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News > United Kingdom

Julian Assange Wins UK High Court Victory in Extradition Case

  • Rally in support of Julian Assange.

    Rally in support of Julian Assange. | Photo: X/ @puigam

Published 20 May 2024
Opinion

The Australian journalist is wanted by the U.S. on allegations of disclosing defense information.

On Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won a victory in his ongoing battle against extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States after the High Court in London granted him permission to appeal.

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Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson authorized the Australian journalist to appeal in another future hearing against two out of the three guarantees offered by Washington about the treatment he would receive if he were handed over to stand trial in the U.S. 

Previously, Assange had been granted permission to appeal only if the U.S. government was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances that Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment (free speech) for protections.

The U.S. had to assure that Assange, who is Australian, shall not be prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality and is afforded the same protections as a U.S. citizen. The U.S. side also had to provide assurance that Assange would not be sentenced to death if convicted.

Assange's legal team criticized the assurances provided by the U.S. government at the hearing, arguing that "based on the principle of the separation of powers, the U.S. court can and will apply U.S. law, whatever the executive may say or do."

Most of the assurances were "blatantly inadequate," said Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange. But the legal team had accepted the promise about the death penalty.

While the assurance over the death penalty was "an unambiguous executive promise," he said, noting that the other assurance does not give "any reliable promise as to future action."

According to Assange's legal team, it could be months before the new appeal is heard. The latest move came after the High Court deferred a decision in March on whether Assange could take his case to another appeal hearing.

Assange is wanted by the U.S. on allegations of disclosing defense information following WikiLeaks's publication of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars a decade ago, which included an Apache helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down journalists and children in Baghdad's streets in 2007.

He has been held at the Belmarsh Prison since 2019. The UK approved his extradition to the U.S. in 2022 under then Home Secretary Priti Patel after a judge initially blocked it on Assange's mental health concerns. Assange and his lawyers have appealed since then. 

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