Julian Assange Awaits Crucial UK Court Ruling on US Extradition

Mon May 20 2024
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LONDON, United Kingdom: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to learn on Monday whether his appeal to avoid extradition to the United States will proceed. The 52-year-old Australian seeks permission to challenge a ruling that allows his extradition to face espionage charges.

Two High Court judges in London, who adjourned the case in March, requested the US government provide “satisfactory assurances” regarding free speech protections and confirm that Assange would not face the death penalty if convicted. These submissions are expected at Monday’s hearing, with a ruling potentially issued immediately after.

If Assange’s appeal is granted, he will have more opportunities to argue his case in UK courts. A denial, however, would exhaust his UK legal options, possibly leading to swift extradition and concluding a five-year legal battle involving the US and UK governments against free-speech advocates.

Assange’s next option would be appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, which could issue a stay on the extradition under “exceptional circumstances.” However, London’s compliance with such an order is uncertain due to ongoing disputes with the European court.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, following his arrest after seven years of asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy. The US wants to try Assange for publishing around 700,000 confidential military and diplomatic documents in 2010, which exposed secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The charges under the 1917 Espionage Act could result in a 175-year prison sentence.

The UK courts approved the extradition after the US promised not to imprison Assange in the notorious “ADX Florence” prison or subject him to “Special Administrative Measures.” His supporters have criticized the legal proceedings, calling them corrupt and biased against Assange.

Assange’s wife, Stella, expressed doubts about a favorable ruling but emphasized the ongoing concern for his health and treatment. The Council of Europe has also voiced concern over Assange’s situation. While President Joe Biden faces pressure to drop the charges, he has indicated the US is considering Australia’s request to do so, leaving a glimmer of hope for Assange’s supporters.

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