Julian Assange has won the first stage of his bid to appeal against the decision to extradite him to the United States to the Supreme Court.
Assange, 50, is wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
In December last year, US authorities won their High Court challenge to overturn an earlier ruling that Assange should not be extradited due to a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.
Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, called that decision “dangerous and misguided” and said the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers intended to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, she said: "As long as this case isn’t dropped, as long as Julian isn’t freed, Julian continues to suffer.
“For almost three years he has been in Belmarsh prison and he is suffering profoundly, day after day, week after week, year after year. Julian has to be freed and we hope that this will soon end.”
For a proposed appeal to be considered by the UK’s highest court, a case has to raise a point of law of “general public importance”.
Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, for Assange, previously said the case raised “serious and important” legal issues, including over a “reliance” on assurances given by the US about the prison conditions he would face if extradited.
On Monday, two senior judges ruled there was a point of law, but denied him permission for the appeal.
However, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, said Assange could go to the Supreme Court itself and ask to bring the appeal.
“Whether or not the issue needs ventilation in that court is a matter appropriately for its decision,” Lord Burnett said.
Lord Burnett asked the Supreme Court to “take steps to expedite consideration” of any application for an appeal.
Assange’s lawyers now have 14 days to make the application to the Supreme Court.
In Monday’s pronouncement, Lord Burnett said the point of law was about the circumstances in which an appeal court can be given assurances by a country that were not given at the original extradition.
He added that “although the law in this jurisdiction has long been settled it does not appear that the Supreme Court has considered the question.
“Assurances are at the heart of many extradition proceedings”.