Assange wins the first stage of the attempt to appeal the US extradition

Assange wins the first stage of the attempt to appeal the US extradition

LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won the first leg of his bid to overturn a British ruling that opened the door for his extradition to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage.

The Supreme Court of London gave Assange permission to appeal the case to the UK’s Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court must agree to accept the case before it can proceed.

“Make no mistake, we won in court today,” said Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, outside the courthouse, noting that he is still being held at Belmarsh Prison in London.

“We will fight this until Julian is free,” she added.

The Supreme Court normally takes about eight weeks of sitting after an application has been submitted to decide whether an appeal should be accepted, the court says on its website.

The decision is the latest step in Assange’s long struggle to avoid a US trial on a series of allegations related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents more than a decade ago.

Just over a year ago, a district court judge in London rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange would probably take his own life if he was kept in harsh US prison conditions. U.S. authorities later gave assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would not be subjected to the harsh treatment that his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.

Last month, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that the US promises were enough to guarantee that Assange would be treated humanely.

These insurances were in focus in Monday’s ruling from the High Court.

Assange’s lawyers are trying to appeal because the United States offered its insurance after the lower court made its decision. But the High Court overturned the lower court decision, saying the judge should have given the United States the opportunity to offer the insurance before making its final decision.

The Supreme Court allowed Assange to appeal so that the Supreme Court can decide “in what circumstances an appellate court may obtain assurances from a requesting State … in extradition proceedings.”

Assange’s lawyers have argued that the US Government’s promise that Assange will not be subjected to extreme conditions is meaningless because it is conditional and can be changed at the discretion of US authorities.

The United States has asked the British authorities to extradite Assange so that he can be brought to justice on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer abuse linked to WikiLeak’s publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.

Assange, 50, has been held in Belmarsh Prison with high security since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Prior to that, he spent seven years imprisoned at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange sought protection at the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual abuse.

Sweden closed down the sex crime investigations in November 2019 because such a long time had passed.

U.S. prosecutors say Assange illegally helped U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files later published by WikiLeaks, putting lives at stake.

Lawyers for Assange claim that their client should not have been prosecuted for acting as a journalist and protected by the first amendment to the US Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press. They say the documents he published revealed US military misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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