearing for Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams
Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrives at the High Court for an extradition hearing for Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams

The United States said that Assange could seek First Amendment rights and protections, but the decision would ultimately be up to a judge. In the past, the United States has said it would argue at trial that Assange is not entitled to constitutional protection because she is not a U.S. citizen.

“The United States has limited itself to blatant and misleading words, claiming that Julian can ‘try to lift’ the First Amendment if he is extradited,” said his wife, Stella Assange. “The diplomatic note does nothing to alleviate our family’s extreme anguish about his future: his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life isolated in a US prison for publishing award-winning journalism.”

Assange, 52, has been charged with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse for publishing a trove of classified U.S. documents on his website nearly 15 years ago. US prosecutors allege that Assange encouraged and helped US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files published by WikiLeaks.

Commuters leaving a subway stop near the courthouse couldn’t miss a large sign with Assange’s photograph and the words: “Publication is not a crime. War crimes are.” Dozens of supporters gathered outside the neo-Gothic Royal Courts of Justice chanting “Free Julian Assange” and “Freedom of the press, freedom of Assange.”

Some held a large white banner directed at President Joe Biden, exhorting: “Let it go, Joe.”

People attend a protest outside the High Court on the day of an extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska
People attend a protest outside the High Court on the day of an extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska

Assange’s lawyers say He could face up to 175 years in prison if convictedalthough US authorities have said any sentence would likely be much shorter.

Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health has been affected during more than a decade of legal battles, including seven years he spent inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London from 2012 to 2019. He has spent the last five years in a British high security prison.

Assange’s lawyers argued in February that he was a journalist who exposed US military irregularities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sending him to the United States, they said, would expose him to politically motivated prosecution and risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The US government says Assange’s actions went far beyond those of a journalist gathering information, and amounted to an attempt to indiscriminately solicit, steal and publish classified government documents.

If Assange wins on Monday, it would set the stage for an appeals process that would likely extend what has already been a long legal saga.

Assange's lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Assange’s lawyers argued on Monday that the United States provided “blatantly inadequate” assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would have press freedom protections if he were extradited to the United States.

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said prosecutors had failed to ensure that Assange, who is an Australian citizen and claims protection as a journalist for publishing classified information in the United States, could rely on the press protections of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

“The real question is whether adequate security has been provided to eliminate the real risk identified by the court,” Fitzgerald said. “It is alleged that adequate guarantees have not been given.”

Biden said last month he was considering a request from Australia to drop the case and allow Assange to return to his home country.

Officials did not provide further details, but Stella Assange said it was “a good sign” and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the comment was encouraging.

(with information from AP)

 
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