Julian Assange awaits ‘decisive day’ in High Court extradition battle

  • Author, Ian Aikman
  • Role, BBC News

Julian Assange is under “tremendous pressure” as he awaits a decision on his right to appeal his extradition to the United States, his wife has said.

Stella Assange told the BBC that Monday would be a “decisive” day in the Wikileaks founder’s long-running legal battle.

If the High Court rules against him, Ms Assange says the 52-year-old could be on a plane to the US in as little as 24 hours.

She added that her husband would then seek an emergency injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as a last-ditch attempt to stop the extradition.

US authorities say Mr Assange put lives at risk by publishing thousands of classified documents.

His lawyers argued that the charges against him were politically motivated.

Priti Patel, then Home Secretary, signed the order for Mr Assange’s extradition in 2022, but he returned to the High Court in February 2024 to seek permission to appeal.

At Monday’s hearing, judges will decide whether the United States has given adequate assurances on the terms of Mr. Assange’s possible extradition.

After proceedings began, his lawyers told the High Court they accepted he would not face the death penalty if extradited to the US – but that the other assurances regarding a fair trial.

  • that Mr Assange could rely on the First Amendment of the US Constitution – which protects freedom of expression
  • that his Australian nationality would not count against him

Last month, the justices confirmed that the United States had provided assurances to the court.

If the court rules in favor of the US after hearing arguments from both sides on Monday, Mr Assange’s request for a final appeal in the UK will be refused. He will have exhausted all legal avenues in the United Kingdom.

If the court finds in favor of Mr Assange, he will be allowed to appeal his extradition to the High Court at a later date, meaning he will remain in the UK for the time being.

Legend, Stella Assange says she will ‘keep fighting until Julian is free’ regardless of judges’ decision on Monday

Mr Assange resisted extradition from the UK for more than a decade after his Wikileaks site published thousands of classified US documents in 2010 and 2011.

The U.S. Department of Justice described the leaks as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.”

Leaked files suggest the US military killed civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.

US authorities say Mr Assange put lives at risk by failing to redact the names of intelligence officers in documents, but his lawyers have argued this was a form of “retaliation by the State” politically motivated.

“He literally exposed war crimes,” Stella Assange told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday. “This case is this country’s revenge against openness and accountability.”

Ms Assange has two children with the Wikileaks founder, whom she married at Belmarsh prison in 2022. She says she did not tell them their father could be extradited.

“They don’t understand the concept of extradition or that their father could be taken away from them. So I just tell them that we are fighting to free him and we are planning what we will do when he is free.”

Dozens of people gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday morning in support of Mr Assange.

Kaylaa Sandwell, who traveled from south-east London to attend the rally, said the matter had reached a “critical point”.

“He should be released because he did nothing wrong,” she said. “If he is not released, we will no longer have a free press.”

Although Monday’s hearing could represent his last chance to resist US extradition in British courts, Mr Assange has another hope.

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