Julian Assange wins High Court bid to appeal extradition to US

The WikiLeaks founder is bidding to make a final appeal against extradition to the USA, where he's wanted over the leaking of classified documents

Julian Assange has won a bid at the High Court to bring an appeal against his extradition to the United States.

His wife has called on the US to drop the prosecution attempts entirely following the verdict.

The US has been prosecuting the WikiLeaks founder over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information after the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Stella Assange, said that judges “reached the right decision” and called on the US to drop the “shameful” case.

She said: “We spent a long time hearing the United States putting lipstick on a pig, but the judges did not buy it.

“As a family we are relieved, but how long can this go on? The United States should read the situation and drop this case now.”

Assange has been in London's Belmarsh prison since he arrested in the Ecuadorian Embassy by police in 2019 for breaching his bail conditions.

During a two-day hearing in February, lawyers for the 52-year-old asked for the go-ahead to challenge a previous judge’s dismissal of his case to prevent his extradition.

Last month, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson dismissed most of Assange’s legal arguments but said that unless “satisfactory” assurances were given by the US he would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds.

These assurances are that Assange would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment – which protects freedom of speech in the US – that he is not “prejudiced at trial” because of his nationality, and that the death penalty is not imposed.

Assange's lawyers were assured that the United States won't seek the death penalty if the WikiLeaks founder is extradited and convicted.

Stella Assange said her husband 'will die' if he is extradited to the US. Credit: PA

At a hearing on Monday, the High Court heard that the US authorities had provided assurances to the court, with the promise not to impose the death penalty accepted by Assange’s lawyers. The two judges granted permission to appeal.

Lawyers on behalf of the US said Assange’s bid to bring an appeal should be refused given the promises provided in a note from the US embassy in London.

Assange was not present at the latest hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday due to “health reasons", his barrister Edward Fitzgerald KC told the court.

Dozens of his supporters, including Mrs Assange and his father, gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing, with many holding banners and signs. Assange is currently imprisoned in Belmarsh, a high security jail in London.

Earlier this year, Assange's lawyer said the WikiLeaks founder's life "is at risk" if his final appeal against extradition to the US fails. His wife, Stella Assange, echoed that stating he "will die" if extradited.

Speaking in court on Monday, James Lewis KC, representing the government of the United States, said Assange’s conduct was “simply unprotected” by the First Amendment but continued: “Regardless, there is no question that the applicant, if extradited to the United States, will be entitled to the full panoply of due process trial rights, including the right to raise, and seek to rely upon, the First Amendment as a defence.

Julian Assange was not present in court Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

“The Equal Protection clause in section 1 of the XIV Amendment to the Constitution applies to US citizens and non-citizens alike.

“It prohibits discrimination: ‘nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws’.

“Given the relevant provision’s overarching concern with due process and trial rights, this is all that is required.”

He continued in written submissions: “The judicial branch of the United States will take due notice of this solemn assurance given by its government in the course of international relations.”

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