WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Granted Right to Appeal Extradition to United States

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted the right to appeal his extradition to the United States by London’s High Court on Monday as judges found assurances from the American legal team were unsatisfactory.

Julian Assange’s fight to avoid being sent to face espionage charges in the United States received a significant victory, as two judges found that assurances from the U.S. that they would not prevent the Australian Wikileaks founder from appealing to the free speech protections guaranteed under the First Amendment during a trial were not sufficient, Reuters reports.

Therefore, the judges ruled that Assange’s appeal against the extradition to the United States could go forward.

The British High Court deferred deciding on the appeal in March, saying that Assange would be granted the right to appeal if the Biden administration failed to provide the court with assurances that America would not seek the death penalty against the Wikileaks founder and “that the applicant [Assange] is permitted to rely on the first amendment, that the applicant is not prejudiced at trial, including sentence, by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same first amendment [free speech] protections”.

The hearing on Monday centred around the issue of the First Amendment, with Assange’s lawyers accepting that Washington had provided an “unambiguous executive promise” not to seek the death penalty.

The United States has indicted Mr Assange on 17 counts of espionage and computer misuse, accusing him of collaborating with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) to steal classified documents, which the U.S. has claimed endangered the lives of American intelligence officials and sources. The WikiLeaks founder faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the United States.

Mr Assange’s legal team has argued that the publication of the classified material, which they say exposed wrongdoing by the United States during its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, should be protected under the First Amendment, given that other leaked classified information, such as the New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers, having been found lawful by the Supreme Court.

Speaking to Breitbart London in 2020, Assange’s father, John Shipton said: “I hope Americans look to their government and insist that their government follows the First Amendment thoroughly.”

Prior to the court ruling on Monday, Stella Assange, the wife of the WikiLeaks founder, told the BBC that the hearing would be “decisive” in the longstanding legal battle but vowed to “fight on until Julian is free”.

Following the ruling on Monday, Mr Assange will be given a few months to prepare his legal arguments for the extradition appeal, during which time he will remain in London’s Belmarsh prison where he has been held since 2019.

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