UK: Julian Assange wins right to ask Supreme Court to consider his extradition case

Today's judgement ‘certified’ the Wikileaks founder’s right to apply to the Supreme Court to rule on the late introduction of assurances by the United States government. The ruling means that Assange has 14 days to lodge his case. The International Federation of journalists and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK and Ireland welcome the decision and demand Assange's release.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hold a placard during a protest against his extradition to the US outside the High Court in London on January 24, 2022. Assange was given permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against a decision to extradite him to the United States. The High Court in London approved a bid by the publisher's lawyers to take the case to the country's highest court on "points of law of general public importance". Daniel LEAL / AFP

Today’s ruling called on the Supreme Court to ‘expedite consideration’ – the likely timescale, however, is unknown.

Assange, who has now spent nearly three years in Belmarsh Prison, is fighting an application to extradite him lodged from the United States. This seeks his prosecution on 18 charges, most arising from the Espionage Act, and relating to Wikileaks’ publication of the Iran and Afghan ‘war logs’ in 2010.

The ruling, delivered in the Royal Courts of Justice by Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, and Lord Justice Holroyd, dismissed Assange’s application for a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

The issue on which the Supreme Court will be invited to rule is the late introduction of assurances by the United States in respect of Assange’s treatment in the event of his conviction. During the extradition hearing, several days focussed on the penal conditions in which Assange might be held. These included potential incarceration in ADX Florence Colorado, where prisoners such as El Chapo, and Abu Hamza are held, solitary confinement, and restricted access to family and lawyers. These conditions were the subject of several days’ consideration at the original hearings.

After Judge Baraitser ruled that Assange could not be extradited in January 2021, the US government provided fresh assurances that he would not be subject to a system of solitary confinement and would be allowed to serve his sentence in his native Australia.That these assurances have not been subject to testing in court is likely to be among the reasons behind today’s judgment.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts, Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris said: “We have no idea how long this case is going to take. Julian is in terrible pain, and this is torturing our family.”

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: " This decision is an important step for Assange and his defense team. There is clear evidence that extraditing Assange to the United States would put his life is grave danger and we will fight relentlessly to prevent it. He should be released immediately and be provided all the necessary care his medical situation requires."

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Welcome as this decision is, this case is damaging media freedom every day that it drags on. The US is seeking Assange on charges that relate to the very business of gathering and processing news. For so long as this is treated as a potentially indictable offense, reporters, doing important work, will be looking over their shoulders."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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