New legal team for WikiLeaks’ Assange will take human rights angle in two day High Court extradition appeal
Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblowing site, has begun his appeal in the High Court against extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual misconduct.
Assange, whose WikiLeaks site aroused US anger by posting confidential embassy documents online, will face a two-day hearing, over separate allegations of sexual misconduct. The online activist lost the initial extradition hearing in February.
Hacktivism moves on
The arrest came at the height of the media storm as WikiLeaks began publishing 250,000 confidential cables from US embassies. Assange and his supporters believe the extradition to be politically motivated, and suspect a plot to have him eventually brought to the US.
The WikiLeaks affair sparked an online “war” in which sites that withdrew financial services from WikiLeaks such as Mastercard and Visa were hit with denial of service attacks. WikiLeaks is now suing Mastercard and Visa over their refusal to handle donations to the site – a ban which continues, despite a brief workaround provided by an Icelandic processing company.
Since WikiLeaks has gone quiet, online activist groups Anonymous and Lulzsec have engaged in campaigns to subvert and expose online security issues, provoking legal action and arrests in many countries including Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Britain.
Assange has changed his legal team, appointing human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, who has previously represented the Guildford Four and British Guantanamo detainee Moaszzam Begg. This move is described in various places as a move towards being less confrontational: in the first hearing, he was represented by Mark Stephens, normally described as a “media lawyer”, who has specialised in freedom of expression.
If Assange loses this stage of his appeal, he could still appeal again to the Supreme Court, if it is found that the case depends on a point of law considered to be of general public interest.