British Court Rules Assange Can Appeal US Extradition: "We Won Today"

(update...) A U.K. court ruled Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal a December decision permitting his extradition to the United States, where the Department of Justice is attempting to prosecute the journalist for publishing classified information that exposed war crimes.

"What happened in court today is precisely what we wanted to happen," Stella Moris, Assange's fiancée, said during a press conference outside the Royal Courts in central London following the decision. "Make no mistake, we won today in court."

Stella Moris, partner of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaks outside the High Court in London. AFP via Getty Images

"But let's not forget that every time we win, as long as this case isn't dropped, as long as Julian isn't freed, Julian continues to suffer," Moris added. "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."

Assange has been imprisoned at a high-security London jail since 2019, under conditions that experts and rights groups have denounced as torturous and a violation of international law.

For years, Assange and his legal team have been fighting attempts by the U.S. to extradite him to face charges under the Espionage Act. Because the charges stem from a common journalistic practice—the publication of classified information—advocacy groups have warned that the U.S. prosecution of Assange poses a severe threat to press freedoms worldwide.

"Journalism is not a crime," British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, founder of the Peace and Justice Project, said Monday. "Wikileaks exposed crimes of U.S. empire in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. The perpetrators of these crimes walk free, often still prominent public figures in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere. They should be held accountable for the lives they destroyed and the futures they stole."

The court's decision Monday paved the way for Assange to appeal the U.S. extradition attempt—which began under the Trump administration and has continued under President Joe Biden—before the British Supreme Court. The court must agree to accept the case before the appeal process can move forward.

Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement Monday that "we are glad that Julian Assange will be allowed to apply to appeal his extradition in the U.K.'s Supreme Court."

"The prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder in the United States would set a deeply harmful legal precedent that would allow the prosecution of reporters for news gathering activities and must be stopped," said Mahoney. "We strongly encourage the U.S. Justice Department to halt extradition proceedings and drop all charges against Assange."

Authored by Jake Johnson via Common Dreams


Wikileaks founder Assange wins permission to appeal US extradition decision

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Monday given permission to appeal a decision to extradite him to the United States where he could face a lifetime in prison.

Washington wants to put the 50-year-old Australian on trial in connection with the publication of 500,000 secret military files relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The High Court in London in December overturned a lower court’s ruling not to send him to the United States on the grounds he would be a suicide risk.

But lawyers for Assange then challenged the decision, arguing that the country’s highest court should rule on “points of law of general public importance”.

“The respondent’s application to certify a point of law is granted,” said judges Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyde in a written ruling.

The judges stated that they themselves were not granting him a right of appeal at the Supreme Court but Assange had the right to do so himself.

It is now for the Supreme Court to decide whether to take the case.

– Supporters’ relief –

Assange’s fiancee and the mother of his two young children, Stella Moris, emerged from the court smiling and visibly relieved.

“What happened in court today is precisely what we wanted to happen,” she said.

“The situation now is that the Supreme Court has to decide whether it will hear the appeal. But make no mistake, we won today in court.

“If there were justice, the crimes that Julian exposed –- war crimes, the killing of innocent civilians -– would not be impugned.

“Our fight goes on. We will fight this until Julian’s free.”

Crowds gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London and welcomed the decision.

“I’m relieved beyond words,” said Sue Barnett, 61, from Nottingham, central England, holding a placard stating: “10 years enough. Free Assange now.”

“We were all fearing the worst.”

Assange could be jailed for up to 175 years in the United States, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson hailed Monday’s ruling as a “partial victory”, calling the US charges against Assange were “a blatant terrorist attack on press freedom worldwide.”

– Protracted case –

At a two-day hearing in October, US lawyers argued that a lower court judge had not given sufficient weight to other expert testimony about Assange’s mental state.

They also pointed to diplomatic assurances provided since the January decision that Assange would not be held in punishing isolation at a federal supermax prison, and would receive appropriate care.

Approving that appeal, two judges accepted the new assurances, noting they were not unusual in such cases and “solemn undertakings offered by one government to another”.

They ordered the case to be returned to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction that it be sent to interior minister Priti Patel for the final say.

Assange has been held at London’s high-security Belmarsh prison since 2019 because he is seen as a flight risk, having previously skipped bail in 2012 over claims he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden.

He spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden to face the allegations that were later dropped.

A coalition of anti-war groups and thousands of peace campaigners on Friday signed a statement calling for his immediate release.

Moris said he had spent longer in Belmarsh than many prisoners sentenced for violent crimes.

Nathan Fuller, director of the Courage Foundation, said: “While the Biden administration is confronting US adversaries over their press freedom shortcomings, it should address its own hypocrisy.

“Locking up Julian Assange for exposing the truth about US wars is an insult to all those struggling for peace and human rights.”

Planet Today

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