Julian Assange Wins Right To Ask Supreme Court For Extradition Appeal

The extraordinary battle of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange against his extradition to the United States has taken a fresh twist this week.

Assange will be able to go to the supreme court in the UK to challenge a decision allowing him to be extradited to the US to face espionage charges, the Guardian reported on Monday.

However the high court refused him permission for a direct appeal, meaning the supreme court will first have to decide whether or not it should hear his challenge.

Lengthy battle

Assange has been fighting against attempts by the United States to extradite him for more than a decade now.

His resistance seem to have paid off in January 2021, when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in London blocked the US extradition request because of concerns over Assange’s mental health and risk of suicide in America.

But last August, Assange lost a legal battle to stop the US appeal, after a British judge ruled the United States could expand its extradition case against the Wikileaks co-founder.

Then in October lawyers for the US told the High Court that the judge who had blocked Julian Assange’s extradition in January, had been misled by his psychiatrist.

Assange is wanted by the US Justice Department, which has accused him of violating the Espionage Act, after he received top secret data (from Chelsea Manning) and unlawfully published the names of classified sources back in 2010 and 2011.

Last month senior judges found that the district judge had based extradition refusal ruling on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.

The judges sided with the US authorities after a package of assurances were put forward that Assange would not face those strictest measures, either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.

The High Court thus ruled Julian Assange can be extradited to the US.

Amnesty International condemned the decision as a ‘travesty of justice’, and Assange’s legal team said an appeal would begin immediately.

Point of law

Now the Guardian has reported that Assange has won the right to go to the supreme court in the UK to challenge a decision allowing him to be extradited to the US.

As mentioned previously, this is not a direct appeal, meaning the supreme court will first have to decide whether or not it should hear his challenge.

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancee, was quoted by the Guardian after Monday’s ruling that what happened in court was precisely what she and those supporting him had wanted to happen.

“The situation now is that the supreme court has to decide whether it will hear the appeal but, make no mistake, we won today in court,” she reportedly said.

A case has to raise a point of law of “general public importance” for a proposed appeal to be considered by the supreme court.

Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, representing Assange, has previously said the case raised “serious and important” legal issues, including over a “reliance” on assurances given by the US about the prison conditions he would face if extradited.

In their short pronouncement on Monday, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, and Lord Justice Holroyde ruled there was a point of law, but denied Assange permission for the appeal.

They reportedly said that Assange had raised three points of law for the supreme court bid, but only succeeded on one about the use of assurances in extradition hearings. They added it was for the supreme court justices to make the final decision.

Assange suffering

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday, Moris reportedly told supporters: “But let’s not forget that every time we win, as long as this case isn’t dropped, as long as Julian isn’t freed, Julian continues to suffer. For almost three years he has been in Belmarsh prison and he is suffering profoundly, day after day, week after week, year after year. Julian has to be freed and we hope that this will soon end.”

“But we are far from achieving justice in this case because Julian has been incarcerated for so long and he should not have spent a single day in prison,” she reportedly said. “If there were justice, the crimes that Julian exposed, war crimes the killing of innocent civilians, would not be impugn.”

The Guardian reported that Assange does have other options to fight his extradition, despite what happens in relation to any supreme court appeal.

Were he to fail, his lawyers could apparently mount a cross-appeal at a lower court level, which would take place first at the high court and focus on questions of free speech and political motivation of the extradition request.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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