Julian Assange Can Appeal U.S. Extradition, U.K. Court Rules

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be able to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States, The Guardian reports.

Two High Court judges in London issued the ruling Monday, May 20, after Assange’s legal team raised concerns over some of the assurances the U.S. government made about the protections he would receive if he were extradited. The decision was a major win for Assange after a previous judge rejected his effort to appeal. 

Assange is facing a host of charges in the U.S. under the Espionage Act pertaining to WikiLeaks’ publication of a tranche of classified military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010. After spending much of the 2010s effectively seeking asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Assange was evicted in 2019 and arrested; since then, he’s been held in a high-security prison as his extradition saga has played out.

Back in March, the two High Court judges said they would approve Assange’s extradition if the U.S. government provided “a satisfactory assurance” that he would be protected under the U.S. Constitution and would not be discriminated against because he is not a U.S. citizen (Assange is Australian). In court on Monday, Assange’s lawyers successfully raised concerns about Assange’s First Amendment rights, arguing the U.S. government had not said Assange could “rely” on free speech protections but only that he could “seek to raise” them. 

Furthermore, Assange’s legal team raised the issue that there was always the possibility that a U.S. court could rule Assange was not entitled to first amendment protections because he is a foreigner. They also highlighted the “deafening silence” from U.S. prosecutors over where Assange would stand trial. 

A lawyer representing the American government had tried to push back, arguing that Assange would not be discriminated against because of his nationality, and that, ultimately, the case wasn’t a free speech matter anyway. “Neither US citizens nor foreign citizens, are entitled to rely on the first amendment in relation to publication of illegally obtained national defense information giving the names of innocent sources to their grave and imminent risk of harm,” the lawyer wrote. 


A lawyer for Assange did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment. WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said the ruling offered a “glimmer of hope” for Assange, as his lawyers may now also be able to try to secure his release on bail as the extradition appeal moves ahead. 

It’s also possible the appeal ruling could allow for a different solution to take shape. Per The New York Times, last month, President Joe Biden acknowledged that the U.S. was “considering” dropping its case against Assange. The Australian government, which has voiced its support for Assange, had put in a request with the American government that Assange be allowed to return to his home country and not face prison time.

Original Source